Upile Chisala (24) stays true to her Nyanja Malawian multi-faceted identity by telling stories from the margins.
Through her work, the artivist helps others and herself come to terms with pasts, celebrate presents and confidently dream beautiful futures.
The storyteller is the author of two books of poetry, soft magic and Nectar. The sociologist is also the co-founder of Yanja, a monthly gathering series in Baltimore that strives to create a safe/courageous space for people of colour to connect, unwind and express themselves. “The key here is that we, people from the south, are allotted our agency and can tell our narratives from the margins, in the way that we please,” she states in a GGM interview.
During her time at New Mexico State University (NMSU where she graduated with a High Honors BA), she worked part-time, volunteered locally and internationally, helping asylum seekers as part of an internship and managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA.
Upile’s activities run beyond the arts, as she conducts maternal healthcare research in rural parts of Malawi: “This research experience opened up a whole new thought process for me where I got a chance to listen to mothers and healthcare workers from a rural area discuss maternal healthcare,” Chisala says.
She says her work is about showing that representation matters, that heritage matters, that who we are and what we have to say is important.
So when someone who looks like her and comes from where she comes from sees that little ‘ole Chisala has published two books of poetry in English they can up the ante and publish three books in Chichewa and still be celebrated and spoken about as one of the greats.