Writivism and Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation have released statements on the ongoing clusterfuck that is Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga.
We are starting to finally get our minds around the mess that Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga left when he opted to build a poetry career with blatant theft of other poets work. Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp across the continent has been buzzing with the daring of a young man stole the work of people he believed couldn’t get a hold of him.
After the Nyanza Literary Festival yesterday, two other organisations have released public statements disassociating themselves from what has become the turd of Kenyan poetry. Writivism who gave him the Okot b’Bitek Prize for poetry worth US$500 which was in honour of the late great poet have given their initial feelings about it all. Their statement showed that they have gone with the “he needs a fair trial” route and decided to conduct investigations before condemning the man. Their statement read in full;
On Saturday October 8, 2016, the Writivism management learnt with great regret, of allegations of serial plagiarism levied against the winner of the first Okot P Bitek Prize for Poetry in Translation. We strongly condemn the theft of creative ideas and attempts to profit from them. Our instant investigation reveals that two of the five poems submitted to the Okot P Bitek Prize for Poetry in Translation, ‘A Dua for the Masses’ and ‘she was born natural’ contain ideas and words that belong to other poets.
The last line in ‘she was born natural’ represents the seriousness of the similarity between Redscar’s version and the other version, the only difference being the replacement of Oakland, with Nairobi:
REDSCAR: “she was born natural, permed, for one summer thick strands strung out on chlorine in NAIROBI swimming pools crying for the thick to come back.”
NIJLA (Pub’d 2013): I was born natural
permed for one summer
thick strands strung out on chlorine
in OAKLAND swimming pools
crying for the thick to come back
Investigations into the matter continue, including seeking Mr. Redscar MsOdindo K’Oyugi’s defence and explanation, as we are committed to ensuring a fair hearing and presumption of innocence alongside other due process guarantees. A decision on the remedies in the matter shall be announced as soon as it is reached. We reiterate our commitment to supporting creativity, originality and authenticity.
Also giving a statement was Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation which had shortlisted Redscar for their prize; fortunately the poetry in this competition was better than his stolen stuff and he came third. Babishai have asked that journals that had published work that he had submitted to withdraw it. They also talk about their commitment to combating plagiarism. The statement reads in full;
Plagiarism Allegations Against Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga
It has been extremely difficult dealing with the news of plagiarism against Kenyan poet Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga. The news came to the attention of Babishai on Sunday 9th October morning. He has never received any prize from Babishai but we are aware of other literary prizes that he won this year. Redscar’s submission that appeared on the Babishai 2015 long list was plagiarized, however, and we’re in touch with the original owner. His 2016 submissions have furthermore been removed from our sites and he will not appear in reprints of our work as investigations continue. Other journals that published his Babishai submissions are requested to take them down. Our efforts to reach him have been futile.
As we continue with the poetry prize, while relying on African poets’ goodwill, we will also take stricter measures to counter plagiarism. We understand that there are about ten journals that Redscar was published in this year alone, 2016 and so other organizations and individuals are likely to have been affected.
To the members of the literary fraternity that have offered unwavering support and advice, we are extremely grateful. We should each sensitize writers about plagiarism so that this information is shared and applied accordingly.
Babishai is committed to the growth of African poetry, learning from challenges and strengthening from the knowledge of the literary community at large.
Also responding to this mess is former Babishai winner Tom Kip Jalio who penned, a completely original poem speaking about this situation. The poem which we share here with his permission is below;
A RED SCAR ON LITERARY EARS
He talks like philosophers ought to talk:
“A man is a woman who is everything a man can be,
but not everything a woman can be,” says he.
We almost order an extra plate for these nuggets of wisdom.
Who is to doubt it if he goes on to win,
the poetry competition we are gathered here for?
He hardly speaks the rest of the evening.
“I want my work to open up my way,
not the other way round,” he says,
after missing out on the award,
only to bag two others.
Still waters run deep, we reckon,
until news breaks branding him a “serial plagiarist”.
Heads are shaken, daggers are drawn.
“This is not you,” we said,
when we met a slim, spectacled version,
of the person on his Facebook profile.
Now we wonder if it is his work, not his look,
that is really “not you”.
But the silence of the accused is so loud,
it leaves a red scar on our ears.
Money and fame come and go,
but once reputation is broken,
how in the world can you fix it?
We shall keep you posted on this story until its bitter end.