Coordinates: Asmara, Eritrea (born ‘n bred)

That Thing That She Does: Activist, bard, performance artist, radio journalist

Saba Kidane is fast becoming Eritrea’s internationally known poetess-diva, singing her verses in her native Tigrinya. She writes about war and its aftermath, a subject close to most Eritreans’ hearts. At age 13, Saba, like many of the girls and boys her age, left school to train as a soldier in the 30-year battle for independence from bordering Ethiopia. Through the decades of fighting, the country has achieved independence and a new generation has been changed forever — traumatized by war’s terror and revitalized by a new equality between men and women.

Kidane, meanwhile, has served as director for Eritrean youth radio and laid plans to open a youth newspaper. She also has the dubious distinction of being turned down for a U.S. tourist visa, which would have brought her to the U.S. in March to read her work. Immigration officials thought she might stay in the country — even with a young daughter in Eritrea.

“Saba’s poems are loaded with positive energy and when she performs on stage you feel you are in the presence of someone speaking with a mandate from some higher force of music and harmony,” says Dr. Reesom Haile. That’s no small praise from Eritrea’s poet laureate.

Or as Bob Holman, a poet and professor of writing in New York who saw her perform in her own country, told the New York Times: ‘’Nobody had introduced her to me, she wasn’t on any of the panels, and here she steps up to the stage and takes control like a diva. She blew the house down.’’

Word from Saba Kidane:

How Does She Shake Off a Bad Day?
Writing, says Saba, is the best cure to a bad day. In fact, it’s the bad days, she says, that are the “pure food” of her poetry that she can’t get on the good ones. “I reproduce my hope on the bad days,” she writes.

Favorite Way to Travel: “Mostly I prefer to walk,” she writes. But for quick transport, she opts for the bus over a minibus because she “can’t stand well in a minibus and I care about my posture.” The other advantage to the bus, she says, is the many people chatting with each other, meaning there is always the opportunity to “get some good words.”


Coordinates: Eritrea

Saba Kidane

war poet



Make way, please
Step aside, make room.
Wisdom of the ages
Spread the words.
And part the seas
— Saba Kidane

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