Mali this year struggled with an Islamist insurgency, a worldwide pandemic, and an August military coup, all of which left most cultural events in the West African nation in shambles. But Mali’s annual International Festival of Slam and Humor, FISH, was merely delayed until November, after a post-coup curfew was lifted. Twenty-three-year-old Malian Aïcha Diarra first learned of competitive, performance poetry – Slam Poetry - when her high school held a contest. She has been a slam poet ever since and competes at FISH every year. She performed on stage for the first time in nearly a year at this year’s festival, which she said brought her great joy. Diarra says many of the topics in her poems are considered too bold in conservative Mali. But, she says, some people congratulate her for daring to talk about taboo subjects such as circumcision of young girls.
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