Project Description

JJ Bola

Born in Kinshasa, JJ Bola is a poet, writer, Kit de Waal Scholar, and United Nations High Commission ambassador for refugees. As a self-proclaimed ‘refugee with a British passport’, Bola was confronted with that sense of ‘heimatloss’ in the UK, when he was prohibited from participating in international basketball tournaments despite being a national basketball player due to his citizenship status. Over the years, his poetic explorations into belonging, memory and identity have resulted in three sonorous poetry collections: Elevate, Daughter of the Sun, and Word– republished as Refuge, a novel; No Place Like Home and Mask-Off: Masculinity Redefined which deconstructs the myths surrounding masculinity and ‘manhood’.

The most resonating was the prayer for citizenship; an incantation for those without papers…The question on the edge of everyone’s lips was often “Ozui mukanda?” It was the climb to the top of the mountain, it was Daniel Escaping the Lion’s Den, or Jonah being freed from the stomach of the Whale, it was reaching the Promised Land after years of wandering in the desert, a miracle on equal par, as it was sign there was a higher power who showed eternal grace and favor toward you.

From the novel: No Place to Call Home