Cape Town, Malawi, Zimbabwe – Poetry Africa On Tour
14th POETRY AFRICA International Poetry Festival
Tour: Cape Town ICC, 26 September/ Zimbabwe: Harare : Manneberg and Book Café 28 & 29 September/ Malawi: Blantyre Arts Festival 1 October
Poetry Africa on Tour
Featuring a rich representation of African poetic and musical voices, Poetry Africa on Tour kicks off at the Cape Town ICC on Sunday 26th September. Further satellite programmes take place in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 28th and 29th, then Blantyre, Malawi, on 1st October before culminating at the main Poetry Africa festival in Durban from 4th to 9th October.
Now in its 14th year Poetry Africa is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), one of the earliest initiators of African literary festivals the CCA also produces the Time of the Writer festival. Supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (principal funder), Mimeta, Pro-Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland, and Hivos, Poetry Africa on Tour is an effort to celebrate the beauty, power and impact of poetry with ever-wider constituencies and to stimulate meaningful cultural exchange between artists, audiences and countries.
Visual artist, musician and poet Charlotte Hill ONeal aka Mama C was a former member of the Black Panther Movement in the USA but since 1972 has lived in Tanzania where she is co-director of the United African Alliance Community Centre. Mama C uses poetry as a form of honoring heritage and spreading unity through art, and has produced a book of poetry and four albums of poetry and music.
The twice Pushcart Prize-nominated Frank M. Chipasula is a Malawian poet, fiction writer, editor and publisher who currently teaches Black literature and creative writing at universities in the USA. Chipasula’s poetry addresses the state of post-colonial Africa, artistic social responsibility and the accessibility of the creative medium.
South African poet, performer, actress, columnist, television presenter and producer Lebogang Mashile was in 2006 awarded the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa for her first poetry collection. Co-founder of the popular Feel a Sistah! Spoken Word Collective, Mashile also featured in the film Hotel Rwanda, and in a cross-media collaboration with choreographer Sylvia Glasser and Moving Into Dance Moiphotong.
The only artist in the lineup not from Africa is Mutabaruka, the legendary poet, author, radio host and social critic from Jamaica. With a background steeped in Rastafari, political activism, spiritual awareness and black consciousness, and as a leading figure in the establishment of dub poetry, Mutabaruka is one of the prominent icons of that island nation, and already a cult favourite in South Africa. Also an actor, Mutabaruka starred in Haile Gerimas award-winning Sankofa in 1993.
Poet, sculptor, artist and academic Pitika Ntuli (South Africa) spent his exile years in the U.K. where he helped establish one of Europe’s leading poetry circuits, Apples & Snakes, in London. Ntuli sits on several ministerial committees and is widely sought after as a public speaker and commentator on arts and culture, indigenous knowledge systems and African scholarship.
Barolong Seboni (Botswana) is currently a Senior Lecturer in the English department at the University of Botswana. Seboni has published several works of poetry, edited numerous literary collections and has a popular weekly column in the newspaper Mmegi. Seboni is the co-founder of the UB Writers Workshop and the Writers Association of Botswana.
Concord Nkabinde (South Africa) and Erik Paliani (Malawi) are two innovative musicians in the contingent who will provide an opportunity for exciting Poetry Africa collaborations. Malawian songwriter and guitarist Erik Paliani, who has also lived in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, has made a name producing albums for Zamajobe and Hugh Masekela, while Concord Nkabinde is a musical director, recording producer, and one of South Africas most sought after bass guitarists. Concord has worked with Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela, Johnny Clegg, Zim Ngqawana, Darius Brubeck, Deepak Ram, Ray Phiri and Gito Baloi amongst others, and has been involved in numerous cross-cultural collaborative projects and genre-fusing initiatives with artists from around the world.
The Cape Town leg of the tour will feature a unique double-hander between two of the sharpest rappers/word artists in the region, Comrade Fatso (Zimbabwe) and Ewok (South Africa). The explosive and controversial Comrade Fatso calls his art Toyi Toyi. It is this radical form of Shona/English street poetry and political critique that saw Fatso and his band Chabvondokas House of Hunger album banned in Zimbabwe. With a background in theatre and live music performance, Ewok works within the Durban hip-hop scene promoting a return to the original roots of hip-hop culture. He is a two-time Poetry Africa SlamJam champion and a top-five placer at the World Slampionship in Rotterdam (2005). Both Comrade Fatso and Ewok have albums out and both are very active on the national and international performance scene.
South Africa’s acclaimed storyteller, playwright, author and actor Gcina Mhlophe will also be part of the Cape Town experience as well as the Durban edition of the festival. Her charismatic performances contribute to the preservation of storytelling as means of keeping history alive. Mhlophe’s work has been translated into numerous languages and received significant national and international awards, including university doctorates.
One of Kenyas new generation of poets Ngwatilo Mawiyoo joins the tour for Zimbabwe, Malawi and Durban. A performance poet who draws on her musical background and work as an actress, her Blue Mothertongue collection of poems set in Nairobi and the African Diaspora focus on notions of home, loss and healing.
In each of the centres the tour will also showcase local poets.These include Khadija Heeger, Ronelda Kamfer, Mbali Kgosidintsi, Madosini, James Matthews, Malika Ndlovu, Ari Sitas, and Kelwyn Sole In Cape Town; Julius Chingono, Batsirai Chigama, Chirikure Chirikure, Freedom Nyamabuya, Outspoken, Musa Zimunya, and Comrade Fatso’s Chabvondoka in Zimbabwe; while in Malawi the programme includes Linda Gabriel, Chigo Gondwe and Q Malewezi.
One of the tour objectives is to develop partnerships and skills exchange with cultural organisations in the respective territories, and principal partner organizations for this project are African Arts Institute in Cape Town, African Synergy Book Café in Harare and the Blantyre Arts Festival and Nation newspaper in Blantyre. Apart from the performance showcases other activity programmes include panel discussions, workshops and meetings with local artists.