Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Centre for Creative Arts

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Botswana’ Category

Tuesday’s Graveyard Session at Poetry Africa

Lebo Mashile, Mama C, Natalia Molebatsi

Guitarists Concord Nkabinde and Ernie Smith set the mood for the second night of Poetry Africa by playing “Malaika”, a bittersweet East African melody, and other funky songs that eased us into Durban poet Mari Pete’s heartfelt, albeit slightly nervous performance. At first I found her slow, careful, at times a little precious, with an awkward delivery – but the reading called for deep listening, and showed authenticity. As a lecturer in E-Learning at the Durban Institute of Technology it was moot that she should use audio-visuals to enhance her poetry. We heard two recordings of her poems, read by actor Pieter Scholz, and viewed slides relating the work, and then Pete read us the originals, in Afrikaans, her first language. Michelle McGrane accurately describes, on LitNet, Pete’s work as “imaginative explorations of the sacred in everyday life”: her poems reveal the voice of a cool, self-possessed modern woman, layered over the whispers of an ancient, delicate self.

Barolong Seboni, from Botswana, was the second poet to read on the night, and introduced himself as a poet “who loves women” – which, thankfully, did not lead to cliché. His poems about his grandmothers celebrated the connectedness of generations, and reinforced my belief that Botswana is a stable democracy because its people are rooted in healthy traditions. Like his voice, his poems are humourous, but strong, at times satirical, and focussed primarily on social issues. His compassionate poem about street kids, and another about thirsty Masai people denied access to the water of Lake Navaisha by developers, demonstrated a grounded morality.

After this Indian poet Meena Kandasamy swept onto stage like a small whirlwind, swirling the audience into admiring applause for her vital, quick words. I will never see tea-drinking in the same light having heard her describe the making and drinking of tea as a seductive ritual! At 26, a consummate wordsmith, Kandasamy went from reading love poetry to “more angry poems”. In answer to Seboni’s poem about his grandmothers, she read a poem about hers, who suffered terrible abuse at the hands of the British, as well as their own husbands, and whose grand-daughters now, “mostly write”. Unsurprisingly Kandasamy’s soon-to-be-published collection is called Ms Militancy. We got a taste of that fiery political energy when she chose to read a poem challenging the caste system in India, which insisted on “giving names to our inward anger”.

After interval I discovered I was sitting next BOOK SA member Leon de Kock, himself a poet, who interestingly said he doesn’t like to publish his poetry on the net, as the poems become too exposed, “to close to the bone”.

Palestinian Ghassan Zaqtan, the next poet up, said, to contextualise his work, “this is the question which has always puzzled poets, which is the more beautiful – the way home, or home itself?” Sadly, he went on to say “I have written only poems of exile, because if you ask me about poems of home, I have not written them yet.” His voice, husky and melancholic, was well-suited to the poetry he read, which focussed on the deaths of those he loved in Palestine, due to the political conflict there. His poetry skilfully reflected the pain of dealing with irreconcilable loss. It was fitting that this work was chosen as the evening’s tribute to Dennis Brutus, political poet and sage, who died earlier this year.

The life-affirming Lebo Mashile ended the night’s performance. To be fair, although her work strikes me as often formulaic and didactic, I did also appreciate her dynamism, and skillful performances. Her tribute to Miriam Makeba, “Songbird Traveller”, was beautifully rendered. She evinces a strong desire for transformation, both personal and social, and her obvious passion for the word obviates the danger of being narcissistic.

Shoaib Mzoma, Achmad MorsiSteve Pete, Howard and Marlene Roberts, Deborah HumeGugu Khathi and Vusi MavimbelaBusiswa Gqulu and Rahim MbiliJorge Palma and Souleymane Diamanka with a book gift

» read article

Poetry Africa 2010 Opens not Cautiously, but with Cautions (Galleries)

Poetry Africa poster

Peter Rorvik, director of the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA), opened Poetry Africa 2010 with a sombre warning, reminding the audience that SA’s excellent constitution does not protect its citizens from censorship, such as is threatened by the government’s proposed Protection of Information (“Secrecy”) Bill. He encouraged people to sign the ‘Right to Know’ petition, emphasising that a collective effort is more powerful than individual voices in fighting silencing of any kind.

A heavily pregnant, but nonetheless highly animated host Lebo Mashile thanked the CCA for creating a haven for poets – which is difficult in the current economic climate – saying Poetry Africa was the ‘best festival currently running in SA’.

And then the poetry began. Exiled Malawian Frank Chipasula was supportively clapped in, and read a delicate tribute to his son, accompanied by guitarists Ernie Smith and Concord Nkabinde. Souleymane Diamanka from Senegal read a thoughtful poem about writing, where he innovatively compared reality to a ‘trampoline’. Busiswa Gqulu, from Durban, did not need a microphone as she rendered her forthright poem about the child of an abortion gone wrong, while Ronelda Kamfer, from Cape Town, read a simple but far-reaching poem about a domestic worker – an unapologetic riff on Koos Kombuis’s song ‘Katie’. Meena Kandasamy’s provocative piece about the colonised status of the English in India prompted rapturous applause, and her books sold like hot-cakes at the books stand afterwards.

Meena KandasamyConcord Nkabinda and Ernie SmithBusiswa GquluNgwatilo MawiyooMutabarukaJorge PalmaClaudio PozzaniBusiswa GculuMari PeteNgwatilo MawiyooKobus MoolmanLebo Mashile

Jayne Fenton Keane from Australia read an edgy syncopated piece about Miles Davis, ‘birthing cool’, followed by the dignified Mama C, who managed to avoid falling into cliché as she grappled with the notion of African identity. The beautiful Ngwatilo Mawiyoo’s spirited performance of her poem ‘Goatmeat’ stood as a passionate criticism of poverty and displacement, while well-loved Durban poet Gcina Mhlophe played with an old poem, ‘Sometimes when it rains’ – appropriate as the spring rains had just begun that day. Natalia Molebatsi sang her poem too.

Kobus Moolman, regarded as one of SA’s ‘finest lyrical poets’ gave us a shock when he said ‘I’m here to scare the pants off you, we’ve been laughing too much tonight’, choosing to read a dark poem about a sinister empty house, and a dysfunctional electronic gate. Rastafarian Mutabaruka had the audience in stitches as he declaimed a poem challenging Darwin. His tenderness balancing some of the at-times overpowering energy of the evening’s feminists, Jorge Palma, from Uruguay, read what I thought was the best poem of the evening, a sad simple elegy to the dead of the Iraqi war. Mari Pite honoured her home town with a witty pastiche of Tekwini taxi names, followed by Italian Claudio Pozzani, who read a poem about shadow – ‘Ombre’ – in a wonderfully deep operatic voice. Barolong Seboni, from Botswana, although himself bald, read a humourous poem paying tribute to African hair, and how it represents the continent’s ‘hairitage’. Mashile completed the evening reading a poem about the ‘fractured mirror’ of SA, which bordered on rhetoric at times, and got me wondering about how far the definition of what constitutes a poem can stretch.

But all in all, a rich fascinating panoply of poets, in what promises to be a stellar week, providing contrast and colour and many new experiences from all over the world.

Poetry Africa 2010

More photo galleries

Group photo courtesy the Poetry Africa blog

» read article

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.

Tour Lineup

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.

Tour Partners

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.

  • For more details on Poetry Africa and the tour contact the Centre for Creative Arts on +27 31 2602506, visit or follow us on twitter @PoetryAfrica

» read article

The 2010 Poetry Africa Lineup (PLUS: Poetry Africa on Tour to Cape Town, Harare and Blantyre!)


Poetry AfricaPoets from around South Africa, Africa and the world will descend on Durban for an exhilarating rollercoaster of words, rhythms and ideas at the 14th Poetry Africa international poetry festival, which takes place from 4 to 9 October. Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), and with principal support from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Poetry Africa’s exciting week-long programme is preceded by a three-stop Poetry Africa tour to Cape Town, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Over twenty poets from twelve different countries will feature in the main Durban programme and the full lineup will each present an introductory poem on The Opening Night of the festival (4 October, Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre), providing an ideal précis of the diverse voices the public can expect during the rest of the week. The week will thereafter feature 5 poets every evening, through to 8 October, before the rousing Festival Finale at the BAT Centre on 9 October. Each evening at the Sneddon Theatre will begin with curtain-raising performances by poets representing the various active Durban poetry circles. Another unique aspect of this year’s festival is the residency of Concord Nkabinde and Erik Paliani. Nkabinde, an acclaimed bass guitarist who has performed with the likes of Johnny Clegg, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ray Phiri, Phil Manzaniera, Zim Ngqawana, Darius Brubeck, Deepak Ram and many others, will collaborate with Malawian producer, musician and singer-songwriter Erik Paliani in nightly musical curtain-raisers. Nkabinde and Paliani’s passion for collaboration provides the perfect metaphor for the cross-cultural artistic meetings that Poetry Africa seeks to stimulate.

~ ~ ~

Announcing Poetry Africa on Tour: Cape Town, Harare, Blantyre

Poetry Africa on Tour is an effort to celebrate poetry with ever-wider constituencies and to stimulate meaningful cultural exchange between artists, audiences and countries. With the support of the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (principal funder), Mimeta and Pro-Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland, the 2010 tour kicks off at the Cape Town ICC on Sunday 26th September, featuring Frank Chipasula, Mama C, Lebo Mashile, Gcina Mhlophe, Mutabaruka, Barolong Seboni, Pitika Ntuli, includes musicians Concord Nkabinde and Eric Palliani and a unique collaboration between Comrade Fatso (Zimbabwe) and Ewok (South Africa). With the exception of Mhlophe and Ewok, and with the addition of Ngwatilo Mawiyoo, the tour continues with shows at Manneberg and Book Café in Harare on 28th and 29th, before being part of the Blantyre Arts Festival in Malawi on 1st October. In each of the centres the tour will also showcase local poets, and incorporate workshops, discussions and engagements with artists and cultural activists.

~ ~ ~

The broad selection of poetic voices, forms, and cultures at the festival includes the vivid verse of Frank Chipasula (Malawi). Apart from poetry, the BBC Poetry Prize winning and twice Pushcart Prize-nominated Chipasula is also a widely-respected writer, academic and editor. The African lineup also includes Kenyan Ngwatilo Mawiyoo, a poet whose intelligence and subtlety is abundantly evident in her first book of poems Blue Mothertongue, a collection which examines notions of home, loss and healing. Returning to Poetry Africa after an absence of six years is poet and academic Barolong Seboni (Botswana), whose astute grasp of history and its meaning, is spread over numerous acclaimed collections. Charlotte Hill O’Neal, better known as Mama C, is an American-born visual artist, musician and poet, who was a member of the Black Panther Movement before relocating to Tanzania in 1972. Her collection Warrior Woman of Peace was launched in 2008 and her fourth album of poetry and music is forthcoming. Both in his words and music the captivating voice of internationally celebrated Souleymane Diamanka (Senegal/France) offers an expressive cultural bridge between his French home and his Fulani ancestry.

The strong South African presence this year includes established luminaries and exciting new voices. Pitika Ntuli combines a vast store of African mythology and history, a keen awareness of the contemporary and an astonishing ability to improvise in his evocative poetry. Storytelling and myth also figure large in the verse of Durban icon Gcina Mhlophe. Lebo Mashile, arguably the best-known contemporary South African poet, brings to the Poetry Africa stage her candid and richly weaved words. The award-winning poet and playwright Kobus Moolman will present poems from his new collection Light and After as well sneak peaks at his next collection. Light and After (Deep South), a sparse and bravely honest work will be launched at the festival. Other launches include: Piece Work (Modjaji Books) by Ingrid Andersen and Scent of Footprints (Unisa Press) by Pitika Ntuli, Xaba.

Poetry Africa welcomes back the 2005 DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Poetry winner Gabeba Baderoon, the author of three collections of complex and intensely lyrical poetry. The Afrikaans-language poet Ronelda Kamfer’s entry into South African literature has been memorably described by poet Charl-Pierre Naude “like a Guy Fawkes’ rocket at Pentecost”. Kamfer’s remarkable ability to artfully filter the political and social through a personal lens marks her as a young poet to watch. Natalia Molebatsi combines spoken word and singing in an intoxicating cocktail that touches base with genres such as jazz, dub, hip hop and reggae. Well-known Durban poet Busiswa Gqulu, like Molebatsi, combines poetry, song and performance to startling effect. Another well-respected Durban poet, Marí Peté, explores dreamscapes, everyday experiences, and the thin membrane between these states of being in her poetry.

The international presence at Poetry Africa is particularly strong this year. Celebrated poet, author, radio host, actor and social critic Mutabaruka was the first well-publicized voice in the new wave of Jamaican poets making themselves heard in the early 1970s. He has recorded numerous poetry albums which have helped forge the unique genre of music commonly referred to as dub poetry. As an actor, Mutabaruka has starred in Haile Gerima’s award-winning Sankofa (1993).

In honour of activist and poet Dennis Brutus (1924 -2009) Poetry Africa introduces the Letters to Dennis segment featuring a poet of high excellence who reflects Dennis’s passion for human rights and integrity. The Letters to Dennis references the famous poem Letters to Martha, written while Dennis was in prison. The Letters to Dennis poet for 2010 is Ghassan Zaqtan of Palestine. At one time the editor of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s newspaper, Ghassan Zaqtan is one of Palestine’s most respected poets and his urgent yet paradoxically gentle and contemplative poetry abounds with luminous imagery.

Jayne Fenton Keane (Australia) is a highly awarded and respected poet whose blend of poetry-song cycles, spoken word-music fusions and shamanic performances have challenged and inspired audiences and critics around the world. Poet, writer-activist and translator Meena Kandasamy (India) uses writing, translation and activism to confront her womanness, her Dalitness and her Tamilness – three categories of belonging that continue to enshrine a history of resistance to oppression. Jorge Palma (Uruguay) is a poet and storyteller whose sensitive and elegant poetry is most concerned with addressing and dissecting the human condition, while Italian Claudio Pozzani is poet and musician whose work has been translated into more than ten languages.

Saturday, 9 October sees a full day of activities at the BAT Centre, with poetry workshops, open mic opportunities, the Durban SlamJam all culminating in the Festival Finale on Saturday night which includes a performance by the Imperial Tiger Orchestra, a Geneva-based band that performs songs from the Golden Age of Ethiopian modern music (1969 – 1978). Although this six-piece orchestra’s repertoire consists primarily of revamped and reworked Ethiopian music, they are not to be mistaken for a covers band. Instead the Imperial Tigers explore uncharted territory in this form, playing with textures and dynamics, adding distortions and noise to complete beautiful new pieces based on the Ethiopian originals.

There is also a packed daily programme utilizing the expertise of festival participants includes performances, seminars, workshops, a prison programme, poetry competitions, and school visits all aimed at inspiring heightened interest in poetry.

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), the 14th Poetry Africa festival is supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (principal funder), Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS), City of Durban, Arts and Culture Trust, Pro-Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland, Mimeta, and the French Institute of South Africa.

» read article