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Archive for the ‘Kenya’ Category

Poetry Africa Workshop and Kenya Seminar

Poetry Africa hits Johannesburg for a one-off showcase on 11 October at Alexander Theatre with a star-studded lineup of poets and musicians which includes Chris Abani (Nigeria), Didier Awadi (Senegal), Chiwoniso (Zimbabwe), Kwame Dawes (Ghana/Jamaica), TJ Dema (Botswana), Khadijatou (UK), Myesha Jenkins, Lebo Mashile, Oswald Mtshali and Shailja Patel (Kenya). The event is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), and supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (principal funder), Mimeta, and Hivos.

Also on offer is a free Poetry Writing Workshop with Kwame Dawes and a seminar on the Kenyan Trials by Shailja Patel.

Using writing exercises and communal critiques, the workshop with Kwame Dawes will explore issues of form, content, and sentiment within the larger context of the work of established writers from various literary traditions, but especially those of Africa and the Diaspora. Participants should bring pen and paper, and a copy of a poem written by a poet they admire. Kwame Dawes is an acclaimed writer of fiction, nonfiction, plays, and a prolific sixteen collections of poetry. He is also an actor, producer, an accomplished storyteller, broadcaster, and was the lead singer in Ujamaa, a reggae band. Winner of a Pushcart Prize, Kwame Dawes is Distinguished Poet in Residence at the University of South Carolina where he directs the SC Poetry Initiative and the University of South Carolina Arts Institute. He is also the programming director of the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica. The workshop is hosted at Goethe Institute, 119 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, at 5:30 pm on Monday 10 October – visit for more information or call 011 442 3232.

Shailja Patel’s seminar Seen And Unseen: Windows On The ICC-Kenya Trials will unpack one of the most important stories in Kenya’s history that is playing out now, in real time, in the chambers and corridors of the International Criminal Court. This story encompasses all the other narratives, of land, ethnicity, power, dynastic politics, going back to the formation of the Kenyan state. Kenya’s future as a nation hangs in the balance – the seminar questions whether the cycle of impunity will finally be broken? Shailja Patel is a founding member of Kenyans For Peace, Truth and Justice, the civil society coalition that pulled Kenya back from the brink of civil war in 2008. Her poems have won awards on 3 continents, and been translated into 15 languages. In 2011, she was named one of Fifty Inspirational African Feminists by the African Women’s Development Fund, and she has been selected by Poetry Africa as the 2011 Letters To Dennis Brutus poet for 2011. This seminar takes place in the Graduate Seminar room, South-West Engineering building, Wits East Campus from 16:00 – 17:00 on Tuesday 11 October. Enquiries can be made to 011 717 4051.

The Poetry Africa tour also travels to Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Cape Town before culminating at the main Poetry Africa festival in Durban (17-22 October). See for more information.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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African and South African Films at Durban International Film Festival 09

The 30thDurban International Film Festival, marks a special point in history of this, South Africa’s longest running festival which continues to celebrate cinema and the art of filmmaking. In the last three decades, African films have remained central to the programming of the DIFF and despite significant downsizing of the overall number of films in the programme, the focus on African content has not shifted. The Festival is proud to present 77 African films, comprising 9 feature films, 28 documentaries and 49 short films. Despite challenges in respect of financing and audience interest for African cinema, a stream of well crafted films continue to get made on the continent, and DIFF is a valued showcase for a selection of such films.

DIFF opens with the South African premiere of internationally acclaimed Durban-made feature My Secret Sky directed by Madoda Ncayiyana, a moving tale of two orphaned rural children and their adventures on the streets of Durban. Other South African films premiering at the festival include the South African Bollywood romantic comedy For Better For Worse by Naresh Veeran, South Africa’s first Xhosa feature length film Intonga by JJ Van Rensburg and Long Street, a second offering from Revel Fox, director of The Flyer. Savo Tufegdzic’s controversial first feature named Crime – Its a way of Life is an unflinching portrait of the psychology of crime in South Africa. Steve Jacobs’ Disgrace is an Australia production of the adaptation of JM Coetzee’s Booker Prize winning novel, and stars John Malkovich with Durban actress Jessica Haines. Anthony Fabian’s Skin is a South African-UK co-production based on a true story about Sandra Laing who was born to a white family during apartheid, but happened to be black. The world premiere of White Lion is an exquisitely shot story about an albino lion cub rejected by his pride yet revered by the Shangaan tribe, great family viewing. Another film suitable for children is The Seven of Daran – The Battle of Pareo Rock, a Dutch production directed by Lourens Blok, shot in South Africa, about two children’s adventures with a mythical giraffe.

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