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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

19th Poetry Africa Festival to Host Insightful Workshops at Rivertown Beerhall

19th Poetry Africa - Participants Announced

The 19th Poetry Africa Festival will be offering three insightful workshops which will be taking place on the 17th October at the Beerhall gallery from 10: 00 to 13:00. The workshops form part of a teeming line up of festivities to finalise the week-long festival which begins on Monday, October 12.

The workshops include:

  • Advancing Poetry through Events – Organisers of Poetry events in Durban and South Africa (Thabiso Mohare, Vus’umuzi Phakathi and Mxolisi Mtshali) will be speaking about the impact of a growing literary society
  • Making Durban a liveable City – Through Arts Development – Representatives from the eThekwini Parks and Recreation (Themba Mchunu) and National Arts Council (Andrew Nkadimeng) will host a session promoting available programs for the development and preservation of literature in KwaZulu-Natal
  • Finding your Voice – Poetry Africa participants (Mthunzikazi Mbungwana, Nii Parkes and Aryan Kaganof) facilitate a session on finding your creative voice.

All workshops are free and open to the public.

Tickets for the festival finale at Rivertown cost R70 (pre-sale or R80 at the door) and can be purchased from Computicket.

For more information go to or like the PoetryAfrica Facebook page or follow @PoetryAfrica on Twitter.

Presented by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and made possible by support from the eThekwini Municipality, KZN Department of Arts and Culture, National Arts Council and the Goethe Institute. The Centre for Creative Arts is housed in the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is a special project of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cheryl Potgieter.
Poetry Africa Details

Workshop Details

  • Date: Saturday, 17 October 2015
  • Time: 10 AM – 1 PM
  • Venue: Rivertown Beer Hall
    102 Florence Nzama St (formerly Prince Alfred St)
    Durban | Map
  • Speakers: (Mthunzikazi Mbungwana, Nii Parkes, Aryan Kaganof, Thabiso Mohare, Vus’umuzi Phakathi and Mxolisi Mtshali, Themba Mchunu, Andrew Nkadimeng
  • Cost: Free


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Have a look at some of the books by participants of the 19th Poetry Africa festival:

Piggy Boy's BluesTail of the Blue BirdIn a Ribbon of RhythmA Half Century ThingAdults OnlyWenaRunning


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2015 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award to be Announced at Poetry Africa

The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry AnthologyThe annual Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award is now in its fifth year.

Named after Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje (1876 – 1932), it recognises the life and vision of this highly respected political and social activist. As in previous years, Volume V of the series will anthologise the three shortlisted poems along with some 60 other poems on the longlist, which are written in an assortment of South African languages, including English, Afrikaans, Sepedi, Sesotho, Xitsonga and isiZulu.

The longlisted poets to be included in the 2015 Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology are: Jim Pascual Agustin; Karin Andersen; Carel Aäron Anthonissen; Caroline F Archer; Saaleha Idrees Bamjee; Fadwah Booley; Steven Bresler; Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese; Arthur Benjamin Cloete; Eckhard Cloete; Leonard Entienne Cloete; Margaret Clough; Christine M Coates; Corné Coetzee; Genna Gardini; Sunelle Geyer; Shawn Greyling; Kerry Hammerton; Suenel Holloway; Morwamphaka Maisela Sello Huma; Musawenkosi Khanyile; Lara Kirsten; Thandanani Christopher Mabaso; Katise Mawela; Mokoena Mlondolozi; Thabiso Michael Mofokeng; Tsietsi Mokhele; Che Kgahliso Moshesh; Moses Mtileni; Madoda Ndlakuse; Pamela Newham; Mzu Nhlabatsi; Sizakele Nkosi; Zukisani Nongogo; Lazola Pambo; Francine Simon; Annette Snyckers; David C Steyn; Gisela Ullyatt; Athol Williams; Sue Woodward; Frank Wright

The hard work undertaken by this jury behind the scenes to select 63 poems out of the 472 entries received was imperative to the creation of a well-curated anthology.

The longlist was compiled by a jury of three distinguished South African poets: Johann de Lange, Goodenough Mashego and Joan Metelerkamp.

From the longlist of poems, senior judge Mongane Wally Serote, winner of the prestigious Golden Wreath Award, has selected the three finalists for this year’s award.

In no particular order, the three shortlisted poems are:

  • Jim Pascual Agustin, for “Baleka, What do You Know of Tenders and Thieves? Or Cockroaches for that Matter?”
  • Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese, for “A Portrait of a Mother and Indiscretion”
  • Athol Williams, for “Streetclass Diseases”

The winners will all receive cash prizes.

How these poems have been placed, and the overall winner, will be announced at an event hosted by Poetry Africa at 6 PM on Saturday, 17 October, at Rivertown Beerhall. The anthology will be launched earlier the same day, at 3 PM at 8 Morrison Street.

Tickets for the festival finale at Rivertown cost R70 presale or R80 at the door and can be purchased from Computicket.

For more information go to or like the Facebook page PoetryAfrica or on Twitter follow @PoetryAfrica.

Presented by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and made possible by support from the eThekwini Municipality, KZN Department of Arts and Culture, National Arts Council and the Goethe Institut. The Centre for Creative Arts is housed in the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is a special project of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl Potgieter.

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19th Poetry Africa Festival – Participants Announced

19th Poetry Africa - Participants Announced
Piggy Boy's BluesTail of the Blue BirdIn a Ribbon of RhythmA Half Century ThingAdults OnlyWenaRunning

A select group of poets from South Africa and around the world will gather together in Durban from 12 – 17 October, showcasing the face of spoken word and storytelling at the 19th Poetry Africa Festival.

Hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, Poetry Africa provides a space for intercultural exchange and dialogue by hosting an extensive community outreach programme with poetry readings, performances and workshops in community centres, campuses and also participate in a programme of visits to schools across Durban to share ideas about poetry.

Evening poetry readings and discussions will take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre (Howard College) UKZN. The festival finale will take place on October 17 at the Rivertown Beer Hall in Durban’s CBD, with a closing performance by soulful singer Nakhane Touré, whose debut novel Piggy Boy’s Blues has just been released.

This year’s festival features 24 poets:

UK-based Kat Francois, is a comedienne, playwright, actress, performer, host, schools and youth facilitator and a well‐known performance poet both in her country and globally. Lebohang “Nova” Masango, is a Swedish-born writer, poet, activist, feminist and speaker, and UK-based Ghanaian performance poet, writer and sociocultural commentator Nii Parkes.

From South Africa comes the celebrated and prolific poet and actress Lebo Mashile, who, was named one of the Top 100 Africans by New African magazine; Lesego Rampolokeng, the renowned hard-hitting South African writer, playwright and performance poet who has a new collection out now; Aryan Kaganof, a filmmaker, novelist, poet and fine artist, who refers to himself as a project of African Noise Foundation and who had a short story recently featured in Adults Only; Ntsiki Mazwai, the outspoken and incendiary poet, writer and musician; and Thabiso ‘Afurakan’ Mohare, one of the pioneers of the modern South African spoken word scene.

KZN-based poets include Africa Dlamini, a slam/spoken word poet who lives in Howick; Durban’s Celiswa Majali, whose novel Imbali yentombazanana is used by schools at grade 10 level in the Western Cape and Gauteng Provinces. Also from Durban are Khanyi Shusha, a diviner, performance art poet, stylist, designer, facilitator, brown consciousness activist, feminist and writer; Kwazi Ndlangisa, a South African award-winning performance poet, vocalist, creative writer and art activist; Matt Vend, who is well-known across South Africa for his poetically-driven songwriting, unique rhythmic guitar playing and engaging live performances; Nokulunga Dladla, a passionate recording poetry artist and a storyteller as well as an educator in the Pinetown District; Nosipho Magcaba, a former “prelude poet” at the festival, who returns this year to the main programme; Tshebeletso Mohale also a former “prelude poet” at Poetry Africa 2014 who lives and works in Durban; Thando Fuze, who has twice been nominated for Best Female Performing Poet at the Original Material Awards; and Vus’umuzi Phakathi, an award winning South African poet, writer, performer, facilitator and producer.

Other featured poets include Icebound Makhele, a spoken word performer, writer, cultural activist and events coordinator from Bloemfontein; Makhosazana Xaba, the author of two poetry collections and a feminist activist with experience in women’s health, philanthropy and the anti-apartheid struggle; Mbali Vilakazi, the award-winning South African poet, performer, curator and speaker, who has a dynamic style and collaborative experimental approach; Mthunzikazi Mbungwana, a poet, writer and storyteller from a small village of Upper Indwana in Cala in the former Transkei; Mutle Mothibe, who has spent the last 15 years honing his skills a writer and performer and is also an accomplished workshop facilitator who regularly engages both learners and educators; and Limpopo-born Vonani Bila, a poet and musician who has written eight storybooks for newly literate adult readers in Sepedi, Xitsonga and English, and who recently launched a new collection, Bilakhulu!

Tickets for the evening sessions, which take place at 7 PM at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, are R40 (students/pensioners: R25 at the door) and can be purchased at Computicket or one hour before the performance begins at the box office. Tickets for the festival finale at Rivertown cost R70 (pre-sale or R80 at the door) and can be purchased from Computicket.

For more information go to, like the Facebook page PoetryAfrica or follow on Twitter @PoetryAfrica.

Presented by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and made possible by support from the eThekwini Municipality, KZN Department of Arts and Culture, National Arts Council and the Goethe Institut. The Centre for Creative Arts is housed in the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is a special project of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cheryl Potgieter.

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Call to Undiscovered Poets to Audition for the Poetry Africa Festival

The 18th Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival will take place from 13 to 18 October 2014.

The Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), with principal funding from the City of Durban and the Department of Arts and Culture, calls out to Durban’s creative and undiscovered poets to take part in the festival Prelude Poets programme as part of the 18th Poetry Africa International Festival.

The Poetry Africa festival, which takes place from 13 to 18 October, brings together some of the world’s finest poets and musicians to Durban, with artists from the African continent and beyond.

Poetry Africa is looking for four of Durban’s brightest undiscovered poets to take part in the Prelude Poet programme which gives the city’s creative and original poets the opportunity to showcase their hidden talents to audiences at the country’s premier poetry festival.

Participants will be required to audition original works with a five minute limit. Auditions will take place at The Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal Howard College Campus) on 5 September 2014. Auditions will be assigned on a first-come-first-serve basis. To book an audition time, send an email with full names and contact details with Poetry Africa Prelude Auditions in the subject title to

For more details about this year’s Poetry Africa, visit or call (031) 2602506.

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University KwaZulu-Natal), the 18th Poetry Africa is funded by the City of Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture. The Centre for Creative Arts is housed in the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is a special project of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cheryl Potgieter.

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Tweets and Photos from the 2013 Poetry Africa Festival

This year’s Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival, organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), took place from Monday 14 to Saturday 19 October 2013 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre with the finale held at The Bat Centre. The festival boasted an impressive line-up of local and international poets.

Voices That ReasonfhedziLeft OverHead on FireInvisible Earthquake

Khethukuthula Lembethe, from Journalism Iziko at the Durban Institute of Technology, attended a talk by Malika Ndlovu, Kole Oluwatoyin and Kobus Moolman on “Poets in the media”. Lembethe said the discussion “unveiled the relationship between journalism and poetry and stressed the fact that journalists should speak and write truth in the best humanely possible way”.

The 17th International Poetry Africa festival brings together the world’s finest poets and musicians to Durban and the Durban University of Technology’s journalism Program today had the privilege to experience some of the poets and engage in dialogue.

The session was eye-opening and it unveiled the relationship between journalism and poetry and also pressed on the fact that journalists should speak and write truth in the best humanely possible way.

Poetry Africa tweeted from the opening night and shared photos on their Facebook page, which can be seen below:

Photos from the opening night:

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Image courtesy Poetry Africa

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WKRB Will Be Broadcasting Live from Poetry Africa 2013

For the first time ever the opening evening of the Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival will be broadcasted live via the internet radio station Whizz Kids Radio Beta.

Anyone from anywhere in the world will be able to tune in to follow the start of the 17th Poetry Africa Festival this year. The opening evening, and its live broadcast, kicks off on 14 October from 7 PM.

We’re quite proud to announce yet another landmark in the life of WKRB. In its 17 years, Poetry Africa and the beauty of the spoken word, organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at UKZN, has never been streamed to those far and wide via the internet.

Image courtesy Whizz Kids Radio Beta

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17th Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival (14 – 19 October 2013)


The 17th Poetry Africa – International Poetry Festival presented in partnership with the City of Durban and the KZN Department of Arts and Culture is proud to announce the festival line-up, which promises to be an exhilarating showcase of diverse voices and sounds. Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal) to take place from 14-19 October, this festival is a critical platform for self-expression that offers a space for cultural exchange in the city of Durban.

The festival’s line-up features a ground-breaking poetry project – a 12 track recorded album entitled Insurrections – featuring poets and ethnomusicologists from India and South Africa. The project sees the rich sounds of the Indian music tradition blend with African instruments accompanying radical poetry from both continents. The Insurrections ensemble will be performed by musicians Sumangala Damodaran (India), Jürgen Brauninger (South Africa), Neo Muyanga (South Africa), Pritam Ghoshal (India), Brydon Bolton (South Africa), Bettina Schouw (South Africa), Sazi Dlamini (South Africa) and Paki Peloeole (South Africa). The poetry contingent for Insurrections will comprise of Ari Sitas (South Africa), Malika Ndlovu (South Africa), Sabita TP (India) and Vivek Narayanan (India). The ensemble will perform on Thursday, 17 October.

Keeping with the musical theme of this year’s edition, the festival will feature five poets who also work as recording musicians. Kabomo Vilakazi is a singer, songwriter and actor who also features in South African poetry circles. Nominated four times for the SAMAs and a former editor of youth culture magazine Y-Mag, his credentials in the entertainment industry are indeed formidable. Kalawi Jazmee artist Busiswa Gqulu returns to Poetry Africa in the middle of her impressive reign on the music charts throughout Africa. She first graced the Poetry Africa stage as part of the all-women poetry collective Basadzi Voices in 2008 and has also performed solo in 2010. South African poet Natalia Molebatsi is also a writer, facilitator and programme director who recently founded a South African-Italian music project with the band Soul Making. Her poetry is published in the books We Are (2008) and Sardo Dance (2009). Durban-born poet, performer and MC (Ashleigh La Foy) is well-known on Durban stages for both her poetry and her musical prowess. Having earned her stripes as a female rapper, she will indulge Durban audiences with her poetic oeuvre ahead of her much-anticipated debut album. Hailing from the Eastern Cape, Pura Lavisa is a writer, performer and poet whose musical arrangements incorporate percussion and African sounds. Lavisa will be presenting a collection of poems mostly in isiXhosa.

Returning to the Poetry Africa stage, well-respected Soweto-born dub-poet and writer, Lesego Rampolokeng, will deliver an infectious brand of poetry influenced by Black Consciousness and rooted in the lived experience of people on the margins. Also from Soweto, Khulile Nxumalo will present works from his first title ten flapping elbows, mama and his latest collection fhedzi, published by Die Hard Press. Critically acclaimed, Nxumalo was twice named the recipient of the DALRO prize for poetry. Nigerian-born poet Kole Odutola will also be reading his latest work at the festival. Odutola teaches at the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University of Florida and has published extensively both in academia and literature. Another participant with a background in teaching languages is Kobus Moolman, based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Moolman’s latest collection Left Over is currently enjoying rave reviews in the press and his performance will allow an eager Durban audience a chance to celebrate his vast canon of works.

Johannesburg-based performance and slam poet Mandi Poefficient Vundla forms part of the Word n Sound collective and is featured on the online and print publications of Poetry Potion. Crowned ‘Queen of the Word and Sound Mic’ in 2012, she has graced numerous poetry stages including Arts Alive and Jozi Book Fair. Another young female voice featured in the line-up is Sanelisiwe Ntuli, a wordsmith from Hammersdale who writes and performs in isiZulu. Ntuli is a graduate of the Kwesukela Storytelling Academy and regularly features as a storyteller and voice artist on educational programmes of Ukhozi FM. Also writing in isiZulu is Professor Langalibalele F. Mathenjwa is holding a Doctor of Literature and Philosophy from UNISA. He is a published writer of isiZulu poetry, novels, short stories and folklore and has chair Usiba Writers Guild, South African Geographical Names Council, IsiZulu National Language Body and the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names-Africa South Division.

Four poets from the Irish poetry collective O’Bheal will present their work at the festival. This contingent consists of Paul Casey, Afric McGinchey, Billy Ramsel and American-born Raven. Completing the international line-up will be Ian Kamau (Canada), Barnabe Laye (Benin) and Raphael d’Abdon (Italy/ South Africa). Kamau is a writer, visual artist, hip hop and spoken word artist from Toronto, whose discography lists five collections, including the popular album One Day Soon (2011). He will be presenting additional workshops in advance of the festival. A poet and novelist, Laye has published a dozen books and is the recipient of the Nelligan Prize his lifetimes work. His most recent work is entitled Poems in Absent, a long wait (2010). D’Abdon is an Italian scholar, writer, editor and translator and a post-doctoral fellow in the English Studies Department at UNISA. As an editor, D’Abdon recently published Marikana – A Moment in Time, as well as an anthology of poetry about the massacre and his own collection, Sunnyside Nightwalk.

The festival’s community outreach programme will see poets visit over twenty community centres, campuses and tertiary education departments across Durban and beyond. In addition, participating poets will visit twenty schools to discuss reading, writing and the performance aspects of poetry.

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), the 17th Poetry Africa is funded by the City of Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture. The Centre for Creative Arts is housed in the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The CCA is a special project of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, in the College of Humanities at UKZN.

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Poetry Africa 2012, Fourth Evening: Siddiq Khan, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Rustum Kozain, D’bi Young and More!

Poetry Africa

The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Volume II was launched at the Wellington Tavern on Thursday night. Later, at Poetry Africa 2012’s main event, in the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Oswald Mtshali, renowned poet, and chair of this year’s selection committee noted that “poetry has immeasurable range. It is enriching spiritually and emotionally”. He commended the publisher of the collection, the Jacana Literary Foundation, for promoting poetry, saying as an adjudicator it took “superhuman” effort to choose between the two finalists for this year’s award.

Neels Jenssen from the EU took the mic, commending all the poets published in this year’s anthology. He said “your work is another stepping stone towards a common culture in SA”. He announced that Vonani Bila had won second prize with his poem, “boys from seshego”, while Siddiq Khan was the overall winner with his poem “Anthem for Old Nations”. An insouciant, confident Khan then read his poem.

The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IIThere is a PlaceHandsome JitaThe Makings of YouGroundworkRivers...and Other Blackness...Between Us

Ghanaian poet Nii Ayikwei Parkes set a low-key, mellow tone for the main evening’s line-up. He brought in a musical element, asking us to “compare the weight of a guitar string / to the weight of the people it moves”. Although he tackled difficult topics, like slavery, his melodious voice, and nuanced lyrics stood in sharp contrast to some of the angrier poets attending this year’s festival who also wrote about racism. In a humourous poem called “This is not a love poem”, Parkes wrote “this is not a love poem – it’s a sexed-up dossier … a lingering breath of hot air / as it creeps up your thighs / it’s a game, a solo, while I riff a plan to strip you of everything you own”. In the next poem, called “This is a love poem”, Parkes cajoled the woman of his dreams to let him make “you a part of me”.

Niels Hav, from Denmark, the next poet up on stage was funny too, but not erotic. He explained that for him, poetry must be “emblematic. A reader must feel at home with his own feelings in my poem”. He wrote about falling in love with five consecutive women he sees on a bus, who don’t notice him, concluding wryly: “It always ends up that way, you are left standing on a curb, sucking on a cigarette, mildly unhappy”. I loved his poem about a pen where he said: “Poetry is not for sissies / a poem must be a Dow Jones index / a mixture of reality and sheer bluff”. He congratulated SA on “moving in the right direction”, reading a poem he wrote about the country years ago, focussing on the “butterfly effect”, how a small change in one part of the world can create ripples far away. A pragmatic poet, Hav concluded: “if you want something said / you’ll have to say it yourself”. His last poem, concise, pointed, dealt with the end of Western society: “we’ll be gone / they’ll be gone / Hallelujah”.

Last up before the interval was beloved SA poet, Rustum Kozain. His poetry, a mixture of earnestness, passion and melancholia, never fails to cut to the quick. Reading a poem about his first lover, he referred to the “failed algorithms of heartbreak”. Although aware that “it’s not done to apostrophise some romantic absence”, he focussed on the perpetual presence of hurt, both politically (as in apartheid) and privately (romantically). He premiered two new poems not performed publicly before. The first one, “Gods of War”, inspired by a photograph of two sisters in contemporary Syria, was raw and intense, questioning the existence of God in a world tainted by the brutality of war. Kozain asked: “Who wants to rule this tired republic of shame and men in suits smirking / when God dies in Syria, where he was made / what does it matter?” His poetry evinces a visionary element, he is in search of something sacred, as revealed by the last poem he read, “Kingdom of Rain II”, from his second collection Groundwork. This poem shows ecological thinking as the poet explores his feeling of kinship with a leopard: “Yes, I want to let that leopard know / that it is part of me / and I am part of it / in all the ways that that could mean.”

After the interval, D’bi Young, a bold warrior poet from Jamaica (currently living in Cape Town), arrested the audience with her provocative poems about taboo topics, such as incest, slavery, HIV/AIDS and menstruation. Sounding a little like Joan Armatrading, she sang about her need for acceptance, and a revolution of love.

Closing the evening session was Tumi Molekane, a well-known SA rapper. Members of the audience, knew his songs by heart, interjected as he spoke about Gangsters: “this one’s a rebel / could kick start a coup d’etat”. Molekane was a performer with panache, thanking Peter Rorvik and the Centre for Creative Arts for “making me collide with all these intellectual people and sex-bombs”. He had the crowd up and dancing with his rendition of “I can’t decide if it’s the money”, before MC Carol Gumede wrapped up, thanking all the poets, and sending us home.

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Poetry Africa 2012, Third Evening: Tumelo Khoza, Gouslaye, Philo Ikonya and More!

Poetry Africa 2012

Leading the NightThe Makings of YouMuch loved Thekwini musos Guy Buttery and Nibs van der Spuy, just back from a tour of Europe, provided the intro to the main event on the third evening of Poetry Africa 2012, their guitar work delicate and interesting as usual.

The first poet on stage, Tumelo Khoza, hails from Empangeni, and currently lives in Durban. Young, and confident, dressed simply in jeans and a T-shirt declaiming, “Poet”: Khoza has just returned from visiting Sweden, where she was hosted by the Ordsprak poets (also represented at Poetry Africa this year). Tumelo was inclusive in her delivery, inviting a guitarist to accompany her as she spoke her first poem “Black-padded bra”, then calling up two young male dancers to animate her poem “Democracy”. Feistily, she characterised “Democracy” as a vagrant “forever high on a spliff of our disjointed society…he’s a reflection of you and me”. Khoza’s poem about abortion was hard-hitting and deeply felt; she cried as she performed it. In a playful about-turn of gender roles, she summoned Ghanaian poet Nyii Ayikwei Parkes, on to stage, where she recited a remixed nursery rhyme, which, although a little strained, was admirable in its rendering of her as the active pursuer, and him as the passive recipient of her love interest. Her last poem, a direct address to Jacob Zuma, implored the President to acknowledge SA youth, asserting that “our silence is the cheapest gold”.

Following on from Khoza was a poet from Reunion, Gouslaye, who performed his poetry in Creole (it was translated on an overhead projector). His work was foreign, other: quite eerie, strange and philosophical. Speaking of “magic visions, I dream with eyes wide open”, he summoned up ethereal, occasionally bizarre, often fantastical images of a man wandering through nature. I wondered if the translator had got it wrong, naming Reunion the “barmy” island, or perhaps Gouslaye really did think the island induces madness? The music Gouslaye made with a piece of hosepipe whirled round his head added an element of melodrama.

Last up before interval, Philo Ikonya, a Kenyan poet, showed a strong rootedness in human rights activism. She said she was glad to have had the chance to get a suntan, and braided hair, from “fabulous” Durban. She refuted claims that an activist is like a “female Anopheles mosquito, a blood sucker looking for donor money”, instead noting that the “word is powerful / this optic fibre is here,” and emphasising her belief that a “person is a person because of other people”. Ikonya’s poem dedicated to the 44 miners killed at Marikana was hair-raising, as she brought the audience in to sing “Senzeni Na” (what have we done). Calling for better pay for miners, she said simply, but powerfully, “let us open up new ways/let the miners sing new songs”. In closing Ikonya said she had Mandela’s face in her mind as she performed that poem, she thanked the audience for singing and connected her with the feelings.

After the interval, SA musician Pedro Espi-Sanchez performed one song (played on a piece of Paw-paw sapling he had hollowed out as we watched), and then ushered in Xhosa matriarch and mouthbow player Madosini, in full traditional regalia. The audience ululated as she played songs she had learnt as a girl, which were anthropologically interesting as she revived a way of life gone by.

The last act for the night was Oliver Mtukudzi, a Zimbabwean legend. Strangely quite hesitant at first, the guitarist nevertheless had us in the palm of his hand as he played expertly, explaining: “Where I come from music is like food…also, we use it to diffuse tension”. He explained his world view “life is what you make it”. For me it was interesting to learn more about one of my favourite Mtukudzi songs, “What shall we do”. He explained that he wrote it to get his fellow Zimbabweans thinking about AIDS, saying he felt he had succeeded in making people listen.

Eventually Peter Rorvik, director of the Centre for Creative Arts, and all the poets joined Mtukudzi on stage, dancing as the audience stood up and clapped to the music.

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Poetry Africa 2012, Second Evening: Rustum Kozain, Mbali Vilakazi, Ordsprak Poets, Saul Williams and More!

Poetry Africa

Poetry Africa The second evening of the 16th Poetry Africa Festival in Durban kicked off with Cape Town poet Rustum Kozain launching his second collection, Groundwork, at the Wellington Tavern.

Following on from here, Nkolo Madidi, the host for the evening, took to the stage and welcomed University of KwaZulu Natal Vice-Chancellor William Makgoba, who was in the audience.

The line-up of the main event started with Mbali Vilakazi, a performance poet from the Eastern Cape, who at times used voice-overs and reverberation to give her poetry more clout. Clearly, the personal is political for Vilakazi, a feminist, as she vowed “however I crash and burn / there’s always enough faith to begin again”.

Her poem about the girl assaulted for daring to wear a miniskirt to Noord Station in Pretoria was particularly striking, as she described “sixty grown men encircling children,” and the fact that the girl may never wear the skirt again as “it has become a scar across her heart”. In another poem she explored how the power of the patriarchal system has succeeded in making women unfamiliar to themselves, but reminded us that “we must always remember that we have survived”. Vilakazi’s last poem focused on the wonderful image of the phoenix who never dies, reminding those who suffer from crises of identity that comfort can be found in the routine: “Ordinary people, there is solace in this…it is an everyday of who we are”.

GroundworkConquest and ConvivialityChorusThe Dead Emcee Scrolls

Next up were the Ordsprak Poets, a collective from Sweden. All four poets shared a common humour, although their subject matter diverged. Sam Kessel recited a rambling narrative poem for his grandfather (who came from Lithuania to Pretoria) – although he never met him, he said he felt closer to him by travelling to South Africa. Laura Wilborg’s poem about social alienation was enhanced by her fragmented, nervous delivery. She read a poem she wrote when she was seven, explaining that she is trying to reach out to the child in her, as she is working on a children’s play. Oskar Hanska rapped a spontaneous and hilarious poem about falling in love and being dumped, which resonated with the audience.

Following on from the Swedes, Tolu Ogunlesi, a Nigerian poet, set a far more considered, even tone, as he read poems set in various countries of the world. After the interval, Werewere Liking, from the Cote d’Ivoire, charmed the audience with her spirited delivery of songs and poems in her native French (with the help of a translator at times). A spry grandmother, clothed in a pants suit made from African fabric, and adorned with beads, she danced as she declaimed: “I want African women’s dreams for a better life / even when they sound sentimental, as long as they speak and carry from afar”. Her poetry was refreshing. As she invited us to Walk for Peace, she reminded us of what UNESCO says: one should rather walk for, rather than against – as if you struggle against something, it saps your energy.

The last poet up, Saul Williams, from the US, was clearly the most charismatic of the performers on stage that night. His dynamic poetry mirrored the anger of Mbali Vilakazi, in that both poets challenge social norms that perpetuate racism. Williams had a certain fiery evangelism as he proclaimed: “I am you, but I am also me / pastor of sheep that graze in the street”. He warned us “this nigger bites”. Although fierce, Williams also evinced tenderness as he spoke poetry about his children. He challenged the audience, asking us: “What is your mind’s immigration policy? Are you certain you are not a victim of identity fraud?” concluding in the same poem: “Fuck your thought police / fuck you reality show / fuck your faction”. We were mesmerised, but not surprised as he said he would like to write a “burning book”.

Williams said that he always forgot how “cool it feels to be at a poetry festival – it does something wonderful, to add this city, this country, these people – to a festival”.

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