Ntate Keorapetse Kgositisile would have been proud of the poets who bravely shared their truth at this year’s Keorapetse Kgositsile Poetry Café held almost two weeks ago in Jozi.
The mind-blowing poetry session had poets and writers from as far as Sweden touching down on African soil, was the highlight of this year’s South African Book Fair.
Ishmael Sibiya, who I describe as the young father of poetry, produced this year’s poetry café session and together with his team curated a thought-provoking and heart-wrenching event. Sibiya is also the founder of poetry movement, Hear My Voice. I know him as a poetry advocate whose passion has afforded him the skill to organise poetry sessions that have the power to impact and change the experiences of those who might have the privilege of attending.
Vangile Gantsho doesn’t read from her hard-hitting poems which are reflective at most times, she shares her experiences. And that is what I mean by choosing the right poets to deliver what I call poetry. Sibiya has good taste in selecting the right poets. Through the poetry competitions and workshops he runs throughout the year, Wits is where (I am convinced) Sibiya gets these amazing poets
Gabi Selloane said: “Their poems leave you searching your soul.”
I guess that is why I ended up at the poetry café session, beause I was searching for some soul and truth – only poetry can give that and yes, Jazz too.
One of Gantso’s poem’s left me paralysed. She asked why women and children were not safe in present South Africa and why men were inflicting so much pain in their bodies. That made me a bit uncomfortable as a young man who has never beaten a woman before or intentionally hurt a child. But I needed to hear those questions and ask myself what have I done to prevent the continued violence on these harmless innocent bodies?
The truth was still lingering in the air.
Looking at how things are, the number of women who were read about and whose stories grabs newspaper headlines each week, I had to really ponder on why we as men are so angry. And why we take out that anger on those we should be making happy than scared.
Swedish poet and writer Jenny Hogstrom shared a story that talked to race within romantic relationships. Hogstrom interrogated the idea of an interracial couple, who seem to be happy on the outside but are fighting a quite inner war with each other.
The poem she read contrasts our different backgrounds – our clashing worlds. But because we love each other we stick together, creating an unhealthy type of a relationship which is caused by our skin colour, our privileges or lack of (depends on which side of the world you are viewing this from).
I love what poetry does – it has this ability to give a million meanings to different people, even when Gothenburg-based poet Nino Mick read some of his poems in Swedish, those in the room could understand what he was saying. The infusion of slam poetry, which was a surprise at the fair was enjoyed by fair-goers.
Just like Gantsho and Hogstrom, Upile Chisala made me think deeply about the role we as artists, storytellers have, which is to bring the truth forward. Africa is a place filled with darkness and sorrow as much as it is with joy and successful stories. US based rapper Noname described Africa as forever dying. And that for me is the truth – uncomfortable as is.
Chisala delivered some truth when reading some poems from her debut collection, Soft Magic.
Jamaican-Canadian born poet D’bi Young Anitafrika launched her new collection of poetry and interacted with some of the people who attended the fair.
The fair has been known to attract thousands of people annually with the aim of inspiring a reading South Africa. Since its inception almost 14 years ago, it takes place during the national book week-first week of September. According to Elitha van der Sandt, chief executive of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC), the Fair has been able to get more than a million new South Africans readers.
I met MoAfrika Mokgathi around 2005 or ’06 at Stanza Bopape Community Hall, where she hosted poetry sessions, Azanian Seeds-one of a few people hosting sessions in Mamelodi. That’s when I was exposed to her work, a huge part of me hoped that she writes a book but now that I know better, she couldn’t have given us My Tongue is a Rainbow at a better time.
Born in my beloved Mamelodi, MoAfrika’s voice is a familiar one. It took me a week to finish this book and I loved how much of an easy read it is. MoAfrika touches on feminism and family orientated issues.
My Tongue is a Rainbow is MoAfrika’s first offering and this is also my debut book review- so this is a big deal for me because we’re both infants at this. The title gives away what the poems could be about. Initially when I saw the book’s cover circulating on social media, I had an idea that the book focuses on events taking place in post-Apartheid South Africa. She has a poem tilted Marikana, about the 2012 massacre that saw the police gun down protesting miners in the North West and the piece also talks about how women are violated in South Africa.
When you’ve known someone’s work for as long as I’ve known MoAfrika’s, one prays that one of their all-time favourite poem is included in the book. When I received it, the first thing I looked for was an opening line to a poem I love…They were found fire dancing in the palm of God’s hand…I really love that poem ninani, I was actually sad for a sec [hahhaha].
MoAfrika also pays homage to Her Skin Speaks, a movement I dedicated to telling women’s stories in a poem called Monyamane. It was heartfelt of her to recognize real life events, female trauma and acknowledge the work put into trying to heal the female body holistically.
She has a poem in the book titled Rakgadi that I relate to. The piece highlights the importance of an aunt, specifically from one’s paternal side of the family. Her role in the family is important as it is stated in the poem that…
My paternal aunt has stopped ululating
She has stopped reciting the family clan names during family gatherings gutted that Mokgadi doesn’t greet her with jubilation. Mokgadi is getting married and Rakgadi is taciturn
In our culture Rakgadi is the overseer of everything; she gets the most gifts, and she is one of the people ‘ba layang ngwana’ in this case would Mokgadi.
I truly enjoyed reading this offering and I’m stoked to see what she writes about next. It’s been such an honour to share my two cents
The book is available for purchase. To get a copy you can email MoAfrika here email@example.com
You’ve heard of it before right, the Pull Her Down Syndrome where women pull each other down, seemingly because of intimidation or gross baseless hatred toward other women. But the exaggerated animosity doesn’t stand at the Vavasati Women’s International Festival. It hasn’t for the seven years of the festival’s existence.
Today marks the fourth Friday since the festival commenced this month. The works at the festival address systemic structures of power that continue to discriminate against women, under the theme Inequality: Seizing the Megaphone! The name Vavasati is a Xitsonga word meaning women, reiterating the power and strength that women possess when they unite.
The internationally acclaimed women’s arts festival annually takes place at the State Theatre in Pretoria throughout the month of August, with over 20 works created solely by powerful creative women from different spheres of the art world- in photography, music, choreography and performance art.
“The fact that the festival is in its 7th year, already that is growth alone. Actually the State Theatre has done an amazing job to cater for women. We are enhancing the festival some more now. The budgets have grown and the number of participants or works put in the programme has increased. Some women debut their works here and others find their voice here in this platform to grow and become the best. There are collaborations that grow from and within the festival. So women can work together!” says co-curator of Vasati International Festival Mamela Nyamza. Kgaogelo Tshabalala is the other co-curator.
According to Nyamza, the programme invites (through a call out) artists and companies to submit proposals each year for the month-long fest. “When we receive them, we have readers that are asked to go through the proposals and recommend works. We went through some of the works that they have recommended. I also being new in Pretoria, I met Kgaugelo Tshalabala who knows the artists in Pretoria, and asked her to come join me in curating. We have a pool for musicians, poets, dancers and actors. Some proposals were taken out and others taken in. I made my selection and so as Kgaugelo,” she said.
The team has something novel in this year’s programme, with the Open Market and Live Music segment that take place every Sunday. This is a lively setting on an open-air rooftop towered by landmark surrounds overlooking the arts complex.
Created and inspired by women, but the festival is for all- including men and young boys who are often perpetrators of the abuse received by women and girls. So attracting a diverse audience is important for Vasati International Festival’s impact in society. “We are continuously making an awareness of the festival. With the exposure that is out there, we have been loud than ever. The participating artists have been active in the joining the campaigns. The programme is diverse in such a way that it caters across all genres. There is everything for everyone. There are educational works, provocative works and family inclusive works,”says the choreographer Nyamza.
Inclusive and progressive works are synonymous with the State Theatre, which supports young artists and has opened its doors to stimulating uncaptured work. “Including other provinces nationally and other country’s participating, already it puts State Theatre as thee theatre for Africa. This aligns with our overall vision and artistic mandate to be a pan African theatre that is inclusive in its programme offering. Already I have calls from artists abroad asking when is the next festival.”
“The future for me is already a thing of the past-you were my first love and you will be my last,” said Bob Dylan. These words were echoed by the French government as they honoured Dr. Esther Mahlangu with the Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award during the Bastille Day celebrations.
The French were the first to show love for Mahlangu’s beautiful works back in 1986, long before her own beloved South Africa saw her as a national treasure. A group of French art lovers were in Dr. Mahlangu’s neighbourhood Kwa Ndebele over 30 years ago, viewing a slew of Ndebele artworks but it was Mahlangu’s work that caught their eye- so much so, that they came back for her to exhibit in France.
“I feel very happy, I thank the French a lot. They found me in Middleburg, at a gallery in Botshabelo and asked that I go to France to show my work. This after they had taken photos of the different works in Kwa Ndebele, not mine but everybody’s there…when they got to France my work was selected as the best among the photographed works,” she said speaking to news channel eNCA.
“Young artists shouldn’t let go of their heritage. I started long time ago and I keep teaching the young ones, some of them have been overseas already because of the artworks,” said the 83 year-old Dr. Sitting adjacent to Dr Mahlangu was Ndebele legendary musician Dr. Nothembi Mkhwebane. “We are very proud of our Ndebele culture, and to be able to even do the kind of work we do at our age. We are very proud of uGogo Esther as the French honour her- we currently have two doctors in the Ndebele culture who’ve been honoured, may this encourage the youngsters too,” the singer said.
The award, Officer in the French Order of Arts and Letters, was given to the Dr Mahlangu artist last Friday at the Bastille Day celebrations at the Residence of France in Pretoria, by French Ambassador to Mzansi Christophe Farnaud.
“This award is all the more deserved for the efforts you have made during your life to share with the world your heritage,” said the outgoing French ambassador Farnaud.
IN child development, by the time they get to the age of four they sould be able to speak clearly and have a better understanding of their surroundings. In the music industry, four years could have you still rehearsing in a garage or performing in front of multitudes. In their fourth year of existence, PG_13 will reach a milestone by performing at Fête de la Musique next month.
“Since the inception of PG_13, this is the one festival we have always wanted to play, the Fête line up has always consisted of a group of musician that we have always wanted to learn from and interact with, so playing here is the next level of our education for our future musical endeavours,” says vocalist Bongiwe Nkobi.
Originating in France in 1982, the Fête de la Musique is celebrated in 700 cities in 120 countries across the world in June, including South Africa. The free concert which celebrates live music, takes place in the Newtown precinct, Johannesburg on the eight next month.
For lead guitarist Zweli Mthembu, who also is part of The Brother Moves On collective which performed at Fête years ago, seeing PG_13 on the Fête stage shows that they’ve worked very hard in a really short time and these kinds of gigs mean the band is reaching their goals.
The band is made up of poet Angela Mthembu, Harry Thibedi, Wandisile Boyce, Steven Bosman, Zweli Mthembu as well as Zoe Molelekwa and Neo Mabena.
They’ll share the stage with Msaki, reggae band Tidal Waves, the DRC’s Grace Attalie, Mozambican Afro-soul artist Deltino Guerreiro and Soweto’s Urban Village among others. The head of IFAS’s cultural section Corinne Verdier said in a statement “For us, for the artists, for our partners and sponsors, we all share one common goal: to put on a really fun and free music festival with that unique French flair! We also want to promote this new generation of wonderful artists.”
PG_13 released their EP Hekaya last year and will be performing songs from that project. “…Our set will be mixed up with songs that are both new and old. Songs we haven’t played in a while and songs that are still being written. Because the stories we tell are constantly evolving,” says guitarist, Thibedi.
That project included vocalist Thando Msiza who is no longer part of the ensemble. “We as PG_13 are not in the business of hiring or firing people. It is a fluid space that allow people to come in and out depending on where they are in their lives. I mean look, our lead guitarist will be going on tour with The Brother Moves On which gives us space to collaborate with people. When Zoe Molelekwa came into the space of PG_13 it was a collaborative project, but now he holds his own space in the music and plays a very important role in the collective. And he himself has a solo project of his own,” poet Angela says. “If we do ever work with another vocalist it would never be to replace Msiza but rather for the development of the sound,” adds drummer, Bosman.
The Fête gig is part of their busy winter schedule which also sees them playing at the Grahamstown Arts Festival in July, but before that they’ll host benefit concerts around Gauteng as a way of raising funds for logistics of that tour. “It’s going to be wonderful to play in my hometown naba ntwana base khaya,” the band’s bassist from the Eastern Cape, Boyce says with excitement.