Friday, December 3, 2010

Poetry and then some

I’m overwhelmed by the wealth and breadth of poetry coming out of Sub-Saharan Africa. There’s much to explore, but in today’s post I thought I’d mention the Poetry Africa festival.

Poetry Africa is an international festival that takes place annually in Durban, South Africa. It’s now in its 14th year. Two months ago (October 4-9), 20 poets from 12 countries – including South Africa, Jamaica, Palestine, Australia, India, Uruguay, Italy and Senegal – performed their poetry. Associated events were held in Cape Town, Harare (Zimbabwe) and Blantyre (Malawi).

Here are three of the South African poets who participated:

Gcina Mhlope / Photo courtesy Poetry Africa
Gcina Mhlophe: a poet, storyteller, playwright, director, author, singer, actress and activist whose work addresses themes such as apartheid and patriarchy. She also created the group Zanendaba Storytellers as a means of revitalising storytelling traditions.

Pitika Ntuli / Photo courtesy Poetry Africa
Pitika Ntuli: a poet, artist, sculptor and professor who uses myth and history in his poetry. He’s also played advisory roles on arts and culture, indigenous knowledge and traditional leadership. He’s even written his bio as a poem.

Lebo Mashile / Photo courtesy
Lebogang Mashile: a poet, performer, actress, writer, columnist, TV presenter and producer. She sees poetry as a means of changing attitudes in post-apartheid South Africa; her website quotes her as saying, "The enemy isn’t really clear in the way it was before. It’s an incredibly sensitive, complicated struggle with many dimensions, but the site for that struggle is inside. ...The language of poetry comes from a place where that transformation has to begin, that sort of intuitive, creative, spiritual searching place that will be the fuel for any kind of transformation process." Mashile co-founded the Feel a Sistah! Spoken Word Collective, acted in the film Hotel Rwanda, and collaborated with choreographer Sylvia Glasser to create the contemporary dance performance Threads. She deals with issues that include women and violence, identity, and South African society and politics.

Here's a performance by Lebo Mashile earlier this year:

Lebo Mashile - Poet/ Writer/Producer from Thabo Thindi on Vimeo.
The Poetry Africa Festival is organised by the University of Kwazulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts. The Centre also hosts the Time of the Writer festival, the Durban International Film Festival,  and the Jomba! Contemporary Dance Festival.

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