Poetry Africa: focus on women poets

Poetry Africa 2019

Maritzburg’s Luleka Mhlanzi will be performing at Poetry Africa.

MARITZBURG’S Luleka Mhlanzi — a performance poet, actress, creative writer and a youth activist — is among 16 South African and international poets heading to the 23rd Poetry Africa in Durban from October 7 to 12.

Hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA), the festival will be taking place at venues and schools around Durban, with the opening night and evening sessions at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on UKZN’s Howard College campus.

The six-day programme will feature interactions with poets through performances, readings and book launches, the ever-popular Durban Slam Jam competition and the festival finale, which showcases all the poets involved in the event.

There will also be a mash-up of workshops, talks, discussions, competitions, open mic opportunities, and visits to schools.

“Celebrating diversity, the festival includes local South African and international poets from Egypt, the United States, Spain, the Ukraine, Mauritius and Nigeria,” said curator Siphindile Hlongwa of the CCA.

“This year we continue to celebrate women poets and cast our focus towards fiery female poetic voices that use their art to mitigate the gender-based abuse and violence that continues to plague the country.”

Poetry Africa 2019

Haitian-born, Brooklyn-raised storyteller, Joel Francois.

This year’s participants include:

  • Award-winning poet Guillem Gavalda from Spain, whose poetry has been translated into Spanish, English, Turkish and Greek.
  • Haitian-born, Brooklyn-raised storyteller Joel Francois, who tell stories of love, family and race, believes that the artist is the “architect of humanity”.
  • Nadra Mabrouk, from Cairo, Egypt, the recipient of the 2019 Brunel International African Poetry Prize and the 2019 Poets & Writers Amy Award.
  • Ukrainian Iryna Starovoyt is a poet, essayist and associate professor of Cultural Studies at the Ukrainian Catholic University. Starovoyt also co-edits the website Ukraina moderna (uamoderna.com).

The CCA and Poetry Africa have also started a long-term exchange programme with Nigeria to further the literary and poetic connections between West and South Africa.

“At a time in South Africa’s shameful xenophobic history, this exchange programme is part of, not just a healing, but of a celebration of our collective African identity.

“We celebrate the power of the spoken and written word to unite,” said Hlongwa.

The festival will be hosting five poets from Nigeria as part of an exchange programme with the Lagos Poetry Festival, which also takes place in October.

Poetry Africa 2019

Jolyn Phillips, author of Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and Other Stories.

The line-up includes:

  • Efe Paul Azino, one of Nigeria’s best known performance artists and poets who co-founded West Africa’s first international poetry festival, the Lagos International Poetry Festival, which he currently directs.
  • Titilope Sounga, an award-winning poet, writer and performer who calls both Canada and Nigeria home.
  • Tobi Abiodun, a poet and spoken word artist who was born and raised in Benin City, and is a multiple slam champion, holding titles in Lagos, Abuja and Port­harcourt.
  • Bash’ Amuneni, a poet and performer whose works explores humanity’s capacity for love. He is the author of the poetry collection There is a Lunatic in Every Town, a TEDx speaker and member of the Abuja Literary Society.
  • Writer and poet Yomi Sode, who has been performing for the past 10 years, balancing the fine line between both Nigerian and British cultures that can, at times, be humorous, loving, self-reflective and uncomfortable.

Her highlights include opening for Saul Williams and The Last Poets, appearances at the Yahoo! Wireless Festival, Latitude, Lovebox, Olympic Village, Sadler’s Wells Theatre and working with Channel 4 and BBC Radio 1Xtra.

Representing South Africa at the festival will be Jolyn Phillips, from the Western Cape, who published Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and Other Stories, which was shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Debut Prize for South African Literature and won the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences Prize for Best Fiction.

Also heading to Durban is Busiswe Mahlangu — a writer, performer and TEDx speaker from Mamelodi, Pretoria. Her work is hard-hitting and raw, holding space for conversations around poverty, mental health, education, violence and healing.

She is also the founder of the Lwazilu­banzi Project, a non-profit organisation that focuses on literature and creating learning spaces in townships and public schools.

Poetry Africa 2019

Ukrainian poet and essayist, Iryna Starovoyt.

Joining her is Shashi Simelane (aka The Black Sash), a well-known and popular performance poet, rapper, writer and student based in Verulam; Muriel Mokgathi-Mvubu (aka MoAfrika), a multi-faceted artist who describes herself as a writer, author, poet, performer, actress, translator, cultural activist, teaching artist and a serial civic leader; and Thembinkosi Blessing Qwabe, a teacher and widely published author, who has written and published all genres in isiZulu. He has also published short stories and poems in English (The Perfect Choice and Other Stories, Scars of the Rainbow, Footprints of our Memory).

“Finally we are truly honoured to host legendary award-winning poet, South African poet laureate and activist Mongane Wally Serote, whose work has blazed a trail for many generations of poets, demonstrating to the true power of the word to effect change,” said Hlongwa.

The full programme for Poetry Africa can be viewed on the website http://poetryafrica.ukzn.ac.za/ Tickets are R60 for adults and R40 for pensioners and students, and can be purchased through Computicket. 


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