South Africa’s 17th Poetry Africa international poetry festival — an annual highlight on the Durban and KwaZulu-Natal literary calendar — starts in the Indian Ocean city on October 14 and will run through to October 19.
For the most part the festival — which serves as a critical platform for self-expression and cultural exchange in the city of Durban — focuses on the work of African poets; local, across Africa and in the diaspora. Having said this, the United States is well represented, as are India and Ireland.
For poetry lovers — especially those into cutting-edge poetry and poetry as a performance art, the Poetry Africa festival is a perfect "happening" to link to when considering a vacation in South Africa.
Come to the city during Poetry Africa to get culture and action. Explore the city and the province of KwaZulu-Natal and get your fix of African wildlife from this creative launching pad. This year’s event brings together poets and musicians from India, Benin, Nigeria, Ireland, Italy, Canada and the US as well as South Africa.
The festival’s 2013 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 perform on Thursday, 17 October.
Music and Poetry
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.
- Kalawi Jazmee artist Busiswa Gqulu returns to Poetry Africa in the middle of her impressive reign on the music charts of 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 program 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 music. Well known as a rapper, she will share her poetry with Durban audiences ahead of her 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, 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, critically acclaimed Khulile Nxumalo was twice named the recipient of the DALRO prize for poetry.
Nigerian-born poet Kole Odutola will be reading his latest work at the festival. Odutola teaches at the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University of Florida in the US 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.
Irish Poetry Collective
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 program will see poets visit more than 20 community centers, campuses and tertiary education departments in and around Durban. In addition, participating poets will visit 20 schools to discuss reading, writing and the performance aspects of poetry.
Visit the website for more details about this year’s Poetry Africa.
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.