Spoken word poetry is growing internationally as poets across the globe return to this original and developing form of literature. As part of the project An Arc to the Future: Preserving and Promoting Orature in the South African Literary Imaginary, a three day spoken word poetry festival will be taking place in Grahamstown from 9-11 September at the Eastern Star Museum on Anglo African Street.
Dr Deborah Seddon of the Rhodes University English department organised the event as an initial step towards developing a digital archive of South African oral and performance poetry, which will be called WordArc. Seddon was awarded the two-year Newton Advanced Fellowship from the British Academy to develop an archive of orature. One of Seddon’s fields of expertise is oral literature, which has led to her interest in this project. As a poet herself and a founding member of the poetry collective Cycle of Knowledge Seddon said, “I am completely delighted to be able to bring such an extraordinary line-up of South African poets to Grahamstown as so often, creative activity in South Africa tends to focus on large city centres.”
Included in the line-up is South African Poet Laureate Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile, who was awarded the position in 2006. His work speaks to issues of the African diaspora due to his lengthy exile in the United States. “I feel especially honoured to welcome Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile, South Africa’s poet laureate, whose extensive life experience, wisdom, and socio-political insight resonates in his poems, from his earliest works published in exile in the United States in 1960s and 70s to his incisive poetry about issues facing South Africa today,” Seddon said of the great poet.
Time: 5.30-6.30pm each day
Venue: Eastern Star Museum, Anglo African Street, Grahamstown
Wednesday 9 September: Keorapetse Kgositsile and Lesego Rampolokeng
Thursday 10 September: Adrian “Different” Van Wyk, Pieter Odendaal, Mak Manaka
Friday 11 September: Mhlobo Jadezweni, Iain “Ewok” Robinson, Thabiso “Afurakan” Mohare (Word N Sound)
Keorapetse Kgositsile was named South Africa’s Poet Laureate in 2006. In 2008, he was honoured with the National Order of Ikhamanga for his outstanding contribution to the field of literature. Kgositsile’s poetry situates South African poetic expression within a larger understanding of the African diaspora, and the shared experiences of racial oppression, displacement, and exile.
Lesego Rampolokeng is a poet, novelist and playwright whose unique, forthright writing draws on a range of influences including dub and early forms of rap. In 2014, Rampolokeng conceived and presented the documentary film Word Down The Line: a poetic reflection on South Africa’s socio-political environment 20 years into democracy, told through the voices of some of the country’s most iconic poets. This year, Rampolokeng launched his most recent collection of poetry, A Half Century Thing, in celebration of his fiftieth birthday.
Adrian “Diff” Van Wyk a.k.a. “Different,” is a regular performer and headliner at poetry festivals and platforms in Cape Town and across South Africa, bridging the gap between all genres of poetical performance. Having curated over thirty shows for InZync, these sessions have developed into a monthly meeting point, not only for poetry enthusiasts but creatives across the spectrum. In 2015, with an international tour confirmed, Diff seeks to broaden the reception that poetry receives within South Africa.
Pieter Odendaal is a poet and project manager of the InZync Poetry Sessions, monthly multilingual poetry nights organised in Stellenbosch. He has performed across South Africa and a personal highlight was participating in the Talking Doorsteps project in London in 2015.
Mak Manaka is the son of poet, playwright and Black Consciousness activist, the late Matsemela Manaka, and Nomsa Kupi Manaka, a pioneer in South African dance and choreography. In 2008, Mak realized a long-held desire to release a CD of his work. Word, Sound, Power!! is a fusion of Black Consciousness lyrics and quality music. He is a sought after poet for various festivals and events in South Africa, including the annual international Urban Voices Poetry Festival where he has shared the stage with many internationally and locally acclaimed poets.
Mhlobo Jadezweni is a poet, author and an academic. Since 2012, he has been a member of the Rhodes University School of Languages, where he specialises in teaching poetry in isiXhosa. In addition to various books in translation, Jadezweni has published a poetry anthology, Umdiliya wesihobe (2008) and a bilingual children’s book, UTshepo Mde /Tall Enough (2006) which won the Exclusive Books award in 2007 and has since been translated into IsiZulu, Afrikaans, Swedish and Portuguese.
Iain “Ewok” Robinson, a.k.a Creamy Ewok Baggends, Hused Whut? and Dr E, is a spoken word flavoured hip-hop and graffiti artist based in Durban, South Africa. His poetry has been praised for his verbal dexterity, humour and sharp critical insight. Y.O.B.O – You’re Only Born Once (2015), examines the deficiencies, denials and selfdelusions of white South African culture.
Thabiso “Afurakan” Mohare is the crown prince of Johannesburg’s slam poetry scene and is one of the founding members of the Word N Sound Live Literature Company. Using slam poetry as a vehicle for development Word N Sound seeks to draw young people into writing and reading in order to show them the opportunities available in a literary career. Word N Sound believes that spoken word can encourages curiosity, freedom of expression, and high standards of verbal creativity.
Images and poet bios supplied