|Poets Natalia Molebatsi, Mutabaruka and Lebo Mashile at the Poety Africa launch at Moya on the Durban beachfront. |
Photo: Photo by Wanda Hennig
Poets from around South Africa, the African continent and the world have arrived in Durban for South Africa’s 14th “Poetry Africa” international poetry festival. The United States, Palestine, Jamaica, India, Australia, Uruguay and Italy are among the international line-up joining an eclectic mix of South African and continental African poets.
Organized by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Poetry Africa will spotlight more than 20 poets from 12 countries in it’s main Durban program. The full line-up will each present an introductory poem at a gala opening night (October 4) at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.
The rest of the week feature five poets each evening through to October 8. The rousing festival finale takes place at Durban’s waterfront BAT Centre on October 9.
Music is a unique feature at year’s festival. Included in the program are Concord Nkabinde and Erik Paliani. Nkabinde, an acclaimed bass guitarist who has performed with the likes of Johnny Clegg, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ray Phiri, Phil Manzaniera, Zim Ngqawana, Darius Brubeck and Deepak Ram. He will collaborate with Malawian producer, musician and singer-songwriter Erik Paliani in nightly musical curtain-raisers.
The broad selection of poetic voices, forms, and cultures at the festival includes the vivid verse of Frank Chipasula (Malawi). Apart from poetry, the BBC Poetry Prize winning and twice Pushcart Prize-nominated Chipasula is also a widely-respected writer, academic and editor.
The African line-up also includes Kenyan Ngwatilo Mawiyoo, a poet whose intelligence and subtlety is abundantly evident in her first book of poems Blue Mothertongue, a collection which examines notions of home, loss and healing.
•Returning to Poetry Africa after an absence of six years is poet and academic Barolong Seboni (Botswana), whose astute grasp of history and its meaning, is spread over numerous acclaimed collections.
•Charlotte Hill O’Neal, better known as Mama C, is a United States–born visual artist, musician and poet. She was a member of the Black Panthers before relocating to Tanzania in 1972. Her collection Warrior Woman of Peace was launched in 2008 and her fourth album of poetry and music is forthcoming.
•Both in his words and music the captivating voice of internationally celebrated Souleymane Diamanka (Senegal/France) offers an expressive cultural bridge between his French home and his Fulani ancestry.
The strong South African presence this year includes:
•Pitika Ntuli who combines a vast store of African mythology and history, a keen awareness of the contemporary and an astonishing ability to improvise in his evocative poetry.
•Storytelling and myth also figure large in the verse of Durban icon Gcina Mhlophe.
•Lebo Mashile, arguably South Africa’s best known contemporary poet, brings to the Poetry Africa stage her candid and richly weaved words.
•Award-winning poet and playwright Kobus Moolman will present poems from his new collection Light and After, a sparse and bravely honest work, and one of several new works that will launch at the festival.
•Poetry Africa welcomes back the 2005 DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Poetry winner Gabeba Baderoon, the author of three collections of complex and intensely lyrical poetry.
The international presence at Poetry Africa for 2010 is strong.
Mutabaruka and Dennis Brutus
Celebrated poet, author, radio host, actor and social critic Mutabaruka was the first well-publicized voice in the new wave of Jamaican poets making themselves heard in the early 1970s. He has recorded numerous poetry albums which have helped forge the unique genre of music commonly referred to as dub poetry. As an actor, Mutabaruka has starred in Haile Gerima’s award-winning Sankofa (1993).
In honor of activist and poet Dennis Brutus (1924 -2009) Poetry Africa introduces the Letters to Dennis segment featuring a poet of high excellence who reflects Dennis’s passion for human rights and integrity. The Letters to Dennis references the famous poem Letters to Martha, written while Dennis was in prison. The Letters to Dennis poet for 2010 is Ghassan Zaqtan of Palestine. At one time the editor of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s newspaper, Ghassan Zaqtan is one of Palestine’s most respected poets and his urgent yet paradoxically gentle and contemplative poetry abounds with luminous imagery.
Jayne Fenton Keane (Australia) is a highly awarded and respected poet whose blend of poetry-song cycles, spoken word-music fusions and shamanic performances have challenged and inspired audiences and critics around the world.
Poet, writer-activist and translator Meena Kandasamy (India) uses writing, translation and activism to confront her womanness, her Dalitness and her Tamilness — three categories of belonging that continue to enshrine a history of resistance to oppression.
Jorge Palma (Uruguay) is a poet and storyteller whose sensitive and elegant poetry is most concerned with addressing and dissecting the human condition, while Italian Claudio Pozzani is poet and musician whose work has been translated into more than ten languages.
October 9 sees a full day of activities at the BAT Centre culminating in the festival finale, which includes a performance by the Imperial Tiger Orchestra, a Geneva-based band that performs songs from the Golden Age of Ethiopian modern music (1969 – 1978).
A packed daily program using the expertise of festival participants includes performances, seminars, workshops, a prison program, poetry competitions, and school visits all aimed at inspiring a heightened interest in poetry.
See the full program of Poetry Africa activities on the Centre for Creative Arts webiste.
•See more about Durban here.
•Visit Durban’s official tourism site here.
•Fly to South Africa with South African Airways, the national carrier. SAA flies to South Africa from Washington and New York. SAA recently formed an alliance with Jet Blue for flights from the West Coast. Read about the SAA-Jet Blue link here.
•Visit Tourism KwaZulu-Natal here.