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Keorapetse Kgositsile, Lebo Mashile, Don Mattera and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers to Tour the UK

Keorapetse KgositsileLebo MashileDon MatteraPhillippa Yaa de Villiers

This Way I Salute YouFlying Above the SkyAzanian Love SongTaller Than Buildings

Alert! Four South African poets are headed to the UK this November as part of an Apples and Snakes-organised reading tour called Beyond Words. Included in the mix is BOOK SA’s own Phillippa Yaa de Villiers – great news for her!

Here’s more in the form of a British Council press release:

Beyond WordsPress release

‘’An exchange of literature between/among cultures has better chances of planting the seeds of understanding and friendship than any diplomatic mission.”

With this in mind, the Beyond Words UK tour was born and includes South African Poet Laureate Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile, internationally acclaimed and widely published PEN Award winner Don Mattera, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers and Lebo Mashile.

The four poets will tour the UK from 30 October to 15 November 2009 and will visit Birmingham, London, Newcastle, Cardiff, Manchester and Bristol to participate in skills exchange workshops, masterclasses, seminars and showcases.

The group which consists of two older established poets, Kgositsile and Mattera, and two younger poets reflects continuity and diversity of voices as well a cross section of age and gender.

The work will take a look back at South Africa’s history as well as focusing on the future.

The Beyond Words UK tour will be presented by Apples & Snakes in association with Sustained Theatre, supported by British Council, Arts Council England and the South African Government. The tour forms part of the British Council’s Cultural Programme for South Africa: One Nation, Many Voices, the Market Focus project at The London Book Fair 2010. South Africa: One Nation, Many Voices aims to strengthen cultural relations, provide increased opportunities for collaboration and introduce writers to new audiences.

‘’We hope that this is the beginning of a dynamic, long-term cultural exchange that will benefit both the UK and South Africa. That exchange should be further deepened by the interaction of more poets and other writers during The London Book Fair next year, ‘’ says Professor Kgositsile.

UK based rappers, lyricists, poets and performers will be collaborating with the South African artists through skills exchange workshops prior to each event to create new work that will then be performed at that evening’s performance.

“We’re hugely excited to be bringing the work of these incredible South African poets to the UK,” commented Geraldine Collinge, Director of Apples & Snakes. “Their collaborations with UK artists will explore the crossover between British and South African poetry, taking audiences on an unforgettable artistic journey and ensuring every event is genuinely unique.”

‘’As part of the tour, the poets were commissioned to each write a poem. Those new poems will be published as a mini-anthology and I hope it will remain as a living memory of the tour,” continues Professor Keorapetse. The book will go on sale during the tour in the UK and will include some of the poets’ existing poems and the new work commissioned for the tour.

International Broker, Sustained Theatre and UK organiser of the Tour, Pervaiz Khan states that, ‘’There is such vibrancy and urgency in South African poetry writing and it is constantly changing. The poets write about the world around them and this gives their work such vitality and their work comes to life because of the tradition of oral poetry.”

Jane Henshall, British Council Literature Project Co-ordinator, says that this tour will enable a UK audience to engage with current issues in South Africa and see the most exciting voices in South Africa today.

Press release notes

Apples & Snakes

Apples & Snakes stretches the boundaries of poetry in education and performance, by inspiring participation and giving voice to a diverse range of challenging and dynamic poets.

The company focuses on working with emerging artists, producing new work and putting poets in education.

Working extensively with schools, prisons and libraries to develop literacy, communication skills, motivation and self-esteem through high quality performance poetry workshops and events, Apples & Snakes also run regular events across England alongside pioneering artist development programmes.

The London Book Fair

The London Book Fair (LBF) is the leading global marketplace for the sale of rights and books in all forms; taking place every spring in the world’s premier publishing and cultural capital.

Delivering business, the very latest channels to market and digital solutions, LBF provides unique face-to-face opportunities for all elements of the book business: three days of focused access to customers, content and emerging markets. 19th – 21st April 2010

The Market Focus

The Market Focus programme, approaching its seventh year, was first created in 2004 for LBF to draw attention to certain countries and highlight the trade links with this territory, its publishing industry and the opportunities for conducting business with the rest of the world. In the first year of the initiative, the countries highlighted were Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, followed in 2005 by Australia and New Zealand, in 2006 by Mexico, in 2007 by Spain, in 2008 by the Arab World and in 2009 by India. South Africa has been selected as the Market Focus country for the London Book Fair to be held at Earls Court in April next year.


Keorapetse Kgositsile

Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile (Bra Willie) is South Africa’s National Poet Laureate. In 1961 Kgositsile was one of the first young members of the African National Congress instructed to leave the country by the leadership of the national liberation movement.

He achieved fame as a poet during his years in exile in the United State in the 60s and 70s. He was a central figure among African-American poets, encouraging interest in Africa as well as the practice of poetry as a performance art.

Kgositsile is one of the most internationally acclaimed and widely published South African poets. His poetry collections include My Name is Afrika, Heartprints, To the Bitter End, If I Could Sing, This Way I Salute You. He has been the recipient of a number of literary awards including, the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, the Harlem Cultural Council Poetry Award, the Conrad Kent Rivers Memorial Poetry Award, the Herman Charles Bosman Prize and a number of others. In 2008 he was awarded the National Order of Ikhamanga Silver (OIS)

As Poet Laureate he is at the forefront of encouraging a new generation of South African poets.

Lebo Mashile

The poet, performer, actress, presenter and producer Lebogang Mashile, the daughter of exiled South Africans, was born in the US in 1979. At the age of sixteen years she and her parents returned to their home country. It was while she was studying law and international relations at Wits University in Johannesburg that the desire to work as an artist took hold of her.

Mashile began to achieve recognition as one of South Africa’s most popular young artists in 2002. Her lyrical and gutsy poems in the collection “A Ribbon of Rhythm” (2005) speak about life in the new South Africa. Her latest collection contains a far more mature and personal voice and deals with Mashile’s signature themes of gender, identity, spirituality, love and socio-political conditions in South Africa.

Lebo Mashile was voted one of South Africa’s Awesome Women of 2005 by Cosmopolitan Magazine. In 2006 and 2007, she was named one of the Top 100 youth in South Africa by the Mail & Guardian. In 2006 she was awarded the prestigious Noma award then in 2007 she was the recipient of the City Press/ Rapport Woman of Prestige Award.

Donato Francisco Mattera

Donato Francisco Mattera has been celebrated as a journalist, editor, writer and poet. He is also acknowledged as one of the foremost activists in the struggle for a democratic South Africa, and helped found the Union of Black Journalists and the Congress of South African Writers.

Writing was certainly not an obvious conclusion to his youth, which had been characterized by gangs, violence and jail. Partly under the influence of Father Trevor Huddleston, Mattera began wielding a pen rather than a knife, yet with equal facility; using the struggle as his subject, he went on to produce a series of poems, stories and plays of force and originality. The authorities responded by raiding his house, imprisoning and torturing him, and banning him for ten years. It was during these tumultuous times that Mattera wrote the poems contained in Azanian Love Song.

Philippa Yaa de Villiers

Phillippa Yaa de Villiers was brought up in Halfway House near Johannesburg, she studied in Grahamstown and Paris and lived in Los Angeles before returning to settle in Johannesburg. She makes her living by working in theatre and writing for the page, stage and television.

She performed with top SA and international poets at the Badilisha Poetry Exchange in May 2009. Philippa will represent South Africa at the Berlin Poesie Festival in June and the Grahamstown Festival in July. Winner of the National Arts Festival/de Buren Writing beyond the Fringe Prize 2009, she also received an Honourable Mention for her Haiban Wanting from the Kikakuza Haiban Society in Japan and was shortlisted for the Pen/Studinski Prize in South Africa.


Book details

  • Flying Above the Sky by Lebo Mashile
  • Taller Than Buildings by Phillippa Yaa de Villers
    Book homepage

All photographs courtesy Victor Dlamini


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