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“I got inspired to write for children after I had my son” – a Q&A with poet Primrose Mrwebi

Nal’ibali Column 25: Term 3, 2018

By Carla Lever

Poet Primrose Mrwebi. Picture supplied.

 
You’ve written for magazines like Fair Lady, taught young up-and-coming writers and even performed your poetry at the opening of Parliament in 2004. Do you have a favourite experience of where your storytelling has taken you?

Every experience matters! Being a magazine journalist taught me a lot about looking at the world objectively, performing in Parliament meant that the whole country was listening to my voice and my art, and teaching young people gives me a spiritual feeling of finally coming to meet the purpose of my talent.

Now it seems you’re creating opportunities for others to find their talent. You held your own self-funded poetry competition – PrimPoetry – in Khayelitsha earlier this year. What was that like?

The competition left me with sleepless nights for days. I am so inspired by the talent that exists in our communities – the language skills of those poets are exceptional.

Why do you think it’s important for people to give back to their communities when they’re able?

It’s one of the ways that we can bring positive change in our world. It also eliminates the culture of complaining too much and doing nothing! One of my mantras is “If you want something and it’s not there, start it yourself and invite like-minded people to join you.”

PrimPoetry allowed people to enter for free and to perform poems in Afrikaans, isiXhosa or English. Why do you think we need more opportunities that are open to all, regardless of income or home language?

For so many centuries a lot of people have felt excluded due to their race or class. That’s not fair. If we truly want to live in a world without exclusion, we need to begin on a journey that leads us there.

Are there any more plans for competitions that people can enter?

We had one at the Rainbow Art Organisation in Delft on Saturday the 8 of September and we will be having others in the very near future. We always do a call out on our PrimPoetry Facebook Page, so keep an eye on that if you’re interested in entering.

Can you tell us a little about the children’s book you’re working on for isiXhosa and English learners?

I got inspired to write for children after I had my son. I suddenly wanted to speak in a language that children can understand. This is a collection of stories that I think will make an impact on children today. It’s also important that I write in my mother tongue because there is clearly not many books that are written in our home languages.

What kinds of resources and opportunities do our young people need to make sure they grow up loving books and confident about telling their own stories?

Children need to have libraries close to their homes. They need their parents or siblings to take the time to read to them, to be taken to storytelling clubs, book clubs or recreational centres. People like us need to bring the skills we have to our communities so that we can create that change.

Do you have any advice or encouragement for people interested in starting a poetry or storytelling event in their own communities?

Identify people that have interest in poetry and start a group. Share ideas and ask for advice from organisations, or people that work with poetry and literature. People are wonderful resources!

Nal’ibali’s annual multilingual storytelling competition is running this September for Literacy and Heritage Month. Aimed at reviving a love of storytelling amongst adults and children, and connecting South Africans to their rich and vibrant heritage, the theme of this year’s contest is South African Heroes. Enter by telling the story of your favourite SA icon, your personal hero, or a fictional hero in your language, and you could be crowned this year’s Story Bosso! To find out more about Nal’ibali and Story Bosso, visit www.nalibali.org, www.nalibali.mobi, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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