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"Poetry has a unique way of humanising the players in a political story" - a Q&A with slam poet and performer Siphokazi Jonas

Nal’ibali Column 29: Term 4, 2018

Sunday World 4 November 2018, Daily Dispatch 5 November 2018, Herald 8 November 2018

By Carla Lever

Slam poet par excellence, Siphokazi Jonas

 
Your poetry engages very deliberately with political and personal questions of identity. What kinds of ideas are you most passionate about spreading through it?

It’s all about the importance of autonomy in telling your story. I’m really interested in writing about and staging narratives which are not seen regularly, particularly about the lives of black women.

Do you think that there’s a space for poetry to reach people politically where newspaper reports or debate can’t? How can we all use or be open to that space?

Absolutely – poetry has a unique way of humanising the players in a political story. There is room for publishing poetry in newspapers and other media which could widen the scope of who has access to our work.

We come from a long history of protest poetry – literature, storytelling, theatre and so on. But now, it feels like there is a generational shift: a group of passionate young people who are ready to make their own political points outside of the traditionally political works of the past. Does this feel to you like a good time to be a young poet?

This is a fantastic time to be a poet! The shifts happen as politics and concerns change. Poetry gives us a platform not only to wrestle with past and present but also to engage with an imagined future.

Sometimes, no matter how familiar we are with a work, we can still read something and have a strong emotional reaction to it. Can you give us a couple of lines of your own poetry that still hit home for you?

Sure. Here’s an extract from my poem Making Bread:
Every December, in exchange for Tupperware full of roosterkoek
Tried over coals, I present uMama with English poems
To match the decadence of the season.
(English, with its heavy hand of sugar, corrodes my vernacular,
English poems do not let me forget that the bowl I work in is borrowed)
.

It’s always a challenge to get work out into the public, particularly as a poet. In 2016 you released some of your poetry in a very unusual format: a DVD. Can you tell us a little about why you did that and how it’s been received?

The DVD was to capture the verve and fire of spoken word which often disappears once you leave the stage. Although the work was received well, we didn’t quite account for the move away from physical DVDs and CDs – the best platforms for distribution are now online.

You’ve had some great successes in big slam poetry competitions. What has been the most exciting experience for you?

Slam is quiet a competitive format of performance and poses a challenge to the poet because of all the rules and time constraints placed on a performance. My favourite thing is how the slams tend to feel like collaborations instead of competitions.

I first encountered your work when you performed with the ‘Rioters in Session’ poetry collective. Can you tell us a little about them?

I’ve had the pleasure of being part of a number of their performances, though I’m not officially part of their collective. In their own words, Rioters in Session was “organized [as] an intuitive community for POC poetry womxn to share their work in a soft and safe space with a gentle audience”.

Why is it important for poets, storytellers, performers to have spaces to share their work and for people to be able to share and discuss it together? What does sharing stories do for communities of people?

We have an incredible history of storytelling and poetry in this country which has been integral as a way of archiving history, holding communities together, holding leaders accountable, protesting injustice, etc. I believe that we are seeing the same in the contemporary moment.

How can we encourage young people to get involved with poetry and storytelling? Are there resources or organisations you could direct them to?

The best way is to read poetry and also watch material online, follow poetry houses on social media such as Hear My Voice, Word and Sound, Poetry Africa, Poet in a Suit, Inzync Poetry, Grounding Sessions, Current State of Poetry, Words in My Mouth Poetry Slam. If there are no existing book clubs or poetry groups, start them right where you are!

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit: www.nalibali.org.

Bekendstelling: Die goeie vrou en ander mites deur Corlia Fourie (16 Oktober)

Corlia Fourie se debuutbundel Die goeie vrou en ander mites is ’n versameling toeganklike, pretensielose verse met ’n sterk anekdotiese inslag. Die meeste daarvan is satiriese verse wat getuig van ’n fyn intelligente, deurdagte en genuanseerde beleweniswêreld.

Details

Editor needed for New Coin

New Coin is looking for a new editor to begin work in January 2019 (first issue: June 2019).

The editor should have a good sense of the range of genres and sub-cultures in South African poetry today, and be willing to engage constructively with new writing and writers.

The main responsibilities would be:
• selecting and compiling material for each issue
(two issues a year – typically 50 poets submit work to each issue)
• selecting cover art for each issue
• identifying and selecting new books to review, and finding knowledgeable reviewers
• corresponding with poets, notifying them of acceptances and rejections, as well as making constructive editorial suggestions
• appointing a judge for the annual DALRO Prize
• liaising with the designer of New Coin on production matters
• proofreading
• maintaining the New Coin page on Facebook
• promotion of New Coin
• liaison on administrative matters with the publisher – the Institute for the Study of English in Africa (ISEA) at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.

The editor can be based anywhere in South Africa. He or she will have the support of an editorial advisory board appointed by the ISEA. A small stipend is paid for the work.

If you’re interested, please send a letter of motivation spelling out your vision for the future of the journal, together with a short CV, to isea@ru.ac.za before 31 October 2018.

The 2018 SALA shortlist has been announced!

Via The South African Literary Awards

Celebrating 13th anniversary of their existence, the South African Literary Awards (SALA) have shortlisted twenty three (23) authors from a total of just under two hundred (200) submissions received for 2018. The winners will be announced at a glittering awards ceremony on the 6th November at UNISA.

Following the passing on of the 2nd National Poet Laureate, Prof Keorapetse Kgositsile, the prestigious South African Literary Awards will announce his successor as well as introducing two additional categories: Novel Award and Children’s Literature Award.

The Awards will be followed by the 6th Africa Century International African Writers Conference whose International African Writers Day Lecture will be delivered by Professor Kwesi Kwaa Prah, the renowned, highly respected scholar, prolific author and public speaker, who is also the founder of the Center for Advanced Studies of African Societies in South Africa.

The Conference is also taking place at UNISA over two days, i.e. 6th and 7th November 2018.

“We are excited that South African literature continues to flourish, with many young writers coming into the scene, sharing platforms with their more established and experienced counterparts,” said Morakabe Seakhoa, Project Director of the South African Literary Awards.

Seakhoa, however, expressed sadness and concern that “we still see less and less of works written in African languages”.

Founded by the wRite associates, in partnership with the national Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) in 2005, the main aim of the South African Literary Awards is to pay tribute to South African writers who have distinguished themselves as groundbreaking producers and creators of literature, while it celebrates literary excellence in the depiction and sharing of South Africa’s histories, value systems and philosophies and art as inscribed and preserved in all the languages of South Africa, particularly the official languages.

With thirteen successful years of existence, thirteen categories and over 161 authors honoured, the SA Literary Awards have become the most prestigious and respected literary accolades in the South African literary landscape. SALA prides itself in not only acknowledging established authors but as a platform to budding writers through the First-time Published Author Award category.

We congratulate the 2018 nominees for their sterling work and keeping South Africa’s literary heritage alive.

First-time Published Author Award

Celesté Fritze: Verlorenkop (Afrikaans)

Malebo Sephodi:Miss Behave (English)

Creative Non- Fiction Award

Deon Maas: Melk die heilige koeie: Van baarde en banting tot Zupta and zol (Afrikaans)

Jurgen Schadeberg: The Way I See It (English)

Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award

NO SHORTLIST

Poetry Award

Johan Myburg: Uittogboek (Afrikaans)

Kelwyn Sole: Walking, Falling (English)

Literary Translators Award

Jeff Opland and Peter Mtuze: Umoya Wembongi: Collected Poems (1922 – 1935) by John Solilo (isiXhosa to English)

Jeff Opland and Peter Mtuze: Iziganeko Zesizwe: Occasional Poems (1900-1943) by S.E.K. Mqhayi (isiXhosa to English)

Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award

Nick Mulgrew: The First Law of Sadness (English)

Nicole Jaekel Strauss: As in die mond (Afrikaans)

Novel Award

Dan Sleigh: 1795 (Afrikaans)

Rehana Rossouw: New Times (English)

Children’s Literature Award

Marilyn J Honikman: There should have been five (English)

Jaco Jacobs: Daar’s nie ʼn krokodil in hierdie boek nie (Afrikaans)

Jaco Jacobs: Moenie hierdie boek eet nie (Afrikaans)

Marita van der Vyver: Al wat ek weet (Afrikaans)

Posthumous Literary Award

To be announced at the award ceremony: Body of work

Literary Journalism Award

To be announced at the award ceremony: Body of work

Lifetime Achievement Literary Award

Hermann Giliomee: Body of work (Afrikaans)

Ronnie Kasrils: Body of work (English)

Chairperson’s

To be announced at the award ceremony: Body of work

National Poet Laureate

To be announced at the award ceremony: Body of work

Verlorenkop

Book details
Verlorenkop by Celesté Fritze
Book homepage
EAN: 9780795801068
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Miss Behave

Miss Behave by Malebo Sephodi
EAN: 9781928337416
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Melk die heilige koeie

Melk die heilige koeie by Deon Maas
Book homepage
EAN: 9780624081166
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The Way I See It

The Way I See It: A Memoir by Jürgen Schadenberg
EAN: 9781770105294
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Uittogboek

Uittogboek by Johan Myburg
EAN: 9781485307761
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Walking, Falling

Walking, Falling by Kelwyn Sole
EAN: 9780987028280
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
John Solilo: Umoya wembongi

John Solilo: Umoya wembongi: Collected poems (1922–1935) edited by Jeff Opland, Peter Mtuze
Book homepage
EAN: 9781869143121
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
S.E.K. Mqhayi

S.E.K. Mqhayi: Iziganeko zesizwe: Occasional poems (1900–1943) edited by Jeff Opland, Peter T Mtuze
EAN: 9781869143343
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
The First Law of Sadness

The First Law of Sadness by Nick Mulgrew
EAN: 9781485625780
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
As in die Mond

As in die Mond by Nicole Jaekel Strauss
EAN: 9780795801358
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1795

1795 by Dan Sleigh
Book homepage
EAN: 9780624073307
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
New Times

New Times by Rehana Rossouw
EAN: 9781431425808
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
There Should Have Been Five

There Should Have Been Five by Marilyn Honikman
Book homepage
EAN: 9780624076568
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
Daar's nie 'n krokodil in hierdie boek nie

Daar’s nie ‘n krokodil in hierdie boek nie by Jaco Jacobs, illustrated by Chris Venter
EAN: 9780799383836
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
Moenie hierdie boek eet nie!

Moenie hierdie boek eet nie! : ’n Rympie vir elke dag van die jaar by Jaco Jacobs, illustrated by Zinelda McDonald
EAN: 9780799379211
Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 
 
 
 
 
Al wat ek weet

Al wat ek weet by Marita Van der Vyver
EAN: 9780799378993
Find this book with BOOK Finder!

"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.

Launch: The History of Intimacy by Gabeba Baderoon (11 September)

The History of Intimacy is the fourth collection by award-winning poet Gabeba Baderoon. These poems render various intimacies and private hurts with eloquence and tenderness: the lost innocence of a child, a loved one in an ambulance, young passion across a man-made divide, a mother visiting her son in jail, elegies to an admired musician, mentor and poet, and the reverberations of past injustices in District Six, the Cape Flats and Hangklip.

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 11 September 2018
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Love Books, The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Rd, Melville, Johannesburg | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Phillippa Yaa de Villiers
  • RSVP: kate@lovebooks.co.za
     

    Book Details