Category Archives: Poetry

Elephant Shoes to Ground You.

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Winslow Schalkwyk the first feature poet at the relaunch of Grounding Sessions.

So the story goes as follows :Erin Bosenberg a multi-disciplinary media and performance artist  whom I had met  when performing  at Badilisha’s  One Hundred Thousand Poets for Change (2011) , approached me to perform at what was then a very popular gig, called Grounding Sessions . Grounding Sessions was curated by Jamaican born poet D’bi Young as a space for community expression. The event took place at at Tagore’s in Observatory every Monday evening.

Erin hosted the show that evening, but herself  and Desiree Bailey, another performer from Badilisha , took turns at maintaining the show after D’bi had departed Cape Town. That night, I was the feature poet . This meant my set was longer than usual and I could set the tone for the evening.  It felt as if it was my stage , where I could steer the show as I saw fit. The audience members were receptive and seemed to engage well with the work.  Unbeknownst to me , the audience were mostly poets themselves.  Grounding Sessions was a safe space that gave voice to both experienced and novice poets who all wrote around a theme prompted at the prior show.

The theme that evening was – Nothing. After I had had finished, the open mic resumed and poets brought forth various perspectives on the theme.

Like a whirlwind, a young man guitar in hand had entered the room . He stepped to the mic and he said he’d like to share song to which the audience obliged to.The first lyrics of the song were: “I thought I won the lotto, when I fell for miss one of a kind”, okay entertaining enough, but what stuck was when he got to the chorus and belted out the following :  “And all she said was elephant shoes, elephant shoes”. Yes, Jimmy Nevis had intercepted my stage. How did I know this? Because the theme for the next weekend at the Grounding Sessions was …ELEPHANT SHOES and I was completely overshadowed by Mr Nevis!

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I never the performance much thought after, despite his voice being pleasant . The very next week however, the radio blasted : “Elle, elle, elle” .  IT was on the radio, that very song!  This guy was famous all of a sudden. I couldn’t believe it! Fast forward to the next time I saw him The next time I saw him after was at Living Room, a club in Bellville. He was booked to perform , but there was not a chance that I could get close to him  to convey this story because he was surrounded by bodyguards!

I still could not believe that this singer guy,who had hijacked my stage, had turned out to be famous the very next week. It was beyond me. In retrospect it makes complete sense. Tagore’s is that the type of venue that allows for that kind of magic.

When going to Tagore’s you never know what may transpire, but you don’t fight the ambiance of the place either.  You go with it.  It has an air of mystery and sanctity about it. It is ultimately a performance space that houses talent. An intimate platform that allows for poetry and music. Many a renowned and unknown artist has touched stage with that venue. Hence the Jimmy Nevis overnight sensation phenomena.

So now that Observatory is where I reside, and poetry seems so far away, a revival of Grounding Sessions seems in order.

Each Tuesday will host a feature poet and an Open-mic where poets are given the opportunity to share writing related to chosen theme.   The commencement date of the first insallment will be February 24th. The theme is  The History of love, in keeping with the month of love (February) and Black History month.  Winslow Schalkwyk will be the first feature poet. Do come,if not for any other reason besides that I have Elephant shoes to fill, and a dream to see through.

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Artist Profile: Kyle Louw

Kyle Louw

Kyle Louw

It’s very seldom that fresh young talent becomes an overnight sensation. I mean, even the Disney kids put in some work before they blew up in their adult years. It seems as though some people have the ability to become smashing hits within a short period of time.

I’ve been at this poetry thing for a while and I like staying on top of who’s new, what content is new, what new poets have to say and with all that said: cue Kyle Louw.

I was performing at Jam That Session last year, when Kyle Louw approached me after the performance and said he’d love to put me into contact with his friend running a poetry show in Observatory, because he thinks I’d be exactly suited for the women’s day show that was set to happen later that month. It’s Kyle’s doing that I am now friends with Kirsten Mackey and JP Voster of the Nomad Artiste Colony Cape Town. It was rather surprising though, that this boy, whom I’ve never ever heard of, never mind seen on stage had access or knowledge of a show that I did not have (indulge me here, this is my not so subtle way of saying I like being in the know). Nevertheless, I took him up on his offer and before long I was introduced to the suave, serious, emotional, insightful, talented, flirtatious poet this is Kyle Louw.

Kyle has only been at poetry for just over a year and has managed to perform at most of the more sought after events. This can only be attributed to his skill, commitment and work with regard to his poetry.

I asked Kyle some questions to shed light on him as poet and person. Watch out for this boy, he’ll be around for a while!

Catch Kyle performing on the 7th July , at the Nomad Artiste Colony Cape Town’s event The Swing Café at 19:30 at the Riverclub in Observatory.

1)Why poetry?

Ever had that feeling you know this is what you need to be doing with your life? It’s tough to explain but somehow I know that I can’t and refuse to do anything else with the time I have here.

2) When did you start writing poetry and what inspired your first poem?
I have been dabbling with poetry for as long as I can remember, I only started to see it in a professional light last year(2013) April. My catalyst moment was stumbling across Suli Breaks’s  ‘I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate’ video. I watched that and literally wrote my first piece as soon as the video stopped playing.
3) Do you think there is a difference between writing and reciting poetry?
I don’t necessarily see an immediate difference however I do believe there comes a certain level of courage with performing that writing may not need. Having said that sometimes writing your fears down ‘In the open’ so to speak can be scary in itself.
4) Which poets inspire you?
Wow, I am finding poets that inspire me everyday to be honest.
Off the top of my head I would have to say:
Buddy Wakefield
Tonya Ingram
Rudy Fransico
Miles Hodges
Hary Baker
Luka Lesson and our very own Naledi DeighPetic Raba
5) What are the predominant themes in your poetry?
Emotions and perception, I love playing with perceptions! If I had to fit my poetry into a box I would describe it as conscious boy meets girl, I find myself using the female form as my inspiration. Although I may use the pronoun ‘her’ The message itself is for everybody
6) Is your poetry always personal?
I write every poem for myself first, so in that sense yes. I write to understand my views on certain topics and ideas. My work is inspired mainly by conversations with individuals or things I see that resonate with me. I get on stage for my own growth, if what I have to say people can relate to then that is a beautiful bonus.
7) What is your opinion of the Cape Town poetry scene?
IT’S A HUNGRY BEAST! In the year I have had the pleasure to experience it,  it has grown exponentially, with new poetry groups popping up all over the city. I feel this is a good year for the scene and I am excited to be a part of the shift.
8) Do you think poetry is only for certain people?
Definitely not, I have on many occasions heard ‘this is not for me’ before the show, and after the final piece is said those same people are junkies for spoken word. My poetry in particular focuses on an individual level so I feel that everybody is able to take something away from this art form.
9) How long do you rehearse before a performance
My process includes writing the piece out several times before it is where I like it, so usually by the time it is finished memorizing it isn’t an issue, then I go over it a couple of times out loud, but I must admit I enjoy molding it with the audience, as long as I know my work the journey of experiencing it for the first time together with people so to speak is one of my favourite things about what I do.
10) What is your intention with poetry?
To change people’s perspectives on everyday ‘society norms’. To help people realise like I have that just because this says its true doesn’t necessary mean it is. We are all individuals with our own truths and our own beliefs and I aim to hopefully allow people to follow what feels right for them.
Outside of my own work I have recently started a campaign called ‘Voices of Tomorrow’ Its a year dream wherein we will hunt in every high school for hidden talent aged between 13-18. Run six months of poetry workshops to make sure we don’t let a single drop of talent fall through the cracks, then 3 months of mentoring where we will find out exactly how these kids tick, what inspires them to get up in the morning and to find out their passion for poetry. Then in the final 3 months we will focus on performance mentoring where we help mould their talents for the stage and teach them the logistics of marketing themselves and getting their work out there. By the time the year is up the goal is to take all those talented closet writers, give them the voice they are searching for, and watch them blossom.
11) Are there other art forms that you wish to/have explored besides poetry?
oh my god I wish I could sing, but sadly I can’t so I speak instead, I do love fusing poetry with music and I know purist may be against that but one cannot argue that the music only strengthens the poets message. They are of the same family at the end of the day and in this art form there is no space for hate in my opinion.
12) What would be your dream fulfilled with regard to poetry.
Tour the world, grace the stages that have inspired me countless times, rub shoulders with secret mentors and collaborate with my favorites. Outside of myself my dream as I feel our unified dream as poets should be is to grow this art form as a breathing, living and respected entity of this age. So no one ever has to ask “What is spoken word?’
13) Please share some of your work:


June 16th

A few years ago, at the height  of my artistry and my failure I was presented with another means to grow, to expand. A good friend of mine had a connection to stage a play, I think in Worcester, the theme being June 16th.

At that time, I had failed at varsity and  was adamant to prove to my parents that I was still  worthy. Worthy of their love? Worthy of their respect? Perhaps both? And so emerged the journey of “Lest we forget”.

Lest we forget was a play created in remembrance of the struggle of June 16th 1976,now dubbed youth day in South Africa. It marks when youth conspired amoung themselves to stand up  against the presiding government, for their decision to administer education  in Afrikaans. Afrikaans then  being foreign, not innate to the majority  of South Africa’s means of communication and an oppressive language.

The youth centralised themselves to fight, on that day against this atrocity. Lives were lost, humans were wiped out with force because of their opposition to a language and furthermore a system.

“Lest we forget” therefore proved a difficult task to create. How could we relate 30 years later to the struggle of youth – younger, more vulnerable and less protected than us?

We had to tap into the hurt, the so-called empathetic imagination and put ourselves right there. It was tough. We had vigorous rehearsals where one would sit on a chair and the other would interrogate their motives in a dim-lit room devoid of help. We created a past, present  and future so scenarios of how freedom is experienced. This play would have brought me to tears, alas, it  was never staged.

The marches, the hurt and passion of the day never leaves me. I cannot create a better social milieu, you cannot, lest we forget.

I wrote a poem for the day. Read it, and dare not forget:

Lest we forget

this land is  blood soiled

scarlet hugged and pain bound

echoing memories of lives gone

in throbbing chests of women

who will never be grandmothers.

Lest we forget

Teas gas, no longer visible

olfactory organs pick up no scent

of blinded comrades penetrated by rubber bullets

running by bodies who have struggled and are now spent.

Lest we forget

mass funerals, communities in turmoil

hearts pain stricken

oblivious to recovery

after mother , father sister and brother

are buried for issued passes as lesser beings.

Lest we forget

songs of freedom,

marches to Union buildings,

boycotts of inferior schooling,

imprisonment for twenty-seven years,

noble rebellion of minority rules.

Lest we forget

the belief we are similar

mirror images

reflecting Gods,

souls of furnace ,connected in likeness-

no dilution will incur

perpetuating rivers of the hurt

that run rapidly

repetitively, cognitively and inwardly.

Lest we forget

we will regret current times

where censorship of truth is contracted by law

without our permission,

remaining reminiscent

of our blood soiled land

scarlet hugged bound by pain,

lest we forget.


New kids on the block: Nomad Artiste Colony Cape Town

 

Spoken Word Showdown

Spoken Word Showdown

As far as poetry goes there are a few existing competitions that has gained a good following and reputability. Nationally, the DFL Lover + Another competition sees poets from each province competing for the title. The Word ‘n Sound Poetry and Live Music series runs throughout the year in  Johannesburg and has become a must-see-event with regard to the poetry scene. In Cape Town the InZync poetry competition presented by SLIPnet has drawn huge crowds and fantastic poets, not forgetting the Naked Slam hosted by Lingua Franca that in a short time has also become very popular.

Cue the new kids on the block: Nomad Artiste Colony Cape Town, an initiative by the very talented poet Kirsten Mackie and JP Voster, a DJ,and goes by the name of JP Silver. I had first met this dynamic duo when I was actually set to perform at their poetry show called Ms Kiki presents and since then they still manage to amaze me with their professionalism, respect for artists and the love of an array of art forms.

Ms Kiki is a platform for poets of various genres that serves as a means of self-expression and also allows the audience to experience various poets in their element. Ms Kiki has also gained a very good reputation having seen reputable poets gracing the stage.

Jp Voster and Kirsten Mackie

Jp Voster and Kirsten Mackie

Of late the Nomad Artiste Colony has launched added another leg to their repertoire called the Spoken Word Showdown, a competition that consists of heats that take place every Monday  at Players Restaurant & Bar at The River Club Observatory  at 19:00 pm. What however makes this poetry competition distinct is that it is dualistic. Spoken word in this sense  includes both poetry and comedy, which allows a platform for poets as well as comedians.

Last Monday , I attended the second quarter-final of the competition and was immensely impressed by the way these two art forms worked so well together. The showdown sees each  poet/comedian perform , thereafter the audience is asked to shout of a few words which the artists then have to use to compose something original on the spot. There after , the audience is then asked to vote by applauding whom they regard to be their favourite and voila …we have a winner in each craft.

The show was hosted by wordsmith Kyle Louw who did a stellar job and again proving that he was born for the stage. The poets that made it to the second  quarter-final included DejaVu Tafari, Sharnell Hill and Peter Gabriel McKinnon Wright. Dejavu could unfortunately not compete as she was in Bloemfontein working on the Reversing the Legacy exhibition with which she’s been touring to various provinces. The two remaining poets still managed to carry the show and provided great entrainment and insightful poetry.

Kyle Louw

Kyle Louw

 

When you first meet Sharnelle Hill,she may appear somewhat timid, but this petite lady reveals herself as a firecracker if enough time is spent. In some way her unassuming manner provides softness with regard to her poetry which focalizes a female narrative. Having seen Sharnelle perform a few times, I was quite taken aback by how her writing has grown, as well as how she now filled out the stage with her presence. Sharnelle agreed with my sentiment that she had improved since her maiden poetry performance “I feel as if that the competition has pushed me to be more creative and think more seriously of what I produce”, Hill said and also stated that she feels that her level of performance and writing is on the pinnacle of a personal breakthrough.

Sharnelle Hill

Sharnelle Hill

 

As with Sharnelle, Peter also seems coy at first until he hits the stage. This was my first time seeing him perform, and I was quite taken by his poetry. I did however feel that him reading his poetry, did deter from his performance, but he also concurred that he is fostering that side of his performance. Peter does however have an enduring quality about him and his writing ability is not to be questioned as he trumped everyone with his impromptu poem based on the words provided by the audience.

Sharnelle Hill and

Sharnelle Hill and Peter Gabriel McKinnon Wright

The comedians were very entertaining and I was so appreciative that this component of the competition existed. It opens one’s eyes that with in every art form there exists a community of artists committed to living out their dreams and pursuing their passions. In the quarter-final comedians Eugene Matthews, Westley Cockrell and Lee-Ann Anny Davis were the competitors.

Eugene Mathews is nothing short of fabulous to say the least. He has been performing comedy  for “3yearsand 4months” to be exact. You may recognize him from the CTV television show called TaxiVision, and also features on the radio show called The Taxi. He performs regularly at the Armchair Sundays in Obseveratory and has regularly hosted to The Premium Comedy for Angels event. Eugene has a natural flair and his conversational style of comedy makes one feel quite comfortable even though his jokes are on the racy side. Eugene’s set speaks to culture, but also the realities and nuances of being a gay man and this is rather refreshing considering how he tells his tale and is unapologetic about it. Eugene also said the following with regard to the competition “I’m impressed by how well the event has been organized and advertised”.

Eugene Matthews

Eugene Mathews

Westley Cockrell, a sound engineer originally from George incorporated his small town roots into his comedy. He is Afrikaans speaking and though he does his set in English, he pokes fun at stereotypes of Afrikaners. Wesley suggested that there be specific time allocations, especially for he comedians.

Westley Cockrell

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Lee-Ann Anny Davis

 

Lee-Anne Anny Davis had me in stitches throughout her set. She has a great stage presence and layers her set with topics about her education, motherhood and her heritage. She mentioned that one of the comedians who inspired her was Melanie Shevlane, who’s been in the comedy game for yonks. It was interesting that she mentioned this, as I could see similarities with regard to the content, but Davis does have her own style, distinct, concise and hilarious.

The winners of the evening, by vote of the audience were Shanelle Hill and Lee-Ann Anny Davis. Both well-deserved.

Lee-Anne Anny Davis, Kyle Louw and Sharnell Hill

Lee-Anne Anny Davis, Kyle Louw and Sharnell Hill

The crowd was also entertained by the guest performer Michael-Ashley Jones, who has the most spell bounding voice. I first meat Michael at a series of gigs called MUTE in the Northern Suburbs. He is refreshing and very talented.

Michael-Ashley Jones

Michael-Ashley Jones

The heats for the third quarter-final has already begun. To sign up as either a poet or comedian you can send your bio, a photo aswell as your contact number to nacct@mailbox.co.za.

 

 


Lingua Franca: Sold out

Lingua

Saturday passed,saw the first anniversary of the spoken word movement Lingua Franca, the brainchild of Delft artist’s Mawande Manez Sobethwa, Ncedisa Jargon Mpemnyama, Lwanda Sindaphi and Mbongeni Nomkonwana.

The term Lingua Franca can be defined as: a medium of communication between people’s of different languages. That said, I’m of the opinion that this spoken word movement has done just that, it has managed to create a community where poetry and music became the Lingua Franca of everyone involved.

The Lingua Franca shows usually take place at the Masambe theatre, a quaint annexure of the  Baxter theatre. When it just started out, Mbongeni Nomkomwana, 2012 regional winner and 2013 coordinator of the DFL Lover+Another competition, asked if I would come share a poem on the open mic, in retrospect, I’m so glad I went.

My first impression of the event was that the soul’s that inhibited that theatre were sincere. The audience was attentive, engaged and appreciative of every poet and artist who graced the stage.

Thereafter word spread, and the numbers grew up to the point that spectators were quite satisfied to sit on the floor just to be part of the magic that is Lingua Franca. In demand, the movement upped the ante and regulated the door by selling tickets which surprisingly still pulled a huge crowd.

The most recent format of the Lingua Franca shows provides a marriage of poets and musicians. The talented Lingua Franca band consists of Babalwa Makwethu and Bongeka Qhanga on vocals, Mcebisi Tshambula , Zama Qambi and Lwando Bam on percussion and the talented Lumanyano “Unity” Mzi on guitar and keyboard. The band feels out the poet and their piece and usually create original accompanying music on the spot during rehearsals.
liingu
To celebrate their first anniversary, a show had to be had in true Lingua Franca style.

The line up was amazing which featured Lingua Franca’s resident poets : Anele Kose, Koleka Putuma, Mfundo Ntobongwana, Lwanda and Mbongeni. Other poets included myself, Kgothatso Motshele, Lerato Mokobe, Kyle Louw, Ingonyama Yamagama , Khanyiso Mabhodla, Javier Perez , Thabiso Nkoana and Naledi Rabi.

Right before the show commenced a friend of mine, and a regular to the show, alerted me that the tickets were sold out. I panicked since I knew that she and her mother had come especially to see me. I tried to pull some strings, but I was told that rules were rules and that my only spectators would have to go without. Also in the foyer, ticket-less, was Michael Rolfe one of the coordinators of the longstanding Off the wall poetry sessions.

As luck and poetry would have it, my friend and Michael did manage to get into the show as the tall, gregarious, Loerie award-winning MC Manez Sobethwa pleaded with the audience to “act as in a Cape Town taxi and scoot up for your neighbour”.His plea worked. Also in the audience was coordinator of the InZync Poetry sessions , Adrian van Wyk. If two of the coordinators of the most sought after poetry platforms in Cape Town attend your show, you must be doing something right.

Overall the show was fantastic with the band and the poets receiving a standing ovation from the audience. My personal favourites of the evening  were the angelic Kgothatso Motshele who delivered a matter of fact poem about the grey area with regard to rape and sexualization of females within society. Koleka Putuma, who delivered an intimate portrayal of an individuals’ struggle with organised religion and the appreciation of a pious mother. Kyle Louw with his beautiful extended metaphor on drugs and love and Naledi Rabi, who has the type of voice that can make even a girl question her sexuality.

It was beautiful and it was indeed a celebration of poetry, art and life. It goes to show that the popularity of poetry in Cape Town has increased immensely and that people are flocking to hear, share and feel in these artistic truths.

A huge congratulations to Lingua France for their persistence, belief and love of this art form. What they have managed to a achieve is more than just a platform, they have built a community in art that manages to elevate the collective conscience of society and that is definitely noteworthy.

As a treat, here is the poem that I performed at the show.


Let the poet speak

Shhhhht! Quiet!
Listen,
and let the poet speak
lend your ears ,
just let the poet speak
and ease your fears
please!

Let the poet speak
and enlighten your mind
let the poet speak
and watch your soul rise
effortlessly
as it was always meant to do.

Armed with nothing but words
the poet navigates this world
with sounds and rhythm
stomping metaphors and similes
unearthing sacred verses
you never dreamed to exist.

Resist if you must
there in the crowd
in that dimmed room
your only wish is entertainment
but if you open yourself instead
an arrangement
of what you already know
prose now becoming poems
replanting seeds already sown
constructed for you
by the poet
to help your spirit grow.

Let the poet speak
and as each beat of your heart
mimics the content,
pulses the history,
merges with your energy,
envelopes your being,
praise the poet
for their work and their meaning
like the ancient soothsayers of yesteryear
where crowds gathered to decipher
uncode and denote
the wisdom imparted from their lips.

Let the poet speak
but not in vain,
as your mind wraps around their words
respect ,reflect and understand their pain
their hope, their dreams
their need to stand nakedly in front of you
reciting to you things
they just have to say
all the paths that came their way
hurts dealt with
that bleed and lay
internally
until they are staged
for you.

Le t the poet speak
let them know you agree or disagree
indicate that you’ve cognized their concept,
their rhyme,
their verse, their time
their art
their belief in a better world
their battle against injustice,
their sweat , their hustle
in solitary crafting
drafting and second guessing
each sentence
to share with you a poem
that’s just too pressing ,
if left inside it would fester
and the poet
would surely die.

Let the poet speak and see nations rise to their feet
an army clad in harmony
interconnectedness the mission
protesters upholding banners that read
“down with hatred and divison”.

Let the poet speak ,
remind you of what it was like to be in love
providing those soft nuances
delicate images,
blissful ideologies,
the belief in
second possibilities.

Hear the poet out
when you’re dealing with loss
that private place that only you, god and the poet knows.

Let the poet reassure you
I will be alright
that when your world plummets and falls
just hold yourself tight to make it right ,
let the poet write that wrong
and perhaps not presently
but as time suspends, your hurt will too
replaying continuously , repetitively
the poets words to you.

Let the poets words dance in your joy ,
lift your spirit
elevate your consciousness,
celebrate your present,
arch the corners of your mouth ,
recounting the preciousness of your life.

Just let the poet speak.
But dear poet
when they let you speak,
and tweak their minds,
pierce their souls,
be weary
that your words can destroy and build
ignite or spite
heal or deride
with every sound your recite.

If you’re a poet and they let you speak
honour the privilege
the platform the hour,
devour
each passing minute they let you speak
eating their time like your last meal,
intend to let them feel
the best way you can
for you are the poet
and though they may not know it
they were always waiting for you to speak.

In peace and poetry: Roché


Helen Moffett and the rest who say: Fuck Women’s Day

Jam That Session :Roché Kester

Jam That Session :Roché Kester

There have only been two instances in my life where I have had stage fright, or completely could not recall the words to a poem. The first instance occurred when I entered a poetry competition when at University. The prize was monetary, but also offered an opportunity to record some of your poetry which at that time was a very exciting prospect.

I auditioned and got through to the next round. Then there was the performance in the cafeteria, in front of students eating lunch and playing dominoes, granted not the most conducive environment to do poetry. In addition, I was ill prepared, but instead of sensibly taking my page on stage , I chose to humiliate myself by not acknowledging my shortcoming and choking on the lines of my very magnificent poem.

The last time something like that happened to me was, well, Sunday. I got the call from Mbongeni Nomkonwana one evening. He is one of the founding members of Lingua Franca Spoken Word movement. He informed me that Jam That Session we interested in hosting a women’s day performance and since I was such a huge fan of the platform I agreed.

Legitimately I only have two poems centering on things female and thought I could write something inspirational/awe inspiring, but with time constraints it was not possible. Additionally I had mixed feelings about women’s day. Helen Moffett posted the following blog post, the day prior to Women’s Day , and every word of it stemmed true. Most of the female poets/musicians and writers I befriended on Facebook reposted her blog. She was right though. What was there to celebrate when in South Africa it has become part of the countries rhetoric that women are assaulted, abused, raped and sexualized on a daily basis and the seriousness of it all is lost on everybody?

I could not write. But would I deny myself the celebration of being a woman, I couldn’t. From my perspective women are royalty and should be treated that way. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book titled Committed, she mentions a time when men stood each time a women entered the room, heaven knows why that social norm is now somehow non-existent. Women are so complex and simple at times, and mostly they are beautiful.

There are so many aspects of women that are just breathtaking and even though it is hard being a women in South Africa, since you always so aware that something terrible may happen to you ( and some really terrible things have happened to me), I do love being a woman. I love chatting, women do this, I love doing my hair, and I love getting dressed up and looking fabulous on a night out on the town with my girlfriends. I love that women nurture, raise nations and teach manners. I love that mothers, sisters, daughters and wives of every colour and creed were brave enough to march to the Union building in 1956 taking a stand for human rights. I’m even a fan of Eve! Good on her for giving Adam the apple ensuring that human beings have to be clothed and that men would have to work a little harder. I will also make no secret of it that I am of the opinion that female protagonists are always more interesting in literature, films and life. Women are phenomenal.

What better poem to recite than Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman? So that was my choice alongside the other poems I had. I was die-hard nervous, as if it was my first performance and perhaps it was because it was a huge task take on, I mean, its Maya Angelou for goodness sakes! Perhaps I was ill-rehearsed, perhaps it was all that, but as the wonderful Lingua Franca band played and I swayed to the music as I started reciting, the words just left me. If you’ve ever met me, you’d know that my poetry and basically my life is visible on my face. I cannot feign comfortably, but somehow I managed to push through, repeating lines and well resigning myself to the fact that I had blundered Phenomenal Woman in front of a huge crowd. Somehow I made it through, and luckily I had the band to save me.

The other two poems went off much better and I was comforted by the fact that the crowd was supportive and of course that I had fantastic friends who helped me to nurse my wounds. The best advice I can give to any performer that this happens too, is just to breathe. I forgot to do that and I could not center myself. Despite what I deemed a disaster, the audience would have been oblivious had I not said “Oh shit” slap bam in the middle of the poem. Keep composure, start again and if all else fails crack a joke about it, the audience always appreciates the fact that you are after all just a human being.

The show proved fantastic, some great poets, fantastic bands and it was indeed a celebration of consciousness, of different perspectives of women and of talent. Dejavu Tafari was set to perform at the gig too, and I would never miss the opportunity to see this ball of wisdom on stage, so I stayed while waiting patiently for her to recite her wisdom. Then something happened that through major zap signs at Women’s Day and used the most vulgar language as an attack on it.

A female rapper/singer, I don’t know her name (I’m not in the business of shaming people either, but this shouldbetold), pranced on stage wearing next to nothing. I get it, stage persona and all that, but what offended me was the fact that stereotypes were being perpetuated in front of my eyes. Miss rapper was on stage bouncing around in her tiny outfit in the most distasteful fashion. Additionally she had a sidekick who came onto stage and started twerking. I’ve heard the term twerk, but honest to God, I was just to lazy to Google this latest dance/internet craze even though the term sparked interest as the two male journalists from FHM got canned when they used the term in their racist/ sexist remarks on Facebook. When I however saw I live, while little miss back up dancer grinded on the floor of the stage for no good reason I just sat there in shock.

I was too sober for all of it. The singer was actually good and the production of her music was really good, but what she brought on stage just offended me. I have a poem titled Premium Poes, about the sanctity of women’s bodies and choices and the need for respect for those things, but those two ladies on stage negated everything I had delivered earlier in the day by sexualizing females in the way they had. At an event under the banner Women in Art, it just put a damper on everything.

I’m not even a prude. I will admit that when I go dancing with my girlfriends a tangible amount of bumping and grinding happens. I am not the virgin Mary either, and sexual guilt has been nullified in my book, but what I witnessed on stage yesterday was too much. I shouldn’t judge women, but some of those dancers in the accompanying sexist rap videos just irk me to the core. It’s hard to draw the line on what should be deemed acceptable, because one might argue that women are in control of their own bodies and what they choose to do with it. But what happened yesterday happened at the wrong place and at the wrong time.

I’m in agreement with Helen though. Fuck Women’s Day if we are unable to learn how to make things better.


Something is not right in the Republic of South Africa.

Reversing the legacy exibition

Reversing the Legacy Exhibition 2013

This is obvious. I’m sure if all South African’s were given free range to complain, there would be no end to the array of what exactly is wrong with our country. Seldom concrete solutions are implemented to remedy our issues. What the Reversing the Legacy exhibition at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) tries to illuminate that although progress takes time, it is possible .
Upon arrival at the exhibition, you are issued with a pass, or a dompas as it was referred to during Apartheid. Then you are met with a security guard, who scrutinizes you as if you are a terrorist and after a substantial silence asks you what your name is and where you reside.

Thereafter you are greeted by a man, who looks like he could have run the ABW and who coincidently had the old South African flag looming proudly above his head. Accompanying Mr ABW were his too sidekicks, one dressed in uniform and the other in a suit. The male in uniform, asked for my pass and then sized me up just as suspiciously as the initial security guard. He then asked the same questions: “What is your name”, “Where do you live” and I answered him earnestly. When he asked “Why are you here” and I replied innocently with a “To see the exhibition”, I knew I had crossed some line when he asked “What is an exhibition”. Immediately I had to change my story and said I was visiting a friend (which was in fact true), he seemed quite satisfied with this answer and eventually I encountered Mr AWB.

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The same questions followed, my name , place of residence, what I did for a living. I wondered if it would help if I said that I worked for an Afrikaans Publishing company, instead of just a publishing company, to perhaps win some favour with this guy, in retrospect , I’m glad I didn’t. He then asked if I was planning to visit the shebeen. Given the seriousness of the situation, I replied with a cheeky “maybe”. Yes, this was to be reflection of Apartheid, and yes I was supposed to be made to feel that I was doing something wrong by existing, and yes, these actors were REALLY good, but I am a free woman. This is 2013 and I would not dehumanize myself by complying with his every whim and intention of making me feel sub-human. Plus, I really like beer so chances are if there was a shebeen, I would definitely visit it.

All the dramatics aside, after being warned that I would be incarcerated for six months if I was found without my pass, I engaged with the exhibition. There were illuminate fixtures all around the room relating historical information, The first one specifically being about the 1913 Native land act, which was cause for the exhibition as this year herald the centenary since the law was instituted.

To be honest, I had no idea that laws as harsh as these were into place as far back as 1913, so for my fellow ignorant readers ,the 1913 Natives land act ensured that natives, or what we would refer to as people of colour, were only allowed a 7% ownership of designated land in South Africa, and furthermore that they were not allowed to regulate livestock and it also regulated who could live on “white farms” and who could stay on white farms, thereby lessening any “natives” ability to be fully empowered themselves and to be self-sufficient.

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The Natives Land Act , 1913

This happened as far back as 1913? It almost shocked the native out of me! I then snapped a shot with my camera with Mr AWB and his sidekicks and was told that they were watching me. The man in uniform uttered that I looked like a trouble maker.

Turning the corner is what really tore this native’s heart to pieces. There we pillars, almost ceiling high, all displaying the laws that were instated after 1913: The Group Areas Act, The Population registration Act, The Separate Amenities Act. You’d wonder why this moved me to tears. But seeing these laws suspended against that concrete was too much to bear. To me, those laws fixed on those concrete pillars, represented the permanency of its effects on our country.  Imbedded, irreversible and done, now elevated, almost boastfully.

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After I composed myself, I encountered a group of marching protesters holding up signs objecting these unjust laws. The marched in unison, singing songs of freedom, and I was almost trampled as they marched in full force as I approached with my camera.

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Then there was the shebeen ( unfortunately there was no beer), and  people were playing cards , dominoes , empty bottle’s positioned on the table, the occupants all dressed in  attire from the fifties, sixties and seventies.

What caught my attention was a white woman sitting on her stoep and behind her the sign read:

“A resident in Triomf, the white working class suburb, built on the ruins of Sophia Town” .

Positioned directly across her were two black women, who appeared to be impoverished and desolate. At point the two parties argued to and from their respective “areas”.

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Further along the exhibition a casper is seen and various posters heralding historical events in South Africa. There were also television screens which streamed videos of marches, protests, burning townships and Apartheid leaders spewing their well constructed rhetoric of injustice.

Jethro Louw

Jethro Louw

As you turn the corner you approach the poetry corner. I had the pleasure of catching the end of Jethro Louw’s set and I finally got to see the friend I told the security about, Ms Dejavu Tafari. It took me some time to find the section designated for the posts/storytellers to perform and eventually when I was directed to it, Dejavu informed me that she had already performed about three times to be exact. I opted for a picture instead and then she hopped onto stage to get a picture behind the mic and the onlookers were now intrigued an edged her on. She performed a poem I had requested and I was thrilled.

Dejavu Tafari

Dejavu Tafari

Dejavu is a ball of fire, wit and wisdom. She has the type of stage presence that makes it impossible to fix your eyes anywhere else. She is the real deal and if you ever see that she’ll be participating in a show, do yourself a favour and go. You won’t be disappointed.

Being as crazy as she is, she announced to the audience, which was very small, that I had written a poem the previous evening and I was going to grace the stage. I had no choice I had to get up there. After that we spoke a bit about poetry the workings of it in Cape Town. We both were in agreement that poetry in Cape Town seemed rather fragile at this point in time.

A few weeks prior to the exhibition, I saw the call for twenty poets who were to perform for twenty minutes, each day of the exhibition. I considered responding to the call, but I was not in a “stage” space at the time. I was exceptionally happy that poets were invited to the event, but let’s get it right people. Dejavu let me know she had performed at least thrice throughout the day, even though she was only scheduled for twenty-minutes. The whole affair seemed to be rather disorganised.

Additionally a jazz band played through the duration of the exhibition beyond the partition where the poetry was staged. Don’t get me wrong, I love jazz and it was a good idea to place the musician at the space designated for the shebeen, to add to the ambience of that setting, but what about the poets who had to compete with that distraction throughout the day? This injustice was quite fitting with the rest of the exhibition. During our conversation we did manage to psyche ourselves up and came to the conclusion that if things were to change, well as Gandhi put it, we had to be that change.

After parting from Dejavu, a woman asked if I wanted to sign the pledge. I read this pledge carefully before I put my name on it. It read as follows:

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Quite a hefty promise to make, but I do believe in what it said and was glad to sign it. My hope would be that whomever else signed the pledge would understand the responsibly of what it meant.

Overall the exhibition was a rather emotional experience and I was taxed when I left. The aim of the exhibition was to show how since Apartheid, steps have been taken to combat the wrongs of the past. On most of the pillars relaying the horrendous legislation of the past, a sort of disclaimer was posted about how steps had been taken by the current administration to reverse the effects of these laws, which I respect. Progress takes time but the hard truth is, is that in terms of land in this country, it will never be equal. Too much damage was done. The trauma of this land lies in its geography. Perhaps the percentage of black owned land will increase, perhaps more people will receive housing, but the townships and the Capeflats will always exist. People of colour will always be living there, that won’t change.

Was the aim of the exhibition met? I don’t know, but I’m glad that it is on display. It provides a minute view of what it was like and perhaps it will help people realise what kind of trauma this land experienced. Perhaps it will spark patience for the healing process, or perhaps the visitors to the exhibition will realise that there will always be a struggle to combat our past and perhaps they will join that struggle?

The exhibition has been extended to June 29th. It is free and I is a must see, for many reasons.

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