Category Archives: South Africa

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:


Mandela: The sentiment lives on

freedomI am of the school of thought of the sentimental. I cry easily and feel deeply and I struggle to find words and cognize external stimuli when in shock.

Thursday night saw me standing in a two-hour line to go to a party I just “had” to be at and someone randomly mentioned; they are saying Mandela has died. I went on with my life, still waiting in line. How many times in the last few months have I not heard those same words, those same debates and even in July I was not brave enough to say how I felt, that I was of the sentiment that in 2013 someone, anyone should say “Free Nelson Mandela”.

Once in the club, an announcement came from the DJ. “Can I please ask everyone to raise peace signs to the sky, we’ve just received news that Nelson Mandela has died”. I stood there and watched how everyone raised their peace signs, but my arm remained stuck to my side”. The D J then played That’s what friends are for and life continued.

When I got home, I spent two hours over a toilet bowel, puking out who knows what feeling (this was not due to alcohol intake, I had picked up a bug from my little brother) and woke the next day feeling terrible. While driving all talk was about Mandela on the radio, his death his life, his struggle. In between feeling physically sick and overwhelmed, I had not shed a tear.

At work, it was all the buzz. One everyone’s lips was Mandela  and all I could do was throw-up and battle to feel human. Eventually I threw in the towel and asked to leave work. I came home and slept.

So yes my life went on, and now I am here, still woozy and silent. I can’t explain why I am too deeply saddened to verbalize what I feel. A month ago when asked in an interview who my icon was  I said “ The most obvious answer would be Nelson Mandela, but I think that Mandela is a representative of a sentiment that we aspire to, so I think it’s fair to say that the sentiment he represents is my icon”.

The face of freedom is what he has become to South Africans, but there are many faces of freedom in South Africa, who have died, are not mentioned or scarcely documented.  I’ve always felt that in this land, the struggle is not so much for freedom, but in actuality it is between what we choose to embrace as ideals. Are we the Nelson Mandela figure, the one aspiring for peace, the one with the sense of humour, a sense of interconnectedness, a wisdom that permeates to an understanding that we should not fight each other, but rather embrace .  Are we the opposite? The image of the system that is apartheid, filled with hatred, fear and greed. Judging rather than understanding , oppressing rather that uplifting one another?

What are we really as South Africans? Who are we? These are the questions I grapple with every day when I encounter personalities on either side of these spectrums. The death of Mandela does not mark the end of what he represents. Perhaps with his death, it may feel as it has, a sense of what he represents has left us, but that is not true, perhaps that is why I am in a limbo state of mourning. I feel that those ideals will live on if we choose it, matter of fact it was present before a face was ascribed to it.

My father says when Mandela was released from prison he was present and I was hoisted on his shoulders amoung the crowd at the Grand Parade in Cape Town. That’s the closest I got to meeting him/ seeing him and knowing him and that is actually okay with me. I know that his legacy and sentiments are present in me regardless, because it’s in me, it lies at the core of my soul and who I am. My hope is that South African’s don’t forget that freedom and equality  was bred because it was part of the collective conscience, that is was every soul populating our land wanted. That is what won, freedom won because we chose it, and may it continue to be that way. May equality soon follow.

RIP Nelson Mandela, long live South Africa.