Category Archives: Writing

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:


Lingua Franca: Sold out

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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.
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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


I am Woman, hear me love.

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Hear me roar is the better known statement, thanks to the opening line of Helen Reddy’s song I am Woman (1971), but after this weekend I thought that love would be more apt.

Last year I decided to submit a short story to POWA’s women’s writing project and lo and behold, my story ,Girl Power was published in the 2012 anthology titled Breaking the Silence : Sisterhood. An array of emotions come to the fore upon knowing that you will be published. In my case, it can be explained as the following:

Utter joy and disbelief when you are first informed that your writing will be put in an actual book. This was followed by excitement and pure euphoria. Then the anticipation of waiting for the physical copy ensues. When you finally receive the book and your name is printed in black and white you are kind of shell-shocked and content. After the contentment wanes, you are faced with the “Well what now?”, the excitement passes and you come to terms with the fact that  you are still you, the only actual difference is that you get to add a book to your collection that now contains your name and your writing.

Being published is a lifelong dream for many people. I worked in a bookshop for many years and at the time it seemed so unattainable, but I knew I wanted it. Writing does however take time, and although you should make time to write (everyday they say), I have only submitted a few places and have had the luck (and perhaps the skill) to have been published thrice in my 25 short years on this planet. I have thus endured the crazy process of a complete high to a feeling of wanting thrice, and I will admit that I’ll endure it as many times as necessary.

The beauty of the POWA anthology was that after published the action of submitting my story obtained its own life and story. A year later, having forgotten I was published and all that, just minding my own business the editor of the POWA anthology asked if I was willing to mentor the potential writers in Cape Town for the 2013 anthology. How could I possibly refuse? In a myriad of submissions from Cape Town, they had asked me. Little old me. They actually thought I could teach people how to write. I had to say yes, there would be no adventure if I declined.

About two months ago I was flown to Johannesburg, put up in a guest house and attended a workshop on how to mentor other writers. The other participants in the workshop were all women who had been previously published in POWA’s anthologies and being there was an affirmation that you were indeed some type of writer or that you did something special enough to have utter strangers dig into their pockets to finance what you deemed only to dream. Mind blowing stuff right?

For my readership who may not know about POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse), they are essentially a South African feminist women rights organisation that provides an array of necessary services to survivors of abuse and are also focused on empowerment of women in various sectors of society. It goes without saying that there is a certain pessimism attached to what the acronym POWA stands for ( as well as the existence of services like the Rape Crisis Centre)  considering that women shouldn’t ever be  abused, raped or violated, but the reality of our society dictates that it is necessary and the fact stands that organizations like POWA have the potential to  save people’s lives.

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The Women’s Writing Project is one of the branches in which POWA allows everyday women’s voices to be heard.
Now that I’ve become a somewhat “chosen” voice, it was my responsibility to source females for the writing workshop in Cape Town. I spammed almost every group on Facebook I thought may be interested and also forwarded the information to all of the artist networks I could think of. Then the replies came in. Women answered the call via email and all responded with a resounding yes, “I’ll be there”, “Count me in” and my excitement grew. I knew perhaps three of the women personally but the rest were all brought in by the net I had cast out into the universe, and what a group it was.

In total seventeen women were present at the workshop over the course of this weekend. Women of various ages, cultures and upbringing and what transpired when we gathered together can only be described as magic. I’ve always said this, but now I am a firm believer when I say that there is something sacred about a group of women gathering together.

We deconstructed gender, had talks about everything from hair, to clothes and our relation to men. We celebrated the power of being female; we cried, laughed and shared poetry and stories. We were open, accepting and receptive. Within 48 hours we had developed a bond through our love for writing and the fact that we were women. It was a beautiful, a natural sisterhood, a kinship and an air of reverence and respect lay in all the spaces and avenues we uncovered. We helped each other improve our writing. We ignited the possibility of the dream; we gave each other strength and confidence where it may have lacked before. You could hear us love. We were women and you could hear us love.

After the workshop I realised that I had committed a terrible offence in my last blog post titled Helen Moffett and the rest who say : Fuck Women’s day. With all that I  claim to be, I had judged the actions of another woman so harshly and had become part of the masses that dictate how women should be or how they should act or what they should wear. This is a public apology to the woman I so blatantly judged in my previous post and to all those to who I may have offended by thinking , having had tunnel vision on what it should entail by being  women. We are all different, have different ambitions, beliefs and aspirations and I have to acknowledge that my own prejudices and my then warped sense of morality intervened in my last blog post.

The women I encountered in the workshop managed to remove my blinkers in such a short period of time.

Submissions to the anthology are open to all women across South Africa. To submit electronically you can visit the following website: http://womenswriting.org.za/pages/home.php or alternatively email me at roche.kester@gmail.com to receive the submission form. The deadline has been extended to 30 September.

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The website provides guidelines for submissions for poetry, short stories and personal essays. E-books of previous anthologies are also available on the website. I encourage every aspiring women writer to submit their writing. POWA’s Women’s Writing Project is an open arena for all women’s voices. And who knows you may just be published and your published work may take on a life that adds an additional, meaningful and beautiful story as the one I have to tell by taking that first step of self belief. So, dear women let them hear you love.