national Arts Festival Banner

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Annual International Poetry Festival to run from October 5 to 10.

The week of October 5 to 10 promises to be a stirring week of words, rhymes, performance and ideas, as the 13th Poetry Africa international poetry festival ignites Durban with poetry from around South Africa, Africa, and the world. Hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Centre for Creative Arts, Poetry Africa's intensive week-long programme kicks off with a pre-festival showcase of Durban-based poets at The Workshop Shopping Centre's Amphitheatre on October 4 at 11h00.

The poets performing at the showcase were chosen from a week-long open audition held at the Centre for Creative Arts. Some of the selected poets will also perform curtain-raising poems on three separate evenings at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre as well as battle it out for the Durban SlamJam crown on October 10 at the BAT Centre.

The festival week encompasses introductory performances by the full line-up of participating poets at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. Opening Night will also include a keynote address by legendary Malawian writer and poet David Rubadiri. The week will thereafter feature four poets every evening, through to October 4, before the perennially rousing Festival Finale at the BAT Centre on October 10.

The festival's trademark eclectic mix of poetic voices, styles, forms, and cultures includes comedian-slammer Nina Kibuanda (Democratic Republic of the Congo). Kibuanda, who is also an actor, makes the connections between theatre, musicality and poetry explicit in his electrifying performances. The lineup from Africa also includes Poetry Africa returnee Susan Kiguli (Uganda), who last performed in Durban in 2000. Kiguli, an academic and widely recognized as one of the most important poets in East Africa, combines startling lyrical ability with an utterly compelling performing voice. Odia Ofeimun from Nigeria has published numerous celebrated collections of hard-hitting and astute poetry with political bite. Tania Tomé (Mozambique) is a provocative performer, singer and poet who instills a sense of theatre into her poetry. Malawian singer and poet Chigo Gondwe is an “ethno-urban-hiphop-soul-poetess” who revels in promoting the positive aspects of the Africa continent. Leading Zimbabwean protest-poet Outspoken, together with his band the Essence, will be rhyming truth to power as the Festival's closing night act on October 10 at the BAT Centre.

The strong South African lineup this year includes poet and novelist Mogane Wally Serote, one of the true giants of South African literature. Serote, the winner of numerous local and international awards including the Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize, the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa and Pablo Neruda Award from the Chilean government, was a key Black Consciousness poet who in 1969 was arrested by the apartheid government under the Terrorism Act. Poet, writer, and playwright Lesego Rampolokeng is perhaps one of the most influential contemporary poets in South Africa. His bitter-sweet and complex writing and performing forms a radically incisive alternative soundtrack to post-apartheid South Africa.

Jennifer Ferguson, one of South Africa 's national treasures, is a multi-award winning performer, composer, poet, and classically trained pianist. She also served as an ANC MP in South Africa's first democratic National Parliament. Ferguson, who now divides her time between South Africa and Sweden, worked during apartheid as both a protest singer-songwriter and as a Cultural Activist serving on the South African Musician's Alliance (SAMA)'s Cultural Desk. It was during this time that her songs were banned, concerts tear gassed, and she faced intimidation from the South African Security Branch.

Sindiwe Magona is best known as a prolific and multi-award winning author of plays, novels, a memoir, and educational books. Poetry Africa is pleased to be able to launch Magona's first poetry collection, the poignant Please, Take Photographs (Modjaji Books), during the festival. Loftus Marais's stunning debut collection of poems, Staan in die algemeen nader aan vensters has been received with universal acclaim and won both the Eugenè Marais Prize and the University of Johannesburg Debut Prize. Ewok, a two-time Poetry Africa SlamJam champion and a well-known face in Durban's theatre, hiphop and slam scenes, is arguably the finest slam poet in the country and injects his rapid-fire bursts of poetry with ingenious wit and political and social impact. Liesl Jobson, an established voice in the South African poetry and literary scene, last year published two exceptional collections, View from an Escalator (poems) and 100 Papers (prose poems and flash fiction), both awash with humour, tenderness and insight. Bongani Mavuso is a poet, radio presenter, and senior producer at Ukhozi FM and has been writing and reciting his urgent and socially conscious poetry for over twelve years, publishing numerous anthologies of Zulu poetry along the way. Mavuso will also launch his latest anthology, Zibuyela Ezimpandeni (Shuter and Shooter) during the festival.

Sunil Gangopadhyay (India) heads up the contingent from outside Africa at this year's festival. Gangopadhyay, an astonishingly prolific writer with well over 200 books to his name, is an immensely popular poet and writer in his native India and has had two of his works adapted for the screen by the legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray. Fellow Indian Anindita Sengupta is a dynamic emerging voice in Indian poetry and her vivid, humanistic poems are bound to impress. Ilyas Tunç is a poet and translator whose resonant poetry is spread over numerous celebrated collections. Tunç has a strong South African connection and has finished work on a mammoth anthology of contemporary South African poetry in Turkish translation. Some of his own poems have also been translated into Afrikaans and Zulu.

October 10 sees a full day of activities at the BAT Centre, which includes poetry workshops, open mic opportunities, the Durban SlamJam all culminating with the Festival Finale on Saturday night. Apart from the evening performances at the Sneddon and the BAT, a packed daily programme includes performances, seminars, workshops, poetry competitions, and school visits.

The full programme of activities, plus participant bios and photos, is available on Enquiries to 031-260 2506 or 031-260 1704. Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), the 13th Poetry Africa festival is supported by the Department of Arts and Culture, Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS), National Arts Council, French Institute of South Africa, Pro-Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, African Synergy Book Café and the City of Durban.