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Tuesday, October 4, 2016


A feast of poetic offerings from Africa and the world will be showcased at this year’s 20th Poetry Africa International Festival set to take place from October 10 to 15, 2016.

The Festival, hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA), will also feature some of the country’s most prominent poetic minds. The festival will pay tribute to the 200th anniversary of the conception of the Zulu Kingdom. It will also pay homage to South Africa’s first National Poet Laureate and one of the symbols of isiZulu poetry, the late Professor Mazisi Kunene.

Announcing this year’s line-up, the Director of the CCA, David wa Maahlamela says, “Poetry Africa is arguably the largest and longest-running poetry festival in Africa. Over the years it has hosted a wide variety of highly-acclaimed poetic voices from all over the world, with the main focus on Africa. We are proud to announce the line-up for our celebratory edition.”

This year’s line-up includes veterans such as Don Mattera of the Azanian Love Song fame, to up-and-coming performers such as Phumzile Zondo.

Other participants are:

Bassey Ikpi, a Nigerian-American poet internationally acclaimed for her appearance on the Tony Award winning Broadway show, Def Poetry. She was listed as the YNaija’s 100 inspiring and influential women in Nigeria, and Leading Ladies in Africa.

Bulelwa Basse, a Cape-Town based poet and a notable cultural activist passionate about youth and women’s issues.

Harry Owen, the inaugural Poet Laureate for Cheshire (2003), in the UK, and author of six volumes of poetry. 

JahRose Nthabiseng Jafta, a Bloemfontein-based performance poet widely recognized for her contribution in the development of the arts in Free State.

Jessica Mbangeni, who hails from Nqamakwe, in the Eastern Cape, is one of the foremost iimbongi (‘praise poets’) in South Africa.  She made her mark during the 46664 concert, and the inauguration of former president Thabo Mbeki. 

Kabelo Ringane, a native of Pretoria, is a spoken word artist commonly known as Kilobyte (KB). He is the 2012 Word’N Sound Poetry Showcase Award winner and the 2012 Spoken Mind Intervasity Champion.

Kobus Moolman, an acclaimed poet and creative writing teacher from Pietermaritzburg, is currently an Associate Professor at the University of the Western Cape. Among others, he is the recipient of the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award, and the South African Literature Award (SALA) for Poetry.

Koleka Putuma is a performance poet, writer, and a theatre director based in Cape Town. She is the recipient of the 2016 Pen Student Writing Prize for her poem, “Water”. She has been named by the Sunday Times as one of the young pioneers who took South Africa by storm in 2015.

Leymen Pérez is a multi-award winning Spanish poet and teacher from Matanzas in Cuba. His work is widely published in anthologies in Cuba, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Estados Unidos. His awards include Premio Nacional Hermanos Loynaz, Premio Calendario, Premio Especial José María Heredia, Premio Regino Pedros, Premio Cauce and many more.

Lucky Cafeous Tembo is a Zimbabwean musical maestro and a ChiShona wordsmith who is currently a resident musician at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg. He plays a variety of musical instruments, which include mbira, guitar, marimba, djembe and other percussions.

Malachi Smith is a Jamaican dub poet currently based in Miami where he works as a police officer at the Miami-Dade Police Department. The 2009 recipient of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s Most Outstanding Writer Prize, he is currently a fellow of the Michener Caribbean Writers’ Institute at the University of Miami.

Mata-Uiroa Manuel Atan is a Chilean poet from the Island of Pascua. From 1978 to 1996 he coordinated and directed the Tapati Rapa Nui festival. He further co-founded the festival of indigenous poetry, Internacional de Poesía en Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela.

Maya Wegerif, who hails from Shirley Village in Limpopo, is mostly acclaimed for her controversial poem, Why You Talk So White. She has conducted, among others, a workshop on arts and activism at Yale University and judged the annual Poetry Slam at Harvard. She has recently returned to South Africa after living in Tanzania, the US and Senegal.

Max Makasi Marhanele is a legendary Xitsonga poet and a retired school principal. During the 2007 South African Literary Awards he was honoured with the Literary Lifetime Achievement Award. He has published 33 books. With Vonani Bila, he co-authored a ground-breaking 920-paged Xitsonga monolingual dictionary, Tihlùngù ta Rixaka (2016).

Mpho Ramaano is a poet, actor, playwright and a social activist. He is well-known for his 2005 debut poetry volume, Talk with the Sun, especially the poem entitled Verwoerd is Black. He co-authored Twilight: Four South African Tragedies, together with Tsakane Oupa Mongwe.

Mxolisi Mtshali, one of the key drivers of poetry movement in KwaZulu-Natal, especially in Durban, is the founder of the most flourishing Poets In Suit. He writes consistently in isiZulu. His popular poem, Zulu Love Letter, was featured on DJ Nkoh’s album, and Nonzwakazi on The Soil.

Ngwatilo Mawiyoo, a poet, writer and a creative writing teacher hailing from Kenya, holds a Master’s degree in creative writing from the University of British Colombia, where she currently teaches.

Philip Hammial was born in Detroit in Michigan and has lived in China before settling in Australia. He has published 29 volumes of poetry and won, among others, the Rothman’s Foundation Poetry Prize. He has read his work at acclaimed international festivals. He edited two poetry anthologies, Outsider Art in Australia and 25 poetes australiens.

Phumzile Zondo, a young Durban-based guitarist and singer who has been compared to artists such as Brenda Fassie, Busi Mhlongo and Tu Nokwe, is also an up-and-coming actress. Coincidentally, her mother was a backing vocalist for Busi Mhlongo.

Rethabile Masilo is a poet from Lesotho and has lived in Paris, France, since 1987. In 2014 his poem Swimming, published in New Coin Poetry, Vol 49, N°1, won the Dalro First Prize. He lived in South Africa, Kenya and the United States of America, before he finally settled in France. He has published three poetry collections, Things That Are Silent, Waslap, and Letter to Country.

Roché Kester’s work has appeared on Badilisha Poetry where she is described as a poet who ‘believes in the transformative power of words and sees her expression as a means to ignite love and growth and unity’. She scooped the second prize during Africa Day Poetry contest, and made it to the top six in the Lover + Another national poetry competition.

Rustum Kozain studied literature at the University of Cape Town, and creative writing at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He is widely published, and the recipient of, among others, the 2006 Ingrid Jonker Prize.

Sizakele Nkosi is a poet, writer and an isiZulu teacher from Dube, Soweto. She was one of the co-founders of Mo Faya Poetry Collective (2005) alongside Abdul Milazi. Currently an MA in creative writing candidate at Rhodes University, she is widely published and has performed in various literary festivals country wide. 

Wilfried N’Sondé was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country he fled in 1973 for France. His poetry debut Le Cœur des enfants leopards scooped both the Prix des Cing Contnents de la francophonie and the prix Senghor de la creation. He also authored Le Silence des esprits and Fleur de béton.

The festival’s evening programme will be held at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Howard College Campus (UKZN) with the finale at the BAT Centre. UKZN’s School of Arts will also host different seminars during the course of the week.

For more information contact the Centre for Creative Arts on 031 260 2506 or email: or visit

Presented by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), the 20th Poetry Africa is made possible by support from the eThekwini Municipality, KZN Department of Arts and Culture, Living Legends, The Goethe-Institut, Alliance Française de Durban, Mazisi Kunene Foundation Trust, and World Poetry Movement. The Centre for Creative Arts is housed in the School of Arts, College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.