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Monday, October 2, 2023



The 2023 Poetry Africa Festival is on the horizon and is set to kick off on October 5 at the UJ Arts & Culture in Johannesburg. This is only the beginning of the 13-day festival, which will then move to Durban before coming to a grand finale in Bloemfontein on October 17. The year’s line-up boasts some of the international poetry stars, such as Eugene Skeef (SA), Rudy Francisco (USA) and Amee Slam (Ivory Coast).

Over 100 poets from 20 countries will be gracing the festival with their performances and the organisers, the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, are also exploring the boundaries between genres with their array of cross-over events. One of such events is The Four Horsemen – a theatrical production that tells the gripping tale of the end of the world as it currently stands, featuring poets Solly Ramatswi, Jonathan Lefenya, Thuthukani Myeza and Masai Sepuru. There will also be musical performances to look out for, such as the collaboration between poet Anton Krueger and jazz pianist Paul Hanmer, entitled "Piano and Poems, everybody is a bridge".

Every year, the Slam Jam Competition brings together the most talented and passionate poets from around the country, offering them the chance to showcase their work and compete to be crowned the South African Slam Jam Champion. In the past two years, Xabiso Vili and Kwanele Nyembe have taken home the title, representing South Africa on a global stage. After the initial round of judging, ten finalists have been selected to take part in the semi-finals in Johannesburg. From there, the top five will be chosen to compete in the final in Durban, to determine who will be crowned as South Africa's best Slam Poet and will represent the country on a global stage.

This year marks the third consecutive year that the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and Total Energies have come on board to support the Poetry Africa Festival. This visionary support has enabled the festival to present esteemed artists from the African continent, launch two poetry anthologies, and, most recently, present Poetry Africa's Slam Champion Xabiso Vili at the World Slam Competition, where he won the global title.

Cultural Attaché and Deputy Director of the French Institute of South Africa, Sophie Boulé, says: “Poetry is a powerful tool that archives the spirit of our time by giving emotive, moving words to our layered experiences. As the French Institute of South Africa, together with our partner, TotalEnergies Marketing South Africa, we are delighted to support the meaningful way that Poetry Africa brings us together in the name of spoken word.”

This support has been instrumental in providing audiences with a high-quality Francophone experience. As Siphindile Hlongwa, the curator of the Poetry Africa Festival, puts it, "Our partnership with IFAS enables us each year to raise the bar on who we present at the festival. IFAS’s long term support also means that we can start looking out for artists who are in demand well in advance."

This year, the festival will feature francophone poets Amee Slam (Ivory Coast), Akabiru (Angola and Guinea), and Mariusca Moukengue (DRC).

Live festival events will take place in Johannesburg at the UJ Arts & Culture Centre (October 5 – 8), Howard College Theatre in Durban (October 9 -14) and at PACOFS in Bloemfontein (October 16 – 17). An online programme will take place from October 8 – 13. Poetry Africa’s outreach programmes will present poets in five community art centres spread across the broader eThekwini Municipality. The full Poetry Africa programme can be viewed at

Tickets are available on Webtickets (Durban) and Plankton (Johannesburg).

The top ten Slam Jam semi-finalists are:

Jonathan Lefenya

Katlego Mofokeng

Khayalethu Mguzulo

Lehlohonolo Mabaso

Lethu Nkwanyana

Lukhanyo Mancoba

Natasha Mubanga

Olive Olusegun

Rethabile Molibeli

Solly Ramawatsi


Poetry Africa is supported by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the National Arts Council of South Africa, the KZN Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, the French Institute of South Africa and Total Energies. The festival is co-presented in Johannesburg with UJ Arts & Culture and in Bloemfontein with PACOFS. The 27-year-old festival in Durban cements the city’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature.

To find out more about the Centre of Creative Arts at UKZN, click on the logo advert to the right of this article.