Last weekend the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) opened the 26th edition of the Poetry Africa Festival at the University of Johannesburg. This year the festival is presented live and online and offers a jam-packed programme featuring almost 100 poets from all over the world. Online and live audiences in the city of Durban, still have until 16 October to submerge themselves into poetry.
Sunday, 16 October, is a definite festival highlight when over 30 poets come together for a Poetry Picnic in the Park at the Botanical Gardens in Durban from 2 pm; the entrance is free. The picnic promises to be a feast with special performances of South African poets, but also poetry from Sweden, Belgium, Cameroon, Catalan and Argentina. One can catch the likes of Philip Meersman (Belgium), Mana Bugallo (Argentina), Quaz Roodt, Lydol (Cameroon), Modise Sekgothe, Siphokazi Jonas, Diana Ferrus, Lebo Mashile, Phillipa Ya De Villiers, Roché Kester, vangile gantsho, Thando Fuze, Lies Helsloot (Belgium), Hans van Rompaey (Belgium), Jana Beck (Belgium), Wouter Steel (Belgium), Pol Guasch (Catalan), Nachla Libre (Sweden), Jonathan Lefenya, Jim Pascual Agustin, Sindiswa Busuku, Andrew Manyika, Luleka Mhlanzi, and Christie van Zyl.
The Johannesburg Festival Tour from 6 to 8 October saw three full-house shows and much enthusiasm from the audience. The shows featured several legendary and upcoming poets, such as Lebo Mashile, Diana Ferrus, Xabiso Vili. Modise Sekgothe and many others.
Centre for Creative Arts director, Ismail Mahomed welcomed a full Keorapetse Kgositsile Theatre to the festival’s opening on Thursday, 6 October: “This is the first time that Poetry Africa Festival is on Tour, and it feels great to be received so warmly, this is hopefully only the beginning of a continued collaboration” said Mahomed. After this speech, the female poets graced the stages with words while participating in a show aptly titled: What’s A Woman’s Worth?”. The first festival night closed with a tribute to legendary poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, as it was the first poetry event in the theatre named after the well-respected poet.
On the second night, the festival hosted the Slam Jam Semi-Finals, in which 10 poets battled out who would go to the finals of the Slam Jam happening at Howard College Theatre in Durban on Saturday, 15 October. After a heated night of slam, selected poets are Kwanele Nyembe, Jonathan Lefenya, Olive Olusegun, Patience Labane, Khayalethu Mguzulo, and Lethu Nkwanyana. The winning poet will become the new South African Slam Champion representing the country at the Slam Championships in Brazil in 2023.
Closing in Johannesburg was a show titled “Tilting the Scales”, during which current Slam World Champion Xabiso Vili was honoured and blew the audience away with a stellar performance.
On Monday, 10 October, the festival landed in her home town Durban, where audiences at Howard College Theatre, could enjoy their own version of “What’s a Woman’s Worth?”, the second night, titled, Local is Lekker, was an ode to local Durban poets, such as Luleka Mhlanzi, Thando Fuze and Shiwe SmartBlack Mampondo.
After the Poetry Picnic in the Park, Sunday night audiences will make their way to the Elisabeth Sneddon Theatre for Inferno, a journey of dance and literature in the heart of South Africa, inspired by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri. To celebrate the Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s famous masterpiece “The Divine Comedy”, Joburg Ballet and the Italian Institute of Culture of Pretoria have collaborated to create a dance performance that takes the audience on a journey through the first realm of the great beyond.
The entire programme is available on poetryafrica.ukzn.ac.za. Tickets for the Durban events are available at Webtickets. Picnic in the Park is free. Virtual events are streaming on youtube.com/centreforcreativearts
The festival is made possible with support from the National Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, Institut Francais Afrique du Sud, Total Energies and the University of Johannesburg.
Poetry Africa Festival’s partners include Wits University, Jacana Media, Goethe-Institut South Africa, Hear My Voice, the Stand Foundation, General Representation of Flanders, Wallonie-Bruxelles International, Imbiza Journal and South African History Online.
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