Legendary poets find a pivotal place at Poetry Africa Festival

For the 26th consecutive year, the Poetry Africa festival, presented by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of Kwazulu-Natal from 6 to 16 October 2022, sets the stage for poetry from South Africa and around the world. This year, the festival presents a series of tributes, lectures and performances to honour legendary South African poets.

The Poetry Africa On Tour programme — a three-day celebration of spoken word poetry — is the first major poetry event to take place at the UJ Arts & Culture Centre since the theatre was named in honour of the late South African national poet laureate, Keorapetse Kgositsile (Bra Willie). Closing the event titled A Woman’s Worth, taking place on 6 October, are several prominent speakers, under which Ms Baraba Masekela and Professor Muxe Nkondo, and poets who were touched by his life and will pay homage to Kgositsile. This will not only serve the edifying role as to who Kgositsile was but also advance the values and the ideals that Kgositsile cherished – imparting knowledge to younger generations. Kgositsile was a regular participant at the Poetry Africa Festival and other art spaces countrywide and beyond our shores. Poets performing during the event are Lebo Mashile, vangile gantsho, Phillippa de Villiers, Roché Kester, Nomashenge and Belita Andre.


Virtually, where the Poetry Africa Festival takes place from 10 October to 15 October, keynote speaker Sandile Ngidi will commemorate the vision of Mafika Gwala in the 8th Mafika Gwala Lecture, in collaboration with South African History Online. One can expect the summoning of Mafika Gwala’s spirit for the continuing fight for deep collective introspection. Towards justice, equality, and light. Ngidi is helping us address the following questions: Why are we hurting ourselves and embracing stubborn emblems of blood and hate again? How long has the sun been gone? How long have we lost words that heal and give hope to her famished rhythm?

The Durban programme taking place from 10 to 16 October, is bringing a feast of poetry during which established poets, young inspiring talents and spoken-word artists from South Africa and abroad meet on stage. Part of the Durban programme is also the 2nd Mazisi Kunene lecture. Kunene was a champion of isiZulu literature and the conservation of its unique forms. From a young age, he would write his poems originally in isiZulu and would only later translate them into English and other languages. In 1993, UNESCO honoured him as the first Poet Laureate of Africa, for his extensive work in documenting and preserving the isiZulu language. The lecture will be presented on Friday, 14 October at 3 pm at the Howard College Theatre by Prof. Zodwa Motsa-Madikane, Executive Director of the Department of Leadership and Transformation at UNISA.

Poetry Africa would also like to spotlight living legends, such as internationally renowned poet, writer and activist Diana Ferrus, who will deliver the keynote address during the official opening online event “We’re not ghosting you” on Monday, 10 October, at 3 pm. Ferrus will also make various live appearances during the Durban leg of the festival. Her poetry is recognised nationally and internationally for its impact on politics and for giving a voice to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. She recently received an honorary doctorate from the University of Stellenbosch.

The entire programme is now available on poetryafrica.ukzn.ac.za. Tickets for the performances in Johannesburg are available at TicketPro, and tickets for the Durban events will be available at Webtickets. 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.