Poetry Africa Festival ends with award ceremony

After a weeklong celebration of poetry and poets, the 25th edition of the Poetry Africa festival came to a close Saturday afternoon, 16 October, during a celebratory closing ceremony. The annual international festival is curated and presented by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. The Festival is one of the single most important contemporary poetry events on the African continent and offers a weeklong celebration of wordsmiths across all ages and cultural and diverse linguistic backgrounds.


The weeklong programme featured engagements with and performances by poets, but also book launches and panel discussions. One of the festival’s highlights was a live show that took place on Friday 15 October at The Playhouse Theatre featuring Gcina Mhlophe, Lebo Mashile, Mbali Malimela, Siphokazi Jonas, Thando Fuze and Toni Giselle Stuart.


“REFLECTION ON PLAYHOUSE,” it was a great experience to welcome back audiences and poets to a live event; Emfuleni. We all went and drank from the well of knowledge, peace, identity and healing says Siphindile Hlongwa, the curator of the Festival.


Poetry in Communities Award

The Poetry In Communities Award recognises a community-led initiative that creates opportunities for poets of all ages and different demographics to come together and build their communities through poetry. This year’s inaugural award was presented to the Royal Arts Town Amphitheatre in Riebeek Valley in the Western Cape for their works towards building a spirit of shared heritages and promoting cultural diversity.


“This project engages the arts to enliven their community, boost cultural tourism and grows opportunities for artists in their community.” Says Centre for Creative Arts director Ismail Mahomed.


It is difficult to convey just how much our involvement in the Poetry Africa Festival and, of course, the wonderful recognition from the award has done for the Riebeek Valley. Even though I have been working with the various communities for some time now, I was surprised by the levels of emotion – mostly joy and pride – which the experience evoked, both in those directly involved and the broader community who have embraced the project as their own. The work we do here took a quantum leap forward last week in terms of unity and pride.” Says project manager Mark Graham-Wilson 



A professional jury reviewed over 600 poems to decide on the winners of the school, open mic and Slam Jam competitions. Submissions consisted of all South African languages and from poets from all over the country between the ages of 6 and 76.


The winners in the Schools Competition are:

  1. Tshiamo Mqweba (17) from Hoerskool Bloemfontein with her poem See Me, Hear Me
  2. Katleho Molaoa (19) from Eldoret Secondary School in Odendaalrus with her poem Ke Kopa Ho Bua.
  3. Jess Robus (15) from Heronbridge College in Johannesburg with her poem Eleven


The winners in the Open Mic Competition are:

  1. Karamel (21) from Polokwane for her poem Ke jele ka Motseng
  2. Patience Labane (25) from Bloemfontein for her poem Prayers.
  3. Amahle Kimbili (22) from Pretoria for her poem GBV


A highlight of the annual Poetry Africa festival is the Slam Poetry Competition. The winner of a prize of Ten Thousand Rand and the opportunity to represent South Africa at the World Slam Poetry Competition in Brussels next year was poet Xabiso Vili.


For those who missed the 25th Poetry Africa Festival, the content can still be watched on www.facebook.com/poetryafrica, and www.youtube.com/centrecreativearts.



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Marlyn Ntsele