Poetry Africa Festival promises many highlights

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. With the theme: Poetic (In)Justice: voices that breathe, move and transform, it promises to be an enriching experience. The festival presents a programme full of poetry from established poets, young inspiring talents and spoken-word artists from South Africa and abroad. Johannesburg, Durban and the digital space will be buzzing with the sound of poets performing live as they bring their passionate, inspirational perspectives on life and current events and the power and beauty of the spoken word.

For the first time in its 26 years, the festival will be presented in three locations: in Johannesburg, in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg, from 6 to 8 October, in Durban from 10 to 16 October, and online from 10 to 15 October.

Through all its festivals, the Centre for Creative Arts is committed to identifying and promoting inter-generational role models to inspire the next generation. Internationally renowned poet, writer and activist Diana Ferrus and award-winning performer and writer Xabiso Vili have vastly different backgrounds. Still, their quest for creative excellence and commitment to building a society grounded on social justice intersects most profoundly. It makes them ideal candidates to be selected as Poetry Africa’s Legendary Featured Poet and New Generations Featured Poet.


Diana Ferrus will deliver the keynote address during the 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.


Winner of the Poetry Africa Slam Jam 2021, Xabiso Vili will be making appearances in Johannesburg, Durban and during the online festival. Vili has released an album, a one-person show, and a poetry collection, and he co-authored a YA novella. He created an AR poetry-audio-visual project, exhibited in Paris in June 2021, along with a projection mapping installation. He currently represents South Africa at the World Poetry Slam Championships in Brussels.

“During November 2022, both Diana Ferrus and Xabiso Vili facilitated workshops at poetry residency for Poetry Africa in Riebeeck Valley. Their passion, commitment and ability to engage with audiences across all demographics make them ideal candidates for this recognition.” Says the director of the Centre for Creative Arts, Ismail Mahomed


Programme highlights

During the Durban leg of the festival, many poets will be visiting Durban from all corners of South Africa and the world, performing at one of the many festival venues. Amongst the line-up of poets from South Africa are Lebo Mashile, Phillippa Yaa De Villiers and Siphokazi Jonas. From other corners of the world, the festival is hosting Paul Gausch (Catalan), Nachla Libre (Sweden), Lydol (Cameroon) and Philip Meersman (Belgium). At the ‘Local is Lekker’ event, the festival will spotlight established and upcoming Durban-based poets, such as Smart Black Mampondo, Thando Fuze, Luleka Mhlanzi, Mazwi Shazi, Nqobile Gcaba and Sanele Mhlongo.

Poetry Africa prides itself on their strong developmental focus. Not only is the festival largely produced by interns and offers a training ground for talents in arts management, but it also hosts an extensive outreach programme to many schools and five community venues: Luthuli Museum in Groutville, Denis Hurley Centre in Durban Central, K-Cap Ekhaya Arts Centre in KwaMashu, Ubuntu Arts in Umgeni Municipality and Wushwini Arts Centre in Inanda. Many of the performers in the community and main programme are emerging poets that are given the opportunity to share the stage with established poets.

To also honour the legacy of esteemed poets and share the learnings and visions of poets who have passed, the festival hosts three lectures: the Mazisi Kunene lecture at the University of KwaZulu Natal, the Keorapetse Kgositsile lecture at the University of Johannesburg and the Mafika Gwala lecture online.

The festival will close with a Poetry Picnic in the Park on 16 October at Botanical Gardens in Durban from 12 pm. The event is free, and many of the poets participating in the festival throughout the week will be performing.

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.

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 Africa History Online.



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Marlyn Ntsele



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