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9th POETRY AFRICA (article first published : 2005-09-26)

The 9th Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts takes place in Durban from October 10 to 15. Some 30 poets from 15 different countries will descend on Durban for a groundbreaking experience of words and rhythms.

The participants represent a diversity of poetic styles ranging from the lyrical genius of Lemn Sissay (UK) to the 2005 Daimler-Chrysler Award-winner for South African Poetry, Gabeba Baderoon. Fellow Daimler-Chrysler Award nominee and editor of Timbila, Vonani Bila is included in the South African line-up of poets, together with Sunday Independent Arts Editor, Robert Greig and former editor of New Coin, Joan Meterlekamp.

The festival showcases the depth and range of South African poetry with performance-poet, Malika Ndlovu, the decidedly eccentric Aryan Kaganof (formerly Ian Kerkhof), and bright new talent, former presenter of ONE, Masello Motana. A real treasure is to be found in the traditional skills of eighty-two year old Madosini, the legendary exponent of the uhadi and umrhubhe bows, as well as the isitolotolo jaw’s harp. Hailing from the district of Dlomo in the Eastern Cape, Madosini is widely acclaimed as ‘the Queen of Xhosa music’.

Young Durban poets make their voices heard at Poetry Africa with the inception of the Durban Slam Jam, which will take place on October 15, the closing night of the festival. Ntando Cele, Leo Janssen, Lexikon, Zola Sobekwa and Mputlane Wa Bofelo compete for the first Durban Slam Jam title. Slam is a format that is fast eliciting an enthusiastic response from youthful audiences across the world and the presence of US National Poetry Slam champion, Celena Glenn, at the festival brings a wealth of skills and expertise to this event.

Poetry Africa is not just about the abstract beauty of words; it is also a reflection of the world around us. A notable feature of this year’s festival is the focus on countries that do not have a strong voice in global affairs, or countries where outspoken voices are not heard in their own lands – countries which are in effect silent zones. Apart from the Netherlands, the UK, the US, the festival hosts poets from Cuba, India, Iraq, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Philippines, Spain, Senegal, Tibet, and Zimbabwe. Poetry Africa celebrates the diversity of culture, and creates a platform for participants from silent zones to provide poetic insight into their unique worlds and circumstances.

The striking line-up of participants from Africa includes renowned mbira player, Chiwoniso from Zimbabwe and Lukas Mkuti from Mozambique. Also participating are young Kenyan poet and filmmaker, Njoki Muhoho, the accomplished Tanure Ojaide from Nigeria and Senegal’s Amadou Lamine Sall, a contemporary of Leopold Sedar Senghor. From South America, Domingo Alfonso represents one of the most important voices in Cuban poetry over the last 50 years and Mamta Sagar brings rhythms and nuances from the Indian continent. Abdul Hadi Sadoun from Iraq and Tibetan activist-writer, Tenzin Tsundue cast a poetic eye over their troubled lands. Multiple prize-winning poet, Krip Yuson, from the Philippines and Dutch Youth Poet Laureate for 2005, Hagar Peeters complete the stunning array of poets at Poetry Africa this year.

Music and musical collaborations form an important aspect of the festival. Featured musician at Poetry Africa 2005, Pedro Espi-Sanchis, popularly known to South African television audiences as Pedro the Music Man, will include performances on his famous hose-pipe. Madosini and Chiwoniso are both internationally acclaimed musicians on traditional instruments, while the festival opens with the Kholwa Brothers, an isicathamiya group recently returned from a three-month collaborative project in Brazil. Also in the line-up is local spantsula dance group, Sidance Community Theatre, lead by dancer and choreographer, Siyanda Duma.

The extensive week-long programme includes performances, readings and book-launches every evening at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at UKZN (Howard College Campus), with a Festival Finale and the Durban Slam Jam at the BAT Centre on October 15. Day activities include seminars, workshops, poetry competitions, poetry in prison, open mic opportunities and school visits.

Enquiries to 031 260 2506. The full programme of activities, plus participant bios and photos, is available on www.cca.ukzn.ac.za

Organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), the 9th Poetry Africa is supported by Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, National Lottery Distribution Fund, Arts & Culture Trust, Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS), Royal Netherlands Embassy, National Arts Council, French Institute of South Africa, City of Durban, Ethekwini Municipality, and UKZN Public Affairs Department.




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