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HEARTLANDS (article first published : 2002-07-2)

Poet Chris Mann has released his new collection of poems under the title of Heartlands. As he is based in Grahamstown, it therefore makes sense that a presentation of this work forms part of the current National Arts Festival.

In his words: “Our heartlands are felt encounters with places that resonate in our memories. Such inner landscapes, their people, plants and animals, are unique to each of us and help create our identity as individuals.”

Staying with the title of the book, Heartlands features the talents of world-renowned actress Janet Suzman. And what a pleasure it is to see her working again in her home country of South Africa and to be able to revel in that exciting, deep-toned voice which she uses to such fine effect. Her intelligent and sensitive reading of the works lend an extra dimension to these poems which comprise a linked sequence of 12 heartlands, each made up of music, words and image.

The poems are sensitive, atmospheric and descriptive. Images are conjured of a thunderous crashing of waves, mystical trees, a darkening chameleon and the taxi rank hellhole of Motse. For me the most memorable was Hlambeza Pool which entered sacred areas of a forest and paid homage to the people of the river.

While Janet Suzman reads the poems, Chris Mann explains the thought processes behind their creation. His is a comfortable and sensitive presentation as he explains his series of contemplations.

The Grahamstown performances take place in The Cathedral in the High Street and the beautiful building with its lofty ceilings and stained glass windows offers a setting no theatre could provide. Julia Skeen has created a fascinating extended sequence of graphic images which accompany the poems.

Added to this extra texture is the original musical score by Christopher Cockburn on the cathedral organ and soulful flute interludes from Daniela Heunis.

If you didn’t catch the production in Grahamstown then why not head for Durban? Heartlands has two performances at Kwasuka Theatre on July 6 and 7 at 19h00. To book phone the theatre on 031 309-2236. – Caroline Smart




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