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PHILA ENROLS AT MUSIC SCHOOL (article first published : 2003-08-20)

Praise poet Phila Myeni (25), whose unique musical poems have been acclaimed around South Africa - and introduced to students in University of Natal lecture theatres - recently enrolled at the School of Music. He writes most of his poetry in a style he terms 'Zunglish', a harmonious interweaving of English and IsiZulu, and has recently introduced drum playing to his delivery.

"My writing depicts the successful spirit of love, peace and unity with Ubuntu in action," he says. He strives to encourage an Afrocentric strategy of education: "through writing and telling stories of the past, present and future". He has also encountered the difficulties that many South African artists face - "exploitation, and a lack of financial management skills".

To help him deal with these, Phila enrolled at the University of Natal's School of Music, where he believes he will be able equip himself with much-needed skills such as marketing, while helping other artists to maximise business opportunities.

A gunshot wound in 1998 threatened to shatter the life of this Umlazi resident but instead he changed the traumatic event into a catalyst for a successful new career. While recovering at his parents' Empangeni home, he turned to writing poetry. Today he runs the IIzimbongi Zesimanje/Nowadayz Poets Performing Arts Project at the Bat Centre in Durban: a group dedicated to empowering talented young people through poetry events.

He is driven by a passion that he and other budding young artists have a vital role to play in education and nation-building. The talented artist is also involved in Mzansi African artwork which produces tea sets, vases, wire work, jewellery boxes, ornaments, pots, and ceramic sculptures.

His special brand of praise singing has led to invitations at several University events, including National Library Week and during the Cultural Diversity Awareness Campaign. He is regularly invited to lectures to demonstrate his unique genre of poetry to students, and he presented his praise poems at the Ethekwini Municipality's Mayor's Awards ceremony earlier this year. The talented student has performed at crime prevention, road safety and HIV/Aids events and music festivals, and travelled with the National Ports Authority of South Africa as praise singer. At last year's World Summit on Sustainable Development, he was selected as the best poet to represent South Africa with his inimitable 'singing poetry'.

Also a budding playwright, Phila represented poets from Durban during the sixth Poetry Africa International Festival last year.




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