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SPIER POETRY FESTIVAL (article first published : 2006-01-24)

The Spier Arts Summer Season launches a new open-air Poetry Festival to celebrate its 10th Art Summer Season, collaborating with acclaimed author and poet Antjie Krog to present famous names and famous poems.

Renowned poet, writer, journalist and Extraordinary professor at the University of the Western Cape, Antjie Krog has curated this programme of poets where audiences can expect to experience a diverse mix of local and international poets performing their work in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Poems will be read, spoken, performed with bands, rapped or delivered from the gut in the case of Imbongi Mngomeni.

The line-up includes acclaimed poets of the likes of Yvette Christians, (South African poet, novelist and educator based in New York); Lebohang Mashile (poet and television presenter - born to exiled South African parents and brought up in the States); Godessa (three young women on a righteous hip-hop mission); Finuala Downing (former Unisa lecturer turned writer and poet); Chirikure Chirikure (Zimbabwe's most acclaimed poet); Chiwoniso Maraire (American born singer and poet, but relocated to Zimbabwe); Tom Lanoye (one of Europe's most lauded young playwrights and controversial city poet of Antwerp); Chantel Erfort (writer, journalist and co founder of record label, Dala Flat); Koos Kombuis (also referred to as the Bob Dylan of Afrikaans) and Rocco de Villiers (composer and musical director); Toast Coetzer (one of a new generation of Afrikaans poets performing with Buckfever Underground); Imbongi Mngomeni (praise singer for the Tembu House in the Eastern Cape), and the Xhosa rapper Teba Shumba (founder of kwaito group Skeem).

The uniqueness of this festival is that audiences can compile their own programmes for the evening. This is made possible by two venues running simultaneous one hour long programmes. During the last ten minutes of the hour the audience can move to a different venue for a different set of poets and poems, or stay for the next round.

One venue is the river deck, comfortably furnished with sofas, ottomans and cattle hides, and the other is the amphitheatre which has been curtained off to make a smaller, intimate venue suitable for poetry readings. This effectively means that audiences are not tied to one venue and can cross-over to either venue to hear which ever poet they wish to hear, without having to pay twice. The two venues will be linked by food and book stalls and jazz.

The different venues will be hosted by Antjie Krog and Douglas Petersen, and for the romantics, on both days the programmes will end with a selection of love poems read and translated into various languages by the poets.

Antjie's dream is to establish an eye- and ear-opening poetry festival in Cape Town, "Nowadays all cities of note have poetry festivals, because poetry is making a big comeback. I was recently at the Colombian poetry festival with an audience of twenty thousand people in the park. There were thousands of young couples sitting on the grass and older people sitting on the steps, just to listen to poetry.

Lagos has a literary festival as well as Harare. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have a festival here where all the best poets of the country, Africa and the world could come and read their poems? Fortunately for us, Spier shares this vision."

Translation will be a prominent feature of the festival. "Nobody's language should be a dead end street. It's a tradition I learned from the Dutch," says Antjie Krog. Poems delivered in any other language than English will be translated. In the special love poem section English poems will be translated into Xhosa, Dutch and Afrikaans.

Poetry evenings are on February 3 and 4 at 19h30 on the Spier Estate in Cape Town. Venues are the river deck and the amphitheatre. Tickets R90 and seats are unreserved. Further information on 021 809 1111 or visit www.spierarts.org.za for the full programme.




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