Following a weeklong celebration of poetry and poets, the 24th edition of the Poetry Africa festival, hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) in the College of Humanities, announced its competition winners during a celebratory closing ceremony.
‘We are proud to have embraced change, as it gave access to thousands of our followers to immerse themselves in quality programming through our online platforms,’ said Ms Siphindile Hlongwa, the curator of the Festival.
The finalists and winners in the schools, open mic and Slam Competitions were honoured during the closing ceremony. In previous years, the Schools Competition was reserved for learners in KwaZulu-Natal. This year’s online version made it possible for anyone in South Africa to participate. Next year, Poetry Africa will present a live event for school-level poets in the province and an online event for those across the country.
Kwa-Bhekilanga Secondary School learner Ms Praise Mlalazi known as PRYZ the poet won the Schools Competition, for her poem Alexandra named after her hometown. The 19-year old poet fell in love with writing at the age of 12, and her poem speaks about all the things she experiences in her town.
Second prize and third prize went to 16-year old Tumelo Mohoto and 17-year old Lebo Nxele, both learners at George Campbell School of Technology in Durban.
The Open Mic competition is one of the most popular public participation events at the festival. This year’s competition attracted almost 300 entries. The youngest entrant was 15 and the oldest 65. The themes included gender-based violence, homelessness, identity, dreams, love and almost anything that stirs our consciousness. In the past, the Open Mic competition was also reserved for participants from KwaZulu-Natal.
Twenty-eight-year-old Ms Kelsey Tlhosane took first prize in the Open Mic with her poem, If Love Was a Colour, it would be Blue, that is themed around gender-based violence. Second prize went to Floatry and third prize to Mondli Kwasa Ndlovu.
Finally, the Slam Jam winner, Tshwane-based Mr Mjele Msimang, was announced live on the Poetry Africa stream. ‘Thank you so much to the fellow poets, I really appreciate your work, you guys inspire me,’ said Msimang, who is an educator and writer based in Tshwane. His academic work centres on decolonisation while his poetry explores and challenges the impact of neo-colonialism on the continent.
Curator for the Slam Jam Mr Ishmael Sibiya said, ‘It was a very tough competition. The poets really brought their A-game and submitted videos that included poetry, music and visuals. This pandemic allowed poets to step out of their comfort zone, and encouraged them to get creative when submitting their videos.’