School of Arts

Poetry Africa Festival Competition Winners Named at Closing Ceremony

Slam Jam Winner Xabiso Vili (left) and the Making of Poetry in the Valley.
Slam Jam Winner Xabiso Vili (left) and the Making of Poetry in the Valley.

Award winners at the 25th edition of the Poetry Africa Festival, hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities, were announced at the event’s closing ceremony.

The inaugural Poetry In Communities Award was won by the Royal Arts Town Amphitheatre in Riebeek Valley in the Western Cape for its work towards building a spirit of shared heritages and promoting cultural diversity. The award – which included R10 000 – recognises a community-led initiative that creates opportunities for poets of all ages and different demographics to come together and build their communities through poetry.

CCA director Dr Ismail Mahomed said: ‘This project engages the arts to enliven their community, boost cultural tourism and grow opportunities for artists.’

Project manager Mr Mark Graham-Wilson said: ‘It is difficult to convey just how much our involvement in the Poetry Africa Festival has meant and, of course, the wonderful recognition the award will achieve for the Riebeek Valley. Even though I have been working with the various communities for some time now, I was surprised by the levels of emotion – mostly joy and pride – which the experience evoked, both in those directly involved and the broader community who have embraced the project as their own. The work we do has taken a quantum leap forward in terms of unity and pride.’

A highlight of the annual Poetry Africa festival was the Slam Poetry Competition. The winner of R10 000 and the opportunity to represent South Africa at the World Slam Poetry Competition in Brussels next year was poet Mr Xabiso Vili – an award-winning performer, writer, new media artist, producer and social activist. His writings explore his inner world to relate to the outer world.

A professional jury reviewed over 600 poems to decide on the winners of the school, open mic and Slam Jam competitions. Submissions – from poets aged between six and 76 – were in all South African languages and received from all over the country.

Winners in the competition for schools were young poets:

  • Tshiamo Mqweba (17) of Hoerskool Bloemfontein (See Me, Hear Me)
  • Katleho Molaoa (19) of Eldoret Secondary School in Odendaalrus (Ke Kopa Ho Bua)
  • Jess Robus (15) of Heronbridge College in Johannesburg (Eleven)

Winners in the Open Mic Competition were poets:

  • Karamel Karabo Bopape (21) of Polokwane (Ke jele ka Motseng)
  • Patience Labane (25) of Bloemfontein (Prayers).
  • Amahle Kimbili (22) of Pretoria (Gender-Based Violence)


The week-long programme also featured engagements with and performances by poets as well as book launches and panel discussions.

A festival highlight was a live show at The Playhouse Theatre in Durban featuring Gcina Mhlophe, Lebo Mashile, Mbali Malimela, Siphokazi Jonas, Thando Fuze and Toni Giselle Stuart.

‘It was a great experience to welcome back audiences and poets to a live event,’ said curator of the Festival Ms Siphindile Hlongwa. ‘We all went and drank from the well of knowledge, peace, identity and healing,’

For those who missed the Festival, content is available on, and

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