Celebrating its 22nd anniversary this year, the festival which is supported through principal funding from the eThekwini Municipality, features a host of local and international poets, at various venues and schools around Durban, with Opening Night and evening sessions at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.
With praise poetry as the main focus this year, the extensive week-long programme features performances, readings and book launches by a dynamic array of poets every evening. The festival also includes the popular Durban Slam Jam Competition and the festival finale, featuring all the poets in the festival. The daytime programme includes seminars, workshops, poetry competitions, open mic opportunities, campus invasions and school visits.
‘Our line-up this year features a diversity of poets with a range of voices,’ explains curator Ms Siphindile Hlongwa of the CCA. ‘Throughout the five-day event we not only celebrate the voices of our spoken word and praise poets but also the voices of women. Considering the global focus on gender-based abuse and violence, we are mindful to bring voices from across the world who are able to articulate the plight of victims.’
Twenty-one poets from around the globe will participate in this year’s festival. International guests include Miriam Cano, a Catalan writer, journalist and publisher from Barcelona, Spain; Malawian storyteller and author of two poetry collections Upile Chisala; Motswana poet and artist and arts administrator TJ Dema; Antiguan-Canadian poet, performer, producer, arts educator and director of The Banff Centre Spoken Word Program, Tanya Evanson; Philip Meersman from Belgium a multilingual poet and performer; Daniel Summerhill an American poet and performing artist; Rafeef Ziadah a Palestinian poet and human rights activist, and Daucourt Severine from France who is invested in diverse domains such as translating, music and theatre.
From the Ukraine comes Myroslav Laiuk a poet and novelist whose work has been translated into German, English, Spanish, Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, Azerbaijani, Russian, Lithuanian and American languages; and Taras Malkovych a poet and translator who has translated and published an anthology of modern Irish poetry in his native language.
South Africans on the billing include celebrated award-winning writer, presenter, actress and activist , Lebo Mashile; King Goodwill Zwelithini’s praise singer, BM Mdletshe; legendary and much-loved author, poet, playwright, director, performer and storyteller, Dr Gcina Mhlophe; freelance journalist, dramatist, communication specialist and literary critic, Sandile Ngidi; self-taught writer Phelelani Makhanya who has a published poetry collection; spoken word artist, script writer and actor and published poet, Vuyelwa Maluleke; Mak Manaka who holds a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Rhodes University and has recorded an album of his work; Nkateko Masinga an author, publisher, spoken word artist and theatre actress; Mphutlane Wa Bofelo a poet, essayist, cultural worker and social critic; Matete Motsoaledi a writer, photographer, editor and administrator and Emmah Mabye who had her first poetry collection launched at the 21st Poetry Africa Festival.
In an endeavour to encourage and promote praise poetry, the festival will host a week-long workshop led by Zulu history custodian and praise poet for King Goodwill Zwelithini, BM Mdletshe from 8 to 12 October. ‘It is our hope that this will be the beginning of many more workshops that celebrate our cultural heritage not only of the Zulu people, but of Africa as a whole,’ explains Hlongwa. ‘The bigger picture is to eventually open this up to cater for the various African languages across the continent.’
The full programme for Poetry Africa can be viewed on the website www.cca.ukzn.ac.za . Tickets are R60 for adults and R40 for pensioners and students and can be purchased through Computicket.