Through Vangi-tinted glasses

Perspectives from an African

My Love Letter to Poetry: Q Malewezi February 4, 2016

I first met Qabaniso at Poetry Africa in 2014. He arrived in a suit and was a breath of fresh air because he didn’t take himself too seriously.  Also, his poetry just blew my mind and I am a collector of beautiful poetry.

Q is preparing to launch his album People at BICC in Lilongwe on the 2nd of April and I am so pleased to be one of the featured artists.  As a build up to #FillUpBICC, I asked Q a few questions so you can get to know him too.

 

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1.   Do you remember your first ever poetry experience? Not performance, the first poem to move you. What was it, where were you and what made it memorable?

My first poetry experience was in 1997 when I was in high school in Mafikeng. It was poem by my brother in law titled “This Heap of Bones”. It was about a man’s experiences searching for his rib. The way he described each one he tried was vivid. I was amazed at how he could link the attributes of the ribs to people’s.

 
2.  Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote? If yes, please share it or what it was about.

The first poem I wrote was “Soul Kiss”. It was about a couple with a drinking problem and the hurtful things they would say to each other.

 

3.  Your first poetry performance… When, where and how did it go?

My first poetry performance was in the U.K at the Brighton University. They had an event by the African-Caribbean society. I performed “Dearest Child” which was originally a song we had done as Real Elements, a Malawian hip hop I was part of at the time. It went very well. I got a standing ovation.

 

4.  One poet who has influenced your voice.

One poet who has influenced my voice is late Oscar Brown Junior. I love the impact of his simplicity.

 

5. I’ve been seeing the hashtag #ZamaZothwe everywhere, what does it mean and (how) is that related to the title of your album?

#ZathuZomwe means “our own”. It is a very common saying in Malawi to express sentiments of ownership and pride.

 

6.  Tell me a bit about your journey to People. The process, the poems, the producing… How did we get here?

The journey “People” has been very interesting. Realising that not every poem that works for performance will work for recording. I have had to write specifically for the recording and also adapt some older poems for the same reason. The title of the album went through so many changes but I eventually arrived at “People” which is also a poem on the album. I am also a music producer and sound engineer and know I know how it feels like to be on the other side of the booth.

7.  You’re creating history here, is Malawi ready for a spoken word album release of this magnitude? (Why?)

I don’t know if Malawi is ready or not for an event of this magnitude. There is only one way to find out. It is very ambitious to try to fill a 1400 seat auditorium. It is scary actually but then it wouldn’t be worth it if it didn’t scare me.

 

8.  Why should people come out to BICC on the 2nd? What do you have in store for them?

People should come to BICC on the 2nd of April because it will be a freaking awesome experience. The line-up is out of this world. The stories each poet is bringing are so unique. Some are challenging and some might contradict each other. That’s the point I guess. As a collective we will make a statement about poetry and art in general and hopefully people in Malawi will see poets differently.

9.  What should people expect from this album? And where can people get copies after the launch?
People should expect something different. A different “voice” in a way. Not a recorded version of a live performance. I am hoping that the album is a unique experience independent of my stage performances.

 

10.  Tell us 5 interesting things about Qabaniso Malewezi that people don’t know.

1.  I made cheesy euro pop music for a living (At this point, I should mention that Q writes      these really beautiful “Ahhhhhh poems”. Maybe I’ll get him to send us a podcast of a        few in the coming weeks…. Just because… Ahhhhh )

 

Q
2.     I wanted to be a priest

3.     I am obsessed with symmetry and exactness

4.     I am a nervous wreck before performing (I can compete with Napo on this one)

5.     I get nervous flying over water  
 

People will be available from Q’s website qmalewezi.com so please support this rising sun!

 

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Check out his Youtube links and like his page on Facebook!

 

#fortheloveofpoetry

 

 

socks January 31, 2016

Also from the December poetry challenge:

Socks

 

I don’t remember when I learned

the language of brown breasts

perhaps it was from peeling potatoes

at my uncle’s wedding

 

I was nine

entering a secret society

listening to Ma’Xipu whisper

that Nolwazi’s father had found a new family

in Rustenburg, while working in the mines

 

when Mam’September came back

from stirring the samp

they changed the subject

to Mam’Liwana, whose husband had died two weeks ago

apparently he had been ill for quite some time

before he came home.

she was sick too, they said

 

Nowelile, named the village drunk

was my favourite

she had twelve children with different fathers

she spoke to everyone, never behind their backs

seemed too busy to care

of the holes in other women’s socks

she washed dishes to feed her children

asked only for the additional drink

 

Nowelile was scorned by the women

who appeared to me, a barren of mules

respectable

deeply devoted to men who considered them

interchangeable

 

she was always the kind of brown breasts

I wanted to grow into

a life too full for dutiful waiting

 

when I was twenty eight, two weeks before my twenty nineth

I learned she had followed the river

 

her clothes, and socks,

were found on the bank

 

crazy January 29, 2016

So in December, my dearest, Sarah Godsell, put out a poetry challenge: every day we would get a new word and have to write a poem. here is the poem I wrote for crazy

 

#fothloveofpoetry

 

crazy

 

come to me at high tide

come to me when the moon is full

and the wind is wild

come barefoot

and bruised

come honestly

to me

 

I am enough shore and rock

to love your coming and going

I do not need to know how long you will stay

or how far you will go

 

your love for the moon

does not threaten me

how you two dance and speak

a language I do not understand

does not break us

 

for now

all I need

is to know that you will come back

 

that you will find a way

through your storms and my crazy

through the fog and maybe

that you will trust me with your raging

with your wanting

 

and that when I sleep

at the bottom of your bed

if only for those moments

 

I will be yours

and you will be mine

 

 

 

MALAWI HERE I COME!!!!

So Q Malewezi is launching his album, Peopleon the 2nd of April!!! And guess who’s making the trip… Yep! I couldn’t be more excited to meet the land of the rising sun.

Also supporting Q as he makes history (coz this is going to be EPIC!!!):  Benedicto Okoma Atani Malunga, Julius Jules Banda Jr., Phindu Zaie BandaManto Wamantology, Sabrina Amy Tambala, Robert Chiwamba and Menes la Plume.

 

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Also… We may or may not be doing workshops in and around Lilongwe in the week leading up to the 2nd…

So if you are in Malawi… Do BEST!!!  And if you’ve always wanted to go but was waiting for the right time… I’m just saying!

 

I can’t wait to meet you Malawi!! Woop Woop!!!

#fortheloveofpoetry

 

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JEFFERSON TSHABALALA: ON SUGAR DADDIES AND P.O.E.T.O-TYPES November 19, 2015

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Many will tell you art is meant to interrogate and inspire; to provide a mirror through which society may see herself. Others will simply tell you that art is meant to express whatever stream of consciousness the artist is experiencing at the time, without any social obligation. Regardless of which school of thought one falls under, it is undeniable that what Jefferson Thabalala produces is art: honest expression that interrogates, inspires and reflects. What’s more is that he may truly be one of the most brilliant artistic minds of our time.

 

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Jeff’s work. In fact, ever since I saw P.O.E.T.O-type in 2014, I have professionally stalked him from the sidelines of social media and have had the great fortune of receiving his guidance on Human4Human. But this blog is not entirely a J Bobs gush fest, so let’s keep it moving.

 

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The first time I saw P.O.E.T.O-type, I couldn’t stop talking about it. It left me conflicted and torn, and also firmly resolved somehow. In this quest to create “the perfect poet” Jeff asks some really difficult questions about the importance of poetry in relation to the price of bread and class. Using humour and immaculate direction, he forces poets to examine themselves and the current state of poetry in a way that I, personally, feel every poet would be served by doing. He provides a cross-section of poets that is so accurate, one finds it both shocking and disturbing to know at least one of every kind of poet he introduces, albeit shamefully most times. Not only did I find myself in his work, I was also made uncomfortable by what I saw myself to be. And such is the major characteristic of all of Jeff’s work; he has an uncanny ability to reveal us to ourselves without ever sugar-coating anything.

 

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The same goes for J Bobs Live. No holds barred! While watching, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that this show deserves a packed auditorium in Monte Casino or Carnival City. From catchy lyrics that poke fun at the buffoonery of the current state of hip hop, to ballin’ on your father’s credit card, to the laziness of “vernac” mrappaz and poyets… J Bobs calls it all out! “Just because it’s vernac, doesn’t mean it has to be wack”. “What must to, can, happen… Now? Huh?” It’s all hilarious and sad and infuriating; and caused much heated debate between me and my friends; particularly regarding “You want a real man? Why you so fake though?”.

 

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Secret Ballot was intense. Brilliant in that we all know exactly who “The Brotherhood” represents. Nothing is off limits and it is as funny as it is painful! I actually struggled with this play. A lot! It hit home because I remember “The Brotherhood” before it became the monster it is today. Before the audacious looting and misogynistic oversexed cronyism. Jeff mocks, quite eloquently I might add, the social media revolutionaries (“You cannot Instagram the revolution”) and reminds us that not only is Big Brother always watching, but he also doesn’t care because we (the hashtag revolutionaries) are not his target market. Jeff also paints a grim picture of what could (will) happen if (when) people who are pushed too far, collide with those defending “their sugar”. Watching Secret Ballot actually felt as though someone had inserted a knife in the middle of my ribcage without me knowing; and every time I laughed or breathed or cried, I could feel it cut me deeper and deeper.

 

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In August 2014, I approached the Afrikan Freedom Station about staging a show with poets, Sarah Godsell and Mthunzikazi Mbungwana; and musician, Hannah Forster. Bra’ Steve [Mokwena] thought it was a great idea and in September 2014, Human4Human was born. The show at the station went swimmingly and before we could even pat ourselves on the back, Jeff called: “Madam, what are your plans for Human4Human?” Naturally, I fumbled an answer about not having thought that far ahead yet and wanting everything to be organic and blah blah blah. He didn’t buy it. Instead, he pushed us straight into the deep end and offered us a chance to stage the show at the Jo’burg Theatre Space.com under his Kiri Pink Nob (KPN) banner. The show didn’t go so well (to say the least), and as we prepared to lick our wounds, Jeff huddled us into a circle on stage and gave us a breakdown of what worked and what didn’t. He then told us how we could fix what didn’t work. Fast forward two days, Sarah and I are having a strategic planning meeting and, Jeff is introducing us to Monageng “Vice” Motshabi (another inspired artistic gem) and we are preparing for another jump into the deep end. This time, we doggy paddle our way through and begin to swim.

 

The thing about talent is that it’s not enough. There is no doubt that Jeff is an extraordinary writer and a meticulous director. He also has an impressive ability to take what is familiar – from nursery rhymes and playground games, to popular culture, contemporary politics and/or Elizabethan language – and craft it into sharp-witted magic. But what truly sets Jeff apart is his discipline. If Shakespeare and Gibson Kente had a love child, raised by John Kani, Jeffereson Tshabalala would be it. On his second night performing the very energetic J Bobs Live, at 23:30 he was off to another gig! When others are relaxing, having a drink perhaps, he is observing, writing, creating, plotting his next step towards world domination. He doesn’t wait for opportunity to meet him somewhere, he fetches it at the door and runs with it! His work is honest, hard-hitting, erudite and unpretentious.

 

All this, and he is still good people. He is generous with his talent and patient with those who don’t grasp his ideas as quickly as he may like. And he has a plan! His genuine love for what he does is inspiring. Mark my words kids, we will be studying and enjoying Jefferson Tshabalala’s work for many years to come.

 

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Watch Clips:

Act V Scene V – Macbeth
J. BamaKlot – All HailHail Her Majesty

 

VANGI GANTSHO UNDRESSING IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW: A POETRY COLLECTION LAUNCH May 29, 2015

Pretoria: South African poet, writer, cultural activist, Vangi Gantsho, will be launching her debut poetry collection: Undressing in front of the window with Protea Bookshop.

 

 

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Saturday, 06 June 2015

Protea Book Store: 1067 Burnett Street, Hatfield. Pretoria

13:30 for 14:00

RSVP: lbell@proteaboekwinkel.com or 012 362 3444 before/on 04 June 2015

The collection is foreword by the renowned freedom fighter and poet Dr Don Mattera and edited by South African Literary Award for Poetry 2011 recipient, Phillipa Yaa De Villiers. Mattera sums this important piece of literature up by saying: “Vangile’s quest – like so many critical and conscious young scribes, appears to want to jerk us into awareness of the hurt they are experiencing; the multitudinous social, political, economic and religious challenges they have to countenance: drugs, alcohol and disease. The poems reflect these concerns”.

Gantsho, who has just returned from a month-long poetry and cultural exchange in Washington DC and New York, will be sharing poems from Undressing in front of the window, alongside poets and musicians, including Noxolo Hlatshwayo and Makhafula Vilakazi.

Cover by Tanya Pretorius of Thursday's Cat

Cover by Tanya Pretorius of Thursday’s Cat

 

UNDRESSING IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW – A COLLECTION OF POEMS BY VANGI GANTSHO April 1, 2015

Undressing in front of the Window - a collection of poems by Vangi Gantsho

Undressing in front of the Window – a collection of poems by Vangi Gantsho

The journey to this collection has not been without many challenges, and in hindsight, I realise that the journey to Vangi has been equally filled with ups and downs.  But finally… Here we are!!!

It is with great pleasure that I introduce Undressing in front of the window – A collection of poems By Vangi Gantsho.

“The need and the quest to be listened to, and to be understood and valued as a serious-minded poet, is the deep-lying, and unuttered plea of every poet. Vangile Gantsho is no different; her works ring true as a testimony. This biographical anthology, despite traces of her stoic mettle and strong character, underscore that deep-lying, unuttered plea to be listened to and valued.” – Tamkhulu Don Mattera

I really am delighted to share this work with everyone.  It contains older poems such as I expect more from you, Talking Frankly and In the company of royals; as well as newer pieces like I will remember this forever and My favourite pair of All-Stars.  I believe in it with all my heart and have been so incredibly blessed to have the most amazing people walk with me on this journey.  Undressing in front of the Window has been edited by Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, proofread by Gillian Godsell and reviewed by former South African journalist, Miranda Strydom and award-winning musician, Gloria Bosman.  The beautiful cover was created by the talented Tanya Pretorius from Thursday’s Cat, from a photo originally taken by the photo therapist, Saddi Khali.

Watch this space for release dates!!!

Both electronic and physical copies will be available for sale from mid-May and I will be carrying a few copies with me on my Azania to DC tour. Undressing in front of the Window will also be available at various Protea Books across South Africa.

#fortheloveofpoetry

Bless

 

 
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