Through Vangi-tinted glasses

Perspectives from an African

socks January 31, 2016

Also from the December poetry challenge:



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


deeply devoted to men who considered them



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






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







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.




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.




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?”.




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.




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 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.



Watch Clips:

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



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.




broken door January 13, 2015

broken door

on a taxi yesterday

I met a grey haired ghost with a rumbling silence

swollen, her belly brewed a hushed anger

a stillness of breaths

that remembered promises and children.

She told me of a dream she once had

a country she once carried.

she told me of twenty six days of night

how she imagined the sun and the sky

lay dreaming on a cement wetness

fought memories of a broken door 

her babies’ screams

one was five, the other three.

she could not allow herself to think of them

of what had happened to them.

she did not cry

nor was she cold

she could not tell me when exactly her womb had turned to lead

only that countries and children are a sorrow

worse than dying


going to war – a poem for the akward girl in a little blue dress January 5, 2015

going to war

you will learn to wear words

the way soldiers hold up shields

know that you are different

a tragedy of dark

and fat

in a world of skinny yellow bones

you will have two choices

cower into a hole

eat, drink, sleep

your hurt away

build walls

keeping in a cold

sharper than loneliness

or you will carve a sword

out of talent and character

fight insecurities dressed as dragons

inherited from mother to daughter

to that little girl who

didn’t know any different

playgrounds are our first 

taste of war

words shot into the sky

only those who learn love early

will know the armour it takes to survive



Please join us for our first theatrical staging of HUMAN4HUMAN:

3 October 2014
Jo’burg Theatre –
R100 (R80 for students)

Kiri Pink Nob and Iinstomi present HUMAN4HUMAN through poetry and music.



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