Audience members were lost in translation from time to time but the appreciation for art trumped any temporary confusion.
A rallying call to hold onto what you can be proud of, and a celebration of South African indigenous languages were central at the inaugural poetry concert – Uphethen’ Esandleni?
The Wits SRC in collaboration with 2019/2020 former SRC member Samantha Mungwe hosted the concert at the Chris Seabrooke Music Hall at Wits University on the evening of Thursday, May 18.
Samantha Mungwe is a two-time Wits Alumni, poet and actress. The concert was inspired by the reaction she received from a recital she posted on YouTube in 2021. Uphethen’ Esandleni? – meaning ‘what do you have in your hand?’ – was the question she was asked in her poem, as she held up a degree scroll in her hand.
A duo of energetic MCs in SRC Legal Officer, Lesego Makinita and Wits student Simon waBatho kept the mood in the room jovial. The first round of individual performances saw rapper Cashflow (stage name) and the singer Mercy illicit much head bobbing and foot tapping from the audience.
Cultural clubs and societies took centre stage after those performances. Khomanani Vatsonga Student Society kicked things off with their traditional Xibelani dance, then followed by uThingo Lwamakhosazana aseWits with their isiZulu reed dance before the Wits Zulu Society closed the group performances with a combination of isiZulu reed dances.
The group rounded off their performance with a rendition of Gqom producer, Dladla Mshunqisi’s hit Upheten’ Esandleni. This was met with much screaming and clapping from the visibly impressed crowd.
The latter part of the programme ushered in the poets, the main act of the night. They walked onto stage in an orderly fashion and sat next to one another. After each recitation, poets ended off with the line “upheten’ esandleni?’ before passing the microphone to the next poet, a symbolic passing of the baton.
Attendee, Njabulo Nxumalo (21) said that she found the concert spectacular. “I think the diversity of it all: the different cultures, the different [use of] language and the mixture of poetry with music [lyrics]…I have to give it a ten out of ten,” Nxumalo said.
Poet of the night and AFDA student, Tiisetso Maeane (21) told Wits Vuvuzela, “[In poetry] the main thing is to be relatable,” and apart from doing the poem in Sesotho, he achieved this by making his poem about abortion. He titled the poem, Pray after death and according to Maeane, “This poem is a resurrection of a baby that was aborted. I am the voice of the baby that was aborted.” This is where he called on to the youth to practise safe sex.
Event organiser and main act, Samantha Mungwe (24) said that she just wanted to create something that would inspire other people and create a platform like this at Wits. “[My aims for this concert were] for students to be inspired, for concerts like these to continue happening and for people to love art.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Members of the Wits Zulu Society dance on stage during their performance. Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe
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- Wits Vuvuzela, Anthology of Black women poetry launched, August 2019
- Wits Vuvuzela, Poetry slam to celebrate women, August 2016