REVIEW: On Love and Loss
A poetry collection that is both addictive and relatable. (more…)
A poetry collection that is both addictive and relatable. (more…)
With each page you turn, challenges and complexities of everyday life for African women and female artists are laid bare in poet’s new offering. (more…)
“I do not want to white anymore; I do not want to rainbow nation without bread,” says Makhafula Vilakazi in one of his new songs
The creative writing department wants to reach people who are not based in Johannesburg
Lebohang Masango is a poet, author, feminist activist and a masters candidate in social anthropology. In 2017 she published her first children’s book, Mpumi’s Magic Beads, and followed that up with The Great Cake Contest in 2018. She recently submitted her masters dissertation and hopes to begin a PhD soon.
You’ve previously mostly published poetry and features for various publications. What encouraged you to begin writing fiction?
I began writing fiction at a time in my life when I was feeling very overwhelmed with my master’s submission. It came out of a need to do something different with my brain because at the time, poetry was not bringing me joy anymore and neither was my thesis. So I went in search of that joy through writing for children. Which is difficult but I enjoyed the challenge.
Why have you chosen to write children’s fiction rather than adult literature?
I really wanted to create and experience joy. When you’re writing poetry or dissertations you’re very much in the adult world and I remember feeling incredibly frustrated with all of it and like I would rather do something new and interesting with my gifts. And it’s been challenging but so much fun.
You are a master’s candidate in Social Anthropology; how has this influenced your work as a children’s author?
Some of my socio-political beliefs are in Mpumi’s Magic Beads. This book is derived from my honours research on primary school policies on hair and the effect it has on schoolgirls. Being an anthropologist, I care deeply about the world and even though I enjoy anthropology, I understand that work has limits to how well it can reach people as academia has been accused of being exclusionary. As an anthropologist with creative gifts I long ago decided to use my words and body to create things that are accessible to all people. I’m compelled to ensure that my work does not stay in the ivory tower of academia.
Both of your books have featured black and brown children as the protagonists of the story. Why is that?
I doubt authors who feature white characters get asked this question. I’m aware my work is highly political. It’s important to constantly create stories with all black and brown characters until one day this question doesn’t get asked. All of the work that celebrates and affirms black people exists in this canon that is challenging global white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy and the different hierarchies that it has created around beauty and desirability that affect all of us. And through featuring black characters in my work, I want to add to the normalisation of blackness and its representation.
What impact do you Mpumi has already had?
I wanted to produce a text that children love. There have been parents who have sent me pictures of their children with Mpumi’s hairstyle. One thing I’m particularly proud of is that a mother and I managed to change the school code of conduct to allow for braided hairstyles with beads for black girls at her four year old daughter’s school. I’m incredibly proud that my book had a hand in challenging these school policies.
You also regularly host readings at local libraries and bookshops where you spend the day reading your stories to children. Why is this so important to do?
We have very disheartening statistics on children’s literacy rates. Some parents aren’t committed to making readers of their children. That’s why the work of championing literacy is important to me and showing children that to express yourself you have to be able to read and write too.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in getting published as a first time author?
I love to have full control of my work and so I chose to self-publish. I used my savings to create my own publishing imprint called Thank You Books. But I’ve since chosen to get a publisher since I’m not particularly interested in the business side of things. They’ve been incredibly good in getting Mpumi’s Magic Beads translated into nine indigenous South African languages, which I’m very proud of.
What other projects are you hoping to put out in the near future?
I’d like to put out another children’s book. I’d like to create a series of Mpumi books so it will most likely be a sequel to Mpumi. I want to continue to create work that affirms and maybe even inspires.
SAMIHAH PARGAS is a Wits second-year BA Linguistics and Psychology student who independently published her first poetry collection titled Early Mourning Hours at the beginning of 2019. The 19-year-old regularly publishes her poetry on her popular Instagram account, @shadesofherink, where she has amassed over 28 000 followers. She focuses primarily on themes of love, heartbreak, healing and spirituality.
When did you start writing poetry?
I started in Grade 8. I’d always been writing things actually as early as fourth grade. But my first poem I wrote in Grade 8.
What themes do you cover in your poetry?
The things that touch me very deeply. Spirituality, there’s conflict in the world, heartache of course, and love, self-love, acceptance. All things that I’ve experienced in a very intense sense.
Why did you choose the free verse style of writing poetry?
My style of writing differs sometimes. I think the fact that poetry in this day and age seems to not be confounded by any rules whatsoever allows me to feel free to express myself however I wish. I think it’s just the freedom of it, the freedom of the style. That’s why I use it.
Who inspires you and your work?
They’re not always writers; it’s people who pursue their dreams. In terms of writing this book they would be people who never told me that my dreams are too big. And then, in terms of [poetry] writing, my favourite poets are Yrsa Daley-Ward, Nayyirah Waheed, and writers like Arundhati Roy. How they write in such a visceral way, in such a raw way, really, inspires me to not be afraid of putting my truth on a page.
How did you publish a poetry collection at such a young age?
Two and a half years ago I decided I want to one day publish a book and from then on I started compiling [my poetry]. I would never foresee that I would actually end up doing it, so it’s not exactly as if I decided to do it at such a young age. And again, it was never something I told myself I couldn’t do at this age.
What has the reception been to your collection?
Beautiful. So currently, I’m still working on exposure for my book, marketing it, all the really technical aspects of writing a book. But people who have had it, obviously people who do read my work a lot, really appreciate the offering of love that it’s been. And that’s what I want, that’s the whole intention of it. I don’t write so that I may benefit from it but so that it can be received as love and light by other people. And I think that’s how it’s been for everyone who has read it so far.
Where do you want to go with your poetry?
Well, going back to two-and-a-half years ago, I never saw myself with this book in hand. So I can’t say that I do see myself anywhere besides hopefully, pursuing this passion in whichever way has manifested.
Thuto-Gaasenwe is a passionate spoken word poet who studies Civil Engineering and has a love for the art way of life.
Poetic Beats, an event that celebrates creativity, no matter how amateur, took place on Saturday.
ITAI Hakim is a folk-soul singer, guitarist and songwriter with a sense of humor and a consciousness that allows for thoughtful conversation and spine-chilling socially aware music.
Born in Diepkloof, Soweto, Hakim says he grew up listening to the likes of West Life, Andrea Bocelli, and only later were his tastes in music challenged. “From the get go I wasn’t listening to anything traditional or deeply black. I think my first interaction with a black musician was Craig David, and you know he is very sanitised,” he says.
He went to a mostly white primary school “in the suburbs and I became culturally assimilated.” His first encounters with “race” as a social qualifier of space and opportunity was in high school, “when your white friend can’t come over and sleep at your house because you live in Soweto, that’s when you realise that something is off,” he says laughing.
By the time Hakim got to Wits University, where he studied Psychology, Sociology, English and Philosophy, his conceptions of the world and music were highly influenced by the “underground” hip hop, slam poetry and live music scene of the late 2000’s.
By the time 2012 came, he had been performing in gigs around Johannesburg in different bands and he would later be signed, as part of the group 8 Bars Short at Motif records (although this didn’t work out as planned). He would also perform his Tsonga and Venda folk vocals in a tour of the United Kingdom with the band, The Brother Moves On.
For him going to the UK was a sobering experience, “it was great in the sense that it felt like it was all me, you know, I couldn’t be like it was because of someone else who made it happen.”
With an upcoming international tour, an EP and an album to be released later this year, the current events that have woken different forms of resistance in universities across the country have pushed Hakim, and many other artists, to interrogate the inextricable connections between art and politics. “Will inequality exist forever? That scares me… I don’t think that, or at least I don’t want that to be the case. So we need to make a plan, so that this is not the case,” he says.
“My question even as an artist is ‘how big is your fight?’” he says. “It’s the same thing as an artist, as a journalist, as a doctor, as a policeman. You always have the issues of justice that you always have to negotiate with internally.”
One of Hakim’s interests are in storytelling, specifically writing books for young black children with black illustrations as a way to counter and speak against a narrative that feeds young black children whiteness and white values from a young age.
Pointing to a book he is currently reading by black feminist scholar and cultural critic, bell hooks, called Black Looks: Race and Representation, he speaks about how the book has helped him contextualize notions of black representation and how certain messages i.e. writing black children’s books, are important, valid and necessary.
Speaking about the student movement and the paintings that were burnt by #RhodesMustFall activists at the University of Cape Town he says: “I just found myself asking the question, ‘kanti how is a revolution supposed to happen?’ We can’t always be in dialogue debating, and in meetings, no. And I feel like South Africa has been here before.”
“What do you expect to happen? You gonna spend R2 million on secret police and tell us there is no money for kids?”
With music projects, theatre collaborations, and writing projects coming up, Hakim believes the question that artists should be asking themselves now is, “as an artist you are never neutral… are you just doing this just to be popular or are you for real for real? I think every artist needs to ask themselves that question at some point.”
The people of Johannesburg once again have the opportunity to experience the city in an artistic way. Poetry, music, dance and theatre are being celebrated during the Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival, which kicked off on the 31st of August.
“Cities are more than just about bricks and mortar, they are about the quality of life,” says Festival Director Lesley Hudson.
“The arts makes a huge contribution to the way we experience our city, and the Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival plays an important part in this.”
Hosted by the City of Johannesburg, this is the 22nd year the Festival is being held. It has an intense programme that offers a wide range of performances, exhibitions, workshops and musicals, taking place at various venues in the city.
The theme of this year is 20 years of democracy, and a lot of the shows were organised around it. Hudson emphasizes that the organisers of the Festival try every year to consider the different genres, ages of the audience when deciding on the festival’s programme.
“But most importantly, we try to pair the unexpected with the better known. So, you will come to a concert because you recognise a name, but will be exposed to a performer you would not ordinarily have seen,” says Hudson. “It’s about broadening horizons.”
The Festival started during the last few years of Apartheid, when the arts were used in the drive to shift South Africa towards a democracy. Hudson says the city of Johannesburg realized an arts festival could “give voice to its citizens” and be part of building a better and fairer society.
The festival is running until the 10th of September, and Hudson encourages both students and the public to go beyond what they know and feel comfortable with, and let the festival “wow them”.
“There is nothing more thrilling than seeing 24 000 Joburgers all speaking the language of music; enjoying the sun, the sound, and each other,” says Hudson.
Among the many events celebrating women this month is the Sibikwa Art Centre’s Seriti sa Basadi (Dignity of Women) Festival, which kicks off with a poetry event on August 6 at The Bassline in Newtown.
Headliners for the day-long event will feature spoken word poets Natalia Molebatsi, Ntsiki Mazwai, Ameera Patel, Linda Gabriel and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers.
Festival manager Tonderai Chiyindiko says choosing performers was a “difficult choice” because of budget and time constraints, as well as the wide pool of talented poets available.
“We’re not saying these are the best poets, but they are among the best poets,” he added.
This celebration of womanhood offers up-and-coming poets a platform to showcase their untapped talent and be mentored by more established poets. It will cost R5 for participants to “buy a mic” and recite their poetry for three minutes.
The event organisers promise a “wild, contagious forum for like-minded folk of varying ages to exchange ideas and energies”.
There is no particular topic or theme, but performers are expected to interpret their understanding of Seriti sa Basadi and showcase it in their unique styles, says Chiyindiko.
The other leg of the festival is the Women in Dance and Music carnival happening at Liverpool Park in Benoni on August 14.
Various music and community dance groups will be performing during the day and later in the afternoon; Ladies in Jazz will perform at the Sibikwa Theatre. They will be joined by two giant female puppets – courtesy of The Giant Match.
Ladies will also be treated to reasonably priced massages on the day. “Any massage that can be done in public will be on offer,” says Chiyindiko jokingly.
Fans can look forward to a guest appearance by Lira. The Feel Good songstress will be taking pictures with her fans and signing autographs.