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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Africa In Full Voice

This article appeared today on South Africa's Artslink

Twenty poets from 10 different countries will descend on Durban for an exhilarating rollercoaster of words, rhythms, and ideas at the 11th Poetry Africa international poetry festival which takes place from 1 to 6 October.

The Poetry Africa programme consistently ensures that South African poets are well represented at the festival but this concern extends also to the rest of the African continent. The African poetic presence at this year's festival includes a special three-pronged Zimbabwean package entitled Hello Zimbabwe. Hello Zimbabwe comprises the iconic performance poet Chirikure Chirikure, author of three volumes of award-winning poetry, and the beautifully voiced mbira player Chiwoniso, winner of the UNESCO Prize for Arts, and KORA Best Female Vocals of Africa Awards nominee. Completing the Zim trio is Comrade Fatso, a purveyor of Toyi-Toyi Poetry, urban street poetry that mixes Shona with English, mbira with hip-hop, and poetry with the struggle to survive.

From Senegal comes Habib Demba Fall, editor of the prestigious newspaper Le Soleil, and a poet of subtle and evocative verse. Fall attempts to articulate in his poetry the troubles and anxieties of his contemporaries, but limits himself not only to the African reality - instead he writes with an imagination that encompasses the world. Stanley Onjezani Kenani, from Malawi, is motivated by events surrounding him such as AIDS, poverty and the many challenges an average African faces in his life. Kenani's poetry is a mesh of metaphors, folklore and song. He believes that poetry is a breath into the life of the world, and that poets must be listened to as they tackle topical issues that affect our daily lives.

A citizen of South Africa's neighbour, Namibia, Keamogetsi Joseph Molapong , is an accomplished theatre practitioner as well as a poet. Molapong's poetry, rich in dramatic flair, focuses mainly on a social critique of the many harsh ineq­uities of post-independence Namibian society. And from the east African nation of Kenya comes Shailja Patel, a poet of vast talent and conscience, who has been called the Arundhati Roy of poetry. Like Molapong, Patel is a theatre artist and her show Migritude has played to packed audiences all over the world since it opened last year.

The range of African poetic voices on show at this year's festival offers a fine opportunity to catch Africa in full voice.


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