CityLife Arts

Poetry Africa 2020 in full swing from today

By CityLife Arts Writer

This year, the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) is participating in this year’s edition of Poetry Africa, taking place online from today, Monday, October12, until October 17, 2020, in partnership with Total South Africa. For the 24th consecutive year, the Poetry Africa festival, presented by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of Kwazulu-Natal, sets the stage for poetry from South Africa and around the world. It promises to be an enriching experience with the sound of poets performing live, their passionate, inspirational perspective on life and current events and the power and beauty of the spoken words.

Poetry anthology, workshops, open mic and dance performance

IFAS, in partnership with Total South Africa, will be publishing a poetry collection in early 2021 with publishing house impepho press and Poetry Africa. The poets who will feature in the book have been selected following a call for applications looking for talented young South African poets. IFAS will be announcing the selected poems on the opening day of Poetry Africa. Some of the selected poets will also be reading their poems during the opening, to give the audience an overview of their beautiful and inspiring work.

IFAS will also be organising three professional development workshops throughout the festival, with famous poets Malika Ndlovu, Vangile Makwakwa as well as poet and owner of impepho press Vangile Gantsho. The workshops will revolve around the theme “Living as a poet” and will see the invited poets share their own experience of the poetry scene in South Africa, from publishing their work to dealing with finding the right balance between doing what they love and making ends meet from living their passion. 

A special guest will also be participating in the Poetry Africa programme: Nnane Ntube from Cameroon, who will be taking part in the open mic for women in the poetry for social change programme. 

Last but not least, IFAS is very proud to be supporting South African dancer and choreographer Musa Hlatshwayo, who will be performing on Friday night, the 16th of October. Musa is a performing artist, choreographer and artistic director of Mhayise Productions company. His work seeks to address, interrogate and celebrate the politics of African history and identities. He also runs his open developmental programme called the Movement Laboratory, which offers free training opportunities to performing artists and the youth interested in accessing movement and dance as a means of developing and enhancing their creative voice.

Young poets taking on the stage of Poetry Africa

After a successful call for applications launched early September, more than 400 applicants submitted their poems under the theme ‘Archiving of Imaginary Stories’. A jury of experts from the poetry scene, including Tshefhiwa Mukwevho, Nakanjani Sibiya, Toni Stuart, and Makhosazana Xaba, chose 27 emerging and talented young poets, whose poems will be published in a poetry anthology that will be published by the French Institute of South Africa, Total South Africa and impepho press in early 2021. 

The selected poems, which will feature in the poetry collection, will be announced by host and poet MoAfrika wa Mokgathi during the opening day of Poetry Africa festival, on 12 October from 3pm onwards.

“From 19th century poets such as Rimbaud or Baudelaire, to contemporary slam artists such as Grand Corps Malade, poetry is part of our literary tradition. I am looking forward to this poetry anthology, which will include 30 poems in 5 South African languages, as part of our support to plurilingualism”, says the Ambassador of France to South Africa Aurélien Lechevallier.


Poetry Africa 2020

Poetry Africa festival is running through a six-day programme presented over three slots daily, with feature performances, online engagements, competitions, book launches, seminars and workshops. This year’s Poetry Africa presents poetry that isn’t just about form and style, language and craft, but also tackles all sorts of urgent issues. Therefore, the focus during this year’s festival is “poetry as the voice of social change”.

The line-up includes a great number of award-winning poets, playwrights, theatre directors, actors and performers, such as  Koleka Putuma, Tory Saint, Nomakhwezi Becker, Natalia Molebatsi, Lebo Mashile, and Athol Williams. International poets will also take part in the festival, including acclaimed novelist and poet Chris Abani from the US, America’s most widely read poet Nikki Giovanni, and Nigerian born, London based poet, playwright, performer and lawyer Tolu Agbelusi. 

“It is with great pleasure to present this years line-up in celebrating the 24 years of Poetry Africa, the Poetry Africa stage illuminates poetry as a tool for social change and I am honoured to support and promote the work that is going to be presented in the festival.  I invite you to embark on this exciting journey and celebration of poetry” shares curator Siphindile Hlongwa.

Programme of the French Institute

Monday 12 October – 15.00 to 16.30
History and Imagined Realities announcement 

Tuesday 13 October – 11.00 to 11.30
Living as a Poet 1: Finding the balance between artistic integrity and paying the bills is not easy. Malika Ndlovu will share her skills with vangile gantsho, but your questions are welcomed throughout. Limited space available.

Wednesday 14 October – 11.00 to 11.30
Living as a Poet 2: Money and Poetry. Vangile Makwakwa will break down what a healthy relationship to money looks like in the company of vangile gantsho.

Wednesday 14 October – 19.00
Poetry for social change: Cameroonian poet Nnane Ntube will participate in the women open mic under the theme “poetry from socia change”

Thursday 15 October – 11.00 to 11.30
Living as a Poet 3: Words on Paper. Vangile Gantsho will offer advice about getting your work published in the company of Sarah Godsell.

Friday 16 October – 19.00 
Cross-genre collaboration – Jazz & Poetry: Dancer and choreographer Musa Hlatshwayo will be presenting his own concept and choreography during the cross-genre poetry collaboration

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