INTERVIEW: NAPO MASHEANE

Word N Sound is honoured to be hosting Napo Masheasne at our upcoming Word N Sound Poetry And Live Music Festival. She is a writer, director, producer, poet and acclaimed performer on both international and national stages. We caught up with her to find out about her passion for words, the politics on gender in writing and of course the Festival.


“I always wanted to be the first black Ninja girl.” – Napo Masheane

1. How did your love and passion for poetry come about?
– My father was a teacher, a visual artist and lover of African literature. My mother was a good storyteller; she shared with me all Sotho folklore, fairy tales and the richness of our Sesotho language (idioms, riddles and proverbs). All this fascinated me and allowed me to create a world in me that I knew little of. These childhood made it natural for me to place the world I knew between the pages of my journals. And later those stories inspired poems.. which made me a poet.

2. Do you ever find it daunting to balance being a writer, director, producer and poet all at the same time
– I am one of the most privileged young South African women, and I keep taking a leap of faith in telling stories that are true reflections of my community and life. The fact that I often have to produce, write and direct my own projects is a huge challenge. And lack of funds and resources can sometimes be a huge pull back. But I have not had a chance to make excuses… besides Bell Hooks says it better “… Speaking for me becomes both a way to engage in an active self-transformation and self- identification…a rite of passage where one moves from being an object to being a subject. Only as subjects can we speak. As objects, we remain voiceless – our being defined and interpreted by others.”

3. Do you think there is enough female writers and performers in this country
– I have always been a writer (with or without being paid for it). I took interest in being a poet, director or producer at the drama school when I realized that there was more to theatre making than just being an actor and or a performer. But also there were no female playwrights and directors in the whole drama department, so on my third year I decided to major in both genres. To answer you… there are enough performers in our industry. But what I know is that we don’t have enough female initiators, writers, storytellers and directors who can tell our stories with passion, discipline and dedication.

4. You are one of the guest performers at this year’s Word N Sound Festival, how do you feel about coming back to share your work on this stage
– It’s a privilege and always a good opportunity to be with a different kind of an audience. I am grateful to WNSF for allowing me to share more of my work this time again.

5. You’ve performed on plenty international stages, have you found any major differences between the poetry in this country and other countries.
– The outside world appreciates you if you bring to their stage a unique voice, which is not a replica of what they already have. Here at home the competition is tight, but pushes one to constantly innovate and reconstruct the work of words, especially if you want to appeal and attract new audiences and clients. Also if you are a writer and you travel,  you get to appreciate the world you are born in more and to appreciate the different cultures around the world for what they are, both worlds can make your voice bigger and firmer.

6. You’ve published a poetry and essay anthology “Caves Speak In Metaphors”, what was the inspiration behind the book and what is your advice to young writers who want to publish their work
– My first anthology was more about Identity and Spirituality. But I used it also as a way of measuring my growth as a writer. Sometimes it’s good to put your work in a book, to go through it and to pin point mistakes from it so that your next work of words can be better.

7. What inspires you to keep writing and performing.
– I have been a cultural activist for more than ten years, during which I have worked my self from being an actor and poet into being a playwright and a director. I have allowed my self to engage in writing and directing programs and use different avenues to grow confidence in the world that does not make it easy for women to own/tell their stories. I have branded myself as one of the few black female directors/poets in South Africa. I create poems, breathe life into them until they reach the stage. There are stories untold by us… stories that we share when we plait each other’s hair or when we cook and gossip during family gatherings… stories that seem hard to leave at our kitchen tables. And both poetry and theatre have allowed me to give these stories names and voices.

8. Who are some of the poets that still have an influence on you and your work…
– Many things inspire me… many writes and ordinary people push me to become a better writer. But most of all my own life and the experiences that I face make me to want to tell my story and share it with the world.
– To name one will be unfair… a poem can come out of me because of a song I hear from a foreign musician… or after watching a movie by a Ghanaian film maker. A poem can come out of me because Marikana incident provoked me or after I read a painful story… or after I see another poet describing love or painting pictures in my mind.

9. What do you think of competitive poetry
– I hate it and totally despise it. I believe we each have our unique individual “Poetic Voice” that can contribute hugely in the poetry movement or in this genre or craft. It is and it will be sad for one to measure her self or him self against the other, instead of working together towards developing the culture of writing, reading and performing poetry in this country.

10. Are there any projects that you’re working on or involved in currently that we should look forward to…
– I am slowly… but in a big way moving towards TV and Film work (both infront and behind the scenes)…

You can catch Napo Masheane alongside Joshua Bennett (US), Mutle Mothibe, LoveGlori, Afurakan and Yrsa Daley-Ward (UK) at the Word N Sound Festival, 6 Oct, at Emonti Diner on Bree, Newtown.

One thought on “INTERVIEW: NAPO MASHEANE

  1. […] bodies, including My Bum Is Genetic Deal With It and Fat Black Woman Sing. Read her interview from Word N Sound and some of her poems […]

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