Interview: Vuyelwa Maluleke

“I want to tell black women’s stories that are indicative of where we are, and how we are people too and not just bodies.” – Vuyelwa Maluleke


We caught up with writer and performer, Vuyelwa Maluleke, ahead of her performance at the 8th Episode of the Word N Sound Poetry and Live Music Series.

Will we be seeing Purple Jupiter again?
I would love that too.

How has being a drama student at Wits influenced your poetry?
Well, it is because of Wits that I have the tools for performance. As a trained performer, I find it creates a nuanced enactment of my work. I get to give my work a voice and movement. I am also made aware that what works on the page doesn’t necessarily work on the stage.

Do you think that there are enough female voices in the Joburg poetry scene?
I have a problem with the word female, it defines women as a pair of boobs and an ass. Alas I will always say no there are not enough women but I was told by an older poet I admire that it is better than it was. But it is still not good enough. As long as it is so, our spaces are limited in growth, and any possibility of a meaningful exchange between various experiences of gender in their navigation of race and social justice.

What would you say is the biggest challenge for female spoken word artists?
To be a woman voice in a heterosexual-man’s dominated, organized and male supportive space which legitimizes women’s contribution to spoken words at their discretion.

What kind of change does your work aim to inspire?
I want to tell black women’s stories that are indicative of where we are, and how we are people too and not just bodies.

Name one thing that you absolutely love about being on stage?
The sharing of stories, that is both terrifying and thrilling.

How do you know when its time for new material?
When people know the words to my poems.

Who or what is the reason you decided to become a spoken word artist?
I didn’t decide on spoken word there is not enough money in it as a career path. It has to be in my DNA, I always loved story-telling, I have explored various modes such as dancing, acting, singing. For me spoken word gave me license to create and direct that story myself.

What topic would you like to hear more of in the Joburg poetry scene?
I would like to see the world on our stages, not just one angry poem after another at poetry sessions. We are people who love, fall in love, we are kind. It is of interest to me see us do love and be capable of love in a world that wants us angry.

To all aspirant spoken word artists, how does one know when a poem is ready for the stage?
Watch and read. But you never really know, even at its fifth edit. Just take it there, the best experience comes from failing, and watching people do the same and come back and succeed.

Catch Vuyelwa Maluleke live on the Word N Sound stage on Saturday 28 September at Catz Pyjamas Melville. Doors open at 12pm, show starts at 1pm.

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