#WNSallstars: WNS needs to capitalise on the momentum – Andrew


1. Where did you first hear about WNS and what made you want to be a part of it?
In passing during a workshop, ahead of the Drama For Life Regional Final. Nova and I were among the poets competing, and she was answering a question on previous poetry wins. After that, Afurakan took my number at the DFL Finale and invited me to Word N Sound (above Madi’s emphatic protests). I missed the next show, but attended the one after. I guess I wanted to be part of it because I’d seen people raving on Facebook about it being such a nice show, and also having just won Drama For Life, I was still in the mood to slam.

2. Tell us about your first time on the WNS stage. How was the experience? What did you love about it and what did you hate?
It was at the Con Cowan Theatre in the Bunting Road Campus of the University of Johannesburg. It was a nice vibe, nice atmosphere. I remember almost going with a new poem because I felt I owed it to the audience to present new poems each time (I was still very new to this performance poetry thing). Romeo The Poet talked me out of that fortunately in a hurry and I wound up going with “Consequence” and that got me to the Festival. I loved the audience, but I wasn’t a fan of having to pay to perform. (the free mageu was nice though).

3. What has been your most memorable WNS show?
There have been so many, where does one even begin. I’ll just rattle off some highlights because the thing about WNS shows, is that often, someone brings something never-before-seen to the stage and that’s always memorable. So here goes:
-Masai storming off stage during his showcase. Won’t forget that in a hurry.
-My 1st showcase. I had so much fun, I was walking around in a haze for days afterward.
-Harry Baker, what more can I say?
-Ex Ka Dubandlela’s debut was awesome, (and considering his entire poem was in Zulu, that’s a big impression to make on a non native Zulu-speaker).
-Modise Sekgothe’s showcase. Some background: Once I’m seated in my chair, I have no intention of standing up. I’ll clap or whatever, but I will not stand up. I gave Modise a standing ovation.
-If I forget every other moment at WNS, I’ll always remember this: at the second festival, when the order of the top 5 was being announced after we had competed; and my name came up fourth, the crowd went ballistic. They were very vocal in expressing their disappointment (many who came up to me afterwards told me they believed that on the day I had taken it), and that was another kind of victory I suppose. It taught me a little something about winning the hearts of the people.
-Purple Jupiter’s debut, they were performing ’17seconds’. It was a thing of beauty.

4. You are now part of the WNS Committee. What is your role and how has that experience been?
I’m Word N Sound’s Marketing Consultant.

The Good – We’re an easy group of people to market. The poets that have graced our stages generally do good work. The team itself is dedicated to the vision of creating an industry that makes poetry and writing a viable career choice, so it’s been rewarding to be part of that vision. Also, we can see clearly that the work we’re doing is getting noticed as we find ourselves in more mainstream spaces and media (I’ve performed at an art gallery opening along with Rennie Alexander; and have been on the TEDx Johannesburg stage as have Conelius Jones, Mandi Vundla, Elysium Garcia, and Vuyelwa Maluleke).

The Bad – Living your dreams in a part-time capacity. There really isn’t a full on poetry industry locally. There are a few established poets who are able to make their living herein, but no industry yet. As a result, the work we do is on a volunteer basis, and because food is nice, we all have to have another hustle. The sad reality is that you inevitably work on this thing you love with less than 100% of your energy. It just means we’ll take longer to get there. Also, poets are generally not great when it comes to trying to get administrative stuff out of them. Case in Point – we’re still waiting on some artist bio’s from the last festival.

The Challenge – is twofold: Garnering mainstream attention and grooming business-savvy artists. We’re starting to get mainstream recognition as evidenced by appearances on Morning Live, Expresso, & Sunrise. That’s great for poetry, but we need to capitalise on the momentum that this current wave of poetry has been generating since 2011. Taking nothing away from the active participants in the previous eras of poetry, without their efforts we wouldn’t be here, but we do need to learn from past experience and take this artform to a new level. This will require Business Acumen. Artists need to either learn the business principles governing their art or surround themselves by people who do. Or face the reality of being talented and broke.

The Reward – Reshaping a landscape. We’re in the privileged position of being at the coalface as the world cottons on to the reality of what contemporary poetry is; and we get to play a part in shaping what it shall become.

5. Name 3 of your favourite poems from any of the artists in the All-Stars line up. What is it about that poem that makes it stand out?
Mutle’s – “Message in a Massage” , “I am an Artist” and “Parkinson’s” – What stands out? It’s evident that the research is thorough. He mingles wordplay and imagery to convey a well-thought out message/depiction/scenario. It’s masterful and the dedication is commendable.

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