Monthly Archives: June 2014

‘Forget everything you were taught about poetry’ – Afurakan

This week, Word N Sound, The Market Theatre and The National Lottery will launch the first ever Spoken Freedom Festival. We caught up with Word N Sound founder, Thabiso Afurakan Mohare, to find out more.

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1. What is the Spoken Freedom Festival? How did it come about?
The 1st Annual Spoken Freedom Festival is an exciting and energetic showcase of the best youth Spoken Word voices in South Africa. Through words, music and visuals, the four day experience will capture audiences imaginations with stories of being young woven with the challenges and the victories of living in a free South Africa 20 years of on. The festival is a joint initiative by The Word N Sound Live Literature Company and The Market Theatre and supported by the National Lottery Foundation.

2. How did Word N Sound decide on the line up?
It was very difficult as there are so many new and exciting voices on the spoken word scene. Ultimately we looked at experience, relevance in the current scene and just general performance. We also tried to achieve a balance between poets who have been active for more than 5 years and the new rising stars.

3. What does 20 years of spoken freedom mean for you as an artist?
It’s a time to reflect and asked if art has had the kind of impact on South Africa now as it did during the struggle days? Where will art take our country and what is it’s central role?

4. Which day are you most looking forward to and why?
The whole festival. I have to say that …LOL!

5. Please gives us 3 reasons why one should attend this Festival, especially if they aren’t familiar with the current SA poetry scene?
A) Forget everything you were taught about poetry in High School. This will be a spiritual experience.
B) You will laugh, cry, cheer and totally get inspired. Poetry speaks to the human condition and it will be impossible for any one person to experience the festival without something inside them changing forever.
C) Have you seen what poets do on stage now? That’s all I’m saying …

Get the full Line Up here

 

SFYL: The history of Slam Poetry

In 1984, construction worker and poet Marc Kelly Smith started a poetry reading series at a Chicago jazz club, the Get Me High Lounge, looking for a way to breathe life into the open mike poetry format. The series’ emphasis on performance laid the groundwork for the poetry which will be exhibited in slam.

Smith approached Dave Jemilo in 1986, the owner of the Green Mill (a Chicago jazz club and former haunt of Al Capone), with a plan to host a weekly poetry competition on the club’s slow Sunday nights.

Jemilo welcomed him, and on July 25, the Uptown Poetry Slam was born. Smith draws on baseball and bridge terminology for the name, and instituted the basic features of the competition, including judges chosen from the audience and cash prizes for the winners. The Green Mill evolved into a mecca for performance poets, and the Uptown Poetry Slam still continues nearly 15 years after its inception.

The first National Poetry Slam was held in 1990, and has become an annual event in which teams from cities across the United States compete at events in a host city. Slams have spread all over the world, with slam scenes in Hawaii, Ireland, Nepal, Canada, Germany, Sweden, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Austria, Israel, Ukraine, Russia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, just to name a few.

Definition of Slam Poetry: A competitive poetry performance in which selected audience members score performers, and winners are determined by total points. Simply put, poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry.

In a typical competition, all poets perform one poem in the first round. Based on the scores they receive, the top-scoring poets go on to the second round, and from that pool, a smaller number of the highest-scoring poets in the second round go on to the third and final round.

While the specifics vary from slam to slam, certified slams adhere to this basic structure, insuring that poets must seek to make immediate connections with the audience in order to continue on. Cash prizes or other prizes are offered to the winner as further impetus for performing well. In most cities, the slam series culminates with a final slam at the end of the season to determine which poets will represent the city at the National Poetry Slam.

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SFYL: ‘Competition is another opportunity for growth’ – Koleka Putuma

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Koleka Putuma is heading to the National Arts Festival to represent the Western Cape in the Slam For Your Life National Poetry Slam in July. She says although competition is not her thing, she views it as another opportunity for growth.

It’s official! Your province has chosen you to represent them at the first ever Slam For Your Life National Poetry Slam at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Now, how does that feel?
I am nervous and excited. I think if I start going into “what an honour and blessing it is” I might just sound pretentious so I’ll just stick to nerves and excitement for now.

What was your strategy to get all the many votes that you did?
I shared the link on Facebook and Twitter, asked people to click on the link, watch the video and share with their people. I may have spammed some people’s inboxes actually.

What are you most looking forward to and what are you not looking forward to at all?
I am looking forward to meeting the other finalists from other provinces. I am so amped to be attending workshops where we’ll be mentored and given tools on the business aspect of this craft. I have recently discovered just how restless any form of competition actually makes me, perhaps if there’s anything I am not too keen on it’s the “competitive” component of the experience. But it’s another opportunity for growth I suppose, and this puts me at ease a little bit.

Given the chance to speak to sponsors like the British Council who make such projects possible, what would you say to them, as an artist?
This is the sort of conversation you’d hope to have in person. I guess I am interested in the production of published text and the spoken word as a tool for social change and collectivism. In my final year of study I’ve come to realise how big a constraint funding actually is in the context of South African art.

I’d be interested in the British Council funding a project that would spark a movement wherein artists can establish a space for emerging and established artists to engage each other on the mechanics of the creative and professional aspects of the poetry ‘industry’ both on and off the stage. I would envision this space, whether set in one or several locations, as providing emerging artists the opportunity to be mentored by established poets; and supporting established poets in whatever regard they may require it. Ultimately, the movement would aim to discover and cement sustainable methods of developing artists and their work so that projects, festivals, events, and even their creators, have staying power. It would be set up as a poetry centric agency and use a similar model to that of “The Strivers Row” and “Write Bloody Publishing”.

I’m keen on the idea of a company or a housing system that provides stability for poets in South Africa.

 Word N Sound is looking to expand our national footprint. Do you haveany ideas around how poets and poetry movements across the country can work together better?
For as long as movements and poets are willing to collaborate; and communication channels remain open, I think that’s possible. Poetry, as a movement in this country, could do with more communication and collaboration. By this I’m referring to more than the act of one poetry-collective taking their project to another city and setting up their event there, but actually getting the locally based movements involved in a collaborative project. Let’s just start a National House Of Poetry, as suggested in my previous answer. The nitty gritties of that idea need work, but would be well worth the pursuit methinks.

SFYL: “Spoken Word deserves more appreciation” – Page Ngwenya

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Page Ngewnya says he is honoured to have been selected by his province to represent them at the National Arts Festival in the first ever Slam For Your Life National Poetry Slam on 13 July.

It’s official! Your province has chosen you to represent them at the first ever Slam For Your Life National Poetry Slam at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Now, how does that feel?
It is insanely inspiring. I am grateful to KZN for showing that much trust in me and also allowing me the opportunity to go to Grahamstown for the first time.

What was your strategy to get as many votes as you did?
I appealed to close friends and sometimes even total strangers; and pretty much nagged everyone on social networks to vote (to the point of annoyance hahaha). Even live shows were a platform to encourage voting.

What are you most looking forward to and what are you not looking forward to at all?
I am most looking forward to exploring the Arts festival, getting to know the poets from other provinces, and to working with Word N Sound, Connect ZA and the other parties involved. I am not looking forward to the events’ eventual and inevitable end haha.

Given the chance to speak to sponsors like the British Council who make such projects possible, what would you say to them, as an artist?
I am grateful that you have risen to the challenge that so many ignore, and that is the delivery of spoken word to the public and a raising of the awareness of it’s importance. Spoken Word really does deserve more appreciation, so please grow strong, and thank you very much.
Word N Sound is looking to expand their national footprint. Do you have any ideas around how poets and poetry movements across the country can work together better?
Good tings are gwaan! I think it would be beneficial to create an expansive database of performers and organsiers across the country. The establishment of permanent solid branches in the cities Word N Sound visits would be ideal, if not that then at least inspiring the creation of a local poetry movement would lead to there being a market for poetry showcases and poetry product. Frequently revisiting these areas would also maintain the momentum.

SFYL: “I am curious about how the audience will react” – Zewande Bhengu

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Zewande Bhengu will be representing the Gauteng province at the first Slam For Your Life National Poetry Slam after he received more votes than any other poet from the four participating provinces.

It’s official! Your province has chosen you to represent them at the first ever Slam For Your Life National Poetry Slam at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Now, how does that feel?
For the most part, I am quite excited. I also feel quite inspired by the pressure because I will be carrying myself, Word N Sound, the people who supported me and Gauteng on my shoulders when I step on that stage.

What was your strategy to get the many votes that you did?
Well, after making it to the Top 3 following the Secret Slam, I performed at a number of places (mainly student accommodation and work places) to promote both the slam and raise awareness around the voting process. So by the time voting started, all I had to do was put up a poster at the venues I’d performed to remind them of the Slam and show them how to vote. In addition to all this I sent the link to their social media pages/ profiles. Of course, I also took advantage of relationships with family members and their co-workers.

What are you most looking forward to and what are you not looking forward to at all?
I am mostly looking forward to the audience as I anticipate it will be so different from what I am used to in performing poetry; I am curious about how they will react. I am also looking forward to the workshops because I think I have some room to grow. The spirit of the Festival generally is also something to look forward to, and of course who could forget the weather (The cold is my other half). As for what I’m not looking forward to, to be honest, nothing comes to mind.

Given the chance to speak to sponsors like the British Council, who make such projects possible, what would you say to them, as an artist?
Have more faith in young artists. Sponsors seem so ready to fund and assist people who are already successful and young artists almost always get the short end of the stick. More than that, I think a grand thank you is in order, for making THIS possible. I hope their support can continue into the coming years. Thank you.

Word N Sound is looking to expand their national footprint. Do you have any ideas around how poets and poetry movements across the country can work together better?
I think keeping in communication before, during and after the National Slam would be greatly beneficial. The relationships could be further strengthened by having inter-provincial showcases.

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SFYL: “This will leave a permanent mark on my poetry journey” – Siyabonga Ngcai

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Slam For Your Life finalist, Siyabonga Ngcai, says being a part of South Africa’s first ever national Poetry Slam is a life-changing experience for him.

It’s official! Your province has chosen you to represent them at the first ever Slam For Your Life National Poetry Slam at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Now, how does that feel?
I feel honoured and quite euphoric. This means a lot and will leave a permanent mark on my poetry journey. I appreciate all the support from the people who voted for me, and I give much respect to them.

What was your strategy to get all the many votes that you did?
I just campaigned on Facebook, but again my people kept on sharing the #WordNSound link with their friends on social networks.

What are you most looking forward to and what are you not looking forward to at all?
I am looking forward to interacting, share ideas, experiences and thoughts with the poets from other provinces. I’d really hate to see anything divisive happen, as I feel we are all poets.

Given the chance to speak to sponsors like the British Council who make such projects possible, what would you say to them, as an artist?
I would give much appreciation to them, as poetry is one of the more marginalized art forms in South Africa. This is a big initiative in terms of South African poetry and literature, and is especially beneficial to young, upcoming poets and writers.

Word N Sound is looking to expand our national footprint. Do you have any ideas around how poets and poetry movements across the country can work together better?
Slam For Your Life is a big start, but I feel it should have included all the nine provinces of South Africa not just four.

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Spoken Freedom Festival Line Up Announced

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In a rapidly changing socio-economic landscape, art takes the role of noting where we’ve been and, plots the path to where we’re going. Enter: The Spoken Freedom Festival. This Annual Festival is an exciting showcase of the best Spoken Word voices in South Africa, and takes place from the 3rd of July at the Market Theatre.

The Spoken Freedom Festival is first and foremost an exciting showcase. It provides both audiences and artists an opportunity to witness and partake of engaging artwork through the media of words, music and visuals. It’s a chance to collectively look at how far South Africa has come over the past two decades, and to position Spoken Word as a medium to both chronicle and shape the South African journey in the years to come.

This first edition of what will become an annual festival was born out of the shared visions of both the Word N Sound Live Literature Company, which seeks to provide an accessible platform for poets and poetry lovers to engage issues and enjoy art; and the Market Theatre, which provides a space for high quality theatrical productions to be staged and enjoyed.

“We are excited about partnering with the Market Theatre to host this ground-breaking festival. We look forward to seeing Spoken Word take a more prominent role in recording our collective journey as South Africans .” says Qhakaza Mthembu, Festival Director.

The Spoken Freedom Festival will feature screenings of pioneering poetry videos, an open mic slam and of course, performances by some of the leading lights among the spoken word voices in South Africa.

On Thursday 3 July, and Friday doors open at 19:30 with the Thursday shows featuring Conelius Jones, Makhafula Vilakazi & Napo Masheane; and the Friday show having performances by Vuyelwa Maluleke, Natalia Molebatsi and Multe Mothibe.

The weekend shows begin earlier with the Saturday show starting at 14:30 and featuring Andrew Manyika, Richard Quaz Roodt and Vangi Gantsho. The Final show will start at 15:00 and will see Tereska Muishond, Masai Dabula, Mandi Poeffecient Vundla and Modise Sekgothe taking to the stage.

Shows will be interspersed with an Open Mic Slam, Video screenings, and the four-
day programme will be hosted by the crown prince of Johannesburg Spoken Word- Afurakan Mohare.

The Spoken Freedom Festival will run from 3 – 6 July 2014 at the Barney Simon Theatre, Market Theatre Complex, Newtown. All shows cost R50 and the tickets will be available at the theatre’s Box Office.

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1st Annual Spoken Freedom Festival

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The 1st Annual Spoken Freedom Festival is an exciting and energetic showcase of the best youth Spoken Word voices in South Africa.

Through words, music and visuals, the four day experience will capture audiences imaginations with stories of being young woven with the challenges and the victories of living in a free South Africa 20 years of on.

The Spoken Freedom Festival also serves as a vivid snap shot of how Poetry and Spoken Word will shape South Africa in the next 20 years.

The Festival, hosted by Word N Sound Co-Founder, Afurakan Mohare, will run from 3 – 6 July 2014 at the Barney Simon Theatre, Market Theatre Complex, Newtown

Show Times
Thu: 19:30 – 22:00
Fri: 19:30 – 22:00
Sat: 14:30 – 20:30
Sun: 15:00 – 18:00

R50 at the door for each show.

Line up
Napo Masheane
Masai Dabula
Modise Sekgothe
Vuyelwa Maluleka
Quaz Roodt

Keep an eye on this blog, and our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts for more names announced this week.

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Review: Season 4 | Episode 5

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Last week we hosted Mak Manaka, Lucas Pilgrim Serei and BlaqSeed at the Market Theatre Laboratory. Mandi Vundla and the Word N Sound fam reviews the show.

Firstly, I will begin by saying I was full to the brim with excitement over being back at our main venue as the previous show was hosted at the Barney Simon Theatre, depriving us of our homely comfort.

There truly is no place like home. We have entered the winter chills but the harsh change of season didn’t deter those eager to slam. At 9.20am the PTA poets had filled up half the open mic list. The early bird catches the open mic list, walala wasala!!

The competitive levels were at an all time high and the poets were armed for the epic battle. We were disappointed that Bafentse Ntlokoa chose not to defend her title, but this worked well for Modise Sekgothe who arrived in the middle of the slam only to find her slot vacant. Congratulations to him for exploiting her absence and walking away with the coveted King Of The Mic title. We’re ecstatic to see Xabiso’s return to the Top 5, now do what you must to stay there. The trending topic of the slam was love and ex’s, cupid must have been ecstatic.

The show progressed smoothly into Pilgrims set. We’re relieved he made it to the show unscathed after his house burnt down 24hrs before his performance. Your dedication to your craft is commendable. SALUTE!

It was a pleasure to witness that Mak Manaka hasn’t lost his touch, though his memory strayed, he found his way back to us and we were there patiently waiting for poems we hadn’t heard from him in a very long time.

Blaqseed wound up a majestic show with beautiful music. What better way to end the show?

Join us for our next Word N Sound Series show on 5 July 2014. Keep your eye on our Facebook page and Twitter account for more info.

SFYL: Voting is closed!

Voting for the first ever Slam For Your Life National Poetry Slam is now closed.

Keep an eye on Connect ZA’s blog next week to see who we’re taking to National Arts Festival Grahamstown.

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It’s been amazing to see just how much support local poets have from their communities. It warms my heart so thank you, thank you, thank you! Good luck to
– Koleka Putuma, Thabiso Wa Ga Nkoana and Chrystal Williams from the Western Cape.
– Modise Sekgothe, Bhengu Zewande Bk and Kagiso Tshepe from Gauteng.
– Unathi Slasha, Sisonke Papu and Siyabonga Mciana UGqoboz’imbawula Ngcai from the Eastern Cape.
– Nkululeko Page Ngwenya, Khulani Maseko and Mphokuhle Ngcobo from KwaZulu Natal.

May the best poet will. A massive shout out to Connect ZA for the opportunity to showcase all this talent at the National Arts Festival Grahamstown.