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


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.

One thought on “SFYL: ‘Competition is another opportunity for growth’ – Koleka Putuma

  1. […] 'Competition is another opportunity for growth' – Koleka Putuma. […]


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