Ahead of the 4th annual Word N Sound International Youth Poetry Festival, we sent our members of our content team into the training camps of the Top 6 Contenders for the coveted 2014 Open Mic Champion title. Our mission was to see who would rattle who between our fearless contributors and these warriors while trying to find out more about them.
Before we profile each of them we decided to tease you a bit. Accordingly we asked Kgotatso Maditse [the newest member of our content team] to put together an introductory package, so let’s find out why these Contenders think they should win, and what they will be bringing to the stage.
Nothando Nelisiwe Buthelezi is a writer and poet. She writes poetry, scripts, music and plays. Thando turns to writing to vent frustrations and bring healing not only to herself but also to others. In her own words, she writes for “the rural ones who write in Zulu and don’t have a formal way of writing”.
If she wasn’t a writer though, Thando says she wouldn’t mind being a cyclist because of her love of bicycles.
Props must be given to her for writing in Zulu. Poems like uThembeka have literally brought tears to Word N Sound audience eyes, but she admits that it doesn’t come as easily as it sounds.
“Writing in Zulu is actually hard. I had to read, I had to learn, even the accent. I had to work on it because I had gotten used to the English way of writing”
Asked why she should win, she simply said “because I want that money!”
Theatre director and actor Nkosinathi Gaar says he’s been trying to get to the top for a while, and finally, he is here. This multi-talented and multi-lingual, young man speaks three languages fluently [one being German], and also plays the guitar, and bass, and is a competent songwriter.
A consummate lover of words and ideas and “how they come together”, Nkosinathi admits he feels compelled to write because it is important to, “anchor down experiences and emotion and try to give them voice. Writing has the capacity to change things, which I think is important”.
One cannot miss his animated face and general mannerism, but this is not an alter ego, rather different aspects of himself.
No stranger to the poetry scene, and the stage in general, Nkosinathi feels he should win simply because, “I’m a strong writer and performer”
When he is not blowing peoples’ minds away, Xabiso Vili is running events, as well as writing and performance workshops in Pretoria, and the greater GP, in hopes of building a strong portfolio for him to study drama therapy.
Xabiso has a deep passion for art and its remedies and says he writes to make sense of himself and his inner workings, of society and how he relates to society and vice versa. He believes art is a powerful medium which is important to “better not only ourselves, but our communities. Art has the capacity to do that”.
Having grown up watching Jo’burg poets on various stages, Xabiso feels blessed, lucky and excited to be in the finals, and believes he should win because he is “Sharing an honesty other people relate to!”
Oh, and he’s not fond of losing.
Once upon a time, there was a graffiti artist that would write “(No)body (LI)ves (F)or(E)ever, which then got shortened to NoLIFE. A lover of hip-hop, poet and rapper Carlos NoLIFE Ncube, also known as Snooty Esoteric, is back in the top 5. Well, 6 this time.
Some of his poems have a tone that can easily be read as anger, but NoLIFE says that’s just how his passion translates.
“I believe passion is driven by anger. But I also believe that passion has multiple facets. So for different people it manifests through other emotions whereas for me it manifests in what seems to be anger.”
A self-professed minimalist, NoLIFE says that all he is bringing to the stage is all his words and passion.
“Language is binding, so it is all about sharing perspective and creating discussion. Writing is a personal public thing for me!”
Asked why he should win, he says it’s time he harvests the fruits of his labour. “Poetry is war, and I’m armed!”
After a 7 year hiatus from the stage, poet Bafentse Ntlokoa, says she wasn’t even competing when performing on the Word N Sound stage earlier this year, she was just performing.
“I kind of missed performing on stage, and I like Word N Sound because it has bright lights and you can’t really see the audience. It was about performing.”
Some of her poems, like “Beautiful Like A Gaping Wound”, sound like odes; like she is in awe of her subject.
“I marvel at life… In all its vastness, in all its contradiction. I’m a seeker and enquirer of life, constantly questioning things. Like why I do whatever I do? Why I participate in whatever I participate in? So I marvel at how it’s ever changing, and it’s so vast. And there’s so much more of my own self to discover all of the time. So many layers.”
Excited to be in the Top 6, Bafentse says she should win because, “My writing is raw and honest … and me!”
Zewande Bhengue, also known as #Mcmora, was a finalist in the Slam For Your Life National Poetry Slam earlier this year, and now, is a contender for the Open Mic Champion title.
Zewande takes performance poetry to a whole new level, so he brings along his words, sounds, theatre (even chains and bare backs) to the stage. He is on a mission to bring something different and unique to the stage.
“It’s for this same reason that I want to take a break from slamming next year. I just want to explore slam and try to expand it beyond what it is understood as being. So I am trying to do something that other people are not doing. It adds quite a lot, for myself but for the audience as well, to get a picture of where the poem is coming from. That’s why I do that.”
Zewande wants to be remembered for his dedication to his art.
“I want to be remembered for being a guy who gave his all to art, and all art-forms that I engage because I do quite a bit outside of poetry. So I want to be known as the guy who not only gave his all but was also successful in all those art-forms.”
Asked why he should win, Zewande says he doesn’t know, but if he were to give a reason in 6 words, he thinks he should be crowned, “Because I’m better!”
The battle lines have clearly been drawn. One thing is for sure, each of these warrior is aware of their formidable opponents and the pressure is on. Now let the games begin!
That being said, we are all dying to see what the Top 6 have in store for us.
Oh, just in case you wanted to know, our hard-hitting contributors held their own during their encounters with the Top 6 Warriors, but the war is not over so that’s a story for another day.
In Word and Sound we trust!