We recently attended the sixth Poetry in McGregor Festival 2018, where about 160 of SA’s top poets performed their works at various venues across the quirky Langebaan village, including the likes of Kobus Moolman, Ian McCallum, Galeo Saintz and Douglas Reid Skinner.
Don’t recognise these names? Neither did I. And they are some of our most prominent poets in the country. What a pity we don’t celebrate our local poetry more! I’ve always loved poetry as a personal way of expressing, and I am a true believer in the beauty of words. So heading to this festival was a no brainer (I’m shocked it took us this long TBH).
While many of the shows were sold out before we knew it, I managed to remember my Computicket password just long enough to book tickets to a show called “Sharpen Yours Spears” with Jozi poet Zama Madinana for the Saturday afternoon.
Sharpen your spearsZama Madinana
The live reading of his poems was raw, honest, intriguing and covered some uncomfortable topics about African history, politics and poverty, while touching on love, sex, family and other personal topics. The intimate setting allowed for a causal Q&A session afterwards, where Zama gave us insight into his journey of discovering creative expression as a means to interpret his experiences of the world. Like an artist or painter, he observes and expresses, observes and expresses, and feels the responsibility to highlight the truth in his work – hence the hard hitting subject matter.
An article in Sowetan Live from 2013 says that “Zama Madinana’s poetry is his way of expressing emotion and giving voice to political issues that affect the African continent.” It cites him as being from Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, and self-publishing his second collection of poems, or “anthology”, called Rescue in December 2013.
According to a Cape Times article, Zama released another anthology in June 2017, called A Womb of Time, a collection of 22 poems, which explores topics such as the passage of time, the concept of freedom, the problems facing Africa and her people and religion.
“The aim of Poetry in McGregor Festival 2018 is to honour poets and poetry by giving poets a platform to share their voices,” says Jennifer Johnson, McGregor Poetry Festival Director. And it seems to be the only event of its kind in the country doing just that, drawing major crowds to the sleepy village – I’ve never seen so many cars lining the streets! And we visit McG often.
Billy Kennedy, Founder of the Poetry in McGregor Festival believes that poetry as an art form deserves more platforms and support. “In a world constantly speeding up and bombarded by information, Poetry can remind us to slow down and to reflect more consciously and sensitively on our lives and our deeper connection to ourselves, to one another and to the world.”
Amen to that!
The Poetry in McGregor Festival also offers activities such as writing workshops and art exhibitions on its programme. The organisers of this festival are NPO the MAC Project (McGregor Arts Community) and any profits are channelled back into the community of McGregor and give support to local community projects – which is pretty cool.
Another incredible local poet whom I follow is Koleka Putuma. I was recently spoiled with a gift of her book Collective Amnesia – the book has gained major acclaim and was featured across media outlets in 2017, perhaps mostly due to the content of her work being so thought-provoking and relevant to our cultural zeitgeist right now.
Please do check out her live performance pieces on YouTube, especially Water:
And to end, here’s a poem that I wrote a long time ago – a poem about poetry:
“Formulated thoughts I’m not sure where they start
It seems that words are a traceable art
And wielding and riding this pattern of sound
Is a place of silent retreatment I’ve found
Where my brain spins around and around and around
The state of mind of a tumble dryer
A mouth on fire with a flawless desire
But fingers the instrument, pen is the tool
Pretty words are useless, a poet’s a fool
No value in penny the arrangement of letters
Consonants cutting the writers are betters
For luck is the sword that is mightier still
Than the fancying flight of a poet’s skill”