Saturday, 31 October 2015


Today for one of the first time ever I cried on stage.
Shit got deep out there. Broke down and bawled like a baby.
Why?  I can’t even tell you the reason why right now. 
All I know this process has been challenging, difficult, revealing, tiring, draining, emotional and raw.
Police violence is no joke, even years after the fact.
I still carry the scars even if I don’t admit it to myself.

Dealing with race issues day in and day out for almost 3 weeks, as I have been here in South Africa has taken its toil. Working with a white South African going head to head day in and day out, has obviously been eating at me more than I thought. The racial injustices and disparities I have witnessed have obviously impacted me more than I thought.

Sometimes there are no words only feelings. I do not cry easy but today the tears fell.

Today was the third performance of I to 1 with Iain Ewok Robinson, tomorrow I will be the last and we will have our first Q & A after the performance.
That should be a very interesting exercise.
I am filled with trepidation and nervousness, this is art, art at it’s most raw and revealing.
This is what being an artist is about the self doubt, the questions, the moments of madness and the moments of clarity. 

I am not sure where on the spectrum I am right now!

Back in London today was the 7th annual United Family and Friends Campaign march again deaths in police custody, which I have been attending for years. I am aware that unlike many of the grieving families who attend. I am one of the lucky ones, I am one of the lucky ones who almost died in police custody, but who survived. I am one of the lucky ones who now has a platform to speak, expose racism and bring the horrific treatment, black people face at the hands of police to light. 

This process was never going to be easy, but dealing with race in the land of Apartheid, opposite a white South African, without my usual support network was always going to take this sh*t to different level and it did. 

One more show to go.....
Who knows what will happen on the stage tomorrow.....

Thursday, 29 October 2015


Tuesday I went back to Clairwood Secondary School, a school I visited the first week I was here with Poetry Africa.

I had an amazing time.The teacher Simi who invited me back is so sweet and dedicated and I have nothing but admiration for her and teachers like her who work so hard to teach and inspire and even mother the children they work with.

The first class of the day was just finishing when I arrived so I performed a quick 5 min set for them. I performed Poetry Addict, and the Granny scene from RAISING LAZARUS. I encouraged them to speak to their relatives and collect stories, as their stories were important, interesting and the truth.The first class had a couple of girls who had seen me previously and I got lovely hugs and compliments from them. I tell you working with kids pulls on my heartstrings constantly.

The second class I had for an hour. I performed poems and answered questions.

I performed, Poetry Addict, Tube Rage, Granny, Rise Dark Girls and Does My Anger Scare You.

There was a question about what England was really like and I was honest, honest about the racism, honest about the opportuniteis, honest about the fact that kids get free bus passes and do not have to walk to school like they do. I talked about police brutality and my experience of it.

When I performed Rise Dark Girls Rise, I got all the girls up and to the front of class, and had them singing the chorus, it was a lovely moment.

It was an inspired morning, you know the schools bring you in to inspire, but it’s the opposite… the pupils end up inspiring you.

I invited the pupils to perform as well and two boy's kindly obliged.The first boy that performed was a mixed raced boy whose poems touched on that. 

The second boy was a tall black boy who looked down at the floor the whole time but who had the most commanding deep voice, His poems dealt with overcoming difficulties. Later on I found out he is usually very shy, sits at the front of the class and has nothing to say!

I gave them both one of my poetry books to say thank you for being brave enough to perform.

Another boy came up to me and begged for a book, said he was too shy to perform could he please have a book…. how could I say no.

The last two weeks have been a challenge, all the debate and discussion and arguing, with Iain Ewok Robinson, the white artist I am working on the play with, at times I have been drained and frustrated, but Tuesday morning revitalised and reenergised me and reminded me of the importance of the work I am doing.

When you talk to a teacher who is struggling to keep pupils in school, who has pupils so poor they cannot afford the bus fare, and kids leaving school with no education but leaving with two babies. When the resources you have are so limited that many of your pupils will not leave school able to read or write.

                                            Simi and I, this teacher is amazing, warm and inspiring.

When you have pupils who are forced to be educated in a language that is not their first language, so they will always be behind. That is inspiring, that is humbling, that is motivating.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015



This weekend, we took time out and got much needed head space. The whole process of writing a play, debating, discussing race issues, was starting to take its toll by the end of the week. This is not easy work; this is challenging work, work that hits you in the gut.

Iain and I decided to step back and have a breather from each other and the whole process. Yesterday Rob and I went to a local market and picked up some beads and jewelry to take home.

We found our way back to the same area where we intercepted the march on Friday,

I am now a lot more bulshy, it has not taken me long to settle in. I am like, take me as I am or do not take me at all. I walk around with Rob hand in hand, it is what it is. I think I took it a little too far yesterday, when three sisters made some inaudible comment, and I turned and confronted them.

“What’s your problem, if you got anything to say just say it.”

In fact they were saying how beautiful they thought I was, whilst I thought they were chatting about Rob and I. Oh the shame, the shame, the shame. We had a good laugh and a good talk and all was well. I had to humble up myself and a lesson was learnt! Luckily they were good-natured and were not offended by my crazy behavior.

A lovely hand bracelet I was given by a Zulu woman in the market, after I bought lots of bracelets and necklaces from her stall!

We found ourselves in front of a square where some young Zulu girls were dancing which was great to see, but what really caught my eye was a man taking locks out of a woman’s head, as if they were extensions. Beside him were piles of locks, which were obviously not hers, but which he had just removed from her head!

I have never seen anything like this in my life. It seems that in SA you can sell your locks, and other people who do not have the patience to grow them, or only want them for a short amount of time, can purchase them and have them put in their head. Beside him was a row of different types of locks which people had cut and sold to him.

I spoke to the guy and he was from Zimbabwe. It was an amazing thing to see, but you know what I loved about it, at least our hair is valued enough to be sold… good African locked hair has a price. I saw another guy sewing in locks to one lady, this lady must have bought her own as she was taking them out of her bag, one by one and handing them to him. What a ting.

We walked around the local shopping area for a bit and things got a little hectic, lots of people, lots of noise, lots of market stalls.  One thing I noted was how dirty the streets were compared with Glenwood, the area we are staying in which is a more up market area.

The big difference was that every day I have seen people, black people, cleaning the streets in Glenwood even if there is nothing but leaves to clean. Here it was obvious that this is not the same.

I saw kids singing on the street to make a little money and a young boy of about 14 approached me for money. It’s hard to say no to everyone, it’s hard to say yes to everyone. He claimed he wanted something to eat, he was earnest and heartfelt and I could not find it in my heart to say no. Continuing to walk, there were women, with children in-between their legs begging, old women begging. I had to look forward in the end, my eyes forward so I could not see them, ignoring the calls and cries for help. I could not help everyone.

This day has to be one of my best days ever. I spent the day with Nokolunga Dlada, who I met during Poetry Africa she was gracious enough to come over to the place I am staying at last week, and have an intense talk and discussion with me around issues of race and what it really means to be black in South Africa. I really felt I needed to talk to someone who really knows rather than presuming anything. I also wanted Iain, the guy I am working with, the director who is his wife, and Rob, to be able to sit down and listen to black people talk without interrupting, the aim was for them to just listen. I am grateful that she took the time out to do that.

She met us today and took us out on a day trip. I have not laughed so much since I arrived here and it was just the antidote to the intense work I have been doing the last week.

Nokolunga has a beautiful spirit and is funny as hell. She bought along a friend, Khanyi, and we went on what I can describe as a mini African road trip. She was gracious enough to take us to the area she lived, Pinetown, and then we headed out further to the school she teaches at Dick Ndlovu High School, which is in a semi rural area, and then even further into the rural areas.

The school was basic, I mean really basic, the only library was full of books which were now defunct as they no longer followed the curriculum!

What I love though is Nokolunga’s passion to teach and reach out to young people regardless of the challenges that being a teacher in SA face.  A large number of children do not even finish school, for many different reasons. School goes up to 18 in South Africa and by then some of the girls are on their second children!

The areas Nokolunga showed us were beautiful, rolling hills, valleys, green, green, green and more green. The little I have seen shows me how beautiful SA is. I can understand why white people wanted to colonise it.

We stopped off and were introduced to a lovely delicacy which is just like a dumpling, a massive round fried dumpling, it was so hot but lovely. When we stopped off, everyone stared at Rob; I do not think they see a lot of white people around there!

The rural areas were eye opening; limited electricity and water supply, there were large containers with water, which people and even at times animals were using.

It made me think about how I leave the tap on at home, the lights on, how many pairs of shoes and coats and just clothes in general I have. I have way more than I could need now, it’s time to start downsizing. I was also reminded today of how little I had when I was younger and I was just fine. Things do not make you happy. In fact I think I would be happier, if I de-cluttered and got rid of a lot of stuff.

A lot of the kids from rural areas have to walk over an hour to get to the school Nokoluga works at. What does that do to a kid, walking over an hour to school, how tired must you be when you arrive. I think of our kids back home, who have free bus travel or mum or dad drops them to school, it is a different world.

We ended up in PheZula a tourist park, which has a village and ZULU dancing, a game reserve with vegetarian animals, and even a lizard and snake park.

It was all a bit touristy but it was perfect, just what we needed. We watched the dance, which was fun, although I got the impression it was the end of the day and the dancers would be glad when it was all finished, but that was cool, It can’t be very stimulating performing the same routine day in and day out.

Here is me broking out! No shame when they invited us to dance, you know I jumped up and just started flinging myself around!

This was part of the performance the dancers put on for us.

The dancers were gracious enough to pose for pictures afters with and my new crazy friends x

Poor Rob not only does he stand out due to his witness but also his height!
This is me trying my hand at grinding down corn, I don't think I was doing a very good job!

We then ended up in a Congolese restaurant, Nokolunga dropped us back home, we knocked back the food and then I collapsed on the sofa and had to sleep.

This is me tired, but just about to tuck into some nice food! Life is good.

What a day, it was a real fun day full of laughter and learning. Nokolunga is exactly the kind of person who you want to meet when you are travelling, someone who will take the time to show you and tell you about the real life, the everyday day life, which will put you straight and tell you the truth of a place.

It was a day to remember a day that made me feel both grateful and sad. Grateful to share this experience but sad, sad that for the majority of indigenous South Africans, basic daily life is a struggle, whilst white people still sit at the top like fat cats licking the cream off the milk.

All photos by Rob/Sloetry Photography

Saturday, 24 October 2015



They do not just march, they sing, they dance, they chant,
They pound the ground with young angry feet,
The heat beats,
But their hearts beat harder,
They come, they come, they come, the young they come,
Dark and beautiful and angry, they come
With fire and energy and hunger
A hunger for knowledge and hunger to sit, learn and elevate
A hunger to step up the ladder,
the ladder which keeps being pulled out from under black feet.

Everywhere they turn obstacles are placed in their way.
They march for free education
They march so they can afford to eat
They march so they do not have to walk to university
They march so they have somewhere to sleep at night.
They march so their families do not have to sacrifice in order for them to learn.
They are loud, they are passionate, they are clear

"Fees must fall
 Fees must fall
 Fees must fall
 Fees must fall
 Fees must fall
 Fees must fall."

I watch, I stand, I soak myself in the middle of this young energy,
This new energy
These new voices which refuse to be silenced,
They are demanding to be heard,
I hear them, I feel them. I admire them.
It’s hot but the heat does not penetrate,
They are stronger than the sun,

Resistance is in abundance out here.
Resistance is in the air
Resistance is in their eyes
Resistance is in their voices
Resistance is in the songs they sing.
At times if feels more like a celebration than a protest,
but there is anger, there is pain, there is a sense of betrayal. 
Those emotions are not hard to find.

I talk to students, record their voices,
They tell me of hardships, of rage that their lives, 
black lives have not changed,
Of financial exclusion
Of being classed as too rich for assistance
They tell me they are too black for loans,
They tell me some are not smart enough for a bursary
They tell me they are too poor to continue education after the first year
A male student tells me the only way to create change,
is for black penis’s to Impregnate white wombs
and create a brown world.
His words are so inflammatory, I fear for his safety.

Something scares the crowd and they run,
scores of frightened black faces
run towards me
I do not know why they are running,
But only a fool would stand still,
I run too
Fear activates my legs,
The tension is edible 
you could cut into it like a large slice of Durban cake,
It would not take much to light the flame of violence.
I am no longer sitting in front of a TV screen
throwing naive commentary from the safety of my English sofa
This is not a Hollywood movie
I am in the belly of the beast, 
Luckily it is a false alarm; all is well,
But I am shook
it is time for to leave,
I sheepishly retreat
They continue to march
I have the option to turn my back 
and leave the fight behind.
They do not.