Friday, 23 October 2015


 The adventure continues.....

A break down of RAISING LAZARUS is to come, I am just waiting for some pictures and I will write about it. That deserves a post of its own!

So the rest of the week was a whirlwind of performances.

I must say SA poets or at least the ones I had the pleasure of hanging out with were pure and utter fire.

Mbali Vilakazi an amazing woman who created a theatrical poetical piece, dealing with immigrants, using the real voices of immigrants she had interviewed.

An artist who is eager to try something different, eager to push the boundaries of theatre and poetry. Meeting her made me realise how lucky I have been to have been given the space, time and facilities to develop my poetry into theatre and to have been given spaces to play and develop. I hope she is given the same chance.  Artists all over the world are literally dying to be heard, dying to create, dying to be able to put their work forward and be recognised and appreciated.

It was a piece, which had me enthralled, as it was dealing with a subject Europe is struggling with. South Africa is not the only country which is having a hard time accepting immigrants.

Another poet who blew me away was Lesego Rampolokeng. I spoke about him previously as we had visited Clairmont school together. He launched his book, described as part memoir, part poetry “A half Century Thing” and during a live interview on stage spoke about the book and the issues it dealt with.

A man who has lost none of his passion for life and none of his passion for tacking head on the issue of race and the legacy of apartheid. He has a sense of humour, which is both funny and devastating at the same time.  I have yet to read the book, but you can bet your bottom dollar I bought a copy, I would willingly eat every word this man has to give.

The South African artists I saw have a way of pulling words together, which can make you hurt, smile freeze or move. Some people spoke in Zulu or other languages, languages that created a barrier which I could not break through.
But you know what, I enjoyed listening to their rhythms and I enjoyed listening to these unfamiliar sounds, I was glad they spoke their own languages it just made me wish that I to had my own language to speak.

Each morning the ladies serving breakfast would laugh at my terrible attempts at Zulu, but even though they laughed they would still help me out and repeat things until I got it right or as right as I was ever going to get them. I have a little notebook I carry around and I am not ashamed to whip it out, when I need to, to find a word I have forgotten or to learn a new word. One can have no shame when trying to learn something new.

A cut in funding meant I was the only overseas poets, bar Nii Parkes who claimed both U.K and Ghana, (where he is now living)  when usually they have quite a few. I have not seen Nii in goodness knows how long so it was wonderful to catch-up with him, hear him perform and re-acquaint myself with him.

That worked fine for me, it meant I saw a lot more SA poets than would usually attend and I was saturated with amazing SA poets.

There are too many amazing poets to mention all of them so I will post pictures and leave comments under those pictures.

I want to mention Celiswa Majali We hit it off and I shocked her one morning, when Nokolunga taught me her name over breakfast, and I suprised her by saying it. You see the first letter in her name is a click, and it took a while for my mouth to get used to that click, but eventually after a lot of fighting between my lips it did.

Here is Celiwsa during at set at Poetry Africa, she is a great performer who performs in English and Zulu.

The final night’s celebration was an open air festival on a windy but well attended night, I can’t ever remember being at such an event in the UK. Poetry here is taken very seriously and the energy and vibe was too nice.

I wrote a piece that night at the dinner table, and created a chorus, which Celiswa and I practiced, then when it was my turn she jumped on stage and we done our thing. The audience must have liked it as they joined in with the chorus. By then I had nothing more to say really, I had already performed two sets of poetry, and Raising Lazarus and performed in two schools. There was nothing left to say to be honest. This piece called “AFRICA YOU ARE” was all that was left.


You are, you are, you are my Africa
You are, you are you are my Africa
You are, you are you are my Africa
You are, you are you are my Africa.

You are my salvation and my damnation
The reason I am lost
And the reason I am found
You are my mother and my father
My teacher and my corrupter
You are the grease that soothes my cracked and parched skin
You are the lost child within.

You are my womb fertile and overbearing and words
And barren in seed,
Africa you are my confusion.
The place I should call home
But you are the one place I do not know.
You are a stranger
But stranger but strangely familiar

You are, you are you are my Africa
You are, you are you are my Africa
You are, you are you are my Africa
You are, you are you are my Africa.

My colonised tongue struggles to hold you
You slip through my vowels
Passing through like water
You are the dark patches on my knees,
The thickness of my lips
The scoop in my back
The mystery in my eyes
and the black sweetness between my thick thighs

You are the struggle in my spirit
The ancestor in my fingertips
You force me to stand when I prefer to sit,
To scream when I prefer to stay silent,
Walk when I wish to crawl,
You are my contradiction
You are my pain, my joy,
My orgasm, my prison,
You are the struggle within,
The innocence and the sin,
The blood, the tears,
The black anger, the black fears.

You are, you are you are my Africa
You are, you are you are my Africa
You are, you are you are my Africa
You are, you are you are my Africa.

Kat Francois

The chorus is a little sad and mournful, but I guess that was how I was feeling, the end of the festival, the end of a week of talk and debate and discussion and poetry, and running around and eye opening conversation. It would be a week I would not forget in a hurry.

He had a wonderful energy and flow and one of his poems had the whole audience chanting." Burn dem, and destroy them." Powerful words, powerful performance. 

An funny talented poet who also takes on the alter ego of a singer, just what was needed after night of poetry and intense words.

A poet who performed mainly in her traditional tongue and although I did not understand it was wonderful to hear her, a great performer is a great performer and this can transcend language. Her pieces covered rape and male circumcision. 

                                         THANDO FUZE
This poet was a joy to hear, young passionate and dealing with gender issues, which many others would shy from. 


A lovely soul and a beautiful poet, there is a calmness and wisdom about here which was great to be around. 

One of themes memorable performers was NTSISKI MAZWI, she was an amazing,  a well known singer/poet/songwriter who performed along alone side a very revered Durban musician. On the final night she was joined by some school children who sand and harmonised up a storm, I am not lying when I say it was one of the most beautiful things I have heard.  The joke is Rob has a track of hers he played regularly at Word4Word, he was gutted when he realised, after the festival who she was. 

There are still more poets and I will continue to introduce to them.

Poetry Africa was an amazing experience, and I am grateful for it, grateful for everyone who made it happen, and that I was even able to get out here in the first place. Travel is only ever a good thing, a chance to connect with others, talk, debate, discuss but most of all listen. Who would have thought that poetry would take little old me to the Motherland. 

I cannot claim to know South Africa, I have seen nothing of South Africa to be honest, but this trip so far has been one of both beauty and ugly, one of poetry and words,pain and joy, and dark and light. I cannot remember the last time I have examined race and race issues and the impact of racism so closely, day in and day out.

London is a bubble a protective bubble that we take for granted, which houses many different races and although we may not all get on, we survive, we cope, we blend, we mingle, we manage to live and work side by side. We are aware of the issues, we deal with them, we talk and protest and demonstrate and try and tackle them, but this level of racism and poverty I have seen here is on another level.

I have seen young boys, 12,13 year old's, begging, in the streets, there is no doubt they are in need, filthy hair, filthy clothes, there is something not right when the most vulnerable in a society are not protected. Some children here in rural schools are taught in classes of 60 plus, numbers which would have us up in arms. some cannot even go to school as they cannot afford uniforms or travel or food! 

Yes I know these are things we know, things we have heard before, but when you hear if from the mouth of the horse when you see the impact it has, it's a whole different story. 
You can no longer hide behind the safety of your own life because no matter how hard things are, not matter how difficult the reality is most of us live comfortable lives. Most of us have food, clothes, decent shoes and a roof over our head, to be honest most of us have mush more than we need. 

I am due back at Clairmont school, next Tuesday where I will perform in an assembly and run a workshop, before getting back to rehearsals, I will perform four shows, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and -Sunday, there is still a lot of work to do, we are piecing the play together at the moment, trying best to find the right way to tackle this most divisive subject of race. I am nervous, eager that we handle this right, sometimes I question what I was thinking, question what the hell I am doing in SA putting on a play with a white South African on race. This experience is not one I am going to forget in a hurry. 

Thanks again to Rob for the amazing pictures which accompany this blog.
I will keep writing, keep trying to put my thoughts, feelings and experiences into some kind of coherent ramble. 

I will be back soon, time is limited, whilst working on the play but I will try my best to keep you all up dated...

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