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Victor Dlamini

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Podcast: Live from the Launch of Lebo Mashile’s Flying Above the Sky

Lebo Mashile Flying Above the SkyThis episode with Lebo Mashile – our second together – marks a first for the Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast: it’s the first one I’ve ever done “live”, in front of an audience.

The audience in question comprised those who turned out, in large numbers, to witness the launch of Lebo’s second collection of poems, Flying Above the Sky, earlier this month. What a night it turned out to be, with Lebo first delivering a powerful and deeply felt recital. As she took hold of the mic at at Johannesburg’s Dance Factory, she planted her feet firmly on the ground – then transported us to a soaring world. Her poetic vision lifted our consciousness, dislodging preconceptions and beliefs and replacing them, sometimes with doubt, but as often with hope.

After the performance, Lebo graciously invited me to join her on stage to chat to her about her new work, and I recorded our conversation. Tune in as I chat to this extraordinarily talented poet with a fiery voice.

In a Ribbon of RhythmLebo MashileIt is often said of creative writers that it is easier to write their first book than it is to write the second one. Like all things that are repeated often enough, the truth of the statement may lie more in the retelling than in any demonstrable fact. In any case, Lebo Mashile’s second book, Flying Above the Sky proves without a doubt that there is life after the first book.

If, in her Noma-award-winning debut collection, In a Ribbon of Rhythm, her gaze was fixed most tellingly on those things that lie outside the province of the self – society and its power relations, for example – then in the new book, Lebo trains her powers of observation on the inner self, and the drama of living as an individual in South Africa. One senses a deepening of the poet’s voice, and a greater sense of how the very idea of self might impact on what we see, hear and do.

Lebo MashileLebo Mashile Lebo has been influenced by writers such such as Alice Walker, Bessie Head, Nikki Giovanni, Nawal el Saadawi, Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, Buchi Emecheta and Toni Morrison. Nine years after leaving the United States to return to South Africa, she went back to the US to attend the Yarri Yarri Phambari Writers Conference in New York City, and performed her poetry in the presence of several of the writers on this list – writers who had led her to fall in love with the written and spoken word, including Angelou, Walker and el Saadawi. Within South Africa, she has shared the stage with the likes of Napo Masheane, Gabeba Baderoon and Maishe Maponya, and she counts Don Mattera and Keorapetse Kgositsile as strong influences amongst her SA contemporaries.

Lebo herself, it’s fair to say, has become an influence – more than that, a role model, for thousands of aspirant South African writers. I’m very proud to bring you this second podcast with her:

  • Play now: use the widget links below, or click the link under Latest episodes in the sidebar on the right.
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Lebo Mashile


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