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Victor Dlamini

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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Podcast with Mark de Brito, Oracle of the African Diaspora

Heron's CanoeTrickster's TongueMark de Brito“Diaspora” is a word of increasing significance in our quest to understand the effect that emigration, displacement, dislocation, and even exile have on the experiences and cultural expressions of a people. There are to be found, in much of the poetry and the other writings that connect the various “diasporas” of the world, kernels of what it means to belong to a group, no matter how tenuous the links may be.

(There are other words that accompany “diaspora”, of course: “post-colonial” is one that springs to mind, but at best it is a clumsy word, one that is virtually impossible to glean any meaning from that goes beyond subjective vagueness. It may well be that some tags outlive their usefulness, and in the case of “post-colonial”, if it ever meant any one thing in particular, this clarity of definition has been lost in the haze of of popular usage that has rendered the term bewildering.)
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Podcast: Pumla Dineo Gqola on “Rainbowism”

DifferencePumla Dineo GqolaThe writer, academic and feminist Pumla Dineo Gqola has taken up a spirited analysis of the many images that South Africans like to hold up as mirrors to their society. At a time when some still favour political correctness, Pumla’s voice has risen above the hush-hush of the polite talk to insist on bursting open the reservoir of myths created to sustain SA’s new society. Pumla’s writings have appeared in both academic and popular as well as creative anthologies, and her voice has become one of the most important additions to post-colonial discourse. Her academic articles on feminism and African and Caribbean literature, in particular, have caught the attention of many critical readers.

Through her various writings, Pumla has been prepared to pose awkward questions, forcing us to look past the facades that are often mistaken for the real thing when the nature of South African society – particularly its complex social relations – is discussed. For instance, she has written extensively on how South African role models like Archbishop Desmond Tutu have provided some of the language markers that have allowed South Africans to negotiate their way – mentally, morally – out of the Apartheid morass.

Join me on this fascinating episode of The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast as I chat to Pumla about her views on political expediency, and how it is often expressed through popularised concepts that resonate uncritically within society and the media.

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Podcast with Napo Masheane, a Black Woman with a Voice

Napo MasheaneNapo Masheane has carved out a path all her own on the way to a career that brings together music, writing, poetry, spoken word performances, and other excursions into theatre and production.

Her unique poetic oeuvre is marked by a melding of the traditional poem/song forms of the BaSotho with the free-flowing beat of Hip Hop – and yet her work still pays homage to “conventional” verse. With the publication of Caves Speak in Metaphors – her first anthology of poetry and essays – Napo has brought the promise of her stage performances onto the page, and it says something of her powers as a writer that the poems can actually be read with as much pleasure and meaning as is conveyed when she performs them.

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Podcast: Conversation with Lebo Mashile, One of Africa’s Strongest Voices

Ribbon of RhythmLebo MashileIt was James Baldwin who said of Maya Angelou, “You will hear the regal woman, the mischievous street girl; you will hear the price of a black woman’s survival and you will hear of her generosity. Black, bitter and beautiful, she speaks of our survival”. It is to these words that I turned as I confronted the phenomenon that is Lebo Mashile. Join me on this wonderful voyage of discovery as I chat to a new South African icon, here on the Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast.

Lebo defies easy categorization because she has taken on so many roles: she is at once a poet (her first book of poetry, In a Ribbon of Rhythm, Oshun, 2006, received the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa); an actress, and presenter; a performance artist; an executive producer; a skills facilitator; and perhaps most importantly, a social and cultural activist.

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A Newly-Born Calf

Poet Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali has given me permission to re-run some of the poems contained in his first collection, Sounds of a Cowhide Drum.

Oswald Mtshali

A Newly-Born Calf

A newly-born calf
is like oven-baked bread
steaming under a cellophane cover
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Boy On A Swing

Poet Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali has given me permission to re-run some of the poems contained in his first collection, Sounds of a Cowhide Drum.

Slowly he moves
to and fro, to and fro
then faster and faster
he swishes up and down.

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Podcast: Mmatshilo Motsei on Writing, Healing and Activism

Kanga Kangaroo CourtMmatshilo Motsei, writer, healer and activistI recently met with Mmatshilo Motsei in her Pretoria home – with its beautiful, lush gardens – to talk to her about her book, The Kanga and the Kangaroo Court – and to hear about how some men still suggest that when a woman is raped the clothes she was wearing can be used to tell whether she “asked for it” or not. The setting and the subject matter could not have made for a starker contrast in that moment.

Mmatshilo wears her many roles with charming elegance. She is at once a poet, a public speaker, a creative strategist, a gender and peace activist, a trainer, a healer, a rural development practitioner and a writer.

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An Abadoned Bundle

Poet Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali has given me permission to re-run some of the poems contained in his first collection, Sounds of a Cowhide Drum.

An Abandonded Bundle

The morning mist
and chimney smoke
of White City Jabavu
flowed thick yellow
as pus oozing
from a gigantic sore.

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Podcast: Shailja Patel on “Migritude”

Shailja PatelI recently travelled to the coastal city of Durban to attend some of the performances at Poetry Africa 2007. In this episode of The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast, I bring you a conversation I had with the phenomenally talented Shailja Patel, who performed at the festival. I’m also pleased to bring you, in addition to our chat, part of a private performance that Shailja gave at a dinner held on the Berea Ridge.

Shailja Patel has already added to our lexicon with the word “migritude” – which she coined for the title of her signature performance piece – but it is as a spoken-word theatre artist and poet that she truly seizes the imagination. Shailja brings to performance poetry a very strong sense of language and an uncanny ability to make historical connections that reverberate across the ages, linking what seems intensely personal with the overtly political.

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Podcast: Dennis Brutus on Poetry, Protest and Global Apartheid

In 2007 I had the pleasure of meeting the poet and social activist Dennis Brutus on a balmy, typically tropical evening at the Berea, Durban house of a mutual friend. Such was the warmth of that evening that Brutus agreed to meet me at the grand dame of Durban hotels, The Royal Hotel for a conversation that I think we both enjoyed very much. It may have been my first meeting with Brutus, but it was one that I had been looking forward to for a long time because of the great work that Brutus has done in both the areas of poetry and social justice. We settled to a wide ranging conversation that I published as part of my series of Literary Podcasts, and I now take this opportunity to republish what I consider one of my favourite interviews.

The great poet may have departed from this world but he leaves behind a towering legacy, and those that care for using the arts to promote social justice would do well to emulate his example. I was struck by his insistence that those who seek to promote social justice cannot be seduced by Free Market evangelists, and this was well before the catastrophic decline in world markets as a result of the 2008 global recession. He was not just fearless, he was eloquent and this made him a formidable foe, and a great ally.

2007 marks the 30th anniversary of Steve Biko‘s death. In tribute, The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast presents episodes that explore, explicitly or implicitly, the effect this African philosopher has had on South Africa.

Poetry and ProtestDennis BrutusJoin me in a conversation with one of South Africa’s most powerful poets, Dennis Brutus, an artist who has used his stature and his incisively eloquent views to oppose tyranny and injustice wherever they occur in the world. As you’ll hear, he brings a fresh and vivid perspective to topics ranging from Steve Biko to race and literature – especially the depiction by South African writers of sexual relations across the color line.

With his first two collections of poetry, Dennis quickly established a wide audience in Europe, the United States, Africa and the Caribbean. He used his finely-written verse to call the world’s attention to the crime of apartheid. Once he had achieved fame as a writer, Dennis used every opportunity to oppose South Africa’s heinous race laws.

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