Poet and cultural activist, Toni Stuart of I am Somebody! has linked up with the "100 000 Poets for Change" event.
Poet and cultural activist, Toni Stuart of I am Somebody! has linked up with the "100 000 Poets for Change" event.
BLOWING COOL: Sisonke Xonti
BLOWING COOL: Sisonke Xonti
SKAFTIEN: Dat will appear at Skaftien at Guga S'Thebe on Sunday.
SKAFTIEN: Dat will appear at Skaftien at Guga S'Thebe on Sunday.

RAP POET Ewok reckons poets in Colombia are treated like rock stars. “We were mobbed after our poetry sessions at our recent visit at the International Poetry Festival of Medellin. Poets are seriously respected in Colombia.”

Let’s hope the pioneering project, 100 000 Poets for Change, will be a start to change our growing poetry scene in South Africa. It is the first poetry event of its kind, with 600 events taking place in 450 cities in 95 countries, marking a celebration of poetry as a tool for social, environmental and political change.

Lansdowne poet Toni Stuart has linked up with this ambitious project: “Every voice has a tune. Every heart has a beat. And the world is large enough to hold all of us side by side drumming in unison and in cacophony,” she says.

“But what happens in the silence? What happens in the moments when the music of daily living dies down? When we lay down our instruments of questioning, building, fighting, creating, arguing, learning, debating and developing? Do we like what rings out from us in the silence… or do we run away from it?”

Stuart started the project I Am Somebody! with fellow storyteller Nicole le Roux nearly three years ago. “The passion that drove me to start I Am Somebody! was that through my own life, I had come to realise that at the centre of my fears, obstacles and self-imposed limitations was the belief that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t matter. As I worked through this, and came to truly see and value myself, I noticed how so many people are confronted with the same belief in different ways. I Am Somebody! is about creating spaces for people to discover and share their own story, and in doing so come to see that they matter and that there is enough space for all of us to be who we are… and create a community of people that support each other to grow and thrive,” explains Stuart.

She says the aim of the project is to bring together people from different cultures and classes “where we are all able to see and hear each other, because we first hear and see ourselves”.

I am Somebody! is working across privileged and disadvantaged communities to bring together people from different classes and cultures.

One of its big successes has been establishing a “partner exchange network” which brings together NGOs from the sectors of arts and culture, health, environment, reconciliation and community development, to exchange resources, services and skills in order to support each other.

By 2016, the goal is to have two groups of young adults graduate from its mentorship programme, and for its mentorship and Partner Exchange Network to be a thriving model of bringing communities together through exchange, and then to roll it out in Gauteng. “In 2021, we see our mentorship and exchange model being replicated across South Africa and adapted for use in other countries,” explains the young visionary dynamo who has been writing poetry since she was 15.

A former journalist, she says that career helped her see how much people were affirmed by having their stories told. “As a poet, writing and sharing my work enabled me to find my voice, discover who I am and learn to accept all parts of me – even those I am uncomfortable with or do not like. Through my poetry and writing I saw that I had something to offer the world and that, when I shared it, it had a positive impact on those people I shared it with, and on the people around me.”

Other artists working for change are the cool creative collective Skaftien, who host their fundraising event this Sunday at Guga S’Thebe, KwaLanga.

Skaftien, which means “lunchbox”, was born from the idea of creatively raising money for community organisations through performances and crowd engagement. The first event raised R6 000 for the Red, Green and Gold community-run crèche in Philippi which used the funds to build a much needed roof.

Expect a meal, live music and dance. Performers are DJ Dathini Mzayiya, Plan B, which includes vocalist Sakhile Moleshe of Gold Fish fame, pianist and 2011 Standard Bank Young Artist of the year winner Bokani Dyer, tenor saxophonist Sisonke Xonti, hip hop artist DAT and visual artist Ms Nomthunzi Mashalaba. All these scorching-hot talented artists have contributed their time and skills at no cost to the Skaftien event.

l I Am Somebody! presents “The Change Within”, a 100 000 Poets for Change event tomorrow at a private home in Wynberg at 6pm featuring Toni Stuart. Tickets are R100, including a supper of hot soup and bread. Booking is essential. Call Toni at 071 573 3597, or e-mail [email protected] See www.iamsomebody.co.za

Skaftien, a creative collective for change, takes place this Sunday at Guga S’Thebe, KwaLanga at the corner of Washington and Church streets in Langa. The event will run from noon to 3pm. Tickets are R60. Call Juliet Nanfuka at 073 350 0626, or e-mail [email protected] See www.facebook.com/skaftienkaapstad