Thando Mngqibisa (pictured) is one of the young poetic voices to emerge out of the Joburg poetry scene and she can’t be ignored for her steadfast approach to her work. She has been part of the Tower of Thought (TO….T) poetry collective since about 2006 and made it to the finals of the Word N’ Sound slam competition last year.

Now she has self-published her first anthology of poems in a book called One Big Word and proves that youngsters are doing it for them-selves on their own terms. This coincides with her now being a qualified doctor.

She is a relevant voice because she is intelligent and aware of herself and the world around her. Also because her content represents the diverse conversations of her generation. Her intelligence reveals itself in the detailed places her imagination goes in her poems, whether mythical or science fiction, and she is not scared to indulge her darkness.

“The book represents a coming of age and I recognise my relevance as a poet. It is named after one of the poems I wrote when I had writer’s block. All I was looking for was that one big word that would become a poem. It features some dark poems written during my varsity years when I was despondent about life. It also features poems I’ve written now with a more mature voice.”

The book has illustrations to add more hue to the words. The idea to self-publish shows the deter-mination of young poets to make poetry a vocation, creating opportunities for themselves in their own way. Mngqibisa’s peers are selling poetry albums from their backpacks at poetry readings and putting on one-man poetry shows, pushing their boundaries.

“I’d love to ultimately show people that they’re not alone in their dysfunction and warped thoughts.

“Most importantly, I would like to create a place where people can enjoy literary art that is South African, but not necessarily ensconced in protest and mob anger.

A part of South African literature has so been focused on poverty and apartheid that it is almost wrong to be middle class. This is limiting and I want to challenge that.”

One Big Word can be found at Xarra Books/, at Constitutional Hill and at iSipho at the Market Theatre.

Mngqibisa is also putting together an event called SPEAK, which honours the national campaign 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Child Abuse


As a rape survivor she has been using Facebook as a platform for her social activism, and SPEAK is a culmination of that. It will see a convergence of artists, academics, survivors and supporters of the cause coming to share their knowledge and experience in an artistic, supportive environment.

“I was raped by an ex-boyfriend. We were in the process of breaking up… which explains why we were together at my house when it happened. The reason I decided to speak publicly about my experience is because… violence and abuse should never be filed as private, and people need to keep hearing and understand our woes and standpoint before anything will ever change.”

• Speakers and performers include poet Lebohang Nova Masango, actress and survivor Nandi Nyembe, poet and historian Sarah Godsell, poet and survivor Masai Dabula and academic Danai Maputsa just to name a few. This takes place at the Joburg Theatre complex in Braamfontein on Saturday from 3pm. Entrance is free.