Mjele Msimang. Picture: Supplied
Mjele Msimang. Picture: Supplied

24th Poetry Africa Festival announces winners

By Entertainment Reporter Time of article published Oct 20, 2020

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The 24th Poetry Africa Festival ended on a high note after announcing their competition winners.

After a week long celebration of poetry and poets, the 24th Poetry Africa festival came to a close on Saturday, October 17.

The annual international festival, curated and presented by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal provided a vital opportunity to reflect, celebrate and critically reflect on the role of poetry in the movement for social change.

The week long programme featured engagements with poets, showcases of readings by emerging and established poets, seminars and professional development workshops, book launches, competitions and a children’s production.

Siphindile Hlongwa, festival curator said the team was proud to have embraced change.

“It gave access to thousands of our followers to immerse themselves in quality programming through our online platforms.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed huge divides and inequalities in South African society.

“The poets who participated in the festival used the power of their words and thoughts to respond to the human condition and the social environment, as the festival was aptly themed: ’Poetry for Social Change’,” said Hlongwa.

During the closing of the Poetry Africa festival, the finalists and winners in the schools, open mic and slam competitions were honoured.

This year’s online version made it possible for entrants from anywhere in South Africa to participate in the Schools Competition.

The schools’ competition was won by “PRYZ the poet” (Praise Mlalazi), from Kwa-Bhekilanga Secondary School in Alexandra, with a poem titled after her area ‘Alexandra’.

The 19-year old poet fell in love with writing at the age of 12 and her poem speaks about all the things she experiences in Alexandra.

The second prize and third prize went to 16 year old Tumelo Mohoto and 17 year old Lebo Nxele respectively, both learners at George Campbell School of Technology in Durban.

The Open Mic competition is one of the most popular public participation events at the Poetry Africa festival.

This year’s competition attracted almost 300 entries. The youngest entrant was 15 years old, and the eldest entrant was 65 years old.

The themes have been varied with poets talking about gender violence, homelessness, identity, dreams, love and almost anything that stirs our consciousness.

In the past, the Open Mic competition was also reserved for participants from KwaZulu-Natal.

In the open mic, the 28-year old Kelsey Tlhosane took the first prize with her poem: “If Love Was a Colour, it would be Blue”, that was themed around the social issue of gender-based violence.

Finally, the Slam Jam winner, Tshwane-based Mjele Msimang, was announced live on the Poetry Africa stream.

“Thank you so much to the fellow poets, I really appreciate your work, you guys inspire me,” said Msimang.

Msimang is an educator and writer based in Tshwane, South Africa. His academic work centres on decolonisation while his poetry explores and challenges the impact of neo-colonialism on the continent.

Those wanting to watch the festival can do so on YouTube.

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