POETRY is an ever-growing art form in communities, particularly among young people from historically disadvantaged backgrounds.

One has only to glance over the broader arts diary in and around Durban to spot the abundant poetry events, especially at popular youth spots such as The BAT Centre, The Stable Theatre and (more recently) at The Playhouse, where, during the South African Women’s Arts Festival, poetry and dialogue sessions were particularly popular among young people.

But what a lot of them may not realise is that – particularly in KwaZulu-Natal – poetry’s depth lies in the age-old tradition of praise poetry.

It is for this reason that Umkhosi Wezinkondlo Zama-Afrika – a celebration of “the living legends of poetry” – will be held at The Playhouse on September 22.

Bongani Mavuso, the co-ordinator of the event and respected poet, said the project was inspired by King Goodwill Zwelithini’s praise poet, Buzetsheni Mdletshe, when he raised concerns that the emphasis in poetry is on upcoming artists, while the praise poetry seemed to be neglected.

“Praise poets are important because they understand the essence of culture. And even when you go to other African countries, there are praise poets there. So after listening, I agreed that our praise poets are not being recognised and we decided to put this event together,” he explained.

Professor Otty Nxumalo, academic, cultural activist and adviser to King Zwelithini, will give a short briefing on the importance of praise poets. Mdletshe, iNkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s praise poet Phakath’kwempi Buthelezi and Nazareth Baptist Church praise poet Themba Masinga will share some poetry on the day. Swazi and Ndebele praise poets will also be on stage.

In addition to this, Mavuso said five of the best poets from KZN will perform some of the best poems in Zulu, written by the late Dr BW Vilakazi and Professor Mazisi Kunene, and some of their own work.

Other poets on the line-up include Zone 14’s Masoja Msiza, Siyabonga Mpungose and Isishimane.

l Umkhosi Wezinkondlo Zama-Afrika will start at 6pm. R60 at Computicket and Shoprite Checkers.