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Lethu Nkwanyana crowned 2023 Poetry Slam Jam champion

Lethu Nkwanyana. Picture: Niamh Walsh Vorster.

Lethu Nkwanyana. Picture: Niamh Walsh Vorster.

Published Oct 18, 2023


The 24th Poetry Africa Festival wrapped up on a high note yesterday after 17 days of activities.

Working it’s way through Durban, Joburg, Bloemfontein and Cape Town, and an online programme, the festival showcased breathtaking performances from artists, workshops, master classes, panel discussions and book launches.

In this year’s hotly contested Slam Jam competition, spoken word artist, writer, thespian and wordsmith poet Lethu Nkwanyana was crown the champion.

With his journey of poetry starting at his local church in 2012, he has gone on to deliver his craft in a flamboyant yet subtle way.

Nkwanyana captivated audiences each round, and for his final performance, he used free verse poetry to express his emotions, raise awareness, and simultaneously provide healing.

“When my name was announced as the winner, I stood frozen on the stage, whispering a brief prayer.

“I couldn't believe that I had finally achieved one of my greatest goals. This moment holds immense significance for me - to carry the title of the best poet in the country,” shared Nkwanyana.

During his performance, Nkwanyana addressed prevalent social challenges and gender-based violence.

‘’Poetry, with its power to evoke emotions and provoke reflection, stands out as one of the most effective means to confront and discuss such critical issues.’’

When asked about competing with some of the best poets in SA, he said it was “no simple task”.

“Each of the poets possessed a distinct and unique style, making the competition all the more challenging. I was simply a more determined poet than most, but when it comes to the art of penmanship and performance, all the top 10 poets displayed an undeniable brilliance.”

For Nkwanyana, this accomplishment signifies more than words can express.

He said it was a key that unlocked doors he’s longed to approach but was hesitant due to self-doubt.

“I often saw myself as merely average. Now, as the national champion, I am empowered to knock on any door with confidence and purpose.

“Winning such a prestigious title will help me build a reputation in the spoken word community, boost my self-confidence. It's an affirmation of my skills and the uniqueness of my voice as an artist.“

He fully understands what rewards lay ahead.

“I will have the chance to connect with some of the most respected fellow poets, artists, and individuals in the industry and possibly even collaborate with them.

“As a champion poet, I may be invited to perform at various events, slams, festivals, and conferences. This accolade can also lead to invitations to perform internationally. Which is every poets dream.

“Sharing my knowledge and skills can be a fulfilling career path and a way to inspire the next generation of poets.”

Fascinated by literature, philosophy, God and performance arts, Nkwanyana’s career highlights includes being featured on one of the biggest poetry tours in the world, “Poets in Autumn” (2019).

He has also won the South African Poetry award for best poet and was a participant in Poetry University, an American Digital Slam in 2020.

He is the founder of “Let The Poet Speak” and “Let The Poet Slam”, which is now going to become a provincial Slam Tour.

As a poetry pioneer, Nkwanyana aims to take poetry to a higher level whilst grooming and motivating other artists.

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