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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

BOOKED @ Muse: Dennis Brutus 1924 – 2009

Dennis Brutus

Poetry and ProtestOn 30th January 2010 a round of memorial services held in honour of the late Dennis Brutus came to an end at the Baseline in Newtown, Johannesburg. Hoards of his wor(l)d’s followers came in song, word and sound to remember the life of a teacher, educationist and activist who died at 85 on 26th December 2009. This prominent writer and poet will be remembered for his courage and support to the disenfranchised majority of landless people and workers, among others.

While at a seven hour long memorial service organised by Sounds of Edutainment and wRite Associates to honour this legend of protest, poetry and prose, the Muse interacted with various revolutionaries, most of whose will never be seen or heard on TV. Artists and writers such as Lesego Rampolokeng, Patrick Bond, Moemise Motsepe, Vonani wa ka Bila and the Botsotso Jesters are among those who shared word’s power with the audience.

A documentary on the life and times of Brutus was run while performers and speakers took turns on stage. It was noticeable that most of the service’s attendees were not artists, writers or the well known socialites, but mainly ordinary women from local informal settlements and workplaces.

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Brutus was well known among the underground poetry movers and shakers internationally. He was an organiser within the Anti-Privatisation Forum, Earthlife, and Jubilee South Africa, among other progressive movements.

Brutus was born in Zimbabwe in 1924 and raised in South Africa, where in his early adult life he was imprisoned and attacked for his contribution to the anti apartheid struggle. In 1961, he was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act. He fled to Mozambique, but was later captured by apartheid police forces and jailed at the Johannesburg Fort and later on Robben Island. Between 1964 and 1965 he wrote the collections of poems Sirens Knuckles Boots and Letters to Martha – two of the richest poetic expressions of political incarceration.

In the 1970s, while in exile in London and later in the USA, he took the role of, among others, poet, anti-apartheid campaigner, and professor of Literature and African Studies at Northwestern (Chicago) and Pittsburgh universities. His final academic appointment was as Honorary Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Civil Society. While there he published the autobiographical Poetry and Protest in 2006.

“Brutus’ political activity initially included extensive journalistic reporting, organising with the Teachers’ League and Congress movement, and leading the new South African Sports Association as an alternative to white sports bodies,” comments his colleague (and co-contributor on many progressive articles) Patrick Bond.

Since the 1990s on his return to South Africa, Brutus became a pivotal figure in the global justice movement and a featured speaker each year at the World Social Forum, as well as at protests against the World Trade Organisation, G8, Bretton Woods Institutions and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. This anti-racist hero will be remembered for his struggle against any social and economic injustice and his contribution towards bringing closer “the global and local, politics and culture, class and race, the old and the young, the red and green,” says Bond.

Poems

Sharpeville

What is important
about Sharpeville
is not that seventy died:
nor even that they were shot in the back
retreating, unarmed, defenceless
and certainly not
the heavy caliber slug
that tore through a mother’s back
and ripped through the child in her arms
killing it
Remember Sharpeville
bullet-in-the-back day
Because it epitomized oppression
and the nature of society
more clearly than anything else;
it was the classic event
Nowhere is racial dominance
more clearly defined
nowhere the will to oppress
more clearly demonstrated
what the world whispers
apartheid declares with snarling guns
the blood the rich lust after
South Africa spills in the dust
Remember Sharpeville
Remember bullet-in-the-back day
And remember the unquenchable will for freedom
Remember the dead
and be glad

(1973)

*

Stubborn hope

Endurance is a passive quality,
transforms nothing, contests nothing
can change no state to something better
and is worthy of no high esteem;
and so it seems to me my own persistence
deserves, if not contempt, impatience.
Yet somewhere lingers the stubborn hope
thus to endure can be a kind of fight,
preserve some value, assert some faith
and even have a kind of worth.

(1977)

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Photo courtesy Moonstone Arts Centre


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BOOKED @ Muse: Malika Ndlovu

Malika Ndlovu at the New Africa Theatre

Invisible EarthquakeMalika Lueen Ndlovu is a playwright, performer, arts project manager and mother, working under the brand “New Moon Ventures”, with the motto “healing through creativity”. She has published poetry books including Born in Africa But and Womb to World: A Labour of Love, Truth is both Spirit and Flesh, and a poetic memoir, Invisible Earthquake: a Woman’s Journal through Stillbirth, published by Modjaji Books in March 2009. Among other anthologies, her poetry is also featured in We Are… A poetry anthology, published by Penguin in 2009.Visit www.malika.co.za.

Malika’s latest play Sister Breyani had its world premier at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees 2009 before a highly successful run at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town.

Hosted by Scripps (Women’s College) in April 2010 she will tour Chicago with extracts of her play A Coloured Place, as well as Writing Our Way Home based on issues around gender, race, ancestry, family and a true sense of belonging beyond physical place. (Also see http://theatre.uiuc.edu/pages/african-dispora-festival.)

In the UK, she will be featured at the London Book Fair (18-21 April), where the Fair has a South African focus for 2010.

Malika is a founder-member of Cape Town-based women writers’ collective WEAVE, co-editor of their multi-genre anthology WEAVE’s Ink @ Boiling Point: A selection of 21st Century Black Women’s writing from the Southern Tip of Africa and is member of The Mothertongue Project since 2004. At the Grahamstown Arts Festival in 2004 she left gigantic spiritual and artistic prints when she presented Uhambo: Pieces of a Dream.

She has also initiated the And The Word Was Woman Ensemble of 14 local performance poets, bringing together established Cape Town writers and fresh writing talents. She also performed at the Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival in 2005.

Words Pave the Way is an autobiographical journey through her poetry performed at the Darling Festival Trusts 2006 Voorkamer Festival. Womantide is her poetry-song-music production in collaboration with well-known singer-songwriters Tina Schouw and Ernestine Deane.

In January 2008 Malika became co-curator of the Spier Poetry Exchange, renamed Badilisha! Poetry X-Change – a highly successful 5-day international poetry festival produced by the Africa Centre in Cape Town to celebrate the rich history and contemporary practice of African arts and culture. She is currently developing Badilisha!Poetry Radio, an online African poetry podcast platform.

Muse @ BOOK SA caught up with this artist extraordinaire and shared within her several current reads which include Bhuddhist teachings of Nichiren Daishonin and Daisaki Ikeda of Sokka Gakai International (SGI), A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, Listener, a poetry anthology by Lemn Sissay, and Storm Between Fingers, an anthology of Black UK & Chicago-based poets from a group coincidentally called Malika’s Kitchen.

“I am also browsing through juicy mags….latest issue of ROOTZ – local arts, culture & music mag which I write the Soul Food column for quarterly and OPRAH mag.”

Poems

Truth Is Both Spirit And Flesh

Truth is both spirit and flesh
It is the hotel bill or photograph discovered in a pocket
The open mouth saying nothing in defence
It is the fact splattered across the courtroom
Exposed to cameras, microphones and strangers ears
It is the addict at the brink of suicide
Frozen between picking up a fix or the telephone
It is the vibration in your chest and stomach pit
That hits when you hear or read a real guru’s words
It is the breath absent from the body of a beloved
Who will not wake up or ever laugh into your eyes

Truth is the child speaking without thinking
Unaware of the adults they have suddenly stripped naked
It is the cut, the scar, the wrinkle, the rash, the swelling
The illness revealed in the face, in the shaking
The toxin reflected in the skin
It is the uninhibited hug projected from the heart
The electricity of a long time lover’s touch

Truth is the smoke or the stench
That cannot be dismissed or disguised
The bone that waits decades to be found
The memory in our cells
The irrepressible rising of tears
It is the current in our veins
The universal rhythm of our hearts
It can be understood in any language
It lives within the word and the sound

Truth is liberation and source of great pain
It is both water and fire
The visible and the invisible
It is the written and the unwritten
The space and the line
It is different
It is the same
It is buried
Yet it will not die
It is the silence before
Beneath and beyond
The lie
It waits for you and I
It will not die

Truth is both spirit and flesh

**

A Woman’s Path*

shards of light
penetrate her shroud
solitary silhouette
standing on a dark mound
waiting for her moon
 
 
veiled in night
slowly she lets her head fall back
her mouth opens into the black
a soundless shout
a flock of doves flies out
dispersing into the darkness
carrying their messages
to distant quarters
 
 
in her silence she is calling
each receiver’s name
all over the world they awaken
those leaving
stay
those dying
begin to breathe again
those warring
feel a tender wind unclench their fists
lighten their weapons
wash across their brows
 
 
now light peels in
defining earth from sky
she releases one more muted cry
the air absorbs it instantly
persistent as her shadow
it takes in everything
 
 
with this dawn unfolding
she finds her feet again
frees them from the red earth enveloping them
and takes her first step
with each one the rain obediently responds
gently it begins to touch her shoulders
her head
her cheeks
gradually dripping into the arc of her back
dancing on her outstretched arms
pooling in her open palms
 
 
the further she walks
the harder it pours
erasing her footprints
soaking her skin
listening for her command
for when to end this cleansing
 
 
she alone can hear the music
of her heart
her breath
her feet
beating the growing river of red
 
 
through the mist
above the mountains ahead
a rainbow like a dream
faintly emerges
beckoning her to the other side
 
 
she follows her heart-breath-beat
and feet
they know the way
they will not stop
not until the dark descends again
when time will play her trick
of dejavu
 
 

* Inspired by a dream after visiting Tradouw’s Pass in the Klein Karoo, July 2005

**

cleansing

out of my body
out of touch
much too long
I have been away
from where i belong
where i am strong
the ground that knows
the pulse of my feet

in my body
i am home
my organs quarrel
my heart wants to be alone
from opening to opening
a rhythm to reclaim
a neglected, divinely protected nest
between my breasts

deep inside i hold my hand
expose where it began
the breaking of this promise
the severing of this bond
mind and muscle
faith and flesh
now restored to sharing
one blanket of breath

- Copyright Malika Ndlovu

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