There were poets long before there were printing presses, poetry is primarily oral utterance, to be said aloud, to be heard. – Knight Etheridge
A poetry performance is an experience like no other. You get to travel through the world of the poet on words that are rich with imagery, so much that you can see, smell, feel and maybe even taste what you’re being told.
We compiled this list of those who make these magical experiences happen, and with lyrical voices too!
Here they are:
Thuli Zuma is an actor by training and poet by passion, Thuli, who is from South Africa, has shared her work and heart on stage and screen alike both nationally and internationally, from Johannesburg to Paris, the glowing city of lights.
Thuli was placed second at the 2012 Individual World Poetry Slam, represented New York at the 2013 National Poetry Slam, and represented the United States of America at the 2013 World Cup of Poetry Slam in Paris. She is the 2013 Urbana New York Grand Slam Champion.
Lebogang Mashile is a South African actor, writer and performance poet. Lebo Mashile has won the 2006 Pan African book prize, the Noma Award, for her first published collection of poems. Mashile regards poetry’s expressive powers as the most effective tool to bring about those changes that are needed in the aftermath of socio-political changes in South Africa.
Her lyrical and gutsy poems in the collection “A Ribbon of Rhythm” (2005) also speak about life in the new South Africa. Issues such as the diversity and unity of the “Rainbow Nation”, the status of women, violence and the fragility of individuals are all treated with a sense of urgency, humour and at times with melancholy and a certain rawness.
Mashile has performed in Bern, Switzerland at the Schlacthaus Festival of South African Contemporary Art and attended Yarri Yarri Phambari Writers Conference in New York City with African American writers such as Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Maryse Conde, Nawal el Saadawi and Patricia McFadden.
Shailja Patel is an internationally acclaimed Kenyan poet, playwright, theatre artist, and political activist. CNN has characterized Patel as an artist “who exemplifies globalization as a people-centered phenomenon of migration and exchange.”
Patel is best known for her book Migritude, based on the 90-minute spoken-word theatre show with the same name. The name of the play is a term Patel coined herself. Derived from the words “migrant,” “attitude” and “negritude,” it refers to, in Patel’s words, “a generation of migrants who don’t feel the need to be silent to protect themselves.”
Titilope Sonuga has, no doubt, won many hearts with her lyrical dance with words. It is therefore no surprise to find her listed in many articles on top African Spoken Word performers.
She has won awards such as the Canadian Authors Association Emerging Writer Award in 2011, as well as the 2012 Maya Mangelou Poetry Contest. In May 2015 she became the first poet to appear at a Nigerian presidential inauguration, after which she published a poetry collection in 2016. Sonuga has performed regularly at the Lagos International Poetry Festival and is a brand ambassador for Intel Nigeria.
Probably the most indelible of her recent achievements is Open, a 3-part spoken word performance series she organised at 3 different locations in Lagos this year.
Maybe the most memorable thing about Koleka is her record of selling 2000 copies of her debut collection of poems, Collective Amnesia, in less than 5 months. Her poetry collection has been prescribed for study at tertiary level in South African Universities.
Her awards include: Winner of the 2014 National Poetry Slam Championship and the 2016 PEN South Africa Student Writing Prize. She has also been named One of Africa’s top 10 poets by Badilisha, and named one of the young pioneers who took South Africa by storm in 2015 by The Sunday Times and one of 12 future shapers by Marie Claire SA.
Dike Chukwumerije is a writer, author, and Performance Poet. He is the Creative Director of the Night of the Spoken Word (NSW)Performance Poetry Show. He is also the host of the Abuja Literary Society (ALS) Book Jam and Poetry Slam, as well as an event anchor for the Enugu Literary Society (EnLS) Open Mic. His videos can be seen on YouTube.
Truth be told, 2017 was a good year for these artists, and we can’t wait to see what 2018 holds for them.
Or is it just us?