Nandipha Pantsi
2 minute read
28 Aug 2014
8:00 am

Mandi Vundla is speaking her mind

Nandipha Pantsi

Unlike many poets, Mandi Vundla doesn't claim to speak for "the people".

CALLING. Mandi Vundla is one of the youngest poets to perform at the Speak The Mind Spoken Word poetry sessions. Picture: Valentina Nicol

She doesn’t have an agenda and her poetry is not dedicated to any cause. For Vundla, poetry is deeply personal.

“I haven’t taken on the responsibility of making people around me conscious,” she says adamantly.

“My poetry reflects my own reality. When I perform it I hope that the audience members find something in my story which moves them in some way. Assuming to be speaking for ‘the people’ is one of the biggest mistakes a poet can make.”

Vundla is among the many poets who will perform at this year’s Speak The Mind Poetry Spoken Word Sessions at Joburg Theatre on September 5.

“It’s every poet’s dream to be invited to ‘speak the mind’. It asserts you and encourages you to carry on doing your best,” she says.

Vundla got her big break in poetry in 2011. It wasn’t long before she became a regular at poetry sessions, such as the State Theatre Night of Poets and the Jozi Book Fair.

PEACEFUL POET. Mandi Vundla hopes her audience identifies with her work. Picture: Valentina Nicol

PEACEFUL POET. Mandi Vundla hopes her audience identifies with her work. Picture: Valentina Nicol

As a young poet who hadn’t studied poetry academically, Vundla’s poetic skills are often questioned in Johannesburg’s poetry circles.

“I am a street poet. I didn’t study poetry at school, but that doesn’t make me any less of a poet,” Vundla says.

“It’s hard when people refuse to take you seriously. Street poets may not be academics but street poetry is working. People come to our shows and they enjoy our sets. I taught myself about poetry and I can write and perform my heart out – that is what matters.”

Speaking on what encourages her to look at poetry beyond the challenges, Vundla says: “It’s a calling. There was a time in my life when art got really hard for me. As much as I loved writing and performing poetry, I thought it would be easier if I got an office job. A few weeks into my new job I found myself neglecting my duty to write poetry. There was no running away from it.”

POWERFUL WORDS. Mandi Vundla's hopes to see poetry go mainstream. Picture: Valentina Nicol

POWERFUL WORDS. Mandi Vundla’s hopes to see poetry go mainstream. Picture: Valentina Nicol

One of Vundla’s most popular poems is titled Rape Capital Of The Womb. She gets emotional when she explains why she wrote it.

“I once read a post on Facebook that says: ‘So many black women are raped and killed in this country. It has become so bad that we don’t even talk about it.’ This hit me so hard. It really made me think about the kind of society we live in and what role women play in this society. Every time I perform that poem, I start shaking because it’s so emotional.”

Speaking on her dreams for the future, Vundla says: “It would be great to see poetry go mainstream, but I don’t think the world is ready to deal with some of the things poets have to say.”