The poet – and poetry – is self-indulgent in its creative guise. And from time to time, what the poet contemplates resonates with external persons giving the poem a life of its own. As the craft moves into the realm of (almost) popular culture, some practitioners abuse it and its purity is lost.
Vus’umuzi Phakathi is a reluctant gatekeeper of this purity, creating works that explore the intricacies of the human condition. But in order to determine how he came to be regarded as one of Johannesburg’s most respected poets, we have to look at his beginnings and where his sense of purity comes from.
“Poetry initially found me via a crush for a girl at 16 years of age and then the experience of an awe-filled performance by Flo Mokale when I was 18,” Phakati explains.
“Also it was by divine coincidence that my name means ‘Awaken the home within’. Now that I have grown up I see that the purpose of my work is to awaken my father’s home from within. My work therefore is all focused on that, to awake mankind to himself and his God, both in love spiritually and in life in a social sense.”
To describe Phakathi as deep would be lazy – that’s is the adjective favoured across the board at poetry gigs. He has an innate sense of self and most of his ideas and beliefs in life translate very well into his poetry.
“I’ve come to work with a simple principle of give and receive,” Phakathi says. explaining his philosophy on life.
“If you give wisely, you need not worry about receiving; you only need to open yourself up to it. For instance, if you intend on planting a peach tree, you ought to till the ground, plant your seed, and give all that is necessary to take good care of it as it grows. The result will be the tree giving you an abundance of beautiful seed-bearing fruit, thus enabling you to give even further.
“Love is simply the act of giving one self to take care of the next. If you take care of anyone or anything, they or it will by all means take care of you in return. Giving is best when you have a lucid understanding of self and that which you are giving.”
Phakathi is currently producing his first one-man show DVD recording. And his research suggests that it will be the first of its kind in South Africa.
“The OMGSLAM is a one-man poetry in performance show where two my characters Vus’ umuzi Phakathi and Romea The Poet go head to head in a poetry battle and a third character, Lil Hussil, is the referee,” explains Phakathi.
“I staged it for the first time, last September and I will be re-staging it and putting it on DVD this year in Joburg at the Wits Main Theatre on April 26; in Cape Town at the Baxter Theatre on May 24 and in Durban at the Stable Theatre on May 31. I will be running workshops in preparation working with the Bassline in Newtown ahead of the shows.”
Phakathi often goes beyond the call of being a poet and gets involved in skill transfers and workshops aimed at assisting others. Education, he believes, is the key to unlocking the potential and charting future success for South Africa and its citizens.
“I found that the reason that people are unhappy is that they are stuck in jobs that they hate and which have nothing to do with who they are,” says Phakathi.
“Schools should be places that awaken children to themselves and their purposes, leading them to become happy individuals, partners, and parents. A king who lives as a peasant is the worst kind of parent as he will raise kings who believe themselves to be peasants. If I don’t live my purpose, I strip myself of my royal right and live as a peasant.”