Usually a space for the dramatic arts and music performances, the Barney Simon theatre will play host to the inaugural Spoken Freedom Festival. This year has proved interesting for the arts thanks to the various programmes concerned with reflecting on the country’s two decades of freedom.
The festival will feature the varied voices of Makhafula Vilakazi, Napo Masheane, Cornelius Jones, Mutle Mothibe and Natalia Molebatsi. Thabiso “Afurakan” Mohare will serve as programme director and organiser of the event through the Word N Sound poetry collective.
“This is an opportunity to showcase some of the poets that have emerged in the past 20 years,” Mohare says.
“The focus in the past has been on academics and your protest poets and people that we grew up on. Over the past five years there has been an emergence of young people with urgency in their voices who want to tell their stories and their frustrations and to connect with other young people as well. This is a medium that allows them to speak their human stories, and this festival is a good way for them to showcase some of these voices.”
First of Many
This is the first edition of what will become an annual festival and was created out of the visions of both the Word N Sound Live Literature Company and the Market Theatre, which seeks to provide an accessible platform for poets and poetry lovers to engage issues and enjoy art.
“We are excited about partnering with the Market Theatre to host this festival,” says festival director, Qhakaza Mthembu.
“We look forward to seeing Spoken Word take a more prominent role in recording our collective journey as South Africans.”
The curation of the festival is stellar, and encompasses poets who are prominent on the Word N Sound stage and those with national appeal.
“There are certain poets who have been in the mainstream in the last fives years who are seen as ground breakers,” Mohare continues. People like Napo Masheane, Tereska Muishond, Vangi Gantsho and these are people we usually invite to come and engage with this new breed of poet. The other part of the line-up is made up of poets we we usually work with primarily over the last three to four years through the Word N Sound platform.
“So it’s a nice blend of established voice and those new ones as well. I think the pattern here is that everyone has been active, and is a voice that is representative over the last 20 years.”
For Mohare, this is an interesting time to share the voices that have emerged on the scene in the last five years and the type of stories they share.
“A lot of the poetry has to do with how we exercise the abilities that we have now,” Mohare says. “Young people are playing with the new found liberation and how they can push it in the academic, identity and sexual spaces.”
The Spoken Word Festival takes place at the Market Theatre from July 3-6. It will also feature poets Masai Dabula, Vuyelwa Maluleke and Richard Quaz Roodt.
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