The poetry component of the Open Book Festival attracts a diverse group: all ages, all colours, all cultures. All kinds of South African people coming together to celebrate words. And celebrate them we did.
At every performance the artists or speakers made the audience understand that clapping and shouting and showing appreciation South African style was absolutely allowed. “None of that finger clicking business. We want noise!” announced Adrian van Wyk, a hip hop performance poet from INZYNC.
With prices ranging from free to just R 60, the venues buzzed with people rubbing shoulders with poets. The performers and writers all appeared just as excited as the punters, all willing and eager to listen and learn.
At Until Our Voices Are Heard, theINKcredibles – a group of young adults from Stellenbosch and Kayamnandi trained by INZYNC – were bursting to share their minds with us. Nerves caught some of them offguard and had us cheering them on for support, while others took to the stage like ducks to water, swimming through language barriers and creating ripples through our history. The INKcredibles made sure to let us know that poetry has no age restrictions. Love, heartache, work, racial inequality, sex, masculinity and femininity, heritage and language were all dissected by the deftly wielded scalpel of poetry.
Vus’umuzi Phakathi, a charismatic and energetic improvisational poet, gave us One Man Grand Slam in which he allowed his audience to choose themes and words which he then used to create impromptu poems in a number of characters. Phakathi has a way with words that is captivating though an hour was visibly tiring both for performer and audience. Nonetheless, his was a joyful performance, reveling in the fact that poetry and words don’t have to be serious.
Hand Me the Mic was an open discussion chaired by Adrian van Wyk and paneled by Shameema Williams (Godessa), poet and satirist Andrew Miller and Emile YX (Black Noise) who discussed the connection between Hip Hop and spoken word. The discussion moved like a snake through subjects such as financial stability for the freelance artist, the lack of Government support for artists, inter-South African feuds between artists, the commercial side of performance, and the tendency to ‘box’ artists into certain categories.
The Open Book Festival ended off with a bang as INZYNC Poetry Sessions took over at the Fugard Theatre, with a queue snaking out of the theatre doors and onto the pavement. Adrian van Wyk, Pieter Odendaal, Malika Ndlovu, Antjie Krog, Mbongeni Nomkonwana and surprise guest Lesego Rampolokeng, supported by Cupfuss on sound left us feeling educated and inspired.
Nomkonwana had the audience wiping tears away with his poem about how the world has turned black men into monsters, telling us that actually “Black men do love.” Our heartstrings were tugged again when Ndlovu invited her son Cosmic Love to perform with her on stage. The mother of South African poetry singing with her son ended the event in a warm happy glow.
We are so fast to point out the faults in society and do not often make time to celebrate the perfect moments where honesty thrives. The Open Book Festival is one such moment. This is an event for all people to celebrate the word and the emotion that the word creates. South Africa is doing it, poetry is doing it, Poetica is doing it, Open Book Festival is doing it. Don’t get left behind.
The Open Book Festival took place from 9 to 13 September 2015 at various venues around Cape Town.