Introducing Poetry Africa 2021 & AiW Words on the Times…

NarrowInsta-PoetryAfrica21AiW are excited to share advance news of a mini-series, in collaboration with Poetry Africa 2021, of our Words on the Times Q&A subset – with poets who are participating in the 25th edition of the festival this year.

PoetryAfrica_2021_HostedByVerticalBannerRunning next week, the Festival theme is ‘Unmute: Power to the Poet’  – and we begin posting our ‘unmuting’  powerful Q&As on Monday 11th October, ahead of the official opening ceremony and keynote talk at 11.00 (CAT).

For our Poetry Africa Words on the Times series, contributing writers and poets will talk with us about their involvement in Poetry Africa 2021; they’ll share details of their work, as well as experiences of practice and life during the pandemic. (If you’ve not already seen the set, Words on the Times is a Q&A we initiated as our communities went into our various #Covoids and responses, so we could find common ground and ways to connect up.)

Watch this space for this series next week – further details of the full – and phenomenal – programme offered by Poetry Africa this year — presented by UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts, with the support of the National Institute for Humanities & Social Sciences, The French Institute of South Africa, and Total Energies — can be found at their website and all over their SMs – 


The 25th edition of the virtual festival will be freely accessible and can be watched via  and

At the website, there’s also details of competitions, book launches and releases, a journal, anthology and film, and general all-round dynamic Poetry Africa stuff!

Some sense of it also follows here, by way of introduction… 



For the 25th consecutive year, the Poetry Africa festival, presented by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal takes place from 11 to 16 October 2021. The festival sets the stage for poetry from South Africa, all five regions of the African Continent, and around the world. The majority of the festival programme will be presented online and  is accessible for free. The programme is now available on their website:

With the theme: Unmute: Power to the Poet, the festival that aims for the audience to remain inspired by the voices of our poets. The audiences can expect to be mesmerized by their voices and messages that are like vaccines that cautiously brings us back into the light of the darkness and the new dawn.



Some of the headlining South African poets of the festival include musician and poet Buhlebendalo Mda, spoken word artist Gubhela, celebrated poet Lebo Mashile, and poet Makhafula Vilakazi

The festival also includes an impressive line-up of international poets, such as actress and poet Lakhiyia Hicks from USA,  British-Trinidadian dub poet and TS Eliot prize winner Roger Robison from the UK, and Ukrainian poets Yuliya Musakovska  and Andriy Lyubka.

Other South African poets included in the line-up that includes over 80 participants from over 25 countries, are Lethu Nkwanyana, Siphokazi Jonas, Natalia Molebatsi, Africa Dlamini, Athol Williams and many more…


The Festival’s Featured Headline Poet is the superbly multi-faceted artist Siphokazi Jonas and the Keynote the formidable Stella Nyanzi…

Jonas’ most recent stage production adapted into a short film, #wearedyinghere will screen during the festival.

The #Keynote speaker, multiple award-winning medical anthropologist Dr Stella Nyanzi (@drstellanyanzi), will be delivering the keynote speech during the opening of the festival on Monday 11 October at 11 am.


Also on Monday 11th, at 17.00 is the annual Mafika Gwala lecture:

The Mafika Gwala Annual Lecture started in 2015 as a collaboration between the College of Humanities at UKZN and South African History Online will be presented as a live-streamed panel discussion with a keynote speech by novelist, essayist and academic Imraan Coovadia titled “What the Left Forgot about the Left since Mafika Gwala”? Coovadia will speak about what was original and necessary in the left perspective of Gwala and others, and why they combined poetry and political activism, and what has disappeared in today’s left in South Africa with its emphasis on statism and racial quotas and the defence of mob violence.



Partnerships are at the heart of the 25th edition of the Poetry Africa festival.

Partners_PoetryArchive-InstitutFrancais-PoetryAfrica21-instaThe French Institute of South Africa … partnered with the Centre’s Poetry Africa festival during 2020.  As part of this partnership, the festival is proud to host the following French-speaking poets from the African continent: Roi Bokon from Togo, Aziz Siten’k from Mali, Kissy Abeng from Cameroon, W. Charly from Cameroon, and Tarik Ben Larbi from Morocco. 

NB – one of our Words on the Times Q&As to come is with the brilliant W. Charly, en Francais!

The Poetry Archive is a charity based in the UK, that is wholly dedicated to the production, acquisition and preservation of a unique digital collection of recordings of poetry read by the poets who created it. In collaboration with The Poetry Archive, the festival presents a session to speak about the importance of protecting legacy and being aware of poetic lineages.  The session is facilitated by Adrian B Earle who is joined by T S Eliot Prize-winning poet Roger Robinson, poet Rachel Long, and poet Nick Makoha, who zoom into the recent developments in poetry by black writers, their challenges and successes, as they look forward to the future.


Other international partnerships are with Quay Words in the UK, supported by The British Council, the Lviv International Book Forum from Ukraine, The Embassy of Ukraine to the Republic of South Africa and the Brussels Poetry Fest.


Poetry Africa Festival also recognises the importance of entrepreneurship in the industry and will present “Let’s Publish NOW” in collaboration with imphepo press. The sessions facilitated by vangile gantsho, Sarah Godsell and Tanya Pretorius focus on getting the team, editing and printing. Publisher imphepo press will also present an evening with their friends, with performances by Busisiwe Mahlangu, danai mupotsa, Sarah Godsell, Khanyi Shusha, Buhlebendalo Mda and Lakhiyia Hicks.


HashtagPoetry-PoetryAfrica21-instaAs part of the 25th anniversary celebrations, the organisers are launching an anthology, a journal and a documentary during the festival. The anthology titled #Hashtag Poetry, is a collection that aims to remind the reader that poets and wordsmiths may seed social justice in hashtags and slogans, but it is all of us who are called to reap the harvest in action and with deeds. The journal, released in collaboration with Imbiza Journal, includes seasoned poets who appear alongside new dynamic voices. The essays, features, book reviews and poems make for an interesting and edifying read.

A Poetics For Transformation is a short documentary film made from the festival video archives of Poetry Africa over the years, combined with animated illustrations, a call-and-response soundscape and photography. It seeks to explore poetry’s conscientising capacity within the broader ecology of social justice.


Check out the full programme, bookmark your sessions –  and look out for our first Poetry Africa Words on the Times on Monday, with poet and writer Christine Yohannes (Ethiopia), ahead of her session, Spotlight Africa: From Cape to Cairo (Monday 11 October, 15.00)


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