South African poet, playwright and producer, Siphokazi Jonas is honored to be the star actor of the Festival Poetry Africa 2021.
Under the theme “Unmute: Power to the Poet”, the 25th edition of the virtual festival will take place at the Center for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal from Monday October 11th and will run until Saturday October 16th.
“Being selected as Poetry Africa’s Featured Poet this year has been a lesson in celebrating all moments of impact because art allows us to contribute something to society and to ourselves every day. I’m really grateful to the festival, it’s an honor, ”says Jonas.
Jonas says she will tackle mental health and how the sense of community has been affected, especially in these uncertain times.
The renowned poet hopes that her personal experiences will also help the audience overcome their challenges.
The Eastern Cape-born star says it was during the height of the lockdown that she almost gave up her career as an artist.
“The first days of the lockdown were very anxious because of how quickly our livelihoods were taken away.
“I have always been focused on a career in the arts and have never wavered, even during the most difficult times.
“Last year was the first time I had considered quitting because it seemed like we couldn’t find a way out of the performer-audience model.
“But I thank God and the amazing community I have around me because we started to improvise and find ways to get our work online.
“That’s when we released a theatrical recording of #wearedyinghere around the world, and with Optical Films and support from the Kolisi Foundation, the production was adapted into a short film.
“Being multidisciplinary, I was able to take on more writing work and clients needed filmed performances rather than live shows.
“The increase in collaboration and filming led to another way of disseminating my work, but also to a wider audience,” says Jonas.
Asked about the future of the arts in South Africa, after Covid-19, Jonas offers: “In the poem I wrote for SONA 2021, ‘What does not flow’, there is a line that says: eat his own words, and art starves.
“I believe that artists will always make art. However, the ministry that holds the almost sacred responsibility of ensuring that arts and culture are protected fails and did so during one of the most devastating times in recent history. They let us eat our own creations to survive.
“In addition, the ‘starving artist’ trope will also continue to be a reality if artists do not receive their royalties and residues for the continued use of their recorded works and images.
“Artists use both their work and their body as a protest, I hope those who consume our work will support these efforts.
“I am inspired by the passion and tenacity of South African artists, while I am deeply discouraged by corrupt leaders, the latter reminds me of a legendary character, Laqhasha, by Sgudi Snaysi, cutting down on our knees our potential for progress”, she declared. said.
Her work addresses questions around faith, identity, gender-based violence, cultural and linguistic alienation, black women in rural spaces, and the politics of everyday life.
“My work is about sight: seeing and being seen. My characters are often on the fringes in a certain way and I invite them to speak with nuance instead of the two-dimensional way they can often be presented.
“I aim to always treat these stories with compassion, the audience will be challenged to question their own biases and to feel empathy, not only for the characters, but also for themselves and for those around them. .
“This is also why my work questions privilege and the abuse of power so that we can investigate our position on this abuse and ask uncomfortable questions such as: are we complicit? “
Jonas counts among his artistic inspirations the poets and directors Ntozakhe Shange, Napo Masheane and Thembi Mtshali-Jones.
“My main influence in the combination of poetry and theater is Ntozakhe Shange, the creator of the choreoeme. There are other designers like Napo Masheane who are incredibly good at form, and it’s a pleasure to think of them as contemporary.
“Two of my favorite storytellers are Mam Thoko Ntshinga and Mam Thembi Mtshali-Jones. Some of the musicians who influence my approach to art and performance include Lea Salonga, who has sung for Disney and Broadway, for example, with the most incredible diction, and Babalwa Zimbini Makwetu.
“Zimbini puts all her mind into performance and I always have a visceral response when I listen to it. As a multidisciplinary artist, I tap into many different art forms to make chakalaka in my own creative bowl.” , admits the star.
Legendary poet Dr Stella Nyanzi will deliver the opening speech at the opening of the festival on Monday, October 11 at 11 a.m.
Nyanzi is a multi-award-winning medical anthropologist specializing in sexual and reproductive health, sexual rights and human sexualities in Uganda and The Gambia.
“Both Stella Nyanzi and Siphokazi Jonas represent the hallmark of strong female voices that have characterized the Poetry Africa festival for a quarter of a century.
“They are fearless and unambiguous when they let their voices inspire hope. Poems give power and momentum to the ongoing struggle for social justice,” said Siphindile Hlongwa, curator of the Poetry Africa Festival.