Spoken word in motion at global festival

2010-10-22 12:54

When Natalia Molebatsi ­started out as a ­spoken-word artist nine years ago, a whole lot of people also wanted to become ­poets – or at least consumed the art form in one way or another.

Back then, radio ­stations hosted performance poets keen to recite their work to an eager listenership.

Poets were the “go-to” people for advertisers.

They sold just about ­everything from body lotions to new bank accounts. But that thirst for poetics seems to have waned.

Molebatsi has been quietly carving out a space for herself through it all.

She was part of this year’s Poetry Africa ­Festival in ­Durban and will be on stage at the 9th Urban Voices ­International Poetry and Theatre Festival in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

According to Peter Rorvik, director of Centre for ­Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Poetry ­Africa drew an attendance of 1 839 to the evening performances across six nights.

He adds: “The schools visiting ­programme reached approximately 1 868 learners at 19 schools. The overall attendance figure of over 5 500 indicates a public interest in ­poetry.”

While the audience numbers are impressive, the number of poets participating seems to be less impressive.

Molebatsi says this is understandable. “It’s hard work being a poet. At some point you have to take it as seriously as any other profession.”

The other fact that creates an impression that poetry is waning, according to Molebatsi, is that “some poets go into other forms of writing” in print media and TV.

There’s a generational characteristic reflected in poetry’s popularity. Molebatsi says those who were perhaps supposed to catch the baton “just do not read” – an essential
aspect to appreciating poetry.

» The 9th Urban Voices International festival runs until Thursday

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