Watch: South African Xabiso Vili crowned World Slam Poetry champ

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Poet Xabiso Vili has been crowned champion of the 2022 World Slam Poetry Competition. Photo: Supplied
Poet Xabiso Vili has been crowned champion of the 2022 World Slam Poetry Competition. Photo: Supplied


Poet Xabiso Vili has been crowned champion of the 2022 World Slam Poetry Competition, beating slam poets from 40 nations across the globe.

In 2021, Vili won the Poetry Africa Slam Competition, which saw him represent South Africa at the global showcase in Brussels, Belgium, where he impressed the international jury with his poem Forget how to die on Thursday.

Watch his performance, which starts at 1:38:18 in the video below.

In his winning speech, the multiaward-winning performer said that the award was not only his but “belonged to all the slammers in the tournament that grew enormously during the time spent together”.

His win comes shortly after he was announced as the New Generations Featured Poet at the 26th Poetry Africa Festival presented by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in October.

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Vili will perform as part of the festival in Johannesburg, Durban and online.

Director of the Centre for Creative Arts Ismail Mahomed said Vili represented a generation of young South African slam poets who actively used their voices to advocate for more just social order.

“At the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, we are incredibly proud of Xabiso’s achievement. He positions South African slam poets and the Poetry Africa Festival at the forefront on the global stages,” said Mahomed.

“We are also proud of the advocacy work done by Poetry Africa curator Siphindile Hlongwa to position the Poetry Africa Festival on the global stage.”

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Vili strongly believes that art offers humanity a path toward integration, joy and healing. He says he is working towards creating alternative spaces for art to be shared innovatively.

He added he was researching and creating a methodology for how writing could be used as a tool for therapy. The artist is a champion of multiple slams, which have been published in various anthologies.

Vili has performed on four continents and has worked with abandoned spaces and converted them into art hubs.

In previous years, Vili has released an album, a one-man show, a poetry collection and has co-authored a young adult's novella.

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He created an AR poetry-audio-visual project, exhibited in Paris in June 2021, along with a projection mapping installation.

As part of Poetry Africa, the slam jam competition this year will select the slam poet that will represent South Africa in the World Championships taking place in Brazil in 2023.

The semifinals will take place on October 7 at the University of Johannesburg, Kingsway Campus, and will be hosted by the French Institute of SA.

Poets performing in the semifinals are Lethu Nkwanyana, Jonathan Lefenya, Kwanele Nyembe, Khayalethu Mguzulo, Chiara Coelho, Afrika Dlamini, Patience Labane, Tshegotatjo Makhafola, Olive Olusegun and Rudairo Mudarikwa. Five poets will attend the finals at Howard College Theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on October 15.

The Centre for Creative Arts will host the championship in 2026.

Compiled by: Karabo Ledwaba

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