First InZync poetry session rich and raucous – by Leon de Kock

Mbali Vilakazi spills the beans at the first InZync poetry session. Photo: Bibi Slippers / LitNet

The inaugural InZync poetry session at AmaZink in Kayamandi on Friday night turned out to be a rich and raucous mix. The show hosted invited poets Primrose Mrwebi, Ingrid de Kok, Mbali Vilakazi, and Finuala Dowling in an opening session which entertainingly contrasted the two dominant styles in current poetry performance – paper poetry (lyrical, more interior) and spoken-word, or “performance” poetry (declarative, more improvisational).

The event emphatically made a statement about other kinds of diversity, too. The point of staging the show in Kayamandi was to present a different "face" of Stellenbosch - and of South Africa at large – in the area of verbal creative expression. We are also delighted that so many Kayamandi poets took up the opportunity to read their poetry in the open-mic session. The mix of poets, from the established paper poets to the resonant performance poets, to the Kayamandi poets showing their steps, proved that it is both possible and exciting to mix and blend styles, cultural approaches, and languages – Xhosa, English, Afrikaans and rap-idioms were all belted out via a very hot microphone.

Among the Kayamandi poets were Bongo Flepu, Mxolisi Majola, Mambesi Gole, Abongile Khwaza, and Mr O. The open-mic session which followed included the likes of established Afrikaans poet Louis Esterhuizen, the ebullient young poet Pieter Odendaal, and new voices Denise Grey, Adriaan Different, Tladi Tsitso, Grace Kim, and Lwandile No Poet, among others.

The energy that was unleashed was invigorating. This vindicated SLiP's to mission criss-cross and combine the vastly different lines of feeling and expression inherent in the Stellenbosch area, and in the greater sense of "national" belonging. The event once again showed that no matter how neglected poetry might be in the formal halls of higher learning, it lives most energetically in the moment of verbal and bodily utterance.

SLiP’s mission with its events is to facilitate a space in which clashing and contradictory voices can feel free to claim the high ground of expressive exuberance. In fact, we were gratified to see so many different constituencies claiming this space with intelligent and creative flair. In this way, we hope to see a community of creative expression grow in an unpredictable ecology of human situatedness - crossing lines, finding intersections, discovering mutuality, perhaps even learning to bear each other's more enduring idiosyncrasies.

This is an ongoing – in fact a neverending – communicative task in a country such as ours. We should continue to resist the complacency of cultural and creative "group areas" in our social life. As much as we profess openess, the tendency towards ingrained "group" behaviour and stratified communicative styles remains one of the starkest blind spots in our supposedly reconfigured social existence.

SLiP will continue to serve as a platform – in its events and its web presence – for expressive commingling and creative experimentation. We will also strive to offer a platform for the exchange of ideas beyond the tired recirculation of group interests and "solidarity" talk.