The most recent InZync poetry session proved to be a very special one indeed. Sure, the InZync locals brought their usual fire to the stage. Kyle was up there, this time offering some hard truths in his social satire on Miley Cyrus. And Kate Ellis-Cole, the lady of the InZync crew, got her groove back and brought the house down after an uneven performance at the Open Book Fest in September. We had Mannini drinking red wine on stage, showing us how to properly “Inzync”, while Jitsvinger was a definite highlight throwing poetry at the crowdin every shape, form and size imaginable – beatboxing, crowd interaction, wailing on his guitar and, of course, some feet-tapping ryhmes.
The real stars of the show, however, were a group of high school kids from the Kayamandi and Kylemore area who aptly call themselves “The INKcredibles”. The INKcredibles are the product of weekly poetry workshops, run by Pieter Odendaal and Adrian Different, aimed at creating a love for poetry, the power of the word and its communal and constructive impact. Their performance slot comprised of two group poems “This is It” and “I Value My Voice”, written collectively,and solo performances from Ntatheng, Chrystal, Phulosetsoe, Genevieve and Palesa. “This is it” is an introspective critique on their position as young poets and the power and value excavated from creative writing. “I Value My Voice” displays a more sophisticated and considered approach to the poems subject matter as reflected in the multi-lingual performance and engages with the cultural, and existiential, demographics of the group. Centring on the powerful phrase “to be heard”, the use of Xhosa, Sotho, English, Afrikaans, Setswana, Venda and Shona extends the metaphor from “power of expression” to reflect a more palpable message that communicates pride in the acclamation of culture and diversity. Performed as a group, “I Value My Voice” therefore cleverly displays the antithetical in its juxtaposition of recognition of individual voices within a collective – fittingly representative of South Africa’s “Rainbow Nation”.
Ntatheng Machaea's “My Mother Once Told Me” germinated from a topic presented in the poetry workshop and imparts the warnings and advice that her mother afforded her. Her second poem, “I Am a Child of the Great Good Lord” celebrates the poet’s ancestors and the value of recognizing one’s origins. The poem effectively communicates Ntatheng’s personal expression of cultural identity and that “poetry means being free, it means me being free”.
Genevieve Zongolo scrutinises politics and politicians in the country in her performance. In an interview afterwards, Genevieve says she explores how “we are blinded by certain heroic figures in the past and can’t see current situations” and comments on how “our political leaders lie and cheat and we suffer from bringing them into power”. Palesa Selai performed two poems, an exploration of the metaphorical meanings of dying in “Did I tell you she once died” and a meta-narrative on the myth of writer’s block – inspired by the workshop sessions. Phulosetsoe Dingiswayo told the deeply personal story of the origins of her name, which means “to be be saved”. According to Phulosetsoe, “what you write must from from within your heart” and she moves the audience with detailing how her mother was HIV positive during the term of her pregnancy, yet Phulosetsoe was born HIV negative and therefore saved from infection. Moving from the personal to the public, she situatues her life within her community of Kayamandi and speaks of the relational existence of the individual in a moving confessional style that bleeds honesty.
Chrystal Williams is a poet to watch. Her confidence and mastery on stage is supported by a fresh and skilful writing style that combines dramatic monologue with a slight ‘protest’ feel. Performed in Afrikaaps, Chrystal’s mother tongue, her poetry addresses the hypocrisies she witnesses and experiences in her home, community and school. She explains: “Ons praat heeldag Afrikaans en dan kom ons in die skool en dan moet ons 'n sekere taal praat en ‘n sekere manier optree”. Her playful use of ambivalent imagery such as “rule/ruler” connotes the oppression and suppression of cultural values she experiences in institutions and simultaneously extends to the implements used in such environments – literally (a ruler to draw lines) and figuratively. “Hulle wil ons altyd constrict, you know? Die onderwysers en die kinners wat self in die skole sit”. Her use of vernacular Afrikaaps, then, is a conscious commentary on resisting conformity. “Afrikaaps as 'n taal is taboe en word nie as 'n regte taal gesien nie al praat almal dit. En dis min dat 'n kleurling meisie Afrikaans spit en nie nonsense praat nie”. Chrystal Williams spits Afrikaaps and leaves the audience blown away.
The INKcredibles are an inspirational bunch of young poets who show that creative expression changes lives. Their debut performance was an absolute success and Adrian Different and Pieter Odendaal have tapped into and nurtured something truly magic, proving that passion is transcendental and poetry resonates within us all.