InZync Poetry Session, 26 April 2013, Café Art, Stellenbosch.
On the eve of the nation’s 19th birthday, the crowd that gathered at Café Art for the April InZync Poetry session was one that embodied not only diversity and heritage, but also vitality and hope. The tiny venue overflowed with bodies, as eager poetry supporters pulsated in time to the beats provided by local DJ, Pronutro. Master of Ceremonies, emcee Adrian Different, opened proceedings showing off his self-proclaimed “lyrical abilities”, initiating the open mic by reading a poem on behalf of another poet that lauded the “spoken liberation” of people that have broken out of their boxes and truly overcome.
Having set the tone accordingly, Diff then introduced the vibrant Vuyo – a previous InZync poetry slam winner. Dressed in exquisite traditional dress, complete with headgear and knobkerrie, Vuyo’s voice blessed the stage with its percussion of isiXhosa, alternately wailing and whispering the opening poem.
Following her was Lani, imploringly remonstrating the perpetrators of gender-based violence, questioning the audience emphatically: “Does MY gender really matter to YOU?”
The familiar curvaceous figure of Allison came to the stage, welcomed with warm applause and appreciative whistles. Her poem was a symbolic collaboration with the great Hugh Masekela as she spoke her words accompanied by a back track of his “Stimela”, weaving her poetry with the strains of his legendary trumpet.
The next performer, InZync street team member, Austin, entertained and invigorated the crowd with his rap. His cleverly humorous turn of phrase earned him warm laughter and enthusiastic applause, and his hard-hitting, equality-orientated message was received with an uproarious response.
The mood was given a sensual and sadly sentimental tone as Tony, a poet dressed sharply in hat, bowtie and suspenders took to the stage with the strains of a melancholic violin in the background, and read a poem about infidelity, reiterating the refrain “I thought that it was love”.
The winsome Litha, aka “King Her”, was up next, her shy demeanor and diminutive frame not belying the audacious messages she chose to communicate in both of her poems. The first concerning the power and status struggle that exists between middle-class black women and their domestic workers, and the second translating the obstacles posed by a mixed-race relationship.
Lyrics replaced poetry as Nomonde and crew, sang acapella about the struggles faced by young men and women in the townships.
Wrapping up the open mic was Phumi. She stood, a bold figure dressed elegantly in black and white on the stage, and delivered an absorbing piece with ecclesiastical undertones, calling home the princes and princesses trapped in a world of sin and deceit.
Unusually for Inzync, the featured performers only arrived onstage after the intermission.
Opening for the featured artists was Garlic Brown, who has performed on the InZync stage before with his crew, the League of Shadows. Looking every bit the mellow hip-hop Rasta that he claims to be, Garlic Brown entertained the audience with freestyle raps that closely mirrored the impromptu fashion of a cipher. No images or topics were off limits, as Garlic Brown ramblingly spoke about everything from his own troubled past and family life (“Did I really just go there?”), the troubled politics of South Africa, to the natural beauty of Stellenbosch and random popular culture references thrown in to keep the audience on their toes. After acknowledging that his high was confusing his thoughts, he left the stage to appreciative applause.
Ghetto queen by self-nominated definition, Joy Ryan, was the middle performer of the featured acts. Ryan spoke in rapid fire Afrikaans, indicting those who still feel trapped by their circumstances, emphatically arguing that if she could escape, anyone can. “I made it!” she cried, before adding: “And I’m still makin’ it!” Her poetry honoured her roots, but also her potential, mentioning loved ones lost and thanking her God “vir die besluit; dat ek hier kan staan en sê: I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve come back”. Her message, though jolting and arresting at times, was meaningful and inspirational.
The closing act was the enchanting Kneo Mokgopa. Modestly introducing himself in a preface to his first poem, the slight form of Kneo was every inch the sensitive poet. Each of his poems testified to a unique measure of intimacy between himself and the lover his imagination conjured for the audience. Using often delicate, expressive and sincere imagery, Kneo wound the thread of his narratives into a gloriously emotive tapestry. Despite being decisively heckled by an audience member who accused Kneo of not being unique – “your status updates are not sonnets” – Kneo retained his aplomb and gracefully won over his audience and humbly stole into their hearts. “I wish I could recite in sign language, coz actions speak louder than words,” he said in his last poem. In the same poem, he spoke abstractly to the issues that may be in the minds of many South Africans this 19th Freedom Day: “I don’t think the “A” in “ANC” stands for Azania”.