We grew up to the sounds of powerful poets and storytellers like Lebo Mashile and Gcina Mhlophe. The art of storytelling has evolved massively between their time and now. I spoke to the powerful Kalawa Jazmee princess Busiswa Gqulu and author of Home Before February Masingita Mzilikazi to hear how they are bringing poetry to a new generation of South Africans.
Are you finding it easier for people to listen to the message you want to deliver or is there still a crowd that listens for the beat? Busiswa: Sometimes I am frustrated and want to be heard. Sometimes I want to share the joy of dancing with my people. I like both crowds at different times.
I know you’re a huge fan of Busi Mhlongo, would you say you’re another Busi?
Busiswa: Hell NO! It would take a certain level of spiritual enlightenment for me to start enlikening myself to her like that. I like to think I relate to her as a kindred spirit though in terms of the way I relate music to culture and the human condition. I love all things African, so her and Thandiswa Mazwai are my biggest inspiration.
Do you see a future in poetry? Busiswa: Poetry is from the ages of the ages. A century ago it was different. A century later, it will be different. As long as we have eyes to see and ears to hear, poetry will be there. What’s really hot right now is poetry in our own languages and distinct Mzansi styles. It distinguishes South African poetry. However our poetry becoming more commercial with voices of great poets heard in adverts and at conferences. I think this is good.
Poetry is from the ages of the ages. A century ago it was different. A century later, it will be different. Busiswa
Tell us about your book? Masingita: This was my explanation of what love is and how I would like people to develop a better perception of love. The book is a love anthropology. Some say it’s romantic, but it was just my way of understanding love. It talks about all sorts of love, not only the one that includes romance.
Do you see a future of poetry in South Africa? Masingita: I do. If you look at movements like Word N’ Sound and Pen Seed Poets, these are movements that try and keep poetry alive. Young kids will look up to these guys and marvel. However there is a lot that still needs to be done.
If you look at movements like Word N’ Sound and Pen Seed Poets, these are movements that try and keep poetry alive. Masingita
How is the book being received so far? Masingita: The book is doing well. A lot of people are loving it. I got Nothende to write the foreword. However, so many people claim to love poetry, but it is not a disputable fact that the art lacks an large audience.