Is it me or have South Africans developed a pretty fucked up way of commemorating the bloody, hate-fueled events that are littered all over the gruesome history of this country? I mean, for some reason or another, South Africans have seen it fit to commemorate the lives of thousands of people, both young and old, who were killed at the hands of a cruel system that saw their lives as nothing more than pawns in a game of “let’s see who can get rich the most, in the quickest way, with the least amount of effort from ourselves”, with partying like they have no sense and drowning whatever sense they have left in a pool of alcohol and vomit. Maybe it’s just me, but I really think we’ve lost it when it comes to honoring those who sacrificed their lives to ensure that we get to where we are today.
Many a time I’ve been to events that were meant to be commemoratory, but ended as sick mixtures of podium politicking and partying that seemed more like the celebrations of the gruesome killing of Black people by a toxic White government than it did a commemoration of fallen heroes. It has all been nauseating and sickening, and I’ve come to hate every minute of it. This year, though, the wonderful guys from the Bloemfontein Youth Poetry Slam gave me much needed medicine – to help take the sickness away and give me hope for the people of this messed up country.
Before we go any further, 2017 has been a great year, for me, when it comes to attending commemorative events. It all began with the Human Rights Day event where, unlike the ones I attended before, was filled with insightful discussions and minimal intakes of ethanol – in all its consumable forms. Like the June 16 event, this event was held at Pitseng African Restaurant in Bloemfontein, and involved some of the greatest young minds in the Free State – the entire country, actually – sitting together to discuss things we young people are accused of not taking seriously. But this post is not about that, it’s about the poetry slam I went to on the 16th of June, 2017.
If you know me at all, you will know how fucky my relationship with poetry, both written and recited, is – I’m basically a philistine when it comes to anything poetry. It is because of this reason that I took so long to write this: I know and understand way too little about poetry to write anything meaningful and sensible about it, or an event that has anything to do about it. So, before I get to the nit and gritty bits of the event, let me get the easy stuff out of the way.
The event was the brainchild of Tshiamo Malatji, a poet, and all round brilliant young person, and was organized by him and another brilliant poet, Morena Moabi. It is the first of its kind in Bloemfontein, being a slam and all, and is set to run every year on the 16 of June, with this year being its inaugural year. It was hosted by the author, and general intellectual leader of the masses, Mpho Matsitle and involved an open mic session (which also included a reading by the prolific author Ace Moloi), a poetry slam completion, and live music. And that, my dear friends, is the basic gist of the event.
So, now that that’s out of the way, let me make a fool of myself and try to explain to you guys what I believe went on at the event.
Firstly, I think I need to make clear the fact that, even though I’m a philistine in all things poetry, spoken word poetry tends to go over my head more than the written kind. This is mainly because I can always go back to written poetry and try to redeem whatever intellectual swag I think I have, while with spoken word, once it over it’s over. So, with that in mind, I think it’s safe to say that a majority of the poetry that was recited on the day went over my head, and has gone beyond any abilities of recollection I have. As a result, my hazy recollection of the events of the day include being surrounded by a ton of art loving people, Ace reciting what I can only describe as a Sesotho porn scene in his story, me dancing on stage, and Mpho, being the leader that he is, making everyone chant #ArtLivesHere while taking a selfie.
The event kicked off with the open mic session, which never disappoints – well, if you don’t count the fact that people seem to not write new material, that is. Poets came, saw a mic, and conquered it. A highlight of that segment of the event was Ace reading his brilliantly written short story – well, a section of it. Let’s just say, you’ll never understand this guy’s brilliance until you’ve either read his work or heard him read it. Then came the reason why we were all gathered at the intellectual den of Bloemfontein: the poetry slam. In all honesty, the slam, even though the poetry recited in it was nice (to the standard of someone who knows nothing about poetry, that is), was a bit disappointing. The disappointment had nothing to do with the organisers, and everything to do with the 8 poets who registered to do it but never showed up on the day. But, in the spirit of our fallen predecessors, the event went on, and a memorable time was had by all.
The event was a great success and did its part in commemorating those who laid down their lives on that fateful June 16 in 1976 in an honorable way. I’m looking forward to the slam next year because, with how this one went, I’m certain it is only going to get better. Check out some pictures of the event below. (All the images in this post were taken from the BYPS Facebook Page.)