Mafika Gwala Annual Lecture will take up pivotal place at Poetry Africa Festival 


The 2020 Mafika Gwala Annual Lecture started in 2015 as a collaboration between the College of Humanities at UKZN and South African History Online will be presented this year as a live-streamed panel discussion themed Poets, Artists and the voices of Resistance in the 1970s. The panel discussion will take a pivotal place in opening the UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts 2020 Poetry Africa Festival.

Director of the Centre for Creative Arts, Ismail Mahomed, said, “it is logical to locate UKZN’s annual lecture prominently at the Poetry Africa festival. Mafika Gwala’s legacy, while remembered by an older generation, resonates even louder with a new generation of poets, writers and intellectuals who are inspired by his message that “you cannot divorce language from power”. The theme for this year’s Poetry Africa Festival is “Poetry as a voice for social change”.

Poet, writer and distinguished sociologist, Ari Sitas, who was active in workers’ theatre and the cultural wing of the Congress of South African Writers (COSATU) and now one of the leading figures behind the Insurrection Ensemble, will moderate the panel discussion featuring Sam Moodley, Fred Kumalo, Eugene Skeef, Bridget Thompson and Ndumiso Ngcobo. 

Sam Moodley is a cultural and political activist in the Black Consciousness Movement and one of the founders of the xxx which played a leading role in establishing the cultural ethos of the BCM in the late 1960 and 70s before the Black Consciousness  Movement was banned. Distinguished award-winning author and journalist, Fred Kumalo, was a member of the Mpumalanga Arts Ensemble, which Mafika Gwala started with other activists from his area.

Poet, musician and cultural activist, Eugene Skeef, was one of the founding members of Malopoets before he went into exile and established an independent arts organisation in the United Kingdom (UK). Skeef continues to organise cultural activities in the UK and is working on a  series of projects to keep alive the legacy of the late South African born musician Bheki Mseleku. Bridgit Thompson is a film-maker and activist based in the Western Cape. Writer and columnist for the Sunday Times, Ndumiso Ngcobo, has been working on a biography of his uncle, Mafika Gwala

Delivering the keynote address at the first Mafika Gwala Annual Lecture in 2015 Ari Sitas described Gwala’s published oeuvre as having “exhausted the creative limits of the scripted word here: beyond his poetry lies an unknown, an untested terrain, for every subsequent poet in Natal, has been consciously or unconsciously writing in his shadow. From the gutsy exuberance of the first work to the tortured lines of the second, to finally the authority of line, rhythm and sound of the third, we are faced with a complex inheritance”.

The collaboration between the Centre for Creative Arts and South African History Online (SAHO) will also be live-streamed to a venue in Mpumalanga Township, outside Hammersdale, KwaZulu-Natal, the home of Mafika Gwala.

“For the last five years, the students and community of Mpumalanga have been one of the most enthusiastic and loyal supporters of the Mafika Gwala Annual Lecture Series”, said Omar Badsha, the founder and director of South African History Online (SAHO).

The Poetry Africa Festival will be presented digitally this year from 12 – 17 October.

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