International line-up announced for 2019 Poetry Africa Festival in Durban

The 23rd Poetry Africa Festival will take place in Durban from 7 – 12 October 2019.

The participating poets for the annual festival, hosted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA), have been announced!

Press release

Celebrating its 23rd edition, the Poetry Africa Festival features a host of local and international poets, at various venues and schools around Durban, with opening night and evening sessions at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

The six-day programme will feature interactions and engagements with poets through performances, readings and book-launches with a number of poets featured each evening. Once again the festival includes the ever-popular Durban Slam Jam Competition and the festival finale, which showcases all the poets in the festival. The daytime programme includes a mashup of workshops, talks, discussions competitions, open mic opportunities, as well as visits to schools.

‘Celebrating diversity, the festival includes local South African and international poets from Egypt, the USA, Spain, the Ukraine, Mauritius and Nigeria,’ curator Siphindile Hlongwa of the CCA says. ‘This year we continue to celebrate women poets and cast our focus towards fiery female poetic voices that use their art to mitigate the gender-based abuse and violence that continues to plague the country.’

16 poets are in the line-up for the festival. From Spain comes the prolific award-winning poet Guillem Gavalda, whose poetry has been translated into Spanish, English, Turkish and Greek.

Haitian-born Brooklyn-raised storyteller, Joel Francois, who tells stories of love, family and race, and believes that the artist is the ‘architect of humanity’, features from the USA.

Nadra Mabrouk from Cairo, Egypt, is the recipient of the 2019 Brunel International African Poetry Prize and the 2019 Poets & Writers Amy Award. Umar Timol is a Mauritian poet and photographer, who has published four collections of poetry and two novels, as well as articles in national and international journals, and contributed to collective anthologies in Mauritius and abroad.

Ukrainian Iryna Starovoyt is a poet, essayist, and Associate Professor of Cultural Studies at the Ukrainian Catholic University, and co-editor of the website Ukraina moderna (

The CCA and Poetry Africa have begun a long-term exchange programme with Nigeria that looks to furthering the literary and poetic connections between West and South Africa. At a time in South Africa’s shameful xenophobic history, this exchange programme is part of not just a healing, but a celebration of our collective African identity. We celebrate the power of the spoken and written word to unite.

This year the festival hosts five poets from Nigeria as part of an exchange programme with the Lagos Poetry Festival, which takes place in October. Efe Paul Azino, one of Nigeria’s well-known performance artists and poets, who co-founded West Africa’s first international poetry festival, the Lagos International Poetry Festival, which he currently directs. Titilope Sounga, an award-winning poet, writer and performer who calls both Canada and Nigeria home. Tobi Abiodun, a poet and spoken-word artist who was born and raised in Benin City, is a multiple Slam Champion, holding titles in major Nigerian cities, including Lagos, Abuja and Portharcourt. Bash’ Amuneni, a poet and performer whose works explores humanity’s capacity for love. He is the author of the poetry collection There is a Lunatic in Every Town, a TEDx speaker and member of the Abuja Literary Society.

Once longlisted as one of MTV’s Brand New Artists, writer and poet Yomi Sode has been performing for the past 10 years – balancing the fine line between both Nigerian and British cultures that can be humorous, loving, self-reflective and uncomfortable, her highlights include opening for Saul Williams and The Last Poets, appearances at Yahoo! Wireless Festival, Latitude, Lovebox, Olympic Village, Sadler’s Wells Theatre and working with Channel 4 and BBC Radio 1Xtra.

From South Africa comes Luleka Mhlanzi, a performing poet, actress, creative writer and a youth activist who is currently based in Pietermaritzburg. Jolyn Phillips from the Western Cape, who published Tjieng Tjang Tjerries and Other Stories, which was shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Debut Prize for South African Literature and won the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences Prize for Best Fiction.

Busiswe Mahlangu is a writer, performer and TEDx Speaker from Mamelodi, Pretoria. Her work is hard-hitting and raw, holding space for conversations around poverty, mental health, education, violence, and healing. She is the founder of the Lwazilubanzi Project, a non-profit organisation that focuses on literature and creating learning spaces in townships and public schools.

Shashi Simelane (aka The Black Sash) is a well-known and popular performance poet, rapper, writer and student based in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal.

Muriel Mokgathi-Mvubu, known by her pen name MoAfrika ’a Mokgathi, is a multifaceted artist, who describes herself as ‘a writer, author, poet, performer, actress, translator, cultural activist, teaching artist, arts codes adjudicator, band leader, curator, award winning radio presenter-producer and a serial civic leader’.

‘Finally, we are truly honoured to host legendary, award-winning poet, South African poet laureate and activist Mongane Wally Serote, whose work has blazed a trail for many generations of poets, demonstrating the true power of the word to effect change,’ Hlongwa says.

  • The full programme for Poetry Africa can be viewed on the website
  • Tickets are R60 for adults and R40 for pensioners and students and can be purchased through Computicket.

Categories Africa International South Africa

Tags Book events Durban Mongane Wally Serote Nigeria Poems Poetry Poetry Africa Festival

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