A poet with a heart to help

Gillian McAinsh

A FIRST year student shared the stage with one of the country’s most acclaimed authors, with both women pouring out their passion for poetry with blazing performances.

Award-winning poet, journalist and novelist Prof Antjie Krog was guest of honour at the Nelson Mandela Metro University vice-chancellor’s cultural evening last month, reciting two of her celebrated poems.

Alongside her, Graaff- Reinet first year student Zawo Kalimashe gave an equally impassioned recital of her poem, African Woman, following Krog’s Binne Buite.

Fellow student Sisonke Papu also recited his poem, Lost in Translation.

With rising interest in poetry, the theme of this year’s vice chancellor’s evening was verse, and the university now hopes to print a staff and student poetry publication every year.

Papu and Kalimashe are two of 35 students and staff at NMMU whose work has been included in a new anthology of poetry, Expression Within launched by the arts and culture department at the end of August.

“I was also asked to perform at the launch of the book at the South End Museum,” Kalimashe said.

Meeting Krog and listening to the literary icon was an inspiring experience, particularly as Krog complimented her on her performance.

“When I came off the stage she said ‘good job, that was beautiful’,” Kalimashe said.

“She was amazing and she still gives her all.

“In Grade 12 we did one of her poems so it was humbling now to meet that honourable poet.”

Kalimashe has been putting her thoughts and feelings on paper since she was 12 years old. “The very first poem I wrote was about my mother and it led me to continue writing and voice out my opinion about women.”

Her poem published in the anthology, African Women, written in Grade 9, was inspired by women: “Wathinta abafazi wathinta imbokodo. You strike a woman, you strike a rock”.

“Poetry is growing but although a lot of people do write they do not take the opportunity to perform,” she says.

Kalimashe, however, grabs the chance with both hands.

“I have to write! I write because of what is around me.

“And even when I was young, in Grade 3, I was an arty child, dancing and singing.

“Poetry is about how I feel and I take the opportunity to share this.”

The Union High School matriculant is in her first year of a national diploma in management at NMMU and would like to run her own business one day.

She chose a commercial course over the arts because she said she “wanted to study something where I can use my skills and knowledge to share my dreams”.

Whether in the realm of the “theatre, boutique, music, fashion or recording studio”, that career will be linked to the arts, and empowering others. “I want to give underprivileged kids the chance to live out their dreams.”

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