Power of the word

PORT ELIZABETH spoken word talent Lelethu "PoeticSoul" Mahambehlala will hear tomorrow night if she has won a national arts, culture and heritage award in Johannesburg.

An excited yet humbled Mahambehlala is one of five finalists in her category of the Feather Awards and describes herself as "just a girl who is doing what she feels is her contribution to society".

"I'm happy to have just been nominated. I didn't even know this type of award existed. To win the award will give me a bigger platform," said the poetess.

Winners in the Feather Awards will be announced at Melrose Arch tomorrow night, to pay tribute to South African women.

Lindsay Ziehl of Yokhuselo Haven, which helps women and their families who have been the victims of domestic violence, is a past Port Elizabeth winner of the award, which aims to recognise powerful female stars across four categories: business icon and entrepreneur; community builder and humanitarian; heroine; and arts, culture and heritage.

Mahambehlala's category recognises filmmakers, actors, radio and TV entertainers, musicians, artists and authors.

Although she refuses to make a big deal of it, Mahambehlala lost her sight about five months ago. However, she hopes the vision loss is not permanent and said "PoeticSoul is still PoeticSoul".

"It changes nothing, it doesn't change who I am nor what I do."

This year she celebrates 10 years of her poetry that heals and uplifts. Through her poetry, Mahambehlala became involved with Nubian Mantombazana, an NGO which aimed to emancipate the young women of the metro. She helped host a Life Lessons project at Kwa-Magxaki High School and various events at the North End Prison for women.

It was for this work that she was the category winner of Vision4 Women's Beyond the Balance Sheet arts and culture award this year.

"I used to love reading anything and then the love for reading turned into a love for writing when I started journalising my life.

"Then the love for writing letters and journalising was molded into poetry when we were given an assignment to compile our own poetry books in Grade 8 at Pearson High School.

"The love for performance is something that was discovered for me by my primary school teachers, seeing as I was always that girl who was ever-ready to volunteer herself for public reading or memorising poetry to showcase in front of the whole school whenever the opportunity arose.

"People, life, the ever-changing times and the fact that writing allows one to journey to a positive space inspires me.

"Being able to make the decision to live my life as a poet is probably the biggest decision I've ever made. Making poetry the basis of everything that I do is the most satisfying feeling and it's what I consider to be my greatest accomplishment beyond the recognition and awards."

She first stepped on stage in 2003 at the regular Thursday sessions at Urban Connexion and it took her as far as performing at the Lentswe Poetry Project at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in 2006 where she won in her category for Women's Day.

The Feather Awards criteria include those who have contributed to the growth and success of others by applying their personal talents and convictions, and have set a standard of passion, truth, spirit and commitment.

Online nominations are made by the public and thereafter nominees are judged by a panel.

The winner of each category receives a Feather Awards trophy and prizes valued at R30000.