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Artwork by Lex Trickett

BORN::FREE poetry nights // the live alchemy of South African and UK-based literature practitioners

The project BORN::FREE Next Steps was conceptualized as a poetry exchange involving artists based in South Africa and the UK. This three-part series of events and workshops explores themes including gender, race and spirituality, among others. The most powerful impact of the project has been the forging of relationships between South African and British live literature practitioners – specifically womxn of colour working in and outside of the diaspora.

BORN::FREE, a poetry night co-founded by writer and educator Belinda Zhawi, began as a community project in the UK with the aim of creating a space where emerging writers and well-established writers could inspire one another and share their work with one another. With the first part of the project taking place in the UK, Johannesburg and Cape Town will see Belinda travel to deliver her poetry and share her literary passion together with South African poets.

Photography by Gabriel Shamu

The first of the two South African poetry sessions took place at Johannesburg’s African Flavours Books store on the 5th of January. As I walked into the venue, the chatter of the attendees hummed the tune of excitement that comes with a new year, and a new experience. Although the audience was mainly made up of Joburgers, there were a few British visitors woven between those seated. Belinda began the evening by reciting poems that share experiences from her childhood in Zimbabwe as well as poems that express a mix of lessons she has learnt about life and herself. South African poets, writers, social commentators and academics Katleho Kano Shoro and Lebohang Masango shared their poems, and information about their latest published works. Katleho has recently published her debut collection of poetry,’Serebulele‘. Lebohang has recently published a children’s book titled ‘Mpumi’s Magic Beads’. Both of these are available at African Flavours Books.

BORN::FREE will then travel to Cape Town on the 11th of January and will be hosted by Ahem Art Collective. In addition to Belinda’s performance, South African poet, performer & spoken word educator Toni Stuart as well as London-based poet and drummer Remi Graves.

Check out the Facebook event for more info about the Cape Town event

‘This article forms part of content created for the British Council Connect ZA 2017 Programme. To find out more about the programme click here.

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