#CSPSlam Ch.4 One on One winner – Mbongeni Nomkonwana

Don’t we all love it when the Zulu goes against the Xhosa? Well I do. In front of me sits four young men who are cheering for the Zulu, to my right sits two ladies who are cheering for the Xhosa and behind me I hear someone declare that they are cheering for the winner. And I’m in the middle of this thinking “Halala Malangabs, Halala.”

Some rounds are tied and some have a clear winner, but all I see in the poets faces is “man, you are giving me run for the title.” And it is this kind of competition that I admire. When it’s the competitors themselves that say “anyone can take it.” But it is Mbongeni, the chubby, the short, the Xhosa, who goes to the back of the stage to steady himself before he approaches the mic that, not only leaves the lady who sits to my left crying, but he also leaves with the CSP One on One Ch. 4 winner title.

And I want to know, as the current state of poetry’s Ch.4 one on one slam winner, what he thinks of the current state of our state.

This is what he thinks,

  1. In Homage you say “Those who left their families cursing and hating the path we have chosen, forbidding their children to embrace the same journey” as an artist, what are you consciously doing to ensure that your family does not curse the path you have chosen to embrace?

As artists it is our responsibility to inform our families that the path we have chosen is not easy, it will not get you a house and a car in the first 3 months unless you are super blessed and land a very big job or contract. I have come to realize that as an artist I must work more on my product and become a business, when you have a product whether as an individual or a collective, and I believing in the latter in order to build an industry, the industry respects you and you are able to build your name. So you no longer work for people or institutions but you offer a service and collaborate with them, and in good time you will build a reputable business that will create wealth for you and your family.

  1. What are the issues that the poets of your generation tip toe around?

Right now poets of our generation are concerned with dopeness and whackness, and we fail to find the in-between which is where I think real artistry is. Another issue is determining what true South African poetry is and whether we are bordering more on western and American poetry or we are carving our own. We also lack cohesion in the industry, we all want to push our hustle and brands that we drift apart and collaborations become a rare find. If there is one, it is more about the other benefiting than both parties. My biggest thing is breaking poet’s self-esteem especially those who have not been writing for long, it is all good and well to give feedback to an artist but we must be careful about how it is delivered, especially if it comes from one true artist to another. We need to come up with industry standard rates for gigs and performances. I hope this answers your question.

  1. Many slams later, what is typical of a slam?

Slams are all about strategizing, a lesson I learnt from my friends and colleagues Lwanda Sindaphi and Koleka Putuma. Make the audience experience every aspect of your writing by showing versatility in your poems, both writing and performance. Your heart and honesty are guaranteed to have the audience eating from your palms but you have to be technically prepared to impress the judges as well. One thing about slams is that, it is a competition and one must enter it with the intention to win, and winning a competition requires training and a good strategy.

  1. What does the current state of our State mean to you?

It means that there is a lot to be done. We are a broken State with broken people, led by tired leaders who are afraid of another revolution or blood bath. I am not advocating for war or violence but we must live in a just state where everyone is equal socially and economically, if that is possible in this world. I also think that as black people, and indigenous people, we must arrive to self, we have been nomads for too long and we have forgotten who we are and what makes us, whose sons and daughters we are.

  1. What is the feeling that stands between winning and losing a slam?

Fear. It is wise to respect your opponent but I think do not bring fear to the stage, have fun and remember it is just a competition.

  1. How does being a theatre practitioner inform your poetry? Both the writing and performance.

It helps you weave your stories very well, and as a trained performer you become aware of your voice and how it can be used to achieve outstanding performances. You do not just perform your poems but you breathe and embody them. You are able to interrogate and improve your work, enhancing your every performance. Awareness is key, you are able to press the right notes and keys to keep the audience engaged, making them care.

  1. As a co-founder of Lingua Franca, a movement similar to the Current State of Poetry, do you have any words of wisdom for the CSP team?

CSP must keep at it, they are doing amazing work and have achieved so much with this initiative. Once they have found their niche and unique product, they must exploit it to its marrow. Always treat every artist with respect and dignity, make them know that their voices matter.

  1. In one word, what are the challenges in poetry and what do you love about poetry?






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