NTSIKI THE POET……
My journey with poetry began soon after my mother died. It was an outlet I used to process the grief. My poetry is my healer and its journey has healed.
When I was young, I was in a predominantly English school. I stood out in 3 things…..
1. Creative Writing
2. Talent shows
The black child’s experience in a white school sets them back in that, even in areas where they show dominance, they are not necessarily celebrated. My English teachers did not verbalise my talent to me, but they did act in out. More often than not, I would be asked to read my creative writing in front of the class. I remember being 17 and thinking….’omg, why are you always making me read my work in front of the whole class?’ I found the spotlight of my writing a bit overwhelming.
Owing to the fact that my mere presence catalyses people, my high school experience was rough as girls often ganged up on me. I found my peace by reading poetry in the library during lunch breaks.
My university years saw me step into my poetry as I found a friend who also rapped. We would have word battles together. We would also attend many hip hop and open mic shows.
When I was 20yrs old I discovered an Open Mic session called Monday Blues. I had never done my poetry to a live audience before. My writing and lyricism had always just been for fun. The day I finally summed up the courage to recite my first poem at Monday blues…..I got a standing ovation.
I performed a poem called RISEN…..’This Voice I have been given…Nontsikelelo has risen.’
That is the night my poetry demon stood up and said ‘Ntsiki, this is who you are.’
From that moment, I occupied all the open mic sessions in Jozi and slowly started building my name. I hail from sessions like Word n Sound (Cool Running, Melville), House of Hemp sessions in town, Horror Cafe, Black Sunday, Stokvel series. These were the sessions which turned poetry into a popular culture in the mid 2000s. In that era, poetry sessions were packed and alive.
I used to get to sessions and KILL IT. Lol. I was a hot favourite. It was these ‘small’ bridges which made people start paying attention to me.
I got invited to a writer’s workshop in Port Elizabeth. When I got there I found it was inundated with men. I was one of 3 women there, Napo Masheane and Myesha Jenkins.
We had a chat at the conference and arranged to meet in Johannesburg and organise an ALL FEMALE poetry show.
When we got back to Johannesburg, we put out a call to all women writers we knew.
We really wanted it to work.
We set up a date for the women in poetry meeting to organise the show.
On the day of the meeting, only Lebo Mashile arrived.
And Feela Sistah Spoken word Collective was created.
People who saw the Feela sistah journey probably have goosebumps right now. What a magical moment we witnessed on the south African cultural landscape as 4 strong black women stood together to create a space for and about women.
Feel a sistah ran a wild and beautiful course. We catalysed poetry into the mainstream and inspired a more black conscious approach to entertainment.
You can’t have four bulls in a kraal.
Feela sistah lasted 3 beautiful years but our solo careers began to be more demanding and the group split up……not without drama though lol!
But what matters most is our contribution to poetry.
My journey with my poetry was also leading me to travel, tv and big stages. I was selected in south Africa’s first reality show to go to Uganda and New York and do my poems, for Scamto Groundbreakers.
I also got an invitation to perform at Thabo Mbeki Inaugural dinner alongside Don Mattera and other greats. It was a performance with 6 poets, and when I performed I took my moment. After the performance people kept texting bra Don Mattera ‘who was that girl in the orange?’
That is how I made my national debut.
I enjoyed my career as I got bookings and travelled to Belgium, Amsterdam, Jamaica, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Italy, Botswana, Swaziland and Germany. My poetry made me see the world.
In 2010 my first autobiographical anthology was published. I enjoyed a beautiful journey launching my book throughout the country. On google books it has a 5 star rating….something which makes me smile.
Around 2011, I started using my twitter account to work with my talent of word play. Since then, I have been regularly turning the country upside down with HOW I choose to say things. Apparently there is a deputy minister who said about me and my tweets…. ‘This girl has the ability to change the world in 140 characters.’
When I realised my tweets were stirring dialogue, I decided to create a blog.
My most popular blog had close to 500 000 hits, on average I get about 20 000 when I drop my blogs. My blog has proven to be popular, informative and one which encourages debate.
I have been using the internet to channel my poetic gift.
The latest development is my poetry getting me a full scholarship to do my MA degree in writing. Without an undergrad, somebody out there recognised that there is a lot of power in my writing. Somebody recognised that I contribute to the writing of the story of my generation….and my voice is important.
My Masters will probably take me 2yrs to complete, so I may seem quiet for a bit.
Some old lady just said to me….
‘Congratulations for getting into this course. It is a difficult department to get accepted into.’
I smile inside…..not only was I accepted, but they are paying me to do it. Lol.