The Republic of Poetry project: Timbila launches a writer development programme
Timbila Poetry Project is embarking on a countrywide initiative to introduce poetry in every village, township, block of city flats and every corner of the country and to unearth as many new voices as possible. In a flagship pioneering endeavour the funding-dependent publishing initiative has decided to engage all nine provincial governments through departments responsible for arts development. The approach is for municipal districts to identify poets and aspiring artists and avail them a series of creative writing workshops to be conducted by the organisation and funded by the relevant department.
The penultimate goal of the programme is to have every district, local municipality, ward and block with a published poet in its midst more capable of raising contemporary matters and able to capture the moment of our democracy. Poets who come out of the proposed three-day workshops with lots of potential will have their poems put together into an anthology that will be published by Timbila.
Timbila believes every community should have its own poet laureates who perform at community meetings, important days, funerals, schools, weddings, parties and churches. Young people need not be obsessed with television characters and celluloid poetry performers to the point where they think that it is an art form exclusive to city folks or some races who can afford television airtime. Aime Cesaire wrote in Return to my Native Land: “… no race possess the monopoly of beauty, of intelligence, of freedom. There is a place for all at the rendezvous of victory.”
Another saddening factor about our society is that literature is not given the kind of support it deserves. The worrying question has always been, "What is being done by government and the private sector to promote literature?" since such social investment will undoubtedly improve the levels of literacy. Young people will be able to tell their own stories and record local history.
Community leaders, including chiefs and kings, should feel ashamed when they are going to address their followers and there is no poet to provoke the people’s appetites as well as raise important questions. Having no praise heaped on them when they finally get to be distinguished speakers at tertiary graduation ceremonies should shame deserving academics.
This programme is aptly titled Republic of Poetry. In line with the government’s commitment to uplifting and supporting the second economy, the arts, especially black arts, which have suffered the same fate as the informal sector of the economy, also need emphasis on the part of government’s Departments of Arts & Culture to uplift. The funds made available at district level to facilitate arts and culture should go towards unearthing the talent of the future, since the present is just a gift that the older people are holding in trust on behalf of the young ones.
It is saddening that most people claiming cultural pride cannot even tell their family’s totems, thus putting a stop to the transfer of indigenous knowledge.
Timbila is positioned as the one organisation with the experience and passion to successfully pilot this encompassing initiative. Having been founded in 2000 without a committed funder or wealthy patron, the publishing initiative has up to now published five annual anthologies of poetry, special editions and CDs, and facilitated countless readings both in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, which have served as showcase platforms for more than a hundred poets from around the country.
Notable contributions to the organisation’s collection have come from the following poets and authors: Makhosazana Xaba (These Hands), Enock wa Shishenge (Nsati wa Gayisa), Goodenough Mashego (Journey with Me), MM Marhanele (Marhambu ya Nhloko), Phomelelo Machika (Peu tsa Tokologo), Mpho Ramaano (Talks with the Sun), Linda ka Ndlovu (Impiselo), Myesha Jenkins (Breaking the Surface), David wa Maahlamela (Motshwaratau ka Mariri), Mbongeni Khumalo (Apocrypha) and many more.
It is such a spirit of commitment to the arts that makes this new project by Timbila worthwhile. Every poet must be published, and every poet who has enough material to make a book must do so, even annually.
The Republic of Poetry project has started with proposals being forwarded to the Mpumalanga province’s Department of Arts. The overall rollout of the programme depends largely on respective districts making themselves available to tap into the opportunity to finally ordain their very own poet laureate – amongst their own people.
The programme will also focus on teaching skills related to copyright, manuscript editing and interrogating other people’s works. The difference between written and performance poetry will be explained and discussed in detail, including the link between poetry and other art forms.
Schools, community structures and arts collectives wanting to take part in
this creation of the Republic can do so by contacting Timbila Poetry Project
for more information, or their respective district municipalities which will
fund the relevant workshop. Our target is for 25 poets per district to attend
For more information contact:
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