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Timbila 2005: Celebrating five years of probing social commentaries

Press release

Limpopo province's pioneering book and poetry publishing initiative, Timbila Poetry Project, has outdone itself. In an unprecedented and unheard of move within South African publishing circles it is this year launching a thick volume of "onion skin" poetry. Actually, it's all 336 pages of raw emotion, insightful interviews, literary reviews and essays. Not a mean feat for a funding-dependent organisation founded in 2000 by publisher Vonani Bila as "a journal of new poetry which seeks to encourage writing in South Africa in the languages appropriate to our needs".

Timbila 2005 drifts a lot from its four predecessors. Most notably, Timbila 2000 had 33 contributors with an inspiring piece from current Limpopo province spokesperson Saul Molobi. He wrote passionately about "African renaissance and cultural aesthetics". In his essay, Molobi argued that, "I would propose that progressive cultural workers have to continue to be inspired by the struggles of the ordinary masses of people. Their work has to mirror the current contradictions facing people during this phase of transition in South Africa, and should creatively chart the way forward."

This example of probing and thought-provoking thinkers continued with the three other instalments, with 46 poets pitching for the christening of Timbila 2001.

Timbila 2002 and Timbila 2003, briefly punctuated by a celebration of the Grahamstown Arts Festival, set the scene for individual indigenous voices to utilise the four-year-old platform. In Timbila 2002, the 59 writers who trusted the initiative with products of their madness and musings were complemented by a book that contained interviews with Mbongeni Khumalo and Don Mattera and essays from Swedish-based Lefifi Tladi and Prof Es'kia Mphahlele. Timbila 2003 had 66 poets, many of whom went on to have their own books published by the organisation and its friends. Among those who now have poetry books out are Makhosazana Xaba (these hands), MM Marhanele (Marhambu ya Nhloko), Goodenough Mashego (Journey With Me), Myesha Jenkins (Breaking the Surface), Vonani wa ka Bila (In the name of Amandla), Linda ka Ndlovu (Impiselo), Mzwandile Matiwana (I lost a poem - Deep South Publishing), Mpho Ramaano (Talks with the Sun), Enock Dlayani Shishenge (Nsati wa Gayisa), Phomelelo Mamampi Machika (Peu tša Tokologo), Bruce Mikhomazi Ngobeni (Ndzeko wa Rixaka) and Tebogo wa Maahlamela (Moswaratau ka mariri).

Timbila 2005 is a celebration of all the years of unadulterated literary exchanges in far-flung places like Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Kippies, and social forums and writing residences around the world. It is contained in a thick volume filled with the pain, deception, love, betrayal and loneliness of the past five glorious years of free speech. It is filled with the usual suspects and fresh voices that are carrying the mantle of indigenous language poetry seriously into the next battleline. The following poets made instalments in indigenous languages: Bila, Mikhomazi Ngobeni, Dlayani Shishenge, MM Marhanele (Xitsonga), Prince Shapiro Tyalipi (Isixhosa), Nthabeleni Phalanndwa (Tshivenda) and Phomemelo Machika (Sepedi).

There are two poems in Dutch written by Wim Pesoon. Also making fruitful contributions are Sunday World editor Abdul Milazi together with University of Limpopo's Dramatist in Residence, Prof John Ruganda, Sudan's University of Juba's Taban lo Liyong, author of Corpse Lovers and Corpse Haters, Mxolisi Nyezwa, author of Song Trials, Kgafela oa Magogodi and Allan Kolski Horwitz.

This is an anthology that sees seasoned wordsmiths Sandile Ngidi, Vuyisile Msila and Michael Roy make their contributions. Timbila 2005 is a serious literary book that includes essays, commentaries and critical reviews. It is a testament of how post-liberation poetry has managed to remain in transition without being stuck in the political doldrums that saw many poets losing their themes with the dawning of liberation.

Five years later the initiative is still going strong with another anthology that celebrates ten years of free speech, entitled Burning Shacks and Floods, in the pipeline. It will take over where Timbila 2005 will leave the struggle, but for now this is what is on the table and in a four-course meal, it's first things first.

Timbila 2005 retails at R150 and will be launched at Polokwane Library Gardens on December 7, 2005.

      Makosha Dimo
(015) 291-2088

      Vonani Bila
072 129 6496

LitNet: 02 December 2005

Have your say! Send your comments to webvoet@litnet.co.za, and become a part of our interactive opinion page. Or submit your own poetry to Michelle McGrane for consideration.

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