Frighted with an endless deluge of impeccable renditions from the meticulously curated lineup of endowed artists, Long Night of the Poets saw hearts flying up from the hundreds of screens that gathered around this virtual fire; it was lit. Hosting from the Lesedi stage at the Joburg Theatre, host Flo Mokale gave a rousing reception to the virtual community before rendering acknowledgement to the Department of Arts and Culture as the event presenters and dropping some reminders of the climate we are living in, "Acclimatize yourself with the sanitization of yourself," he buoyantly advised.
The star-spangled night cast its first twinkle with a poetic history lesson from the light-conjuring Vangile Gantsho. In the unfolding of this lesson, she served a well dashed punch, a dilution of isiXhosa into English, as if to mimic the essence of the lesson - "We have spilled out of God's hands... sawalibal' amasiko ethu (and forsaken our customs)." She ended the offering, with a 'Camagu forever' vibe, making room for the heavy breaths that flooded the comments and reactions section.
The monumental Pops Mohammed followed, unpacking various musical instruments from his bag of tricks. He took hold of our imaginations through the screen and led us on "... a journey into the mystical past," before paying due homage to the likes of Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Helen Suzman, Maya Angelou and Malcolm X, among others whom, he poetically shared, "... stand for what you and me could be." He then, with his band, rendered a polyrhythmic audio therapy session that could easily be mistaken for a meditation melody before a shrine. He uttered a serene, "Welcome to the future," towards his closure.
The linguistic mastery of Pule Welch charged onto the exquisitely designed set. He flexed his strongest muscle, flipping his tongue inside out and spitting a cocktail that reflects the rainbow nation. He proceeded the assuring voice of Father Michael Weeder who shared beautifully on how "... a little I and I," can become "a mighty we. Like many rivers flowing into a mighty sea." The not-so-serene Makhafula Vilakazi followed with his vivid storytelling. Blackfaced, he painted graphic images of a smudged blood-stained rainbow nation where xenophobia and tribalism are known realities.
He continued to his next relatable offering as the audience evidently lost their minds.
The terrain became an imaginary train as Diana Ferrus shared her poem, a story of the unknown realities that beset the many strangers we meet daily. The dope Siya Mthembu was next, with his captivating spokenword piece speaking to the "Rainbow child". Eavesdrop dropped some mad bars after him before the genius Kanyi Mavi proceeded with her unique Xhosa-rap style. More mindblowing performances trailed consecutively in single file, to the audience's satisfaction. Offerings poured out from the gifted artists, such as Zimbabwean songstress and mbira player, Hope Masike, radiance-beckoning poets Frank Meintjies, Busisiwe Mahlangu, Afeefa Omar, Nigerian Ajoke Bodunde and Tade Ipadeola, as well as Algerian Samira Nagrouche.
The brilliant musical quartet, Kamva presented beautiful renditions, some of which were in collaboration with poets like the incredible Sabelo Soko, and the equally stellar Sibulelo Manamatela, whose beautifully penned poem garnered many heart reactions from viewers who were clearly taken by the collaboration. Patriotism evidenced itself in the sharings of Palestinian Ali Mawassi and Sharif Zakout and that of Indian poet, author and activist, Meena Kandasamy as they laid bare the state of their respective home countries and their hopes for a brighter future.
Bobo Jay Nzima set the stage on fire with his "Ndilindele kuwe Qamata." Hope Netshivhambe and Pieter Odendaal also rendered their vernacular poems, tangible in emotion. The celebrated Jamaican poet Mutabaruka cast his renowned poetry, riddled with parables which lean towards teachings. This was before the equally acclaimed Asian American poet, Beau Sia shared a poem "... for all who are waking into the understanding that our liberation is through our collective cultural power."
Siya Shezi's geniusly crafted "Sgudi snayis" took the viewers down memory lane and saw many laughter and heart reactions flowing up, with comments reflecting nostalgia. As Khulile Nxumalo presented the closing offering,messages of thanks flowed through from the viewers to the organisers of the event. Moreso when Flo showed face and bade everyone a good night.
The long night was definitely worth every missed blink. Thankfully, it is still available for streaming to those who missed it. The platforms are; afroarts.co.za, joburglive.tv, as well as Facebook: Current State Of Poetry, and African women writers network and Joburg theatre.