Dr Serote takes his arts work to new platforms

Dr Wally Serote has launched a website to promote South African poetry and work from the rest of Africa.
Dr Wally Serote has launched a website to promote South African poetry and work from the rest of Africa.
Image: Masi Losi

To contribute to Pan Africanism and the renaissance of the continent, SA's third poet laureate Dr Wally Serote has launched an online platform for poets and artists.

The renowned writer says the website seeks to respond to the country's diverse culture and aims to promote young and old poets.

The platform will also honour legendary poets who have played a role in growing the art.

The Sophiatown-born poet, 76, says the idea to work on the project started 18 months ago and through the initiative, he is creating a reservoir of knowledge about poetry, and a place that reflects and promotes the diverse cultures of the country.

"The objective is to promote the diverse culture of our country and nation through poetry and other art forms. As the poet laureate myself, I would like to create a platform for young, old, men and women to express the reality of our poetic country.

"I have realised that poetry is growing roots in our community and people love and listen to it. We need to ask ourselves how do we use it to take other art forms to the people. We want to contribute to art consciousness and concentrate on the history of our culture."

He was inaugurated as South Africa's National Poet Laureate in 2018.

Serote, whose latest work Sikhahlel' u-OR, a poignant epic praise poem dedicated to former ANC president Oliver Reginald Tambo, wants to keep poetry alive and take it to another level.

He says poetry and other art forms are synonymous with culture and were in need of illumination in our country more than ever. As someone who continues to enjoy a prolific political and literary career, Serote holds the values that Pan Africanism teaches close.

"It is my wish that we contribute to Pan Africanism and show poetry is a vessel through which we can express love and respect for humanity."

Through the initiative, the legend wants to honour some of the country's greatest poets such as James Mathews, Don Mattera and William Kgositsile by featuring their work on his website.

Serote says he felt compelled to honour the legendary poets because they kept the spirit of poetry even when times were hard during apartheid.

"After being honoured last year, I was asking myself what is it that I can do to our nation to contribute as much possible to contribute to the culture. When I was growing up, I was close to the late visual artist Dumile Feni and learned a lot from him."

About the initiative: "I wanted to archive the African stories and have an association of poets. The aim is to professionalise the industry and get to a point where we get paid for performing. We also want to educate poets about sharing their work on social media, how to get paid for it and how to produce quality work. and getting their work published."

Serote is not happy about the level of African literature in the schools and feels that government needed to be pushed to take it serious.

"It would help if they consult with poets when selecting works, novels and theatre pieces that can be features in school curriculum."

Serote, whose works have been featured in many tertiary institutions literature books, feel that people can never run out of inspiration to write because South Africa on its own is a poetic country.

As the country and the world at large has continued to reel from the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects, Serote says: "We are a nation that knows what it is to endure with hope, and have triumphed against insurmountable odds with dignity before. We are resilient people and will conquer this challenge."

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