Poets given a voice to shine during the pandemic

Xolile ‘Zion’ Vilakazi is the coordinator of the KZN Poetry Project.
Xolile ‘Zion’ Vilakazi is the coordinator of the KZN Poetry Project.
Image: Supplied.

KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) poets have benefitted from Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) grants from the National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC).

The poets participated in the NAC-funded KZN Poetry Project, which ran from October 2020 to March 2021.

The NAC invited artists and arts organisations to apply for funding for projects that complied with COVID-19 restrictions and protocols and were aimed at educating and entertaining using digital technology.

The initiative formed part of the NAC’s response to the pandemic and focused on the creation, exhibition and showcasing of work during COVID-19.

The KZN Poetry Project was one of the successful funding applicants. Project co-ordinator Xolile ‘Zion’ Vilakazi says her project saw about 30 youth getting short-term work opportunities. She says the project received R100 000 in NAC funding, with an additional R20 000 coming from local company Mavundla Media.

“The call was open to any poet in the province. We shortlisted poets and additional creatives to support the operations. In addition, we had a graphic designer, four coordinators and three local videographers,” she explains.

The project was also extended to an orphanage in Ladysmith, which hosted a poetry competition and awarded winners.

One of the winners, Nothando Mkhwanazi from eSikhawini in northern KZN, recited a poem about COVID-19 awareness and another about gender-based violence.

“The pandemic disrupted me emotionally and financially. While on lockdown, I was emotionally unsettled, starting to doubt my craft. When I saw this project, hope was restored,” she says.

Another winner, Kwandile Hadebe from Umlazi near Durban, says: “Poetry speaks to a person’s conscience. When we recite, we communicate. This means poets can be a part of government’s initiatives, aimed at raising awareness.”

Vilakazi adds that the project inspired her to do more fundraising for other projects as she realised how helpful such opportunities are for up-and-coming poets.

“Organisations such as the NAC are here to help us develop artists and showcase our crafts.

“If anyone wishes to pursue a similar project, I would say have a good concept in mind, get your paperwork right and be realistic about your budget. This requires some project management skills,” she says.   

The NAC offers financial support to arts organisations and individuals involved in projects in dance and choreography, literature, multi-discipline, theatre and music and visual arts and crafts. For more information, call 011 838 1383, email info@nac.org.za or visit www.nac.org.za.

-This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk'uzenzele.

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