Saturday, September 19, 2009

Napo Masheane

Napo Masheane is a South African writer, poet, director, playwright and acclaimed performer.
She was born in Soweto, the most famous township of Johannesburg, but grew up in Qwaqwa (Free State, another part of South Africa). Caves Speak in Metaphors is her collection of poems and essays. She has performed and shared stage with many famous poets, among which Linton Kewsi Johnson (a famous Jamaican poet).

She read her poetry a few days ago at Festivaletteratura in Mantova. I could not go but I saw a video of the performance and I would like to share it with my readers. It is very powerful, I was mesmerized.

At the beginning she performes a piece of her poem SAMBURU "My people" (read the full version here), full of words in Bantu languages. She says: "We are Samburu north butterfly / I stand on the backs / Of those who are called Bakganka / Singing songs that the rains and the winds / Never whispered to dinoka. / Badimo baka waiting to be praised / With the buzz of the bees, / The beats of the drums / They chant to my unsaid choruses. / I stride on shoes of giants, / Creating the legacy of their conquest, / Embracing their names in verse, / Reflecting their voluptuous looks on lakes, / Pulling their strings from Khalagadi, / Placing them on borwa ba AFRICA".

Here's another poem by Napo Masheane, more accesible to us who don't speak Zulu or Xhosa (yet).

God grafted the lines of the universe
Making the sunshine
At the birth of every being.
The fire that lights,
Through which new rays of life breaks,
A moment of time,
Where our new voices collectively
Must heal the diseased land-souls,
Liking the aged and the unborn.
Turning our childless grave yards
Into laughing homes,
Where our people are empowered and developed.

The chains of our past
Should not trouble us forever,
But seal the lips of slavery caves.
Our people should stop
To live under the tyranny of silence,
Turn deserted lands into farm fields.
We must sow the seeds of UBUNTU
Building and shaping our future on firm grounds,
So that our royal languages can echo proverbs,
At a place where our ancestors walked.
Let us help the poor and the lame
To open the closed doors
So that they can dress our hearts differently.
Let us move earth and assemble our villages
So that our tears can become raindrops
For the sea of education
For the rivers of prosperity
For the lakes of democracy

Our voices should write new poetic bibles
And prose of golden beauty,
Casting away HIV/AIDS- unemployment and felony
Let us use our voices to fashion the old
Build strong bridges of awareness
Bridges that will take us far beyond
The skyline of time.
Bridges that will transform our core from
Dance floors of misconception
As we re-create who we really are.

Let us dress our behaviours like monks
Allowing our offspring to pick fruits
From the highest trees of spirituality
So that they can destroy the walls of orphan villages
Giving each home a name

We are pillars of a proud vote
Bound by a period in which
Every being must speak colour sounds
Of togetherness.
Let our voices find ways
In which the webs of life are woven

A place where mothers cannot escape
The messages of their own bodies.
Let’s allow our fathers’ spirits
To stretch and match science, history and politics
Let our unique voices teach us
How to dig, plant, water our seeds
So that we can buy our children’s smiles.
Let our words call peace
As ancient drums still our voices
Sending us to a place
Where the love of UNITY lives
To draw our people as a unit,
Let our SUNRISE voices shout
For we know where it all begun
We know where we are
We know where we are heading

The sparks of the sun
Opened the sealed envelop of my words
They, tied in endless riddles
Are perused out to the world by my faith
For God grafted the lines of the universe
Making the sun shine
At the birth of my soul.
The fire that lights,
Through which new rays of life break,
A moment of time,
When our voice together
Must weave the diseased land-souls
Liking the age and the unborn.
Turning our childless grave yards into laughing homes
Where our people can speak the same
Let our SUNRISE voices shout

[from this website]

Read my post on Es'kia Mphahlele, another South African poet, here


  1. thanks for this...perhaps we delved into poetry at the same time...hahahaha...always a pleasure reading your blog

  2. E' bellissimo: è affascinante come interpreta (e vive) le sue poesie!

  3. @Nana: thanks, I hope you enjoyed the poems.

    @Silvia: Napo è davvero una grande interprete, non c'è dubbio!