Since 2016 South African based poetry organisation, Hear My Voice (HMV), has been giving local and American poets the opportunity to trade places in their groundbreaking poetry exchange programme, Azania to DC. After months of postponing 2020’s activations, the collaborating parties have made the decision to take the events virtual!
From 27 August to 29 August poetry lovers across the world will be able to enjoy a perfectly curated exchange of cultures, streamed directly to the HMV Facebook and Twitter, from 7pm SAST and 1pm EDT. Across the three days, the five poets, made up of three South Africans and two DC based poets will debut new written work as well as showcase their existing projects in a series of written presentations, videos and a Live poetry exchange. USA poets Drew Anderson and Dwayne Lawson-Brown are both versatile performers, actors, and emcees; and are well-known leaders of the DC poetry scene. They co-host the longest-running poetry and spoken word open mic in the District, Spit Dat, and their spoken word poetry theatre production, From Gumbo to Mumbo, is nominated for a Helen Hayes Theatre Award.
Representing South Africa is non-other than Masai Sepuru, Sibongile Fisher and Hope Netshivhambe who are all local stars in their own right. Among Fisher’s impressive list of credentials is her award-winning short story “A Door Ajar”; her 2018 non-fiction essay “The Miseducation of Gratitude” which won the 2018 Brittle Paper Literary Award; and her play "The Secrets That Raisins Keep" which was nominated for best script in the Gauteng Ishashalazi Drama & Dance Festival. Sepuru and Netshivhambe are two of the most recent winners of the Tshwane Speak Out Loud poetry competition, produced by Hear My Voice and the City of Tshwane. Netshivhambe is no stranger to the poetry stage, with her reaching the finals of the Tshwane Speak Out Loud poetry slam in 2016, 2017 and 2019. She’s also part of an ongoing production about gender-based violence called #WEAREDYINGHERE, which debuted at the ArtsCape in Cape Town and is directed by Siphokazi Jonas. Sepuru is a visual and performing artist practicing numerous disciplines including writing, painting, design, and performance. He has performed in many poetry slams, winning two of the biggest slams in South Africa back-to-back (Tshwane Speak Out Loud 2019 and Word N Sound 2018), making him the only poet to hold both championship titles simultaneously. He is also the first champion of the annual Speak Child Slam competition (2018), and is a five-time winner of Word N Sound’s King of the Mic award.
“This project is such an important one to us since not many poets get to travel the world in this kind of poetry-centred way, especially not from South Africa. We were meant to travel in April and kept waiting to see what would happen but as 2020 is drawing a close, we felt it was important to continue the exchange, even though boarders are closed at the moment.” – Ishmael Sibiya, Director of Hear My Voice.
The Azania to DC program, is a project by Jonathan B. Tucker in partnership with non-profit organization Hear My Voice and is funded in part by the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities and the National Arts Council. Tucker is committed to empowering the next generation of artists and activists, and for over 15 years he has been teaching and mentoring young people, creating outstanding opportunities for poets around the world.
After the recent success of Hear My Voice’s Poetry Relief Fund Web-Series, which ran from April – August the Azania to DC live-streamed events promise to be something literary-lovers do not want to miss. For more information on Hear My Voice visit www.hearmyvoice.co.za.
Sibongile Fisher holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing Management and a Higher Certificate in Performing Arts from the Market Theatre Laboratory, South Africa. She is a poet, writer, and facilitator. Her short story "A Door Ajar" won the 2016 Short Story Day Africa Prize, was shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Literary Prize, and also shortlisted for the 2018 Nommo Awards. She won the 2018 Brittle Paper Literary Award for Creative non-fiction for her essay “The Miseducation of Gratitude” published by Afroanthology in ‘Selves’ Anthology 2018. Her play "The Secrets That Raisins Keep" was nominated for best script in the Gauteng Ishashalazi Drama & Dance Festival. She chairs The Raising Zion Foundation, an organization that promotes literature, drama, and poetry in high schools. She has worked with the Market Theatre Lab, teaching playwriting, and has facilitated performance and writing workshops for Arts Alive, The Hillbrow Theatre, and Poetry Zone ZA. She began her journey as a performance poet and has graced stages such as the Joburg Theatre, the Soweto Theatre, and the Market Theatre. As a facilitator, she has hosted panel discussions at The Abantu Book Festival and various book launches for esteemed authors. She has also appeared as a panelist at Time of the Writer Festival (2017), Abantu Book Festival (2018, 2019), Kaduna Book Festival (2019), and the Ake Book Festival (2019). She is passionate about accessibility to arts and technology for teenagers across the globe.
She features in various publications, such as: Migrations, SSDA; Between The Pillar And The Post, Diartkonageng; Selves, Afro Anthology; Prufrock Magazine; Mail & Guardian; and Black Tax: Burden or Ubuntu, Jonathan Ball Publishers.
Follow her online at www.facebook.com/gratitudefisherlover
Drew Anderson is a former science teacher turned teaching artist, having developed his own curriculum called "Spoof School" which uses the art of parody songwriting to get students of all ages more connected to (and thus more invested in) their learning. Drew's proud accomplishments include producing the award-winning two-man show From Gumbo to Mumbo along with his partner-in-rhyme Dwayne B! the Crochet Kingpin, helping to spread the Hip Hop Shakespeare movement along with his comrades in the Baltimore-based Fools and Madmen collective, and founding and co-hosting Spit Dat, the longest-running open mic in the District of Columbia.
Follow him online at www.brokeballer.com
Masai Sepuru is a visual and performing artist practicing numerous disciplines including writing, painting, design, and performance. He has performed in many poetry slams, winning two of the biggest slams in South Africa back-to-back (Tshwane Speak Out Loud 2019 and Word N Sound 2018), making him the only poet to hold both champion titles simultaneously. He is also the first champion of the annual Speak Child Slam competition (2018), and is a five-time winner of Word N Sound’s King of the Mic award.
Masai’s poetry has made a mark on and off stage; he helps organize and lead workshops with poetry organizations around the Gauteng province, like Scribe Rites and Blue Pulse. Additionally, because of his degree in performing arts technology, he finds spaces and organizes poetry events around Pretoria with the organizations Poetoria and Black Suburbia. His passion for poetry got him selected to participate in the prestigious South African State Theatre Incubator Program, through which he created a feature-length theatre showcase called ‘it's all the sane’ adding to many other showcases that he has organized and contributed to, such as Blurred Lines, Toxic with Kori Strange, and Poetoria Showcases with Neo Soul. He has headlined and showcased in poetry sessions for Hear My Voice, Word N Sound, Black Labone, World of Words, and Street Poetry. Follow him online at www.facebook.com/masai.saiboy
Hope Netshivhambe is an international storyteller who was born in Venda, South Africa. Hope holds a Marketing diploma from the Vaal University of Technology and a certificate in Radio and TV Presenting from Oakfields College. She has performed her poetry at the South African State Theatre, the Market Theatre, and in Durban, Kimberley, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Tsakani, Mamelodi, Cosmo City, Vaal, Venda, and at schools, seminars, churches, and on radio stations and TV. She has been published in “Odd Magazine” (March 2018 edition), and her poem “Conjuring Art” was selected for the Not a Single Story Arts Exhibition, and was then published on the exhibition’s tabloid newspaper featuring Dr. Ester Mahlangu, Yoko Ono, and more than 20 artists from around the world. Hope was a Grand Finalist in the 2016/2017 Tshwane Speak Out Loud poetry slam and festival, and in 2019 earned 3rd place in the same youth poetry competition. In 2019, Hope traveled with Radioactive Blog to an annual festival that takes place at a refugee camp in Malawi. She is part of an ongoing production about gender-based violence called #WEAREDYINGHERE, directed by Siphokazi Jonas, which debuted at the ArtsCape, Cape Town and recently graced Joburg theatre, the production will soon be showing at Stellenbosch University. She has also traveled with Fresh Impressions, one of South Africa’s biggest poetry platforms. In 2019, her poetry was accepted for publication on the Avbob poetry competition website, which makes her a candidate for the grand win (to be announced mid-2020). Hope believes strongly in the power of words and stories, and is convinced that the world as we know it revolves around stories. Hope lives by her mantra, “do what you came for,” which speaks to her purpose. Follow her online at Facebook.com/healingformysoul
Dwayne Lawson-Brown a.k.a. the “Crochet Kingpin” is a DC native poet, activist, breakdancer, and CEO of Crochet Kingpin LLC. He is one of the hosts of DC’s longest running open mic series, Spit Dat, as well as host captain for the Busboys and Poets 450K location. In addition to featured readings at every Busboys and Poets location, SAGAfest Iceland 2015, Spirits and Lyrics NYC and Manassas, Woolly Mammoth Theater, and the C2EA “We Can End AIDS” march, Dwayne’s short form poetry prowess led him to win the Best Haiku Award at the 2011 National Underground Spoken-Word Poetry Awards (NUSPA). His work to increase HIV awareness through spoken-word garnered recognition from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, BBCAmerica, the Discovery Channel, and The Washington Post. Ultimately, his goal is to force his audience to feel. When not documenting his life through poetic meter, he can be found on the metro making scarves and hats, or singing karaoke.
Follow him online at https://crochetkingpin.com