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Thuthukani Ndlovu Clears the Air


The Naked Slam, like any other slam, couldn’t come and go without controversy and peer confrontations. Discontent was mostly about the judging criteria, with many voices unhappy with the outcome, believing strongly that, rather than Tshiamo Malatji, Hlox Da Rebel deserved the crown.

Poet Morena Moabi took to Facebook to publish his concerns about the Slam and his views about Thuthukani “TK” Ndlovu (Pictured), Poetry Coordinator of the Free State Literature Festival.

In summary, he lashed at TK for not considering any of Free State’s poetry movements for the workshops; the non-existence of a criterion for the Slam, which absence subsequently leads to judges basing adjudications on personal opinion; looking outside of Bloemfontein for poetry movements when Bloemfontein has talent, which then means he is “sleeping on Bloemfontein poetry” and thus disregarding the local movement. As ART STATE we invited both Morena Moabi and Thuthukani Ndlovu to explain themselves to the Mangaung poetry community, but only the latter honoured the request with a full response, despite the former having initiated the debate – or, as things stand, a mere rant.



By Thuthukani Ndlovu

Dear Morena,

Get your facts right

I did not invite Inzync last year to host the poetry workshops and slam during the inaugural Free State Literature Festival. The fact that you ask why I “still” bring them here means you think I have done so in the past.

Also, I did not invite Lingua Franca: the initial invitation was not sent by me, despite the kind gesture made by the Managing Director of Lingua Franca at the end of the show, when he said they’d like to thank me for inviting them. I am however grateful for the compliment, and I believe this compliment was intended for the Festival management.

My roles and responsibilities

My position in the Vrystaat Kunstefees is that of Poetry Coordinator. I ensure that any organisation that is hosting a poetry event is well catered for in terms of logistics, and that the actual poetry events go well, i.e. a good turnout.

I also go out of my way most of the times to personally market the events, and if need be, design posters for them, among other things. Please advise me on which organisation and/or artist in the Free State that is running poetry workshops. I will take this information to the Festival organising committee.

As the court pleases

I do not determine the criteria of the Slam. Neither do I have any influence whatsoever on the outcome. The only “influence” I have is to ensure that the Slam runs as smoothly and relevantly as possible. For example, Lingua Franca had initially stated that for the last round, the poets had to recite on the theme of “in-heritage”. However, I suggested to them that the theme should rather be “Homecoming” as this was the theme for the Festival.

Organisations or individual artists hosting the slam have their own rules and judging criteria. The way Word n Sound judges its slam will not be the same as Lingua Franca’s. The way Thinkincap judged the CSP Free State Provincial Slam could not be the exact same way as how the Bloem Youth Poetry Slam was judged. Poetry slams are different and each is unique.

I was not informed of the criteria for The Naked Slam.

I think the poets that compete should know in advance what the judges will be looking for from their performance. I cannot state it as a matter of fact that this happens or doesn’t happen – I cannot recall a slam that I’ve watched and attended where the poets were informed of the judges’ criteria. In conclusion of this point, I personally believe that if the poets competing had attended the workshops, they would have a great idea of what the judges were looking for. Tshiamo Malatji attended all three (3) workshops, and won the Slam. I was not surprised, despite my believing that Hlox Da Rebel deserved to win the Slam.

If I was a judge, I would have given Hlox Da Rebel a 10 for his third poem (even though I “personally” believe it was worth more than 10), but I was not one of the judges, so I respect their decision. I’ve never seen/ heard of any competitive slam where the judges and the audience all agreed in one accord on who the winners are. So I am not surprised by the feedback.

I respect the judges’ decisions. Whether judges stumble on the right decision or carefully arrive at it, the judges’ decision is final.

Talk is cheap, asking is free

Bloemfontein is indeed capable as you say it yourself, but the fact that you assume I’m the one looking for judges/poetry bodies only shows that you do not know my role and capacity within the Festival. It also shows that you have not spoken to me personally to find out how poetry organisations are invited to host workshops, what my plans are regarding the Festival, and what influence I have.

I do recognise the concern that you are raising, but if you had taken time to speak to me, while highlighting your concerns and suggestions, you would not have written that post in that manner. On this note, I would need you to remind me as to when you told me that I’m sleeping on Bloemfontein. Maybe I forgot, but as far I am concerned, I only recall having a stern engagement with poets Kwena Peu, Thinkincap and Tshiamo at one of the meetings we had a few weeks back, regarding poetry at the Festival.

Ao monna, Morena!

I must admit that I am deeply disappointed at your accusations (or assumptions, for lack of a better word), which you have also proceeded to make public on Facebook. I do not see how calling me out on a public platform like Facebook will solve the problem, especially when your post paints me and the Free State Literature Festival in a bad light.

Let’s face the book

On your Facebook post you claim that my efforts are in vain, but what exactly are my efforts, and have you heard the feedback from the poets that participated in the workshop?

You go on to claim that I am sleeping on Bloemfontein poetry, but do you know what I am currently doing and planning to do, or the ideas that I was pitching during the recently held Pan African Creative Exchange program, ideas which if implemented will primarily benefit the Bloemfontein poetry community?

Do you know how Charmaine Mrwebi and Tessa Muller managed to host shows as part of Free State Arts Festival? I’m not asking this question from a position of knowing (although I can try to find out for you), but to say it would be wise to get information from them, as they have firsthand experience, and I’m sure they would be able to provide advice and wisdom on how best to get your show as part of the Festival.

Do you know that Lingua’s poetry workshop was not the only poetry workshop during the Festival this year? There was another poetry workshop that cost R500 to be part of, which I was not requested to help coordinate.

Man to man

As a friend, I will be blunt, especially because we are all adults. You recently reminded me of how you and Tshiamo hosted and organised the first Bloem Youth Poetry Slam this year, in which you both also took part (which I find to be highly unprofessional, though the attendance was great as a sign of good marketing – well done).

I really looked forward to BYPS, but I’m sure there’s no need to compare it to how other poetry organisations host and organise their slam. I was just disappointed and embarrassed.

I am delighted at the fact that Hlox Da Rebel is now based in Bloemfontein, but upset at the fact that your ignorance hindered you from finding out that getting Sicknatcha Poetry Movement, the biggest poetry movement in the Free State, to be involved in next year’s Free State Literature Festival is something I plan on taking up to management. Please note that I will not make any promises, but I’m publicly stating a part of my plans, and as I stated earlier, I am only the Poetry Coordinator.

Working together, we can do more

It is my best wish that before you make any accusations about me in the future you ensure that they are true. I cannot please everyone, but I would rather please a few people who will be grateful for my efforts, than try to please the majority who will take my efforts for granted. I have faith that the Free State poetry community will not take my efforts, within my capacity, for granted, but will work with me in order to ensure that the Free State poetry culture grows.

We can all grow by learning and teaching; networking with other people and movements; building bridges with other organisations and countries; and putting our pride and jealousy aside so that we work as a united force.

Thuthukani Ndlovu is the Poetry Coordinator of the Free State Literature Festival. He tweets as @2tukani

Photo credits: Thuthukani Ndlovu

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