Award winning copywriter, poet, and CEO of the Word N Sound Live Literature Company has over the years, come to be respected as a pioneer in the spoken word industry, not only in South Africa, but around the world as well. His talents and contributions to the industry have seen him be part of the opening ceremony of the Africa Cup of Nations, on our televisions for the Channel O Hip-Hop Express promo video, share his work with international acts on stages such as Shoko Festival in Zimbabawe, as well as annual Poetry Africa festival. In addition to this, his work as an arts administrator has seen him represent the country in countries such as Germany, Hungary, the USA, and the UK, just to name a few.
There is hardly a stage that he has not been on. We caught up with our CEO ahead of his performance alongside Koleka Putuma at The Orbit for Out There Sessions, hosted by Myesha Jenkins.
KG: We are in interesting times with regards to South African politics, the negative responses to Ayanda Mabulu’s latest paintings, globally with Brexit and #BlackLivesMatter. Do you think enough is being done on a creative/literary front in light of all of these events?
AFURAKAN: In terms of speaking out on the above mentioned topics we have seen some well know artists launch social campaigns like in the Black Lives Matter case. However are we creating works of art that criticize and challenge such issues? I think Ayanda Mabulu is the only one doing that in the South African context. Spoken Word has also been brave in speaking truth to power and that might have to do with it still being a growing culture, thus not too much scrutiny yet by “the powers that be”. As for the commercial scene … well, it’s a rainbow nation party as usual.
Sorry, what was the question?
KG: What have your international travels taught or shown you about the arts here at home? Are we on the right track? Are we as backward as people insinuate?
AFURAKAN: The level of creativity here at home is on par with international standards and there are areas where we are leaders like in the digital space and developing dynamic writers and voices. We have a lot to offer to the world. Infrastructure and program support are still some of our shortfalls and this impacts greatly on the young artists who need space,time and resources to experiment and push the boundaries of art and creativity. In Budapest recently, we learned how social infrastructure has helped them build the city into a creative capital that now feeds into the country’s GDP. Europe is making a big move in the next 30 years using the creative sector to create sustainable jobs for their youth while giving them global access to peers, mentors and potential markets. The question back to you would then be, what are we doing in the next 30 years as a response?
KG: You’ve been in the poetry industry for a number of years, and have achieved a number of things. What is next on your to-do-list in terms of poetry?
AFURAKAN: We are steadily shaping the Word N Sound brand to have global relevance with local appeal and this we believe is the most sustainable way to build long term. There is a massive market out there for spoken word and we need to think beyond South Africa.
On a personal note, we might also publish something nyana. Yes. We are threatening again but this time it might just happen.
KG: This is not the first time that you’ve performed at The Orbit. What are will you be doing different?
AFURAKAN: Every performance is different, no matter how many times you have been on the same stage and because it will all be improvised, we don’t have a clue how it will be different. But it will be different. Lol. We will be performing some new poems from a new collection we are working on called Sins of Our Fathers and hopefully throw in some classics nyana. But we promise it will all be good fun.
KG: How do you feel about Koleka’s work, and and how do you feel about sharing a stage with her?
AFURAKAN: Koleka Putuma’s writing is as urgent as socioeconomic revolutions in the entire continent. Her work is a million African tongues shouting in the accent of every dead martyr who has spat in the face of white supremacy and patriarchy. Her words are fire, water and salvation, a dagger in the jugular and morphine in the vein. This is how ancestors sound when they finally speak. The truth is not your uncle or therapist and Koleka yields the literary sword that – in the words of Vuyelwa Maluleke – calls this country a big fat liar.
Sorry, what was the question?