An Open Letter to TEDxStellenbosch by KOLEKA PUTUMA

I am writing to you concerning your request to publish my TEDx talk with the exclusion of my last poem “WATER”. The talk, which was filmed at the TEDxStellenbosch “Think. Experience. Discover Africa” event on 05 September 2015, consisted of three of my poems which were all selected to begin a dialogue around the event’s theme, and draw attention to a movement such as #LUISTER which was and should have been at the centre of the town’s focus and conversation (including the TEDx event).

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The Word N Sound Live Literature Company calls on all Poets, Authors, Creative Writers, Journalists, Musicians, Photographers, Graphic Designers and Videographers to submit original work in the form of a poem, prose, graphic image, song, rap, photography or video in response to the education crisis in South Africa and the student mass protests happening across the country.

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Phillippa Yaa de Villiers: The Anxiety of Originality

Recently I had a conversation with a young poet about writing, and I began by asking her what she is reading, and what she considers her greatest influences. She said she didn’t want to be influenced, she wants to find her own voice. It reminded me of a conversation I had with Rustum Kozain about eight years ago. I asked him to read and review my first collection of poetry, Taller than Buildings, and his first question to me was “who are your influences?” I said I didn’t know, I was trying to find my own voice. He persisted, “but who do you want to sound like, who do you admire?”

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Nah famo, I don’t buy it, is Richard Quaz Roodts’ a response to Maggia Gambu’s column There is no African Writing, published as part of the #ReWriteZA series on 1st July 2015.

In your article, There is no African writing, you almost made a valid point but then continued to completely ruin it with vague accusations, finger pointing and absurd selective deductive reasoning.
I can’t comment on your belief that there is a conscious effort by white owned publishers to control the black perspective. We are gonna have to ask Steve Hofmeyer about that.

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Histories have been taught to speak of us black people in ways that buckle our knees before monsters that escaped from our hands to terrorize our worlds of creation.

Now we stand enslaved by our doubts, fears and failures walking the scorching earth with nightmares playing on repeat in our dulled eyes.

The skies we coloured with our spirits now weigh heavy in our lives as limits.

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I was disappointed to find out that I am only human, and that my superhuman strength only extended on paper and canvas. I was admitted into hospital for two weeks after an intense year of trying to find my voice. During that year, it was as if I was possessed by what Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca calls duende.

Stripping down my human form, undressing all of myself to be naked on the canvas and on stage.

Looking back, I felt like what Hip-Hop artist, Thirstin Howl the 3rd says in one of his songs, “My style is so naked and untouched, on stage I feel like I am half dressed”

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