Babs Gons on her visit to Cape Town and participation in # cocreatePOETICA 2018
Only when I’m standing in the middle of the Furgard Theater in Capetown, with in my hands the colorful program book of the Openbook Festival, do I start to realize what an enormous festival this is. This is a place where hundreds of writers, poets, activists, dancers, playwrights and journalists come together to speak in panels, give readings, performances, book signings and discussions with each other and the audience.
In his open speech one of the organizers Mervyn Sloman states that a festival of literature is a luxury. It’s true of course, the fact that we can afford to travel here, can take the time out of our schedules to discuss writings and books, to afford books, reading time, means we are very fortunate.
But I seem to start to challenge this notion in my head as the festival progresses. Because being here, meeting all this literature lovers, writers of all different backgrounds, to hear the young generation preach, to hear the relevant discussions about intersectionality, feminism, social construct, the use of language, identity, heritage etcetera gives me the impression that literature, poetry is as necessary as bread and water.
Speaking about water, it’s one of the main themes of this festival. Together with 9 other poets I’m part of a so called ‘Poetic Water Journey’. Water is a hot topic in Capetown, there is a severe water restriction policy going on. Showers are limited to 2 minutes, water needs to be recycled as much as possible. We are very aware of the shortage of water. The first day of our journey we travel to Muizenberg where we are spoken to by this passionate ocean activists who tells us about cleaning and protecting the oceans. A day later we sit in the banks of a college room in the university of Western Cape listening to a scientist who tells us about the use of water by agriculture, and other human activities. Following this lecture we involve in a workshop translating with poet Antjie Krog. We translate our poems form Xhosa, to English, to Afrikaaps, to Sotho and Zulu and back.
The following day is reserved for a trip to Devil’s mountain where a spiritual water journey takes place. I’m not part of this element of the journey, in the mean time I attend a panel discussion about intersectional feminsm with some of the greatest voices in the areas of social science and literature.
The further the festival progresses, the more humble and grateful I become, so very grateful to be part of all of this. The days are filled with attending performances, meeting likeminded souls, talk about books and writing. We close the festvial with a final performance of our Poetic Water Journey, performances of the poems we wrote inspired by are beautiful journey. It’s a beautiful conclusion of this amazing experience. Truly blessed.
Thanks so much to the Open Book Festival, to Cocreate Poetica SA, Het Letterenfonds and the Dutch Consulate.
Here a fragment of my poem Water Makes No Sound.
‘There are girls that flush while they’re peeing
Because they don’t want you to hear their humaness
I know mothers who cry while doing the dishes
so their husbands and children don’t hear their despair
I have heard people with broken hearts
Cry under waterfalls for days
I’ve learnt to hold saliva silently in my mouth
So it can create a tide less sea between her and me
So she doesn’t hear the many questions
Why is he not here?
And the sea becomes wider
Where did he go?
Sea gets bigger
Why you don’t care?
Sea now huge
Water makes no sound
It’s the sand
Have you ever tried to open a door under water?
It’s like unlocking the chest full of hidden stories she holds
She makes no sound
She holds on to those stories
Drifting bloated on the surface
But I’m getting confused now
Am I talking about my mother or the sea?’
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