Performance, Poetry and the Word
“Writing as it was as it is, is how we exhume the bodies and give them names.“
Meet the young award-winning South African poet Koleka Putuma who writes about memory that has been passed down to us through history. Read more …
“My journey towards theatre and poetry has been very different. My entry into theatre was through formal institutions, whereas poetry I found out in a more informal way and picked it up on the street through slam poetry and open mics. How I want the words to sit on the page and how it is translated into performance, the theatre stuff helped me think about that”, Koleka Putuma says.
In her debut collection of poetry ‘Collective Amnesia’ (2017) it reads: “The word is a gospel, the word is a prison, is a cell without bars, is a prayer matt that sips my mouth and wears out my knees, I am always in this position begging for something.”
“I credit the relationship with performance to the church. That’s the first place I saw the merging of the text, descriptor and performance. Essentially the people who get up there to share the word, not only have a reverence for the word, but they have a certain kind of drama and performance, trying to relay whatever that message is, in a way that people are going to resonate with. Growing up in that environment in a way really started to shape how I started to think about how else the word text could live on stage or in an environment you start to share with other people.”
Koleka Putuma’s grandfather and father were a minister, and both were performance-driven, which “started to shape how I started to think about how words and texts and how I could live in an environment you start to share with other people,” she says.
“The subject my work deal with is a memory that has been passed down to us. Memory that we have as people and how that influences the way we are in the world. I think a lot about being black, being a queer woman in South Africa.
Koleka Putuma (born 1994) is an award-winning theatre practitioner, writer and poet based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her bestselling debut collection of poems, the prize-winning ‘Collective Amnesia’ was translated into numerous languages. In 2021 came her second poetry collection,’Hullo Bu-Bye Koko Come In’, and Koleka Putuma reads from both works in the video. Her theatre works include ‘UHM’, from 2014, ‘Woza Sarafina’, 2016, and ‘Mbuzeni’, from 2017/8. Koleka Putuma is a Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative finalist for theatre, a Forbes Africa Under 30 Honoree, recipient of the Imbewu Trust Scribe Playwriting Award, Mbokodo Rising Light award, CASA playwriting award and the 2019 Distell Playwriting Award for her play No Easter Sunday for Queers, which has since been published by Manyano Media. Learn more through the artist’s website: https://www.kolekaputuma.com
Koleka Putuma was interviewed by Signe Boe Pedersen in connection with the Louisiana Literature festival in August 2022, at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark.
Cameras: Jarl Therkeldsen Kaldan
Edit & produced by: Signe Boe Pedersen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2023
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling and Fritz Hansen
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