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New Inspiration: Steampunk Johannesburg

I’ve made a new observation: I’m not observant enough. I spend at least two hours in traffic and apart from the massive billboards vying from my attention, I don’t really look around much. Or I may look at a car but never really my surroundings.

As one who loves nature, I’m far more fascinated with drives down to Durban or Drakensberg, where the concrete towers and varying high walls and buzz of incessant traffic give way to sprawling greenery against a backdrop of harsh, grey mountain dipping its feet in deep-blue tranquil waters. I can watch that all day. How I love that scene. That image.

image of Drakensberg mountain

Image courtesy of: Go Self-Drive Tours

It was only quite recently, following a trip back to the city from nature’s beauty, that I became aware of landscapes around my home-city too. Then during the walk through the Joburg Central Business District (CBD), I started to notice the little things about it. The varying trees growing within the city. The modern buildings directly across their older, derelict kin. The repaired roads running parallel to the new public transport lane of the Rea-Vaya and its co-joined Bus lane. The uneven, mud-caked site populated by squatters and hawkers right beside the refurbished pavement leading towards the Mandela Bridge.

I noticed the cluttered, and varying shops with displays just outside their glass facades, with the door man calling out to us passing by. The street vendors cooking seemingly shady meat on equally-shady grills. Then I noticed the people. Like really noticed the people. All shapes and colours and fashions and styles. A marriage of cultures, languages, people, nations. Truly a rainbow nation.

image: Johannesburg CBD, Mandela Bridge

Johannesburg CBD and the Mandela Bridge

 

Same City. But Different: Egoli – City of Gold

So this new idea I’m rolling with (amongst others, I know, I know) came to me as a series of intermingled thoughts finding connections I hadn’t seen before. They are:

  1. Johannesburg is nicknamed, the City of Gold by miners who worked in the gold mines. e’Goli – where there is gold. I spend a lot of time in these streets. In a car, but… still.
  2. Many of you know I have a love for all things Steampunk. I even started a steampunk tumblr account at one point and I’m still (still) working on my steampunk novel Junk Yard Angel – 5 years strong.
  3. Worldbuilding is one of my favourite activities while I’m driving. Spending too much time in my head thinking of different scenarios. Concepts as trivial as what my first speech will be when I publish my book, to creating whole worlds where the species is telepathic which means we would not be able to hide our thoughts and someone just created a device that stops that from happening and its implications. You know. The usual drivel.

Then came that truly mind-blowing thought: Steampunk Johannesburg made with real gold buildings and political leaders broadcasting their campaigns on airships crossing the city skyline. The air has a constant buzz, not only from the passing pedestrians of every ethnicity, but from the gears that run the city, and the continuing mines constantly searching for the precious metal. Yes. I can see it now.

It’s so beautiful.

image: Johannesburg skyline sunrise

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Poetry Update: Word ‘n Sound

We Are Poets?

As you all know, Tuesdays are poetry days. As a surprise I was going to upload a video of Ole from Ole’s Truth performing his poem Hold My Nigga Moment at the Market Theatre this past Saturday. Alas I did not have time to work on the video and fix a sound issue. Instead of doing that, I’ve decided to share with you the experience.

Poetry has always been one of those weird writing styles that I have a love/hate for. I used to do quite a lot of poetry back in the day, performing at Constitutional Hill and Johannesurg Art Gallery. We had a poetry club, printed an anthology, and had meetings. I was part of the “founding” partners of the poetry club. At that point in my life I thought I was a poet, standing up with confidence and a slight ego. I’ve learned now that young Nthato wasn’t a poet – he was a good rhymer with a big head.

image: Dominican Convent School poetry evening. 2015

School poetry evening back in 2005

I stepped back from the scene after that, focusing on writing fiction. I dabbled a bit in poetry but it was only until recently, when fellow writer and good friend Olerato told me he wanted to get involved in poetry, that I dived back in. It was also part of a side writing project I’m working on, and with that in mind I decided to help him. Hence the return of Tuesday poetry as well as all the guest posts.

Part of getting involved included going to poetry sessions and performing poetry in public spaces. So this past Saturday, 3 February 2018, Ole and I went into the heart of Johannesburg. We experienced the crowds. The taxis. The stench. The dichotomy of beautiful skyscrapers and decrepit buildings. The gorgeous Mandela Bridge overlooking the old-but-functioning train track, congested-filthy taxi ranks and the revamped buildings beside the highway.

Our first stop was registering Ole for a Poetry Slam at the Market Theatre. An elegant, revamped building that smelled and shouted “art” and the potential for our city. After that we met other poets who were going to an audition at the Joburg Theatre. Thus began our track through the bustling Joburg streets.

image: view from Joburg Theatre

A view from Joburg Theatre

The audition was part of a poetry programme that would run for the year. Selected poets will attend workshops run by prolific South African poets, will perform poems, and other really amazing opportunities to better their poetry.

This wasn’t something Ole and I were going to do but I convinced him that if I auditioned then he has to, too. Motivation right? So without any preparation, I went into the audition room. It was dark, walls and seats painted black. Spotlights shining onto the stage as an invitation. Three judges sat on a table clothed in black. Two women, one man. Intimidating. I climbed onto the platform and answered the usual drabble “Who are you? Where you from? What do you do?” spiel. Then I performed my poem “Hypocritical”. I think they liked it but they didn’t necessarily like me – something about being too nonchalant. At the same time they seemed persuaded in giving me a chance as I had potential. I’ll only find out at the end of February.

Ole then went in to perform his poetry. They loved him and his performance, though they were a bit apprehensive of his poems (which I think are amazing). He may also be considered for the programme.

Word ‘n Sound

Following our track back, we stepped into the Market Theatre auditorium for Ole’s actual performance. I’d listened to him recite it to me but this was it. The main event. The big stage. Word ‘n Sound is an organisation that hosts poetry sessions, and runs the Poetry League. The event runs on the first Saturday of every month and this year will be its eighth season. There were returning poets and champions, newcomers of every age and location. Pretoria poets even came down.

Not to be biased but I loved Ole’s performance. So dramatic. And the crowd did too. Every time they saw him they would say “That’s a nigga moment.” as reference to his poem. A really enjoyable experience. Of course there were other really amazing poets there to, and some not so great. It was the first show of the year after all, setting the scene for what was to come.

image: Ole performing at the Word 'n Sound poetry league

Ole performing at the Word ‘n Sound poetry league

We even had a surprise guest performance by singer Samthing Soweto who has an incredible voice: https://www.facebook.com/SamthingSoweto/

Where To From Here

On Sunday we went to The Orbit, a jazz lounge. It was open mic session where we were expecting poetry but instead were serenaded by amazing voices and great music. Nonetheless, it was one of those things we will be doing more often. Every first Saturday of the month we’ll be at Word ‘n Sound. We’ll be looking for poetry spots and being intentional about performing our poetry. It’s going to be amazing.

NaNo Kick-Off Party Feedback

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo

So this past Saturday, the NaNoWriMo Kick-Off party took place at a chilled cafe in Craighall known as the Cnr Cafe…which is on a corner…and serves caffeinated drinks amongst other things; in other words, the right kind of place to do some writing. Oh and they also have WiFi.

As my first NaNo meet, I was not sure what to expect in terms of the place, the people, the event itself and about myself as a writer. I mean this event is bringing together a tumble of writers from across Joburg to discuss writing. It was a pleasant surprise when everyone was so open and friendly, genuinely interested in each other and what we have to offer. What a wonderful environment to be in!

Chatting books, authors, genre and sharing ideas with fellow writers has a very different feel than when speaking to someone who’s life isn’t defined by those things. It’s a completely different kind of energy that I look forward to feeding off when we start doing the write ins

imageSo this years NaNo theme is Steam Punk and I felt every inch of my nerves freak out at once when realizing that this time my novel was not a Steam Punk novel. Well I still have 11 days to change that but in the mean time I still got lots to plot out. My close friend and fellow writer Tyron from Life In Light of Eternity (we are doing the Auburn series together…remember that? Check the Auburn tag on the side) has been running some ideas to me which I appreciate greatly – he inspires me…literally.

Anyway in the little Goodie bag we received at the Kick-Off party we all received neat little items. A cool little Steam Punk object with square gears! As well as a bronzed key, a notice to warn non-NaNo’s why I’ve suddenly become scarce, other little things.

The best part of the whole experience was the meeting of authors. Such a wide variety of people, personalities and insights. I am truly looking forward to sharing ideas and typing away along side my fellow NaNos.

 

NaNoWriMo Kick Off Party

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo

Hey Look! A Community!

Oh but not just any community my friends, a Writers community. No story today, just a heads up for fellow NaNo writers in Joburg, we having a meet up and you will need to RSVP here: http://nanowrimo.org/forums/africa-south-africa-johannesburg/threads/171537

You will, obviously, have to be a NaNo member and participant so why not hit up the community, sign up and crack your knuckles in anticipation of writing a novel in just 30 days.

Details:

Kick Off Party

Saturday October 18th from 17:00 to 21:00 or later

Corner Cafe, cnr Buckingham and Rothesay Avenues, Craighall Park

Please RSVP for this event to confirm space with the venue.

Write-Ins

November 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th also at Corner Cafe. Remember plugs and adaptors in case. There is wifi to back up your precious word count.

Contact Santacruzrulz for details here: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/santacruzrulz

 

See ya there!

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