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Poetry, Politics 'Wonderful Combination': South African Poet and MP Celebrates World Poetry Day

© AP Photo / Schalk van ZuydamA South African flag banner on the side of an apartment block in the city of Cape Town, South Africa, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016
A  South African flag banner on the side of an apartment block in the city of Cape Town, South Africa, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016 - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.03.2023
World Poetry Day is an opportunity to celebrate the role of poetry in human life. Zolani Mkiva, a South African parliamentarian, is a living example of this, as he is also a poet. According to him, it is important to immortalize the unique oral tradition, and more generally the artistic tradition, of Africa.
On the occasion of World Poetry Day, which was celebrated on 21 March, Sputnik spoke to poet and member of the South African Parliament, Zolani Mkiva.
For the artist, World Poetry Day is "very important", because poetry "crosses all sectors of society, it unites people, it expresses love, it somehow brings into the equation the need for people to live harmoniously".

"World Poetry Day - it is a very important day because poetry is found everywhere in the world," the poet enthuses. "Poetry is knowledge, and knowledge is experience. Poetry is the form of artistic expression."

The poet also emphasized that in the technological era, it is of the utmost importance to preserve such traditions as oral art such as poetry, in particular by digitalizing it.

"I think the oral tradition must take advantage of technology and begin the process of digitizing. As I say, I've already digitized my poetry by recording CDs, which now are cemented into the annals of history [...] We must exploit technology to the extent that we record everything that is oral so that we can keep it and it becomes a repository for future reference," the poet believes.

Mkiva began writing poetry when he was "still very, very young, at the age of eight", "at a time when South Africa was still under the yoke of apartheid oppression", he says. Being a "traditional oral poet", he wrote "protest poetry and poetry that calls for freedom".

"I also used to sing the praises of freedom fighters such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, and connecting our struggle with the solidarity movement of the countries such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [...] So my poetry also reflected on the friendship which was espoused by the liberation movement of our country with countries such as Cuba," the artist and author of 'A Letter to Russia' says. "And inspiring leaders such as Fidel Castro would feature very strongly in my poetry."

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Overall, Mkiva outlines that his poetry "has been enriched by culture, by politics, but also by the sort of friendship which [South Africans] had with these countries".
According to Mkiva, poetry is deeply connected to politics, as the art helps to connect both spheres of our lives.

"And you have poets who are very instrumental in the policymaking process. Poetry influences society," he emphasizes. "But poets also communicate the frustrations and the hopes and dreams of its own people."

The South African politician highlights that, for him, politics and poetry is a great combination, which makes him a better mediator between the public and the power.

"Well, being a politician and a member of Parliament, for me, I think it's a wonderful combination because I started off as a poet and then through my community activism my people saw that I should be representing them in a public institution," the poet notes. "I know exactly what I'm expected to do as a member of Parliament."

As a politician, Mkiva has also shared his views on what qualities state service requires.

"First and foremost, you must be a good listener," the poet stresses. "You must listen very carefully. And then the other side of that is that you must be able to speak very well. Speaking very well doesn't mean that you must speak with highly complex and sophisticated language, [because if you do] you will actually be speaking above the heads of the people [...] It's no use to speak bombastically [...] You must be easily understood."

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