Deluge in Swarga

Wazi M Kunene Deluge in Swarga

Writer: Andisiwe Nakani

Photographs: Supplied

The captivating images, imagery, colours, sound and textures in the opening of Deluge in Swarga set Wazi Kunene apart and certainly compel one to calm down, shut down, listen up and be completely present.

’s haunting and potent performance is a remarkable portrayal of artistry. She brings her entire self to the stage and still leaves room for the audience. She takes you on a journey and leaves you to float between knowing and having absolutely no idea of anything besides the well of emotion and forgotten remembrance that her colourful and powerful vocabulary evokes.

Wazi M Kunene Deluge in Swarga Culture review magazine

Carrying the performance ever so effortlessly Kunene, ‘the chameleon’ as she has been called by others, gently oscillates between pieces like Baptism Water, Holocaust, Shrouds and Elusive. The poems sound like an embroidery of story stitched together by themes of poverty, love, pain, religion, death, blackness and a fierce will to live out loud.

Between the flimsy swirling and twirling of stage smoke, her words and her voice seem to seduce your imagination with their almost lazy rhythm drawing from a depth of an ‘insatiable blaze’ just to borrow some of her words. With words like ‘furnace’, ‘inferno’, ‘blaze’ and ‘smouldering’ she paints wild and vivid images that resonate with the audience. One almost feels like they are privy to some sacred ritual that is at once extremely personal and a shared experience.

Wazi M Kunene Deluge in Swarga Culture review magazine

Deluge in Swarga is not simply poetry or spoken word, it is an entire theatrical performance weaving story-telling, poetry and music into a moving ensemble. It is a reflection and a tale of grave and brave lived realities that are the golden thread to the shared experiences of blackness. It is a beckoning to interrogate the identities and behaviours we assume and justify.

Embedded in rich textures and emotions some of the most poignant pieces have to be “Holocaust” and “Baptism Water” delivered in that eerie and ‘other worldly’ fashion that has come to characterize Kunene’s work.

“When did you learn to hide the ashes of a holocaust in your hair?

A shadow of a blaze clings onto your curls.

You have made too many friends now.

You have called the wind on yourself.

Everybody will see the roaring smoke now.


Where did you learn to soak in the echoes with your eyes?

Having seen the fierce chance of a fire storm stifle the air.

You did not survive that day.

Your grandmother thinks the three of you survived that day.

The inferno does not forget.

You cannot outlive your roast…

The holocaust cannot survive itself either

Where did you learn to eat yourself?

-excerpt from “Holocaust”

With her bold and beautiful voice, she chants right through the performance weaving the gentle and gruesome with the skill of a wordsmith and brilliant story teller.

Beyond being quite magical the treasure in Kunene’s words and expression is how real it is. It’s not fictional, the imagery is striking and colourful with truths that moved some audience members to tears with pieces like “Baptism Water”:

“Things we thought would drown in our baptism water.

Memory. Poverty has returned to stretch its arms on your night.

It says you have never seen me yawn now you will know that I have no flaw.

Feel your every bone turn to ash, first your knees. I do not fear prayer. Remember crumbling…

You will remember children you have killed,

stuffing scripture in their noses.

They are trees now. “

-excerpt from “Baptism Water”

Kunene’s poetry and stage presence is enchanting and absolutely unforgettable. The depth of her expression and play between the gentle and brutal beckons one to not only listen but meditate on the stories she tells.


Ode To Black

ode to black -culture review magazine
Black is the colour of mourning and melancholy. Black epitomises stealth; it is
central to clandestine ventures and cool lonesomeness. Black is the colour of
executive cars, gadgets, accessories and clothing. Eternally beautiful, Black is the
colour of the universe, the infinite deep dark unknown abyss. Black is a wormhole,
mysterious and ever-receding, absorbing everything around it and revealing
nothing. Black is all colours mixed together, perhaps the sum of the visible. Black is
the only colour without light, though full and empty.

Continue reading “Ode To Black”

Embracing The Duality of Darkness & Light-A Beautiful Struggle

Text: Makgotso Nkosi

Photography: Thabo “Flo” Mokale

The township is a construct of racial segregation, its architecture (squashed and small) already sets a tone designed not to inspire. It has been many years since the advent of a democratic government yet the gaps between predominately white suburbs and townships remain all too evident and the spatial inequalities assembled by the apartheid regime endures. The ANC government is yet to heal the wounds that have aggravated frustrations among the marginalized black majority of this country such as the lack of housing, high unemployment and inadequate policing that contributes to a culture of poverty and violence.

Yet regardless of how bad the township was set out to be and relatively still is, the residents of this place have since tailored these homogeneous spaces. The people of Ekasi have pushed to transform these marginalized settlements into hubs of economical freedom and lovely social spaces, and this is the spirit Thabo Mokale commemorates in his debut solo exhibition A Beautiful Struggle. Varieties of businesses have sprung out of the township, whether run out of someone’s house, shacks and containers, perseverance and creativity surely exists here.

As one of South Africa’s most prolific poets, one can already recognize the beauty of language when looking at his collection of images. The multi-talented artist who was born in Sharpeville and later raised in Katlehong, dubs this work a silent celebration of the daily struggles. The oxymoron consigned for the exhibition is a direct reflection of what the township is, a space set out to be terrible and to destroy its residence yet is still inspires hope and creativity.

Mokale’s ability to use the camera as a weapon to translate reality is laudable. The stylistic aspects of the black and white images look unpolished and that gives a clear revelation of the township life. The exhibition includes an image showing illegal electric wire connection that illustrates the creativity that sparks from struggles. The assemblage of the images portrays vivid details of the daily activities of survival eKasi. The juxtaposition makes the township look like a world within a world, a double life framed by frustration and happiness.

“We are broken but we don’t have to break all the time” is Mokale’s rationalization to why black people of the township have the capacity to remain, to transform, adapt and survive.  That is why this duality is worth commemorating, it is proof that only a strong-willed people can co-exist with chaos and still make the chaos beautiful. Mokale believes there is nothing mundane about waking up every day and hustling, selling the same sweets in the same corner and selling to the same people. He thus acknowledges the magic in the routine and insists that is how we grow, by first acknowledging the beauty in where we currently are.

“We hurt

We break

We shatter

We cry

We die”

But Mokale insists that’s not all we are. The result of our struggles is beauty.

This poetic conveyence of the township titled A beautiful struggle opens on the 15th of June 2017 at Ezenkeni, 5021 Sophangisa Street,

Motloung Street,  Katlehong.



A Beautiful Struggle

Text: Flo Foundation

Photography: Flo Mokale

Thabo “Flo” Mokale, father and founder of the Flo Foundation has always been a lover of images. Whether it’s through his poetry or performances, he always strives to capture the mind with the magic of his visual and spoken imagery. Continue reading “A Beautiful Struggle”

Umzi Watsha – The Politics of (im)patience


Photography: Ayabonga Cawe

Text: Ciko Story Concepts

We live in compelling times. South Africa’s trajectory is shifting and its custodians are growing in consciousness – and in action. The times call for deep, meaningful and honest reflection and conversation. This is needed in order for us to enjoy a fruitful translation of those convictions in the immediate spaces we occupy. ‘UmziWatsha- The politics of (im) patience’ puts this under the spotlight. Continue reading “Umzi Watsha – The Politics of (im)patience”

16 Shots

Photography: Musa N. Nxumalo

Writer: Percy Mabandu

SMAC Gallery is proud to present 16 Shots, Musa N. Nxumalo’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. This new body of work comprises sixteen photographic prints that continue the themes and focus of Nxumalo’s ongoing project, The Anthology of Youth.

Continue reading “16 Shots”