Mak Manaka Bio

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Maakomele Manaka , was born in Diepkloof zone 6, Soweto in 1983. The first of two boys born to artistic parents. Mak, as he is widely known is the son of the late Matsemela Manaka a well known visual artist, poet,  play write and black consciousness activist . His mother, Nomsa Kupi Manaka a pioneer of African dance an established dancer, choreographer, and actress in South Africa. With a natural artistic gift as a poet and writer and a strong artistic heritage , Mak was destined to be an artist.

South African icon Don Mattera says” If genius can be genetically connected and if it flows from generation to generation, then Mak Manaka is the epitome of it. He comes from a dynasty of talented, creative and gifted people Nomsa and Matsemela”.

At the age of 5, he received a Young Artist Award at the once famous Funda Arts Center in Soweto . He started writing poetry at 14 yrs old , just two years after his near fatal accident which left him in a wheelchair for a year and a half. He started performing at the age of 15 on crutches, debuting in 1998 in Lugano, Switzerland at a tribute for his late father.

In 1999, he performed at the Windybrow Arts Theater with British poet Benjamin Zephaniah and South African poet Dr Don Mattera. In 2000 he performed for Arnold Schwarzenegger on his visit to South Africa at the Takalani Home for the mentally Handicapped school.

In 2001, he performed at Horror Café in a show called Urban Voices with Grammy award winning American poets Sarah Jones and Steve Coleman along with other young and aspiring South African poets. This was to become a milestone poetic performance for Mak – as it formerly introduced him as an integral part of the local spoken word scene.

In 2002 he performed for the former president of South Africa Mr. Thabo Mbeki at the SABC in a live program called ¨In conversation with the President¨ hosted by Tim Modise and during that year he compiled all his works for publication of a poetry book, If Only”. During the subsequent years he become a sought after poet as well as headliner for various festivals and events including the annual international Urban Voices Poetry Festival which took place nationally in SA.

Over the years on various Urban Voices stages he has performed with international and locally acclaimed poets including the likes of Mutabaruka, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Saul Williams, the Last Poets, Ursula Rucker, Lesego Rampolokeng , Keorapetse Kgositsile and various other poetic icons.

He was commissioned to perform for the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela at the launch of a primary school in Soweto. In 2003, he published a collection of poetry anthology titled “If Only”, which sold out 2 years after its release.

In 2004 Manaka performed at the Presidential Inauguration of President Thabo Mbeki at the State Theatre with gifted poets such as Don Mattera, Lebo Mashile, Ntsiki Mazwai, Maishe Maponya and Pitika Ntuli.

Later that year, Mak toured Cuba and Jamaica with poets Don Mattera and Lebo Mashile representing South Africa in celebrating 10 years of democracy. In the same year he was nominated for The Daimler Chrysler Poet of the Year 2005 Award. (2004)This year also saw Mak Performing in Holland, at the Crossing Borders Festival.

In February 2005 he spent a month in Germany on an island called Sylt and performed in Hamburg and Berlin. Later that year he played a character that was also called Mak who was facing disability issues in the children’s television program Soul Buddies on SABC.

In June 2006 he performed at schools around Soweto as part of the campaign for the We Remember June 16. In the same year, he performed in Germany, Berlin for the heads of state at the closing ceremony of the 2006 World Cup. In Kolon, Germany he shared the stage with talented poets, Lebo Mashile and Gcina Mhlophe, he also shared the stage with some of South Africa’s legendary artists, Johnny Clegg, Jabu Khanyile, HHP and Freshly Ground.

Though inspired and nurtured by creative and progressive parents, Mak has made his mark as a committed artist who will take giant strides in making this world a better place for a vast  majority of the worlds peoples.

In 2008, in pursuance of this goal, Maakomele Manaka launched his debut cd entitled “Word Sound Power”!!

Word Sound Power”!! an album of quality music and Conscious lyrics, is certainly a milestone album for Spoken Word in South Africa. Produced by Melody Muzik Sound Productions, the music reflects a deep range of reggae rhythms together with hip hop and jazz. International and local musicians have contributed and collaborate on Word Sound Power!! including The Royal Kushite Philharmonic Orchestra featuring L Michell, H Izachaar, L Beckett andk mixed by K M Tafari.

In 2009 Manaka launched his second anthology In Time”, in Italy at a Literature festival in Mantova. The anthology sold out months after its release, and currently on its second print run.

In 2010 he performed at the Zwakala Festival for deaf children, and he also performed at the annual languages awards, The Pen-Salb Awards. He also launched a writers program in the same year to encourage self-esteem in young people

In 2011 He performed at the MNET awards, the Television awards for Good (TAG).

In 2012, Mak performed in Padova, Italy at the Porsche Live Festival.

In June 2012, Mak represented South Africa at the 18th Genoa International Poetry Festival in Italy. In the same month he performed at the Listros Gallery in Berlin, Manaka also facilitated workshops at the prestigious Humboldt University called Poetry 101 with Mak Manaka. He also performed at The Moving Poets in Berlin with an installation of a Berlin based South African visual artist, Liz Crowley. In the same year the young Manaka also performed with some of South Africa’s most sought after poets in The Polokwane Literary Festival. He was a guest motivational speaker at the Sasol School’s Festival Series, for high school students in the same year. In 2013 he was part the Windhoek campaign, Made of the right stuff”.

Poets Blog Interview – Maarasi

Picture courtesy of Hlompho Letsielo

Picture courtesy of Hlompho Letsielo

Q: In 140-characters, who is Maarasi?

A: Maarasi Ntoi is a poet, a scientist, dramaqueen , motivated, ambitious, Godfearing, hard working girl from kolonyama Ha ‘nena

Q: Why do you write?

A: To provoke thoughts, to tell a story and to heal

Q: How many performances have you had up to now?

A: Lost count realy, a lot. I’ve been performing ever since primary.

Q: Most memorable performance..?

A: Battle Of Words! For the first time I got a standing ovation. There is no better feeling than when the people relate. It makes me feel like my work is done.

Q: What do you think your role as a poet in society is?

A: To raise awareness on challenges that face us as a society and hopefully change stereotypes and break chains that hinder us from progressing.

Q: What differentiates you from other poets in the country?

A: I am very relatable, I think. I talk about the everyday hardships we go through in a very simple, ‘let’s laugh it off’ manner. Also I believe my poetry is very therapeutic, I write poetry that let’s people blow off some steam!

Q: What do you promise people for #MaseruPoetryExchang­e ?

A: Energy, attitude,a lot of heart and the best of poetry.

Q: What do you love most about taking to the stage? Has it any advantage over having your work read instead?

A: The reaction from the audiance, the head nods,mummers and cheers that let you know that they relate. Those are priceless.
Ofcourse the stage has the advantage of the face-face interaction. The audience eats the emotions and expression directly from the source, its intense and usualy hits home.

Q: What have you learned from international poets previously hosted by Poetry Farm?

A: That we are one. All though we have different lives and come from different places, we share challenges, fears and dreams .

Poets Blog Interview – Zee

Thato Toeba Photography

Thato Toeba Photography

Q: Who is Zee?

A: Poet Ezee called as Zee is a typical model of an African (Mosotho) son, who grew up in Lesotho. A born again Christian, believes in and follows Jesus Christ. He has nothing solid or tangible about him to describe but that he is a perfect example of what would be identified as the creation and maintenance of the Most High God. He does not have favorites and often opts for what is right so that he makes up for not knowing what he really will take. He figures he is a mystery that is yet to be figured out cause he does not fully comprehend himself. Not confused though just is what one at a given time will see and will be who he will be at another time. He is work in progress, a project of the most high. He is a being from another universe given identity of this universe.

Q: Why do you write?

A: This poet writes to accomplish the mission he is on. He writes to get a second print of what is embedded in him to the people. He is of a high purpose and is sent to the nation for a purpose and writing enables him to fulfill a certain part of what he was called for.

Q: How many performances have you had up to now?

A: He has done a number of performances, cannot really recall the number of performances but they do not exceed twenty.

Q: Most memorable performance..?

A: The most memorable performance iss the one he did at a green day event at Alliance Française Maseru. It was still at the very beginning of his performances and the performance was real, it was himself at his best.

Q: What do you think your role as a poet in society is?

A: His role as a poet to society is to bring the light. Some expressions in poetry explain a situation better than plain language. With poetry it is easy to hit the memory and heart at one go. It is also to express the feelings of those who cannot do it themselves regardless of their inability.

Q: What differentiates you from other poets in the country?

A: The difference between him and other poets is that his poetry goes deeper than entertainment and expression. His poetry is for the souls, to capture souls and bring them to the higher purpose of life.

Q: What do you promise people for #MaseruPoetryExchange ?

A: For the #MaseruPoetryExchange he promises a life changing experience through poetry, he promises food for the souls. He expresses himself better on stage than on paper, therefor there is a little room for misinterpretation.

Q: What have you learned from international poets previously hosted by Poetry Farm?

A: Lastly he learned that international poets are serious about their poetry and have massive skill on stage.

Poets Blog Interview – Matt

Picture courtesy of Hlompho Letsielo

Picture courtesy of Hlompho Letsielo

Q: In 140-characters, who is poet Matt Nkofo?

A: 140 is a bit too short for my awesome self *laughs*. But Matt is a lover of life, a writer, God breathed artist, film maker and all round good guy!

Q: Why do you write?

A: As an expression and reflection of the life I lived/living! I’ve always believed that, all the worlds is a stage and I’m just acting my part. In all honesty I write because I love sharing, my thoughts, feelings, perspective and to educate. Writing and more so sharing, has worked as a healing tool in my life and its therapeutic for me.

Q: How many performances have you had up to now?

A: Shooo! I don’t really know, I’ve lost count actually! But there have been a lot, I’ve been privileged to perform in all sorts of places and spaces and have not limited the art to just the proverbial stage

Q: Most memorable performance?

A: There is two! One was a guest performer at a poetry competition at Molengoane last year. Second one was an impromtu one at a Prayer evening at National University of Lesotho. Memorable because it was a sheer embodiment of a union of two, between the artist and their audience. And I surprised myself with an unending free-flow! God took over.

Q: What do you think your role as a poet in society is?

A: I am a social commentator, and part of my role in that regard is to reflect society back to its own and create a dialogue to critique, appreciate or admire the life/society we live in! Furthermore to share and contribute in its betterment. Some of my best work has been influenced by the inspiration of daily observations in society, opinions and all that jazz!

Q: What differentiates you from other poets in the country?

A: If you mean, other poets in Lesotho then, I’d boldly say its my delivery and get-you-smile wordplay.

Q: What do you promise people for #MaseruPoetryExchang­e ?

A: To avail myself for the event and give a good performance! I hope in turn they will go away from the show, having learnt something new from whatever story I will share that night!

Q: What do you love most about taking to the stage? Has it any advantage over having your work read instead?

A: I think it does have its advantages! For one your audience is right there in front you and your impact is immediate. The performer in me just loves the ambience, lights and general atmosphere of being live.

Q: What have you learned from international poets previously hosted by Poetry Farm?

A: I’ve learnt to craft the art, brand the artist in the art, the cultural exchange that comes with performing to/with people from different backgrounds. Most importantly is the humility each act we have hosted carries with them!

Poets Blog Interview – ‘Maphuthi

Picture courtesy of Hlompho Letsielo

Picture courtesy of Hlompho Letsielo

Q: Who is ‘Maphuthi?

A: Wife and mother of two beloved boys. I plan to write until the end, I love to speak & travel – on good days I get paid to do these things.

Q: why do you write?

A: Frankly, I don’t know how to not write. I have been blessed enough to, at an age when many may still be sailing the seas in search of theirs, come to understand that writing is my life’s most fundamental purpose. Although I don’t write nearly enough because there is also this other consuming life demanding to be lived; I aspire to find ways to secure more writing time soon, it is becoming urgent, compelling, and it must be sorted out. I believe this is what God is working on with regards to my immediate future. I am also doing my part, the biggest of which is faith.

Q: How many performances have you had up to now?

A: I don’t think that starting from my first quarter-hearted performance on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg many years ago, to my first half-hearted performance in Norwich, England a while back to my first full-hearted performance in Roma, Lesotho I can actually count the number of times I have performed. You see I have a very selective memory and I might only count those that stuck with me.

Q: Most memorable performance..?

A: That I’ll leave to the audience. I judge myself too harshly to be objective. Often I think I sucked. I believe sometimes I’ve even been right to think so.

Q: What do you think your role as a poet in society is?

A: My role as a poet is to say what they (society) consciously and subconsciously sweep under the carpet, and attempt to say it well.

Q: What differentiates you from other poets in the country?

A: I am a storyteller poet. I tell my innermost stories fused with those of others to bring this poetry that goes straight for the heart and I’ve been told, like the Cupid’s arrow, does not miss. But once in a while I am a little comic, as seen through poetry like Oho Mablueza and the delivery of a serious message somewhat comically in Hoja oa Nyaloa. ‘I am fluent in sarcasm’, which sometimes shines through even the most melancholic poetry, as seen through the irony of the piece addressing the grave issue of muti murder in If All I Have Be Words for the Little Boy from Koalabata. I also write about current affairs and I am not fazed that the population which doesn’t understand my calling asks why I write about certain issues that seem too deep to navigate for them. I am that poet, at the poetry buffet, slicing the floor open with her sharp words. That is my distinctive position on the Maseru poetry scene. I’m additionally not famous for long poems, I say it, I say it briefly, I try to say it well, and I quit. The art of being a good guest is knowing when to leave they say.

Q: What do you promise people for #MaseruPoetryExchange?

A: Poetry on age old topics as well as poetry on topics that need to come on the table more often. And I promise them – honestly – the very best performance of my time in Poetry Farm, all within my scope as the dramatically undramatic poet I’ve always been on stage. I want this to be a performance I myself will love remembering – a first!

Q: What do you love most about taking to the stage? Has it any advantage over having your work read instead?

A: So I’ve been told. I’ve been asked to make a CD of the poetry of my book Strawberry Lips as it makes the most sense when I speak it. I believe this is mostly for people who do not have the patience to read and try to understand, or even interest in reading, although of course others may love to both read and watch a performance. In response to the first question, I don’t know if I actually love BEING on stage as much as I love when people say you touched me, after I get off the stage. But then when I’m doing some of what have become my popular poems, bo Hoja oa Nyaloa bo By the Lake Maqalika I Knelt Down and Prayed, I see some mouths moving with me and that really moves me. But generally for me it’s more about the response when I have left the stage, the impact, because like some wise, witty person once said, ‘Immortality is the genius to keep other moving long after you yourself have stopped moving.’

Q: What have you learned from international poets previously hosted by Poetry Farm?

A: I don’t know hey… Oh, Afurakan, when he was performing at NUL for the Valley Breeze in 2011 shortly before I came on board Poetry Farm. At some point he messed up some lines, had to pause and refer to the book, but still but came back in full force, unfazed and still fiery as ever. I am to yet live out this skill so I haven’t learned it per se currently.

Interview – Thato Toeba

Thato Toeba

Thato Toeba

Q: You love poetry, photography and playing guitar. Which of those got you to be part of Poetry Farm?

A: I was invited into poetry farm as a photographer.

Q: So then how you do fit into the bigger picture of Poetry Farm as a performance poetry collective?

A: I think Poetry Farm is extending its scope from merely a poetry initiative to a larger creativity hub. As a photographer I capture this new venture.

Q: When did your relationship with the camera start and has it brought about any different views and perceptions about yourself and the world?

A: As one funny tweet said once, I was just a student with a blackberry, bis and picmix. I love capturing things that are beautiful. After a lot of encouragement if not pressure from friends that supported my work I bought my first camera I guess that’s where the journey officially begun,

Q: Please describe the type,or form of photography you do?

A: Currently my photography is general, covering events, landscapes, portraits etc.

Q: Any plans to study photography sometime in the future?

A: Study photography? maybe, if chance allows I would consider it.

Q: How do you feel about the upcoming #MaseruPoetryExchange event?

A: I’m very excited about MsuX2013, I love Mak Manaka and I’m Mmatlali’s biggest fan, for these two great poets alongside Poetry Farm to share a stage is amazing and I can’t wait to photograph that.

One of Thato's pictures

One of Thato’s pictures

Unchain Our Minds

Writes Mak Manaka

You…
Who stand with their backs
On these walls
Step up front and jazz
And You…
Who stand facing the exit
Step outside,
And dance to your nightmares
This moment comes once
You..
Who love to hear words
Turning into beats
That silence the violence in our streets,
Raise your fists
And ignite those lighters
For those that fought and died
In the name of peace
Love like revolution has no age
So please plant that sensitive seed with love
From an early stage.
I lost my father to the wind
Before I could write to understand
Before I could be a man
Though my mother taught us
How to walk with the sun on our hands
And that blood is thicker than water
For us to fight with ourselves any longer.
‘Home is where the fire burns for us all’
So look at your self first
And keep the peace at home young soldier
Unchain your heart from street politics
And listen to her when she speaks
Life wasn’t meant to be easy
Even for the rich.
On a table of discipline and respect
I learned,
The price for happiness is painful
For years we hid our struggles and pains
Behind illusive smiles and angry tears of joy
And in our homes some of our parents
Passed on this struggle to some of us
Who refused to encourage it
Rather we learn from it
While respecting the opportunities it gives
Yet everyday we lose beautiful flowers from it
So You..
Who hate guns,
Where u at?
You
Who says no to drugs
Where u at?
Cos the good die innocent
And the young rot in jail
For hustling a cent,
Someone please fax me some sense,
Soweto is now an amusement park for tourists.
Well singing cows are good for the country
But without free education
The innocent die young
Trying to get that cheese.
My parents were not rich
And as artists,
Life was not always bliss,
Though they hustled us food
And made everything seem good.
Point is
Truth has no boundaries
And survival by any means
Is a fact that lives to haunt economists.
Today white business,
Is now on the black market
Giving birth to dealers everyday
On our televisions and billboards on the highway
Who is the target?
Too many thugs in our pockets
Ripping us off
And talking black empowerment
So you
Who stand with their backs
Against these brainwashed walls
Step up front
And lets go tag our names
On the president’s heart.
Leave signs and posters over the parliaments art
That shout, ‘Free education for all’.

Mak Manaka