Afro Poetry Times
KZN poet driven to tell women’s untold stories
THE Poetry Africa Festival, presented by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, has started. The programme is packed with poetry from established poets, young talent and spoken-word artists from South Africa and abroad.
The Joburg part of the programme wrapped up at the weekend. In Durban the programme runs until this Sunday; the online programme runs until Saturday.
This year’s theme is “Poetic (In)Justice: Voices that Breathe, Move and Transform”.
POST spoke to Pralini Naidoo, a poet and storyteller, who will participate in an online poetry reading titled “The Dialects of Justice”. Naidoo, who was born and raised in Pietermaritzburg, said she had always had a poet’s heart.
Naidoo has just published her first collection of poetry, Wild has Roots. She is a PhD candidate in the Department of Women and Gender Studies at UWC. Her research aims to recover and discover the hidden narratives of erased histories.
She said she was driven to highlight the issues affecting women and their histories.
“Firstly, I am a woman, a black woman, a descendent of the indentured. I have not found women like me or my mother or my grandmother in the many books that I have read throughout my life. Women, especially black women, are written into history and fiction as peripheral to other heroic projects – a support system to the centrality of men and the patriarchal system benefiting them.
“Even in the most complimentary scenarios, women are merely portrayed as mothers and wives, domestic goddesses or resilient rocks who take it all for the team, or victims… all in relation to men. In South Africa, women who are not white are written about in relation to whiteness. The racial stereotypes abound.
“Whether it is over sexualising, exoticising or negating, there are seldom stories of women who look like me that reveal their complexity, creativity, innovativeness, rich inner lives, their agency, their traumas and the ways they dealt with them, and their relationships with pleasure (sexual, spiritual, relational),” she said. “This silence haunts me. It wants to negate my grandmothers and by extension me and my daughters. I have spent too many years in the letters, the stories, the gardens, the kitchens, and the lives of these mothers and grandmothers to know that the two-dimensional figures portrayed in history, or even the popular imagination, are myths. “Our histories, or herstories as some call them, are dynamic. We can rewrite them. It is an ongoing project to fill in the gaps, to weave new herstories. History has its clues but we have to be aware of who wrote that history and why. When I think of my great-great-grandmother I am aware that she was a nobody in the eyes of the coloniser. She was 9 years old when she arrived on that ship.
“What use could she possibly serve in the colony besides providing cheap labour? She was married at 14 to her maternal uncle. I do not know more than that,” she said.