Cape Town, 25 May 2020: Providing inspiration and hope under lockdown, is what a group of South African youth have done with an online lockdown poetry project, in a series of written and visual presentations shared on YouTube by impassioned young men and women. The poetry includes an ‘obituary’ for coronavirus and expressions of resilience in documenting their fight back against Covid-19.
The youth, part of the network fromnon-profit organisation ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, penned the poems while under hard lockdown in April. Their prose tries to make sense of the chaos around lockdown, inspire others and maintain connection to their peers.
The project was part of the ‘Youth Voices on COVID-19’ campaign (#youthvoicesoncovid19 aka #youthvoiceonconvid19) launched by the NGO to inspire young people across the country, by ensuring youth voices were heard during this unprecedented time in world history and in South Africa. Youth within the organisation undertook to ensure their communities were kept informed under lockdown about the virus and how it is spread; social distancing requirements; assisting the most vulnerable; lending their skills where required; and making their voices heard in various online forums and on social media, as part of the campaign.
Activate Change Drivers communications manager, Kim Barlow, said the campaign was aimed at keeping hope alive under lockdown; and also as a way for the 4500 youth in their network, called activators, to connect with each other and provide inspiration during these difficult times.
Youth activator, DJ and founder of an NGO that donates school bags to needy learners, Xolane Ngobozana, came up with the online lockdown poetry project, ‘21 Poems of Encouragement for 21 Days of Lockdown’, for Activate, for the initial lockdown period, which was then extended. Ngobozana said they used the spoken word to make South Africans conscious of Covid-19, while offering encouragement. “This project touched a lot of people. It was inspirational, it was a teaching moment, it was motivation, it was to make people strong during this difficult time in our world.”
He said even after the initial phase of the project had ended, poets all over South Africa were contacting him and asking him to continue to create platforms for them to showcase their work. As a result, Ngobozana, who is from Wattville in Benoni, is launching the project again on 1 June 2020; and after lockdown, is intending to take the poems further and produce a body of work on video and set to music, that documents this historic time and provides a record of what South Africans went through under lockdown.
One of the poems submitted is in the form of an obituary for Covid-19, the coronavirus ravaging global lives and livelihoods. It was written by youth activator, Kelebogile Legoko, who goes by the name Kele Le Tau as a poet. Her spoken word submission is entitled, ‘Covid-19 Obituary’.The words are powerful: “Dearly beloved, we are here to mourn the death of all our loved ones; but also to celebrate the death of Covid-19… Covid-19 was married to unhygienic genres and they have been married for a few months. Corona was actively involved in making people’s lives a misery by affecting their health. Like a thief, Covid-19 came to steal, kill and to destroy. As a hobby, Covid-19 enjoyed dictatorship by locking down countries in the world. Many disliked his personality and hated his character. Finally, we have been given the privilege and honour of announcing his death. And we will not have a memorial for him.”
(Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEqlTdrFYoo&feature=youtu.be .)
Poet Nonkululeko Khoza’s poem ‘What’s in the air’ deals with how to teach your family at home about the dangers associated with the virus; and to invest time with them to reap the most rewards, rather than chasing ‘likes’ on social media: “Share the message without expecting a thousand likes in return; and then you will reap the returns. We are fighting a whole new war, that needs a whole new strategy. So, please stay at home. No war was ever won in a day.”
In her poetry contribution, Naomi Sibanda calls Covid-19, ‘The Killer’, and makes an impassioned plea about poverty and freedom. “Our bodies now have become your refuge… Our freedom ripped temporarily... Hope is the only weapon we can depend on… We will send you to exile,” she says in her poem.
To view the poetry see the Activate! channel on YouTube: