A Necessary Artist

Koleka Putuma – Poet, Theatre Director and Writer – launched her first poetry anthology on 11 April 2017, at the University of Cape Town. The anthology is called Collective Amnesia, and speaks to Koleka’s experience as a black woman in South Africa in a way that is both uncommon and intensely relatable.

Koleka Putuma graduated with a BA in Theatre & Performance at the University of Cape Town. She has been named one of Africa’s top 10 poets by Badilisha, and one of the young pioneers who took South Africa by storm in 2015 by The Sunday Times. Collective Amnesia, a vital contribution to South Africa’s literary legacy, is being published in April 2017 by Uhlanga Press. Koleka communicates her experience as a human, woman, black woman, black person, and black queer woman; individually and all together. As such the anthology expresses something necessary of resistance, feminism, and personal power, as well as the love and joy which makes up a human.

Koleka Putuma’s launch at UCT Photographer – Andy Mkosi

‘Koleka’s work is necessary.’ – Andy Mkosi

Collective Amnesia is being launched in Stellenbosch on 20 April 2017, at G.U.S. Gallery. Her previous two launches were at UCT and at the District 6 Homecoming Centre in Cape Town. They included poetry readings from the anthology, a discussion panel, and book signings. The anthology is not yet out in stores, but for a copy you can email her publisher at Nick@uhlangapress.co.za.

Social media is humming with enthusiasm for Koleka’s release, providing a way for her work to become a dialogue. Siphokazi Jonas, a fellow writer and a member of the discussion panel at Koleka’s UCT launch, posted on twitter ‘Congratulations @KPutuma on #collectiveamnesia. It’s more than an open window, it’s a text that will knock walls down to make breathing room.’

Andy Mkosi, photographer and musician, answered a few questions I had on her friend Koleka. Andy’s photograph is featured on the cover of Collective Amnesia. She was also very involved in the visual expression of Koleka’s work, as seen on social media sites Facebook and Instagram.

Interviewer: I feel that Koleka’s poems speak both to something deeply personal, and to a fundamental part of the black experience. How did you personally connect with the work?

Mkosi: Koli writes her experiences as though she is a fly on the wall in all black households. Her work manages to connect with you on levels you thought no one could articulate. But she does, and it’s always fascinating to come across an artist who is able to articulate your experiences for you.

I: As someone who knows her, how do you experience Koleka’s relation to her poetry?

KP is not detached from her work. She carries her work throughout; she is her work. The individual you experience on stage and the one you have tea with or eat amagwinya with is the same individual. No gimmick.

I: What was the response like to Koleka’s work at the book launch in UCT on Tuesday?

Koleka signing Collective Amnesia. Photographer Andy Mkosi

Judging by the turn out and the long line there was of people wanting their books signed says a lot about her work. While we were putting up the images yesterday I asked her if she realizes the power her work carries. It’s genuine and that is why people of all ages connect with her and her experiences. I witnessed a girl cry after KP signed her book. Koleka’s work is necessary.

You can find Andy Mkosi’s music here www.soundcloud.com/mkosi-3 and her photography here https://www.behance.net/AndyMkosi.


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