My first words at the Nirox Word festival were ‘You gotta be kidding?’. This was me after paying a pretty steep R 360 entrance fee, having my water and snacks confiscated and then being asked for another R 100 for a yoga session.
But in true yogic, and privileged style, I let go of my resentment and got into – well – words.
And the words at Nirox were truly very beautiful.
The first words I heard were ‘Hum Dum Har Har ‘and ‘Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo’, mantras or chants about the universe, love and the heart. Meditative words that grounded me and gave me an incredible sense of calm and peace.
The next lot of words were sculpted. JERUSALEM. From a distance, I thought the artwork was maybe biblical. Up close, political. Each letter was made out of a different material. J the rubble of a bombed out building, E shrapnel, R a destroyed road…
And then, on to the book readings, the poets and the music. And I realise how deeply affected I was by some of the amazing words I heard.
Lauren Beukes, author and activist, spoke with such incredible passion about the link between words, stories and activism. If you haven’t read her books, look them up. She’s smart, a beautiful writer, and also into comics, art, doing good and changing our world.
One word at a time.
Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, author and activist, read and rapped and used words in a way that made us all think oh wow fuck and holy shit fuck and oh dear what now fuck. His words shout out for activism, for South Africans to wake up, to change and to listen. And for all of us to get involved.
To do something, before it is too late.
And then the weather went wild and a storm threatened and the sky went black and it was all a little gloomy and scary for a while. But the storm never broke which is a good metaphor for South Africa, or maybe it’s a terrible one. Things are always going to explode here and they never do.
One day they will.
Unless we listen to people’s words, hear what they are saying and try to understand them.
And act on them.
The last conversation I went to was ‘Imagining a New World’ with Jay Naidoo and a fabulous panel. The speakers were all inspiring and extraordinary, Jay I swear I’m gonna start recycling and Lorenzo I too want to become vegan, and the guy who stood up at the end and joined the panel and spoke about water and energy, dammit I don’t know who you are but I fell in love with you and want to date you, your words, dammit, your words, here’s my number, call me.
We started with the heart and we ended with the heart.
Actually, we didn’t end with the heart because then we had martinis and the important words became ‘one olive or two’ and ‘would you like a small snack with that?’.
When I left, I apologised for my small wordish rant on the R 360. The festival was worth every penny. The space is the best in South Africa, the art and sculpture and landscaped gardens and food and books and poetry and ja, maybe the yoga should’ve been free but in retrospect – beautiful chanting, beautiful mantras, something beautiful to hold on to.
And maybe I’ll even get a date.
I hope you read my words, mystery man, whoever you are.
Call me. Talk to me.
Listen to my words.
I promise to listen to yours.