Maun International Arts Festival, Botswana by Chloe Garner, Director at Ledbury Poetry

Chloe Garner, Director of Ledbury Poetry writes, I am looking forward to my trip to Maun International Arts Festival (MIAF) in Botswana in November. MIAF is organised by poetry collective Poetavango and you can find out about it here . Clearly alongside poetry MIAF features comedy, music, art and an ‘open street jam session’. Consider that Ledbury Poetry Festival has always included a range of art forms alongside poetry, and many events that happen on the streets of the town, and there might be similarities in our approach. Maun is a small rural town, so I wonder if there will be some resonances there with Ledbury. I am hoping to meet organisers, poets and artists and learn as much as I can. This trip is funded through a British Council research grant but unfortunately, due to Covid and personal circumstances it was put on hold. At long last, I am on my way!

Over the years, while I have been waiting to a chance to actually make the trip, I spent time researching publishers and reading exciting poets from Southern Africa, including: vangile gantsho, poet, healer and co-founder of
Penny Shangwa known as Umind?!, Creative Director of Page Poetry Alive

I discovered poets whose work I have enjoyed hearing online: Mandisa Mabuthoe poet and vocalist from Gabarone, Botswana – check out her performance here

I am also hoping to find out more about Morongoa B Mosetlha, a Motswana writer.

In 2021 Ledbury Poetry Festival held an online event with a selection of exciting poets from Southern Africa (and it featured an open mic so we had a lovely sharing of voices from all over the world).

I still treasure memories of that special event. Here is a link to the Zoom (might be possible to share with David Hewitt’s help). The featured poets were:

Batsirai E Chigama is a spoken word poet, a short story writer and a socio-political gender activist. Gather The Children, her first collection of poems, is ‘a reflection on Zimbabwe in the last ten years; chronicling stories of displacement, loss and desperation.’ Batsirai’s work has been featured in over fifteen anthologies. In 2014, Batsirai came second in the Stanza Poetry Festival Digital Slam ahead of 8 other contestants chosen from all over the world. a strong belief that art is a catalyst for change

With a belief that art is a catalyst for change Tinashe Tafirenyika has disrupted the Zimbabwe Poetry Scene. In 2017 she became the first woman and youngest person to receive a National Arts Merit Award in Spoken Word Poetry. The same year she also received a Bulawayo Arts Award. When not stringing words together Tinashe practises as a Medical Laboratory Scientist in her home town, Bulawayo.

Peggie Shangwa (known as Umind) is a Christian writer, Senior Editor at Groove Magazine International, a regular in Local Magazine, The Voice, singer, speaker, MC and spoken word artist who thrives on word passion and speaks her mind in connection with her spirit, laying down heart issues on any platform. She is also the founder of Page Poetry Alive, a poetry collective.

I hope that this trip will inspire new ideas, connections and collaborations, which will eventually materialise on stages at Ledbury Poetry Festival and in ongoing discussions and online forums.

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