InZync Poetry: Breaking Down Barriers Through the Spoken Word (South Africa)
In the shadows of Cape Town’s white beaches and bustling city life lies the town of Stellenbosch, a community famous for its world-renowned vineyards, lively student life, and picturesque scenery. With the slightest bit of digging though, one could find themselves engaged in a thriving arts community, one where old school slam poetry reigns supreme.
Stellenbosch is highly regarded for academia and wealth throughout the country of South Africa. However, with the township of Kayamandi situated just kilometers away from the town’s polished center, Stellenbosch acts as a strong symbol of the ongoing struggle of racial inequality still prevalent in the Rainbow Nation’s current state of existence.
Having been demonstrated on countless occasions, hip-hop culture in its entirety has a distinct aptitude for breaking down these cultural barriers by means of authentic expression, and empowerment. In Stellenbosch, this has proven to be no different.
With the mission of promoting South Africa’s vast literary history, the Stellenbosch community founded the Stellenbosch Literary Project (SLiPNet). Through their variety of programming, specifically through the likes of their popular InZync Poetry Sessions, SLiP is celebrating South Africa’s diverse literary past while concurrently tackling the country’s most sensitive subjects of race, inequality, and idenity. World Hip Hop Market reached out to Adrian Van Wyk, InZync events coordinator, poet, and MC to see how SLiP, InZync, and old fashioned slam poetry was affecting the community at large.
Adrian: SLIPNet is a platform that aims to stimulate debate and give focus to the budding literary culture of all language within South Africa. SLiP has achieved many of its goals, and in many cases gone far beyond initial expectations. This is particularly true of SLiP’s events program, whose flagship is the popular, once-a-month InZync poetry session format.
Over the past two years, the Inzync Poetry Sessions have featured an exhilarating diversity of poets and styles, from formal “paper poetry” to hip-hop “spoken word” performances. InZync, which from its inception has been hosted mostly in Kayamandi (on the outskirts of “white” Stellenbosch), has seen the flourishing of previously unseen and unheard talent.
The InZync shows have decisively broken down language and race barriers, the very obstacles, which so perniciously taint the history of Stellenbosch itself as a center of white, Afrikaner political hegemony. Now, instead, InZync has become a new “hot spot” for progressive literary-cultural engagement, and for racial, cultural and linguistic cross-transfusion.
World Hip Hop Market: With Stellenbosch having such a controversial past (and even present) in relation to apartheid and race in South Africa, how do you feel organizations & projects like InZync can help break down barriers between people in the community?
Adrian: DAMN RIGHT! From the genesis of InZync and during our journey we were not prepared to let a “conservative viewpoint“ dictate the type of shows we put together. Barriers have definitely been broken through the InZync sessions. One way has been making people aware of the power, which THEIR stories carry. Its funny to see how people realize that they actually have a lot more in common then was previously portrayed. We have to break down old ugly buildings one SLAM at a time with those heavy 1-ton metaphors.
World Hip Hop Market: What have been some of the most memorable moments from InZync’s poetry slams over the past couple years? Have any particular poets or performers that left a truly profound impact on you?
Adrian: Where do I begin, each session definitely has a particular impact on people albeit good or bad. A major highlight for InZync was the poetry exchange we did between University students at Stellenbosch University and The University of the Western Cape, each of those voices carried impact and it made so much sense on the night. The true reason for that night making sense was having Professor Antjie Krog bless our platform. We had about 400 people packed wall-to-wall to jam out to poetry. The audience went crazy when Professor Krog walked out and the DJ dropped ‘Hip Hop Hooray’ by Naughty by Nature, that was funny but also carried a metaphor for how InZync, Poetry can make an audience go “HEEEEEEEYYYYY, HOOOOOOOOO,HEEEEEEYYY, HOOOOOOOOO“
World Hip Hop Market: When did you begin writing? What influenced you to start?
Adrian: I started writing because of my parents. My father had the funniest Afrikaaps poetry and always used to share it with us on random occasions. My mother was always a big reader so she schooled me on the first white rapper before EMINEM was even a thought, William Shakespeare homie! This made me dwell into literature further and further. I used to be an undercover reader, so in high school I was reading autobiographies but never brought it to anyone’s attention. I started noticing rhyme and writing EVERYWHERE!.
World Hip Hop Market: Are there any specific processes you go through when writing a new piece? Where do you usually draw inspiration from and who are those that you look up to in this context?
Adrian: I just write. I don’t have any particular things I do to spark inspiration. I just sit down and journey into the mind. It’s always interesting to see what the hell is going on in your thoughts, memories and ideas.
World Hip Hop Market: What is poetry/spoken word to you?
Adrian: A personal mentor of mine, and InZync originator Pieter Odendaal always says poetry to him is “every f#c#ing thing.“ I think that’s the best way of describing it. Poetry is that unique interaction that makes you stop, look, and look again. I think, when I figure out this answer I’ll send a squad of doves to deliver my take on Poetry all the way over there, OLD SCHOOL!
World Hip Hop Market: I understand there was recently a tragic fire in the Kayamundi township, are there any sort of efforts going on right now that InZync is affiliated with?
Adrian: Inzync is collaborating with various other initiatives, which are helping in the rebuilding of Zone O in Kayamandi. There are some future collaboration’s in the pipeline but over time they will be shown. For now, we just keeping things InZync and trying to build this platform into a strong home for Poets, artists and other creatives to showcase their work.
World Hip Hop Market: What does the future hold for InZync?
Adrian: We never know what the future holds, but InZync plans to spread throughout South Africa in the upcoming years. We always keen for collaboration. So hit us up and we could definitely make a plan to join forces with similar projects in South Africa and abroad. Respect!
To learn more about SLiPNet and InZync Poetry Slams’ future events visit their website here http://slipnet.co.za/