Thursday, 31 October 2013

Poetry that creates an interactive space: a review of Khulile Nxumalo's fhedzi, by Kyle Allan

fhedzi, subtitled iamgoingtoknowgwalopatterns, is the second volume of poetry published by innovative South African poet Khulile Nxumalo.

He continues in his craftsman’s ability to take words and syntax, and the process of language and the meaning attached to everyday symbols, and startlingly evokes fresh and potent perceptions of reality.

His technical ability to play with normal notions of time, space, the nature of the political and reality, reveals the sense of unease in contemporary existence. This encourages the reader to continue beyond the poem, to engage more critically with the larger text that is society.

It is a boldly pan-African voice that breathes in many iconoclastic continental influences. The words trumpet in an interactive space where language and reality make each other. The reader can visualise a restless electric choreography in the words. The subtitle comes from the decorative geometric Ndebele patterns and paintings known as Mgwalo, and this echoes the way the poems and their language encircle each other with meaning.

To understand fhedzi, you have to think of the words inhabiting an interactive space—much like the geometric drawings — which interact with culture, cosmology and the real world around them. They reflect patterns within reality — the order and disorder co-existing.The language both creates new patterns and destroys clichéd patterns of speech and belief through its ability to estrange even ordinary speech effectively.

The incorporation of different languages embraces the reality of poetry as a dialogue of culture, a process in which language itself evolves.The title is TshiVenda, meaning “only, but almost, nearly”, which is also a contraction of fhedzani, meaning “to complete”.

The language expands to both participate in reality and recreate perceptions of reality with its metaphors and poetic syntax. This is a highly skilled technicalwork that evokes the surrealism and interlocking process of South African society. It is a strong read, albeit probably heavy for the layman at first attempt.

(Published in The Witness, September 27, 2013) 

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