Poetry: Rhythm N’ Poetry in Gqeberha [formerly Port Elizabeth], Eastern Cape, South Africa, May, 29, 2021

What: Rhythm N’ Poetry When: May 29, 2021 Where: Heritage Café, 25 Constitution Hill, Gqeberha CBD [Port Elizabeth] Time: noon until 7pm Cost: No entrance fee – but limited tickets as per lockdown regulations Info: Luxolo Ngqunge via e-mail: rhythmnpoetry68@gmail.com  

Luxolo Ngqunge (aka Last Poet) is a poet who was born and grew up in Gqeberha, in the Eastern Cape [formerly called, Port Elizabeth- name changed March 2021]. Currently residing in his home town, he is organising, Rhythm N’ Poetry, which will take place, outdoors, at the Heritage Café, Constitution Hill, on May 29, 2021. Ngqunge is working on Rhythm N’ Poetry, with Asanda Lali, from a rap duo from Gqeberha. They hope that Rhythm N’ Poetry will become a monthly event in the Bay.

Rhythm ‘N Poetry is a “poetry movement” which was founded by Ngqunge, over a decade ago. He has hosted Rhythm ‘N Poetry events in Gqeberha, Cape Town and Johannesburg and featured poetry veterans such as Afurakan [Thabiso Afurakan Mohare], Koleka Putuma, Donald Neosapien and Pilgrim. Rhythm N’ Poetry on May 29, will feature established poets, music, comedy and an open mic session to provide a platform for emerging talents. There is no charge to attend. Ngqunge sees this as a pilot project. “This is the first of its kind in Gqeberha/Port Elizabeth, so we want it to first be a free event to attract the masses.” He tags himself as Last Poet, continuing “the art revolution, which was driven since the 60s, 70s and 80s, during the days of jazz in New Brighton, PE.” In those days, art became “a tool for liberation”. It was a time, he adds, “when our country was still facing the life struggle of racism and Apartheid”. Cognisant of contemporary struggles “with alcohol, drugs, teenage pregnancy, and unemployment”, he is actively using the “tool of art revolution” to assist and inspire young people to rise and deal with challenges and to find meaning. “Rhythm N’ Poetry revives the South African hip hop tradition of live music playing, beat boxing, emceeing and of poetry recitals, of which is something that cannot be taken away by our current struggles. It is also to embrace the beauty of our country’s art, specifically of live jazz, hip hop and poetry what it has to offer to the rest of the world.”

Ngqunge whose mother tongue is isiXhosa, says that he regards himself as fortunate, compared to many of his peers. He grew up in a loving household, in Motherwell, NU 5, with physically and emotionally present parents and siblings. “I attended an art high school, Lawson Brown. I wanted to study four art subjects but my father advised me to rather choose two art subjects- so that when life happens at least I’ll have something fall back to. I chose history and business.” His writing started when he was young. He took poetry seriously in 2005, after the passing of his father: “I guess it was an escape to not feel the pain of such a great loss in my life.” After high school, lacking the resources to study further, he took on numerous jobs. One of his jobs was as a kitchen assistant in a conference centre and this sparked his interest in food. He made his way to Cape Town in 2010 and worked at top hotels. That led him to performing poetry at venues and to birthing The Rhythm N’ Poetry movement: “I was performing poetry in numerous events in the city in Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, as well as upmarket places like the old Zula Bar in Long street, Purple Turtle, Ragazzi, Baxter Theatre as well as Artscape to name a few.”

In 2013, he made his entry into the arts industry as an actor. “I auditioned for a petrol attendant role for national telenovela on SABC 1, Skeem Saam in Johannesburg. I was part of the cast as a security guard role, Kwanele, until 2018. In 2017, I was in the supporting cast for Inxeba [The Wound], a controversial international feature film about homosexuality, directed by director John Trengove. I played a role of a caregiver, alongside the late Thobani Mseleni, Nakhane Touré and Bongile Mantsai.”

In March 2020, Covid slammed into Ngqunge’s career: “As a creative, I was not able to find gigs. There were no events for me to perform. A lot came to a halt in the film industry which has reduced the chances for selection”. It is hoped that Rhythm N’ Poetry on May 29, will lead to monthly events in Gqeberha and that the movement will take root in other centres in the country. E-mail, if you can assist in any way to help with Rhythm N’ Poetry: rhythmnpoetry68@gmail.com

Sammy Bee and Gqobho Zimbawla are performing at Rhythm N’ Poetry – lineup -May 29, 2021, Heritage Café, Constitution Hill, Gqeberha. Supplied.

Rhythm N’ Poetry – lineup -May 29, 2021, Heritage Café, 25 Constitution Hill, Gqeberha- includes:

Sammy Bee (Afro soul)
Gqobhozimbawla (poet)
Nyikima (hip hop)
Kweriez (hip hop)
Monwabisi Soxuza (host)
Malibongwe Snyman (co-host)  

Luxolo Ngqunge (aka Last Poet) started the Rhythm N’ Poetry movement in Johannesburg, over a decade over and is introducing the platform to Gqeberha [formerly Port Elizabeth], in the Eastern Cape on May 29 at the Heritage Café, Constitution Hill. Supplied.