Words By Nkanyiso Masango
One of the most salient privileges that can be enjoyed by a people is control over their own narrative, to exercise their prerogative of telling their own story.
Since time immemorial, art has reigned supreme as an expedient of expression, a voice that earnestly critiques the injustices and decadence that torment society. Poetry in the form of Spoken word, has essentially provided the platform for the artistically inclined to speak truth to the powers that be.
A Chiawelo, in Soweto, native Matodzi Gift Ramashia commonly known by the cognomen Makhafula Vilakazi which is a character in one of his works, often invites the audience to witness his soliloquies which denote the enervating and non-Ghetto Fabulous side of existence in eKasi (Township). The latter is substantiated by his 2013 CD compilation emphatically titled “I Am Not Going Back to the Township”.
Makhafula does not, however, believe in categorising his work or basing it on particular issues, “…nothing specifically. Each poem addresses its own issues. It’s mostly socio-political commentary. Although I do a lot of spiritual kind of stuff as well”, he says.
With influences such as the martyr of social commentary from a Ghetto Youth perspective, Lesane Parish Crooks later and famously known as Tupac Amaru Shakur; Makhafula presents his work in a manner that suggests that he is not the type of artist who conforms to embellishment, nor does he censor his words.
A diligent thoroughbred in his calling, Makhafula has elocuted his poems via assorted media. He has made appearances on Television Shows like Shift and Mzansi Insider, amongst others. Some of the most notable feats in his journey involve his participation in the 2012 documentary “Why Are We So Angry?” as a guest commentator, including reciting a poem as a constituent to SABC 1 memorial service as tribute to the global icon Nelson Mandela.
He has also paid calls to different radio stations at regional and national levels, coupled with his performances in events like Botsotso Poetry Festival, the Jozi Spoken Word Festival, Speak the mind (Arts Alive Festival). Winning the 2008 Be Connected International Festival competition held in his hometown Soweto, subsequently saw him raising the flag for South Africa during the Music Mayday Annual Festival in Tanzania abreast of performers from Ethiopia and Holland.
He adds, “I have attended a few writing workshops and learned a lot from the likes of the late Sam Mugabe, Pam Nichols, Angifi Dladla, Dennis Brutus, Zwesh Fi Kush and Prince Shapiro”. Makhafula draws inspiration from the ebb and flow of his personal experiences “My work reflects the contradictions that I have. Today I am in love and will write about the beauty of love. Tomorrow I am hurt and will write about the pain of love”.
Some of his works that I have come across personally carry a lot of acrimonious undertones e.g. the poem titled “Sfebe Ung Patrekile”, which relates to a crime of passion and betrayal. While his magnum opus where most of his fans met the character Makhafula Vilakazi, he touches on a very complex subject matter that affects most township black youth. An awful lot of these delinquent youth are drawn into a life of thuggery and crime due to poverty.
In lieu of having a particular formula or signature style Makhafula argues that “I think sometimes people want to pin you down to what you say in your poetry. That would be unfair on an artist”. As much as Makhafula’s poetry and reputation breaks barriers of conventional poetry and is being revered in numerous social circles, Makhafula as an artist embraces humility. He sees himself a work in progress and acknowledges that he still has a long way to go and there is always room for growth.