Vuyelwa Maluleke: Poetic Dramatist
Vuyelwa Maluleke is a 23-year-old performance poet, writer and actor currently training at the Wits school of Arts towards a Bachelors Degree in Dramatic Arts. Vuyelwa’s poetry is influenced largely by her Urban surroundings, the women within them, the men they choose to love and the sisters and children they make room for in the world. We spoke to her about being a female writer, acting as part of poetry and Word N Sound.
You are a drama student tell us a little bit about how you got involved with poetry?
I’ve have always used writing as a form of expression for myself, especially during the times when I was too shy to speak. Paper and pen are a lot less judgmental, a lot more welcoming and that’s how I moved into poetry.
What prompted you to start sharing your poetry through performance?
You know when you have an itch to see your work live, beyond the page-that’s what happened. You try and talk yourself out of it but eventually you succumb. My poetry is so much of my own voice, it’s not a character I can hide behind, I love that but it scares me sometimes.
Who are some of the writers and books that you think have had the most influence on your personally?
I go through phases, I’ve got an addictive personality too so when I find out about someone I want to read everything they’ve produced all at once. Most recently that was Toni Morrison.
What value do you think your drama training adds to the way your deliver your poetry on stage?
Drama training is cool, it opens up the options, so I don’t like microphones at all! I hate standing still. I want all of me to be engaged all at once and I can’t do that standing still with a mike. But drama training is different as well. I found performance poetry difficult despite my training so I made my own rules about how I was going to perform
You are one of the top 10 poets at this year’s Word N Sound series tell us what that means to you personally as a writer?
It’s an achievement-a huge one. People don’t know how painfully shy I am with new things, my work was a new adventure. And I got an opportunity to be so present in the world because I always want to write about things that are current and relevant…like my poem for Trayvon Martin and other black boys like him.
Why did you choose to enter the slam this year?
It was a chance attempt and it paid off!!!
You are one of the few women in the top ten at the series, is there any pressure on you personally to represent a feminine voice in this context?
Few is an understatement, there are two of us (Mandi and I) and that’s great and its disappointing! I know there are more than two voices with something worthy to say! I don’t feel pressured as much as I feel like there is space for more women! I speak for a handful of women I know and even then I might be representing them all wrong so I write and it’s up to whoever to find themselves in there, besides I’m more than just a feminine voice. I have more than that lens to talk through
How do you prepare for a performance?
I learn lines…I learn lines…I learn lines…and practice the sounds the feeling the pauses! It’s all subject to change depending on the crowd though!
Tell us about your writing style, what informs it?
I’m still developing, it’s always changing. I know many of the men in the audience consider it aggressive. It’s just not a quiet good girl. I stopped being that a while ago.
What value do you think poetry and the performance arts in general play in South Africa today?
I’m actually doing my research project on the power of slam poetry in critiquing gender politics. I’m looking at street harassment, .the point is that slam, spoken word is so accessible, so present in everyday language. It has got none of Shakespeare’s language that was and is so good at distancing many of my nieces from poetry. It’s a peoples voice and because of that it is capable of being used to address social injustice. This is why I stay in it no matter how hard it gets!
In South Africa there are a lot of well know female performance poets, how do you as a writer distinguish yourself from that sea of voices?
Trying to not be someone will just leave you confused, I’m trying to just be me, that’s hard and to cultivate an authentic voice. I’m a whole lot of myself in everything I’ve read, experienced and lived through. That makes me distinguishable enough I don’t think anyone needs to try for it.
What value do you think initiatives like Word N Sound play in the arts sector in South Africa?
Word and sound is a fantastic platform, it brings together older poets and new poets. It’s where I met Myesha Jenkins. It gets you ready for the real world too so if the pressure is too much here you won’t be able to survive outside those doors.