Cornelius Jones-Split Personalities
Sibusiso “Cornelius Jones” Simelane is a spoken word artist from Johannesburg (East Rand), Sbu created the character Cornelius Jones, a time traveler with the purpose finding a creative and unconventional way of speaking about various issues in society. We spoke to him about split personalities, Word N Sound and the value of poetry.
Tell us a little bit about how you go into writing poetry and what inspired you to be a poet?
I usually get an idea for a poem from just one word or a melody I heard, and other times it’s just from something I see that saddens me. I was intrigued by how much power words hold, one can move thousands of people with just words, one can enlighten, inspire and change so much with just words
You have created the character of Cornelius Jones, tell us about him and how the idea came about?
Initially I felt that there were certain things that I would never be able to say or do on stage as Sbu, so I created Cornelius Jones as an escape from all the fears that hold me back. Cornelius Jones is basically a time-traveller who was sent here from the future by his father, he has an objective to complete before his time runs out.
What sort of resonance do you think people find with Cornelius?
I’d say people understand that we all have a purpose; we all have an ‘objective’ to complete before our time runs out in the world.
How would you say this character has developed from being just a concept to being where it is right now?
I just had name in the beginning and now Cornelius Jones is an entire person with his own personality and his own journey in life, the character is beyond me now, if I were to stop being a writer and performer I wouldn’t mind someone else picking up where I left of and continuing Mr Jones’ journey.
Who are some of the authors and books that have influenced you the most personally and why?
Chinua Achebe – Things fall apart. Oscar Wilde –The Picture Of Dorian Grey. Ben Okri – Famished Road. Khalil Gibran – The prophet. These books enlightened and taught me how to imagine.
You are part of the top 10 at Word N Sound this year tell us what this means to you personally as a writer?
The other poets that are part of the top ten are such exceptional writers, so for me it’s really an honour to be one of them and I’m really glad that people acknowledge and appreciate the work that we do.
Why did you choose to enter the slam this year?
Honestly, it’s a competitive platform so I just wanted to win, but along the way I realised that there’s so much to this than just winning, you grow so much as performer, writer and just as an individual,
As a poet I am sure many strange things have happened to you, tell us a little bit about some of the experiences you have had as performer?
I think the one experience I will never forget is completely forgetting my lines on stage last year when Word n Sound was still at the Bassline, it was a full house and a couple of lines into my poem I just went blank.
Writing and performing are obviously two different platforms how do you go about writing work that is able to work well on stage?
Well personally I don’t always know which poem is going to work on stage, people perform their work for different reasons, I’d say one has to be honest about why they get on stage.
Tell us then about your writing style, what informs it?
I really love narrative poems, and though it was a problem before I’ve come to enjoy writing love poems, so I use my imagination a lot and most of it comes from experiences in my life.
As a young writer and performer what role do you think poetry has in the South African socio political context?
Poetry is honest, so I think that society needs those voices that will not be afraid of telling it like it is, there’s a quote by Ernst Fischer that I really love that says: “in a decaying society, art, if its truthful, must also reflect decay, and unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable, and help to change it” and that is the role of poetry for me.
You have been writing for four years, how would you say your writing and poetry had developed and changed over that period of time?
I’ve moved from only focusing and writing about all that is around me, social ills, politics and various other issues in society to sharing my personal stories and the conflicts within, so this is a journey and one discovers a lot about themselves and the world
Looking forward what are some of the projects and initiatives you are working on for the future?
I’m planning on releasing an album early next year and I am also working on a book.