Juxtaposition as a Lens for Observation: A Dialogue with Sihle Ntuli
Sihle Ntuli, born in 1990, is a poet and classicist from Durban. He obtained his Master of Arts degree in Classical Civilisations from Rhodes University in Makhanda and has lectured previously at the University of the Free State. During his tenure, he was awarded the 2019 CTL Innovation Award for Curriculum Design and Delivery. He is the author of Stranger (2015) and has had work published in South Africa and across the African continent. His poetry was shortlisted for the DALRO Poetry Prize in 2017. He currently lives in Durban.
BY NKATEKO MASINGA
This conversation took place between Pretoria and Durban, South Africa, via email.
Nkateko: Hi Sihle. Congratulations on the publication of your second poetry chapbook, Rumblin’. I noticed that Rumblin’ and your first chapbook, Stranger, share an interesting similarity: they both open with a poem about a bus ride into or out of KwaMashu. What is the significance of the references to that particular mode of public transportation in the opening pieces, “kwa mashu f section bus stop” and “No Exit”, respectively? Are they a metaphor for the journeys you take your readers on with each new collection of work?
Sihle: Thank you Nkateko, and congratulations to you too on the publication of your chapbook Psalm for Chrysanthemums. It happened organically that “No Exit” became the opening poem for Rumblin’ but I’m glad that it did. The link to “kwa mashu f section bus stop” acknowledges Stranger’ as a sort of origin story. The journey being my own with both poems sharing a common link of home.
To answer your question, the Durban Transport buses are the links to the commercial hub of Durban central however the inside joke is that the Durban Transport buses are notorious for being unreliable and incredibly slow. The opening poem of Stranger is a lament for time to be retrieved while the opening poem of Rumblin’ pleads for the acceleration of time. As I understand it, it isn’t really the question of the bus itself being fast or slow but rather the needs of the person using it. So the bus metaphor from both poems speaks to the concept of time.
Nkateko: Thank you, Sihle. It’s strange to finally be able to imagine Psalm for Chrysanthemums making its way into the world. The APBF chapbook box set was initially scheduled for a May 2020 publication date, which was moved to July, and then to September. My excitement waned with each delay, so in a sense I can relate to the lament for time to be retrieved, as in “kwa mashu f section bus stop”, particularly this line: “to watch brain revolving around desires unfulfilled”.
In the foreword of my chapbook, Shara McCallum wrote that the title prepares readers for ‘a song in praise of death’, and that made me think of what death meant to the speaker in those poems; it was a chance at revival, even reincarnation. Perhaps it is the same with time? Do we wish for time to go backwards because we want to relive a version of life that we took for granted? Do we want to move time forward because the future proposes the possibility of reinvention?
The speaker in your poem, “No Exit”, is a careful observer, acknowledging their own role as an actor in the scene playing out in the bus by using the words “we”, “us” and “our” to remind us that they are present, yet keeping the focus on what is happening externally rather than internally. It is beautiful. Do you consider yourself a careful observer? Has the slowness of KwaMashu life, as alluded to in the first stanza of “Slow Jam saKwaMashu”, contributed to the way you observe and document events?
Sihle: I hear you Nkateko, there is a mild anxiety that sets in from the delay of work being published. At the same time it doesn’t take away from this being a wonderful achievement for you, one that I know will only lead to more wonderful opportunities for you as it has for other great African poets.
I think being a careful observer is one of my strengths, I tend to look for what stands out and or the abnormal. There is also my own flaw of being a compulsive over-thinker which in a strange way lends itself to the process of observing. In contrast, Rumblin’ is a more optimistic chapbook than Stranger, grief no longer makes me yearn for the past but for a possible redemption in the future. The question that you ask Nkateko is very intriguing, one that I understand as my dilemma with nostalgia. While I am invested in the past and its acknowledgement, in recent times I am motivated to walk alongside it with an optimistic focus towards the future.
The title “Slow Jam sa KwaMashu” alludes to a mild rivalry between Umlazi and KwaMashu by way of the 2016 song “Amalobolo (Slow Jam sase Mlazi)” by Okmalumkoolkat. In colloquial Zulu slang, ‘uJamu’ is to have an almost tortoise-like pace to life, and so parts of the poem are caricatures meant to revitalize purpose. I tend to also use contrasts and juxtapositions as a lens of observation, in this case documenting a lack of event and the loss of that ‘fear’.
For me the slowness of KwaMashu has given me a will to live, to become someone, something, anything. There is also my own small irony of having attended a model-C school alongside a mild discomfort at being labelled a township poet, I just feel the work should be seen beyond that. There are truths that I am alluding to, like that subconscious fear as fuel, the kind of fear that sees life as beyond merely existing, the for-better-or-worse motivation to matter.
Nkateko: I identify as a compulsive over-thinker too. A former partner once told me that I “assigned meaning to things that had no meaning”, and as difficult as that was to hear, I actually sat down and asked myself why I was so obsessed with seemingly insignificant details, and why this was always in hindsight. I still don’t have the answer to that, but now I lean into my discomfort with the past and use it in my work. Unlike you, my over-thinking does not make me a keener observer of the present. Instead, it makes me retrospectively obsessed with what I have already witnessed and experienced, and with that image in mind I create several alternate endings based on the tiny alterations my brain makes with each remembering. Through this reconstruction of fragmented memories I am saying that every detail has meaning, because one alteration could have led to a different ending.
The back-story of “Slow Jam saKwaMashu” is even more elaborate than I could have imagined. I understood the reference to “I Can Make It Better” by Luther Vandross because it’s quite overt, but the allusion to ‘Amalobolo (Slow Jam sase Mlazi)’ and the multilayered wordplay of ‘jam’ was lost on me until you explained it, and now I realise that the phrase slow jam could be interpreted as tautology because both words imply a low speed. I often feel unequipped to adequately unpeel the intricate layers of meaning in the poetry of others, especially with regard to musical references. I would need to listen to all the music in the world in order to understand every reference at first read, and it upsets me that this isn’t possible. How do you deal with the fact that some readers, like me, will not ‘get’ all the references in your work at first? Do you ever feel obliged to over-explain things, or do you leave it up to the reader to do their research in order to discover (and subsequently unpeel) the layers by themselves?
“Grief no longer makes me yearn for the past, but for a possible redemption in the future.“
Sihle: I’m currently trudging through Paul Auster’s 4,3,2,1 and I say trudging because it has taken me longer than I hoped it would. Without revealing too much of the central plot, the book is essentially four different versions of the same story each made distinct by their own small alterations, the fate of the main character then spirals into the four different directions. What you’ve said concerning retrospection reminds me of the book. I am also reminded of the contrapuntal poem that you wrote during the RARI workshops, If I recall correctly I think there was a dinner involved that had two alternate endings. One thing I have found in common with other poets is that most tend to live within their own minds. Aremu Adams Adebisi in one of his more recent essays highlighted that poets are more meditative than most and I find myself agreeing with this.
I believe the poem should speak for itself and I do try my best not to interfere too much with the reader and explaining meanings. My own mother says she doesn’t understand any of my work and I laugh about this because It would be an absolute chore to walk her through everything. With that said it doesn’t bother me anymore when people don’t get everything about my work, I feel the meaning in my poems is weighted more heavily towards the overt rather than the covert. I think the tautology interpretation is neither here nor there because the poem is intended to be a satirical exaggeration. Understanding the reference that I decoded for you is not completely necessary towards discovering the real essence of the poem. The bit about Mashu slang was just me alluding to my own sense of urgency in contrast to passive attitudes that I had observed and documented.
In school, I remember being taught poems from the likes of Wordsworth, Blake, Keats etc and it was so excruciating to have to analyse those poems for meaning because they felt alien to me. In more recent times, I have been confronted with very contrarian attitudes towards poetry in general and towards me as a poet, I feel it may be as a result of the trauma of the poets that I’ve just mentioned. I only stumbled on South African poetry when I went to Rhodes and I was captivated by poets like Khulile Nxumalo and Seithlamo Motsapi, the ways in which they incorporated local lexicon into their verses. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Lesego Rampolokeng and during one of these occasions he spoke to us about critics saying his work was going over people’s heads and I am paraphrasing but I remember him hilariously imploring these ‘people’ to jump to reach the meaning.
Nkateko: Paul Auster’s 4,3,2,1 sounds fascinating. I delve into stories with nonlinear narratives cautiously, and this is mainly due to my aversion to the anxiety-inducing ‘choose your own adventure’ genre. If I am reading for escapism, which I often am, I do not want to decide what the protagonist experiences next. Having several versions of the same story play out without needing the reader’s input, whether it’s in parallel universes or in different timelines, that sounds like a gripping and worthwhile read. You say that finishing 4,3,2,1 is taking you longer than you hoped it would; is this because of the book’s length, or because you have to go back and reread previous sections in order to keep up with the changes in subsequent versions of the story? Despite how long it is taking, are you enjoying the book, and would you recommend it to a friend?
I recently binge-watched the sci-fi series Devs, which explores the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, which states that for every choice made by a person, the universe splits so that every possible outcome of that choice can occur. The poem that you remember from the RARI workshop is titled “date night on the back porch / date night in absentia” and it poses a similar theory, using the contrapuntal form as a simulator of the ‘many worlds’. A contrapuntal can be read three ways: as two poems in vertical blocks, and then horizontally as a new, third poem emerging from a back-and-forth between the two poems. My “date night” series of poems all begin with the speaker being asked out on a date, and then based on their response, the rest of the story unfolds. In “date night on the back porch / date night in absentia”, I toyed with the idea of the speaker wanting to stay indoors instead of going out, and although the title is quite telling, a third story plays out as a cumulative outcome of both dates: although the speaker is absent in the second version, her partner’s actions still affect her in the end.
The relationship between the intention of the author and the interpretation of the reader is very interesting. In his essay titled “The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach”, Wolfgang Iser wrote, “One must take into account not only the actual text, but also, and in equal measure, the actions involved in responding to that text.” Iser’s view, the reader-response approach, focuses on the reader and the text, not the author. I recently spoke to a friend and fellow poet, Tjawangwa Dema, about the author-reader relationship, and she believes that the knowledge of authorial intent is not a prerequisite for meaningful engagement with literature, and this frees the writer from the obligation to respond to readers’ opinions. Your view that poems should speak for themselves affirms the notion that the relationship between the reader and the text trumps authorial intent, but this then begs the question, why do we continue to ask writers to speak about their work? Perhaps the leap towards meaning is aided by human connection?
Sihle: Ken Saro Wiwa’s novel Sozaboy and Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy are the books that left a lasting impression on me during my time at Rhodes University. There was a certain allure to the English in Sozaboy being described as ‘rotten’ that attracted me to it. I was drawn towards 4,3,2,1 because of Auster’s work having been good to me during my early days as a student. I tend to gravitate towards unusual formats including non-linear styles and those considered to be avant-garde. I seem to have a preference for the provocative and the bold. 4,3,2,1 has asked a lot of me as a reader and that’s probably why it’s taken me so long to finish. Most of the time I have been able to follow the stories as the author does leave good cues which have helped me to recall previous events of particular versions of the novel. I would however not recommend it to a friend because I do understand that postmodern fiction is not for everyone. I have serious doubts if they’d still want to remain friends after having gone through a marathon of 1070 pages and not enjoyed the book, so rather safe than sorry.
I whole-heartedly agree with Tjawangwa Dema, I honestly cannot really pinpoint one particular reason why writers are asked to speak about their work so much. I can only speculate that it could be the author-reader relationship gradually being nurtured over a period of time. Those who are familiar with the work of Nkateko Masinga know what to expect as they learn the poet more, this includes Nkateko’s outlook on life and Nkateko’s philosophies etc. I remember how I felt when I first read Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s “In a Grove” for the first time, I was completely mesmerized and eager to read more of his work. I now consider myself an Akutagawa enthusiast based on his unconventional yet vivid storytelling. I think readers tend to develop an interest towards a writer based on this connection. If there is a consistency from the writer in the eyes of the reader then the writer begins to solidify a place in the reader’s heart.
Speaking of unconventional, I look forward to reading more of your ‘date night’ series of poems as I do enjoy poets going beyond the traditional layout of poetry and trying new things. The contrapuntal poem is a fascinating format and one I definitely look forward to trying. I think it’s important for poets to challenge themselves insofar as attempting the less common poetic forms. The likes of Jericho Brown are even creating their own forms, it is this kind of innovation that keeps me going.
At times I do tend to get frustrated with my poetry based on a struggle with what I consider to be a sort of dissociative identity. I consider there to be an almost spiritual element involved when I really focus on writing but outside of this trance-like state I awaken talentless. As a reader I understand and empathize with this yearning for connection with the writer but at the sametime I also find elements of this relationship to be illusory. So when you ask me why we continue to ask writers to speak about their work, perhaps the answer could be the reader’s yearning to connect with the same spirit that cocooned the writer, a search disguised as one that seeks meaning in the writer’s work though in reality looking for a certain feeling, a feeling that would differ based on the temperament of each reader.
Nkateko: I too am motivated by innovation, especially with regard to poetic form. I am in absolute awe of Jericho Brown’s invented form, the duplex, which he describes in Invention as “a ghazal that is also a sonnet that is also a blues poem of 14 lines, giving each line 9 to 11 syllables.” The formula seems straightforward enough, but when you break it down you realise that you first need to be able to write a solid ghazal that stands on its own and has a memorable refrain before you can write one which is also a sonnet and blues poem, and this goes for the sonnet and blues poem as well. A poet needs to be skilled in each form individually before they can attempt to combine them; to do this in such a way that a reader who is unfamiliar with form can still relate to the content, now that’s the level I aspire to.
I used to worry that writing in form was making me a “mechanical” poet, that the rigidity in my new poems reflected that I had followed a formula/recipe, whereas free verse could give my creativity free rein. Now I am learning that poetic form can be thought of as a collection of containers that you can put your poems in. Each container has its own shape, boundaries and limitations but it does not alter the content you put in it. The substance of the poem remains the same, you just need to adjust the portion size to match the container. I can write a poem in free verse and then convert it into a ghazal, using the refrain to echo the phrase that I want the reader to embed in their mind. I can then transform that ghazal into a pantoum, grouping couplets into quatrains and then deciding which lines from the ghazal make it into the pantoum by identifying phrases that can be spun to mean something new with a minor change. The possibilities are endless, and this fascinates me.
Would you consider the idea that some of your poems are part of a series; perhaps those relaying observations of the Durban Transport system are in one series, and poems about your brother are in another? Let us imagine you moved to a new city in a new country. Which artistic preoccupations would remain with you? Perhaps you would find yourself writing about the transport system in the new place? When I was studying in New York and began taking the Staten Island Ferry to reach Manhattan and then the subway to navigate the other four boroughs of the city, my first ride on the ferry felt like I was on a cruise ship; views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty filled up my camera roll fast. After a few weeks, I began spending my trips scrolling through my phone, or worrying that I would be late for class. I stopped looking at people. I stopped being excited about getting lost. Wonder morphed into routine, into normalcy. In your poetry I see a persistent sense of wonder; with KwaMashu, with Durban. What is it about KwaZulu-Natal that fuels this poetic impulse?
Sihle: Recently I watched a documentary by Yoza Mnyanda of Darkie Fiction called Little America. The documentary is based on the presence of American gimmicks and language in the South African music industry. Not to stifle my own creative process but it made me look at myself as an artist and the ways in which I have centred the international in ways that I think and do things outside of my writing. My overconsumption of American/European film, literature and music has increasingly become more and more of a concern to me which has led to more of an emphasis on my identity existing alongside the established methods of poetry.
In South African poetry there has been a recent prioritizing of indigenous languages for the purpose of what I assume to be a similar cultural preservation in the midst of globalization etc and so I think there is a recognition of the same concern. I look to the Nigerian art and literary scene as the standard bearers of high quality artistic output. I would rather not single out any particular poet but I will say that the Nigerian poetry scene as a whole is thriving. A high bar has been set for the rest of us to follow and one of the key things I feel Nigerian writers do well is their loyalty to being Nigerian regardless of where they are. I’d like for my work to exist as a representation of my home alongside other African homes from the continent and even African homes in the diaspora.I lived in Makhanda for a longtime and had brief stints in Langebaan and Cape Town but Durban has always been on the back of my mind, this may be why Durban is a constant presence in my work.
There would need to be this same feeling of home perhaps if I moved outside of Durban for an extended period or even permanently. I can however foresee this change being tough as I have lived in Durban for most of my life. I would acknowledge that certain sets of my poems could be considered to be part of a series based on the themes you’ve highlighted but at the same time I do admit it would be a great way to challenge myself with a change of setting.This is one challenge that I would not be opposed to.
Nkateko: Durban is such a beautiful city. I attended the Poetry Africa Festival there in 2018 and I did not want to leave afterwards. Living in Gauteng for over twenty years has made me quite the cynic. Whenever I travel between Pretoria and Johannesburg for work, I spend more time worrying about my safety than I do fully appreciating my surroundings. For most of my life I thought that this discomfort was the norm, and then I began to travel outside the province. Two years ago I went to Malamulele, Limpopo for a few weeks for a friend’s lobola negotiations and wedding, and I loved how close-knit the community was, and how safe I felt all the time. In fact, it made me long for a quiet life close to nature, away from the pressures of city life.
The preservation and prioritization of indigenous languages is important. My mother and father are Venda- and Tsonga-speaking respectively, and I have grown up speaking Xitsonga at home. However, I do not have a single poem written entirely in Tsonga. I have poems that reference Yorùbá, Shona, Afrikaans, Setswana and yes, Xitsonga too, but not one poem that is not mostly in English. When I think of the schools that I went to and how the teachers chastised us for speaking our home languages at break-time, I realise how English became so ingrained in my life, and I wish South Africa had an education system that valued all eleven official languages, as well as South African Sign Language, equally, instead of as a hierarchy where English is at the top.
What you said about Nigerian literature reminds me of the diversity of our cohort at the inaugural RARI workshop earlier this year. Nigerian writers not only set the bar high in terms of producing stellar work, but also in the way that they create inclusive spaces for other writers throughout the continent and the African diaspora. RARI was founded by Nigerian writers, but became a space for writers from different countries across Africa, with Liberia, Uganda and South Africa being some of the countries represented in our cohort. Looking back at the workshop as a space where we learned about form, wrote and critiqued poems, and now as a community where we share writing opportunities and encourage each other to keep writing and submitting work to literary journals, what has been the highlight of this journey for you?
Sihle: I agree with you, the preservation and prioritization of indigenous languages is important and I think this should also extend to the cultural. I feel it also needs to be understood how we got here, the purpose of which would be making certain that we do not overlook certain fundamentals again.
As a young boy it was quite a confusing time to be growing up alongside the very idealised notion of the ‘rainbow nation’. The period left me dislocated in terms of my identity and perhaps there may be many more who feel the same way. I recall my time growing up as one that was filled with what I’ll call ‘mixed messaging’. For example, Leleti Khumalo, widely known for playing the title role in the 1992 film Sarafina speaks English throughout the film despite a mostly black African cast. Similarly, Henry Cele played the title role of Shaka Zulu in an 80’s miniseries that saw members of the Zulu tribe speaking in English despite the series being a historical account. Khumalo and the late Henry Cele were both from KwaMashu and went on to international stardom following these parts but not much has been said about the social implications of the language that was being centred. The question that I often ask myself is what was I being asked to internalize at such an impressionable age and how this has contributed to who I am today. Double consciousness as described by W.E.B Du Bois is a reality for black South Africans and so when you combine this with your heritage months it begins to unravel a post democratic compromise so flawed due to so many fundamental aspects being overlooked.
With regards to RARI, it was really a great experience for me, one that I often wish I could do all over again. Writing in itself can be quite a lonely process so it felt great to be part of a supportive group. All of the RARI members played a part in making the inaugural year of RARI such a success. One of the highlights for me was being able to engage in various debates and sharing similar concerns with a group of poets. My poems “Black Shadow Man & Taste” and even the more recent “The Brother Moves On” were all first seen by RARI members. All these poems share a quite intimate quality and I feel that it’s a result of being in a comfortable workshop space that RARI provided. From the experience I have taken away that poets thrive in writing communities filled with such camaraderie. I think the forming of more workshopped collectives should be encouraged as they are great for the development of poets irrespective of experience.
Nkateko: The point you raise about Sarafina! and Shaka Zulu is so important. The film and television industry is often criticized for prioritizing profit over the historically accurate portrayal of stories, and I believe that funding is one of the key reasons that we lose the battle to have African stories portrayed in indigenous languages. Would a movie with dialogue in isiZulu garner a global audience? Would a movie that is historically accurate but does not have a star-studded cast have global appeal? I am reminded of Idris Elba depicting Nelson Mandela in the movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and how that casting decision shed light on how South African actors are overlooked for roles in movies that portray their own country’s history. It is a multilayered struggle that goes beyond the prioritization of English because we end up internalizing not only the belief that our indigenous languages are inferior but also that our nationality is a liability if we want to succeed in the arts on a global scale.
I share your sentiments about the RARI workshop being a safe, camaraderie-filled space, and that such platforms are needed for writers to develop their craft. On that note, I saw that Lolwe, where your two-poem set “Black Shadow Man & Taste” is published, has virtual classes for writers. Congratulations on that publication, as well as the recent one of “The Brother Moves On” in Tintjournal, which was accompanied by a Q&A that I thoroughly enjoyed reading as well. I have been an admirer of your work even before the RARI workshop, but being in a writing community alongside you solidified that sense of awe because I had the opportunity to ask you questions about your poems and to learn about your process in real time. Now that you have gone on to publish some of the poems written during the workshop, I am reminded of how important that steady reassurance and constructive criticism was, and I hope other writers get to experience that in their writing communities too.
Sihle: One of my favourite movies of 2018 was Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, for me the beauty of the film is in the subtle bits of social commentary layered within it. The film itself is based in Mexico where the main character is a live-in-maid named Cleo identified as being a native of Mexico. An instance of social commentary would be scenes in which Cleo speaks her native Mixtec with another fellow maid then switches to Spanish around the family she works for. Similarly, when I unpack the success of Marvel’s Black Panther, I think a lot can be attributed to Afrocentrism, particularly the identity of the Wakandans being centred rather than relegated to the periphery. I am under no illusions though, we may be a long way to realizing a movie in full isiZulu dialogue but I think the success of films like Roma and even Parasite are reasons enough to be optimistic.
I still see it as a great privilege that we got to experience RARI. Facilitators and participants worked effectively together despite our differences in nationalities, time zones and internet connectivity. Retrospectively, our use of the online platform was like a foreshadowing of the ‘new normal’. I think it had only been a few weeks following the conclusion of the workshop when the first positive case of Covid-19 was announced in South Africa. I admired the RARI space because of the common goal that we all shared, which was mainly leaving the workshop as better poets.
It was also great to meet a quite accomplished poet such as yourself at the RARI workshops. We have been on quite a few of the same journals in the past, the most recent of which was Wreaths for a Wayfarer: An Anthology in Honour of Pius Adensami. Prior to that I first saw you speaking on a Daily Thetha episode, I think it was on the topic of writing and or publishing. I admire your tireless work ethic in balancing your creative writing alongside your profession as you expressed in your TEDxTalk and look forward to continuing to follow and support you and your work.
Nkateko: Sihle, it has been a pleasure to be in conversation with you. Thank you for making time for this dialogue and sharing your views on all the topics we discussed. I cannot close this dialogue with a standard ‘I wish you the best for the future’ because we are in the same group chat (laughs) and I will be seeing you continue to shine, so instead I want to ask you if you have any advice for writers who are starting to submit work to literary journals and are intimidated by the process. I know that there is no formula to this, and rejection is an inevitable part of the journey, but what keeps you going and what has helped you bounce back after setbacks and rejections?
Sihle: As someone with anxiety disorder I would encourage writers to take good care of themselves based on the prevalence of mental health issues among writers. Most of being a writer is a sort of psychological warfare, the rapid shift from doubt to hope and back again. I want to say we should not measure ourselves with the success of others but in finding our own way, look to understand the ways in which others have won. We shouldn’t be too rigid in our creative pursuits and also not be above reproach.
I feel the celebration of book launches, journal launches etc are quite brief when compared to the long journey before it, a journey where one of the few guarantees is pain. I’ve found myself celebrating even the small things and working towards smaller goals, this is one of the ways that I keep motivated. Everyday presents a new opportunity to learn but we may not always be up for it, for the sake of balance there also needs to be a recognition of the need to make time to rest.
Photo credit for featured image: Niamh Walsh-Vorster
Nkateko Masinga is an award-winning South African poet and 2019 Fellow of the Ebedi International Writers Residency. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2018 and her work has received support from Pro Helvetia Johannesburg and the Swiss Arts Council. In 2019, she co-won the Brittle Paper Anniversary Award. Nkateko is an interviewer and director of the Internship Program at Africa In Dialogue, as well as the founder and managing director of NSUKU Publishing Consultancy. She is the author of a digital chapbook titled the heart is a caged animal, published by Praxis Magazine. Her latest chapbook, psalm for chrysanthemums, has been selected by the African Poetry Book Fund and Akashic Books to be published in the 2020 New Generation African Poets chapbook box set.