A conversational poem by Bibars Murad
I was sitting, thinking:
How do I start?
How does one start?
When there is so much to say and so little time to say it?
Some even ask:
What is the point?
After all, the people have been speaking out for some time:
26 minutes for 34 Marikana stories?
2 minutes for 69 Sharpeville stories?
10 seconds for 9 Bree Street stories?
Can I say all I must say in just a few minutes? Can I say it in such a way that you all understand?
To those who ask:
What is the point?
Here is the point:
and 69 people
and 9 people who can now never be heard.
Not unless someone speaks about them
About how they were treated unfairly
About how they were painted with hatred by the worst of human traits: prejudice.
Hundreds of stories.
Eleven official languages.
Do you really think only one would do?
Because I am the outsider, and I must tell their story.
I must keep telling it, in my language too, and especially to those who refuse to listen.
Loudly. Forcefully. Uncompromisingly
So they have no other option but to listen.
I must keep telling it, until the truth spreads like the air that fills the void
You see, you and I are alike.
We are the outsiders to their struggle.
We were in the dark for too long.
But now we all know
and we will tell others
so that they know too
and this is what we need to know:
for years and years and years
they had been stripped of their voice, stripped of their rights, stripped of their lives.
Trapped in a dome of darkness with nothing but hope.
Hope was their guiding light.
Hope was their machine gun.
Hope was their nuclear weapon.
Because for all that time the dome was located on the edge of a knife.
But hope is the weapon of the warrior artist.
And the generational guardians looked upon these warrior artists and said:
You are the hope of this generation so
you step outside, you risk your life.
you speak your truth, you risk your life.
you lift your head, you risk your life.
And every day is a choice
Because the only thing you can choose is what you risk your life for.
But the warrior artists, they did not care.
They respected the words, yes of course, but they could not oblige.
The artists saw only the future.
The artists then questioned the system.
The artists did more than just hope for tomorrow.
Their art was their weapon.
The bullets of their gun.
The sharpness of their axe.
The handle of their sword.
They fought a war against history, a war against leaders, a war against haters, a war
They built theatres and they protested on stage, backstage, in the wings.
They fought with art because art is a universal language
with a dictionary full of words that the tongue cannot always express.
But art is also unaffordable, too dear in cost, leaving too many stories untold.
So now it is us who must fight.
We must fight to tell their stories.
We have a voice we can use
to spread the stories of those who can no longer share their own or tell their truth.
Spread. Share. Tell.
We will be heard. They will be heard.
and now we fight.
Spread. Share. Tell.
We will be tired.
But they were tired.
They are tired.
Tired of hoping.
Tired of fighting.
But never tired of dancing.
About the Poem: Listen was written as a creative response to a JOMBA! Khuluma Writing Residency seminar which focused on introducing the international participants to some key concepts in critical discourse within a South African context. Bibars responded to the notion of artistic defiance and was most intrigued by the idea of using the arts as a means to hope which is also a means to defy. Working closely with Collab Company's creative director, Lauren Noble, Bibars crafted a conversational poem as a way to spread awareness to others who - like him - know too little about the South African apartheid and post-apartheid context. It was fascinating to observe a young dancer who lives in Dubai finding such a strong sense of purpose as he grappled with aspects of a history that he knew almost nothing about. He listened to the stories of South Africa, and now he wants us to do the same.
About the Author: "I’m Bibars but I go by Bibz for short! My work with Collab Company allows me to explore my abilities as a performer, a dancer and now as a writer. I am a 17-year old contemporary dancer and have been training here in the UAE for two years. To me dance is a form of expression. I can communicate anything through dance. I can express whichever emotion I feel without worrying about others having to understand it or me. As someone who has only recently moved into journalism as a written style, I am currently focusing on the opportunity to be guided as I write opinion pieces and creative articles for #collabinconvo. When I first heard about the JOMBA! Khuluma Writing Residency I was thrilled! It was a way to experience my two favourite hobbies into one: attending a global dance festival in its 23rd year and the chance to write my very first dance review. I’m also excited to learn more about South Africa’s history with particular interest in how South African dancers, choreographers and performance artists present highly political and deeply personal performances."
About The Festival: For more about the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience please visit their official webpage here or pop over to their social media accounts on Instagram or Facebook. If you'd like to spend some time engaging with previous festival content through the eyes of JOMBA! Khuluma then head over to their official blogspace here.
© Written by Bibars Murad for JOMBA! Khuluma and Collab Company
Edited by Lauren Noble | 2021
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