I remember being eight and geeking out about iambic pentameter …—Maneo Refiloe Mohale
This is the first in a series of long-form interviews by Patron Makhosazana Xaba to be hosted on The JRB, which will focus on contemporary collections by Black women and non-binary poets. In opening up a space for wide-ranging, erudite and graceful conversations, Xaba aims to correct the misdeeds of the past by engaging black women and non-binary poets seriously on their ideas and on their work.
Two previous long-form interviews, with Mthunzikazi A Mbungwana on her isiXhosa volume Unam Wena, and with Athambile Masola on her debut collection Ilifa were published in New Coin last year.
Everything is a Deathly Flower
uHlanga Press, 2019
Makhosazana Xaba (MX): Reading Everything is a Deathly Flower in preparation for this interview felt like walking through a garden. The colours of flower petals and various fruits called my name, the branches of the trees bowed as their leaves whispered determinedly: ‘look at me!’ When I read the book upon its release, I was struck by the subtlety of your poems. My first question then is, how do you read? Please share your reading practices and processes. What useful lessons have you learned over the years about reading as it relates to your writing?
Maneo Refiloe Mohale (MRM): I’m a really omnivorous reader, though lately I’m grazing around some genre fiction, queer theory, graphic novels, memoirs and poetry, of course. I spent the feverish days of the Covid-19 pandemic mired in brain fog, unable to read. Last year let a little light back into my brain, and I fell back into a proper reading practice again. Now the ball’s rolling, and I’m both excited and relieved, while taking it slow and easy, at my own pace always.
One highlight was taking part in last year’s Sealey Challenge, an informal online community challenge (prompted by the Caribbean poet Nicole Sealey) to read one book of poetry a day for the month of August. A few favourites from that juicy stack were: Kama La Mackerel’s ZOM-FAM; Kemi Alabi’s Against Heaven; Nondwe Mpuma’s Peach Country; Antjie Krog’s Down To My Last Skin; Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies; Billy-Ray Belcourt’s NDN Coping Mechanisms; and Diane Seuss’s frank: sonnets.
Tumbling back into poetry through a communal daily practice reminded me of poetry’s power over me, something I forget easily. As for lessons, I didn’t set out to read all those books to locate myself or my experiences (and generally don’t). I tried the Sealey Challenge as an experiment in devotion, as well as a curation exercise. Of course, in that spooky way, by reading all of this poetry, I found words to describe some of the corners of my more nebulous experiences.
Reading showed me a bit of what I was hiding from myself, especially in the early days of the pandemic. Especially all the grief. I mistakenly thought so much of what I was witnessing and experiencing was unsayable, but then I read, like Baldwin said. And I’m still reading now, both casually and carefully.
MX: Congratulations for winning the African Poetry Book Fund’s 2020 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry. It is well deserved. Please write a poem about what it felt like to win this award and how it changed your life. Or not.
GLENNA (The Bee)
about my desire: grant me the green light
to be honest (at least). the news found me
in may, looped at the foot
of the mother-mountain.
cape shimmer miraged the colony’s glamour
into friday focus. when I told them,
ada honey’ed me thrice. nick & I clinked
whiskey emojis & neo loosed
a praise song soaked in spirit,
back into the soil.
santu barked & maru barked
from that other place: the Not-Yet.
mid-sentence, i thought about
how emily dickinson said—
fame is a bee
with a sting & a wing. to be honest:
I prefer my honey mouthed.
passed from me to mine,
only to triple thricely, to the next nectars.
MX: There is something pleasantly communal about this collection. So many names! You have poems ‘for …’ and poems ‘after …’, epigraphs introduce each of the three sections of the book and others open individual poems. The acknowledgements section is detailed and long. There is a palpable intimacy that oozes from what I will call ‘dedications, tributes and honouring’ in ‘this little tome’. A student could write a full-on thesis on the collective that is all these people, citing your poems only as footnotes. Why was this important to you?
MRM: I wrote the bulk of Everything is a Deathly Flower in a garden cottage in Durban, alone. The isolation was both necessary and difficult—I was lonely and touch-starved and languishing in the work of trying to articulate past and present trauma. While I was doing research, I found myself looking for voices that made me feel less alone. I was calling people into the room. When speaking and writing to the dead, I asked them to sit with me. It’s no wonder that the word ‘witness’ twists itself throughout the book’s bouquet. I felt like I needed one. I needed (and still need) hands to hold me, while I moved through my tricky, self-made world of memory and discovery and decay.
Also, all throughout my education—with the bulk of it happening outside of the classrooms and libraries I worshipped—I learned that citation could be a powerful tool. Who gets to be named, seen and celebrated is deeply political. I wanted to make visible the work that makes my work possible, while also honouring the connections that kept me alive. I love the idea of a thesis based on the works cited in my book.
The undertext beneath mine is a mycelial network of Black, trans, queer, intergenerational genius. I wanted to place myself in conversation with the living and the dead, making room for myself, in the hopes of exposing a sprawling, borderless, intergenerational, ancient, and endlessly innovative matrix of thought, creation and resistance.
MX: In an interview with Palesa Manaleng you said you ‘really leaned into writing poetry after I encountered South African poets’. You name the poets without being specific about how each one contributed to this leaning. From this list Chris van Wyk, Don Mattera and Keorapetse Kgositsile are no longer with us. Can you be specific about their contribution to your move towards writing poetry?
MRM: I inherited a love of boNtate Mattera, Kgositsile and Van Wyk from my dad. When I was writing Everything is, I read four specific texts, two of them signed and stolen from my dad’s library: Memory is the Weapon and Azanian Love Song by Don Mattera, and If I Could Sing and This Way I Salute You by Keorapetse Kgositsile. Lately, I’ve been thinking about Ntate Kgositsile’s poem ‘Origins’, and his floating, musical, prophetic voice. The way he makes it seem like he’s balancing history on his palm. Ntate Mattera too. He made it seem like the past was a textured thing that I could touch and alter. I went looking for ways to play with barbed memories without hurting myself too much, and found hints. Like Chris van Wyk’s humour in Shirley, Goodness and Mercy, or Don Mattera’s floral images in poems like ‘Shadows Deepen’. They’re lighthouses for me, still.
MX: Again, while talking to Manaleng, you said something profound about writing poetry as opposed to other genres—that poetry lets you ‘dance towards meaning instead of marching towards it’. Can you say more about this?
MRM: I associate marching with primary school. Those segregated gender lines we were made to stand in, that confused me so much: boys on this side, girls on this side. All the ways the fascist and colonial methods of control found their ways into our bodies.
As a mode of thinking, marching reflected the rigidness with which I learned poetry in school. Dance stands counter to that in my mind, but the dance I’m signalling here is the kind that both animates and terrifies me a little.
Right at the beginning of the book, in ‘Letsatsi’, it’s the dance I witnessed in Katlehong growing up, in churches and in garages, done with ‘shells and bottle tops on ankles’; that ancient step healers and supplicants do, meant to dissolve the boundaries between identities and worlds and the stories we tell of them. It’s the kind of dancing I’m doing in ‘Belief (Five Sunflowers)’, where I could have written a straightforward letter to five members of my chosen family, but instead, I wrote a poem that blossomed itself into fragments of confession and memory and sensation and movement and music. The kind of dance that collapses time.
MX: The title of your Honours thesis, A Dance in the Rain: Race, Resistance and Media in Early Apartheid South Africa, got me thinking that dance, its various manifestations and meanings, might be an important theme in your life.
MRM: I guess so. I haven’t really thought about it quite like that. I know I really enjoy poems that have distinct internal rhythms, because they tend to be the most musical. I remember being eight and geeking out about iambic pentameter and learning that poets could stress a syllable like a musician could stretch a chord. I loved that reading a poem out loud could transform text into song, so when I started writing, I experimented lots with styles and eventually got into slam poetry in my teens.
As for my thesis, dance creeps in because I was studying and writing about Marabi in the nineteen-thirties and forties, and a love of jazz is a bedrock I inherited from my late grandfather. It doesn’t surprise me that dance and jazz show up all over Everything is, I’m really fascinated by Black modes of movement and migration—all the ways a body can move and remember and express and signify.
MX: Please share the process you and uHlanga Press engaged in to arrive at the cover for your book.
MRM: So the cover is designed by two incredibly talented close friends: Wade Moonsamy and Samu Belle, through their creative agency BCKRDS. I went to high school with Samu, and I was really impressed with some of the graphic work BCKRDS was doing, so when it was time to pick a cover, I got the chance to work closely with the boys. I sent them an early version of the manuscript and even though they hadn’t designed a book cover before, they really embraced it. We went back and forth a bit for a few months, pulling flowers from the text and playing around with mutated, fasciated versions of some of the blooms, until we settled on the fire-bright moonfire dahlia. Nick Mulgrew, my publisher, found the type and designed the text on the cover, which I adore. It feels like a cheeky album cover. It all fell into place really beautifully.
MX: The title poem, ‘Everything Is A Deathly Flower’, is accomplished at many levels. Let’s start with the epigraph that does more than most epigraphs do. What does Saeed Jones’s poetry and writing represent for you?
MRM: I think I’ve always been fascinated with the tensions and touchpoints across Black histories, and the Atlantic Ocean is where we touch. It’s this unfathomably wide connective tissue that I keep crossing and listening to. I’m really interested in how all of that ocean and trauma condenses itself in the hyphen between African and American. And how Black artists and writers and thinkers have found ways to talk and touch across all that water.
It’s really difficult to talk about Saeed Jones’s work and what it means to me without getting weirdly elegiac, but his collection Prelude to Bruise was so powerful and formative. I had the chance to meet him in Brooklyn last year, and it was really, really beautiful. We met in a bar called Floyd, after he was the discussant at his bestie Isaac Fitzgerald’s book launch. They were launching Dirtbag, Massachusetts—this gorgeous, boozy confessional—in a church called St Ann’s. I asked a really nerdy, wordy question in the question and answer slot that night, and when I met Isaac in line to get my copy signed, he invited me to Floyd for after-sips. I met Saeed there, and gathered some courage (after some nudging) to tell him a little of what he means to me. He was very generous, and I hold that evening super close to me.
MX: What was your process of writing ‘Everything Is A Deathly Flower’? It’s a poem that is a dream-state, a re-enactment, a fight back and a healing process all in one, using Saeed Jones’s four lines to end each stanza.
MRM: I wrote ‘Everything Is’ in Cape Town, at a family friend’s house. I’d been rereading Amber Dawn’s fantastic collection Where the Words End and My Body Begins, where I was introduced to the glosa—a form of poetry that uses four lines from any source (but traditionally another poet’s work). I really wanted a chance to try writing one, so when Genna Gardini reached out (she was the poetry editor of Prufrock at the time, and one of my favourite poets in the world), I went hunting for poems. I carried around a little notebook, collecting quatrains by queer and trans writers. One of my favourites were four lines from Saeed Jones’ poem ‘Closet of Red’— a kind of fever dream. The poem felt like a blue hymn soaked in flowers. When I wrote my glosa, it arrived in a giant tumble, all at once. It left me shaking for sure, I’m still very proud of it.
MX: Reading the fighting words: ‘I summon the vines to snake around you like venom’ and the healing words ‘The petals from my mouth are survivors’ indeed felt like a dance to me, I felt you. If you were to describe the type of dance that ‘Everything Is A Deathly Flower’ is, what would you say?
MRM: Oh, wow. That’s really tough! It would need to be a dance that has lots of languid movement between two distinct voices and bodies. Maybe an Alvin Ailey pas de deux performed by Dada Masilo and LuluBelle [Llewellyn Mnguni]. That would be a yummy dream.
MX: I imagine you have used ‘Everything Is A Deathly Flower’, the poem, in conversations on violence and trauma. How has it been received? Is it possible to compare the reception of the poem to that of your essay ‘How Chosen Families Support Queer Survivors of Sexual Assault’? Put differently, what is your sense of how audiences—be they readers or bodies in a room, listening—receive different genres on the same topic?
MRM: It’s really difficult to compare experiences across genres, especially when the text is doing different work, or when it has a different intention stitched into it. When my ‘Bitch’ essay was first published, I received an outpouring of support that I don’t think I was ready for, though it was connected to my hope for the essay to puncture a silence around queer sexual assault. It was really overwhelming to receive stories from survivors, and to find incredibly painful points of connection with people across borders and oceans. Some messages and DMs shook me up for days.
Reading poetry, especially in person, is markedly different, because I’m listening for the breath in the room. I’m never sure how it lands, but I love what happens to the air at a certain point in a reading, especially if there’s space for care. I’m always grateful for the people that come up to me to share a little of what it felt like, and I have a few really special encounters that are especially memorable.
MX: In the poem ‘Diphylleia Grayi’ you repeat this creative technique of using lines from an epigraph to end the stanzas. This time you work with Kopano Maroga’s words. What about Maroga’s words resonated with you?
MRM: Kopano’s my lodestar and love and babygirl. That’s my angel. I’ve followed their work closely since they were posting poetry on Facebook, and they’re a close friend and twin-flame. Speaking of poetry and dance, Kopano is an incredible dancer, choreographer, dramaturg and poet whose work continues to shape and push mine, in this gorgeous feedback loop. We’re both Black queer non-binary babes from Benoni, I feel like we were destined to fall in love with each other’s work—it’s very gay. Their debut Jesus Thesis and Other Critical Fabulations, also published through uHlanga, is deliciously erotic and powerfully subversive. So much of their work is so hot and powerful. Kopano’s poetry simmers and hums and boils off the page and stage, it’s effusive and persuasive. Our work touches fingers all over the place. Keely Shinners, another non-binary writer I love, wrote a piece for Full Stop comparing our books, and I kept marveling at all the ways Kopano and I talked to one another across our debuts. That’s my baby, for real.
MX: And then there is the line ‘I know what it means to be time’s own shattering’ in ‘Diphylleia Grayi’. This line is what I call profundity in simplicity. I love it!
MRM: Malebo, Mama Khosi! You see now, this is what I love about the glosa. Because of everything that’s happening around the line, what Kopano wrote, my line enters into the thicket with its own momentum.
I stole four lines from a poem Kopano wrote on Facebook called ‘disappearing acts #3’. Here they are:
Tell me where I can put you down
I’ve written the sky from midnight to dawn
and carried you all the way ’til morning
And I’m tired
The poem I write, in response, is about my first therapist, and how she gave me words to describe, and subsequently begin to process, my sexual assault. The line that you love so much touches Kopano’s directly, so I had to live up to it. I write (in conversation with Kopano):
I know what it means to be time’s own shattering:
I’ve written the sky from midnight to dawn
in close pursuit of an exorcism, only to summon
the smoke of my own shame. This shouldn’t surprise
me as much, I am writing in english.
MX: You end the poem ‘Night Jasmine’ with the words ‘now that we have made this beautiful, do not look away’. It is impossible not to read this poem more than once. The creativity in form demands attention. The meanings of the simple lines, like ‘separate fingers from flesh/separate stigma from style’, invite analysis. The wholeness of the poem says embrace me, even if you do not understand me. Why this form? What would you say this poem is about, to a matric learner?
MRM: I call ‘Night Jasmine’ my dissociation poem. It’s contrapuntal, and I love this form because it lets me play around with contradiction and counterpoint. Here, you’re meant to intertwine two separate poems into one. I played with two different voices, and also played with the space between those voices. It’s inspired by a contrapuntal written by Sudanese–American poet Safia Elhillo called ‘yasmeen’.
To a matric learner, I’d say: don’t be afraid to play around with silence and negative space. A line break is a diving board where you get to do really interesting things in the air.
MX: You end the poem ‘Difaqane’ with the words: ‘Falling still, finally/sensing violence from the scattering’. I thought the title was an interesting choice for a poem on coming out to a parent. We used the word umfecane where I grew up and it was inseparable from Shaka’s legendary military strategies. I do not know if it’s possible to use the word without invoking history. Why this title for this poem? What specifics does the word difaqane evoke in your language and within your broader community and ancestral family?
MRM: The title is a very deliberate invocation of history. It’s also my attempt to step back far enough from an individual moment, so that I can take on a more cosmic perspective that lets me look at patterns of Black displacement and scattering. And to link this very personal moment of sexual discovery, its articulation (and rejection), and this scattering of my sense of self, very deliberately to a violent historical scattering. I’m trying to call attention to upheaval, and its connection to instruments and tools of empire, all the reverberances in the present day.
I’m also invoking a little of my own family history, because I carry what my ancestors were doing at this particular time in my surname. My patrilineal line is connected to Mohale, who was King Moshoeshoe’s brother. You can trace us to Mohale’s Hoek in Lesotho, where Mohale and a group of Basotho moved to in the eighteen-thirties. The land was first inhabited by the San and the Baphuthi, and my ancestors moved right in the middle of this pivotal period of dispersal and conflict. The word ‘difaqane’ evokes so much, the way I use it is as much about historiography as it is about the history.
MX: Pages 32–37 of your book contain poems formatted horizontally across the page, a style I have noticed uHlanga returns to. Why did you choose this layout for ‘Lens’, ‘Aperture’, ‘Mirror’, ‘Body’, ‘Focus Ring’ and ‘Shutter Release’? How does this presentation enhance the meanings of these poems?
MRM: Francine Simon, my editor, was the person who brilliantly suggested that we format the ‘Hell & Peonies’ sequence horizontally. She felt that the poem signalled a departure from the rest of the book, and should form a kind of centrepiece. Those poem fragments are also so distinct in the way they look, and narratively signal this spot in the story where my world falls over a bit. It’s really fitting. Francine’s a badass.
MX: The flow of emotions in ‘Little Monarch’ reminded me of the rise and fall of waves on the sea, and the last stanza felt like the final, peaceful and resolute handing over to the shore:
Tonight, I teach my body a solitary music. Salted
warm as cumin, baptised in silence. My feet
are blooded and swollen with safety. Grateful now,
for your lesson, crowned in trauma.
The speaker in this poem is reflecting on issues, shifting perspectives between the personal and the political. What would you like to share about this poem?
MRM: I love my ‘Little Monarch’, my tiny prince, so much. It’s one of my favourites, mostly because it’s my revenge poem. I like the way it looks and I love the way it moves. The direct address still manages to feel a little secretive because I’m also musing (a little sadistically) about empire and religious domination. I address my abuser, and then I turn my back and address someone else. I’m really fond of it because it feels like I’m delighting in a kind of righteous rage. But because I’m anxious, it simmers just out of reach. It’s tense, but like you say, I end with myself, in a quiet pocket, in my kitchen, with cumin on my palms.
MX: The poem ‘Google Translate for Gogo’ makes me laugh each time I read it. Its format is sheer fun. Its words are gold ready for digging. The lines over some of the words speak louder than the words themselves. ‘
I’m a nonbinary demigender pansexual polyamorous queer femme.’ What was the thought process that led to this impactful poem?
MRM: With ‘Google Translate’, I wanted to play around with omission and silence. When I was rehearsing coming out to my grandmother, I was intensely aware of what was sayable and what was unsayable. I felt this chasm open up between us that language and age and time couldn’t cross, and I also felt the sudden foreignness of some of the words I had just started using, in a new context.
The racist and homophobic assertion that homosexuality is somehow unAfrican took on a real presence in my body, because I could feel it, as a silent mass on my tongue, as the price of assimilation, as english squatting behind my teeth, taking up valuable space.
I was stuck with the conundrum of introducing myself to someone who has known me all my life, but up until then, hadn’t seen me. How on earth to do it all ka Sesotho also?
And because my grandmother is devoutly religious, I felt Jehovah too (and all the ways he had come to arrive in my grandmother’s living room in the East Rand). I could feel it all in the silence too. I wanted you to feel us both in those blank boxes, but I also wanted to play around with the limits of language in a way that felt both old and new.
MX: In ‘Brother Thunder’ your words do what I have truly enjoyed in this collection: evoke emotions. Much as I couldn’t describe fully some of the feelings, I just knew I had been moved. This poem is one of those that moved me in many directions at once. Again, simple words like ‘wrists heavy with the noiselessness of days’ and ‘one day/you will gather your bones/and find me. my arms will wait’ carry such emotions and lift the poem to another level. How do you handle your own feelings as you write emotion-heavy poems?
MRM: Through lots of rest and therapy and ritual. It helps that ‘Brother Thunder’ was a poem that was cobbled together over many years. It only really came together after I gave myself permission to revisit that time. My brother Francis sent me letters, and I’d kept them stashed away until I could look and listen to what that time held for us both. By reading some of the letters I’d hidden away from myself, I got to time travel a bit. And once I started writing, I gave the poems a chance to rest and breathe.
MX: Did you study botany formally, or did you learn these names of flowers and plants during your research towards this collection? I enjoyed how the colours and spices held my hand as I read poems that were packed with people. I felt at one with nature. The unity between people and nature reminded me of Diana Ferrus’s poem ‘I’ve Come to Take You Home’.
MRM: First, it’s a wild and generous thing to listen to you place my work in the same sentence as Diana Ferrus. Especially that poem, and all it was able to accomplish. I was lucky enough to sit on a virtual panel with Diana Ferrus and Nikki Giovanni at Poetry Africa in 2020, and it was an honour I hold close to me still.
And no, I didn’t study botany formally, I just read lots of books. Both sadly and unsurprisingly, many of the books I encountered were written by white colonial botanists, but they were deeply fascinating portraits of imperial taxonomy. I got to talk to elders too, especially when I was hunting for the names of plants in Sesotho and Setswana, and their medicinal uses.
My favourite flower in the book is morapa-šitšane, or Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis). They’re these trumpet-shaped flowers, usually red or orange. Traditionally, my ancestors used morapa-šitšane to treat fevers, sleeplessness and pain, and in the book it’s a little poem that’s placed and positioned as a balm for survivors.
MX: Reading the book Everything is a Deathly Flower made me want to pluck a pomegranate, peel a naartjie, hold a cherry between my thumb and pointing finger, gather mulberries into a bowl, sit on a couch and munch away. The fruits, like the flowers, are as present in the poems as the stories the speakers tell. That, in my view, is skilful writing. What process did you use to incorporate all these delectable edibles in your poems?
MRM: I think I tend to lean on sensation when I’m writing. I’m really queer that way, in the sense that I’m not really as concerned with convention or restraint. Sensory delights tether my body to the world and remind me that I’m part of it. I thrive in response to sensation, and am anchored by the bright and the vivid, and even (perhaps especially) by intense or uncomfortable sensations. So it’s no wonder that my poetry brims over with all of that.
When it comes to fruits and flowers, the tactile and edible, I also wanted to signal something about femininity and consumption. There’s a terrible note that I wanted to strike that resonates somewhere in there too, about beauty and violence, when we’re talking about fruit. Like my use of the word ‘cherry’ in ‘Cherry Yam’’.
We live in a haunted country, and a rapidly heating world, where Black trans and queer people are seen, unseen and consumed in ways that are incredibly violent. Beauty has a curious power to both obscure and upset the horrific. As a reader, I’m taking your hand and guiding you through a garden where everything is rotting, and saying: ‘Look babe, isn’t this strange?’
MX: What was your biggest takeaway from being edited by Francine Simon, another poet whose work I admire?
MRM: Francine gave me permission to view the poems and re-encounter them, but this time with precision. One of the things she’d say to me really often during the editing process was: ‘How can we make this yours?’ Which was her way of asking: how can we make this sound like you right down to the most atomic level of the text?
That really opened the process up, and made space for me to think about my voice on a granular level. Now that I’m writing again, I can see and embrace elements of my own style, which is really freeing and a little exciting.
With Francine, we worked slowly and across distance to develop a distinctness that didn’t feel intrusive to the book’s narrative arc. I got to play with punctuation and form and formatting and language, but always in service to the text. She was also really gentle and slow and patient with me, which I needed. All of that time and trust let me lean in to the lyrical, musical, lush and horrific elements that were undercurrents of the text before she arrived. She just gave me permission and space to coax them out.
MX: In a conversation with Vuyelwa Maluleke and Koleka Putuma you talk about being obsessed with dreaming in public. I, on the other hand, am obsessed with dreaming through poetry. Please write a poem that dreams about women and poetry in the South African literary landscape in 2073.
Post-It from the Boy to the Bean
listen cutie i’m only leaving this here
because I know how much you like
to dig & nothing dusts up better
than a poem left at Time’s achille’s.
listen tsala—I’m low on space &
the air burns & coughs its sun-song now,
but mamela babe, i have some seeds for you.
for poem-craft: unzip your given-girl
hoodie-style. put on whatever
you want. adornment isn’t a prison,
it’s a mouth. while we still touch
tongues in this house
of machines, every poem
remembers. listen now:
dig for us
dig us up.
MX: If there is a question you were hoping I would ask and haven’t, please share it and answer it.
MRM: To be honest, I searched and thought and shook out my brains and no … you’ve really asked it all!
MX: Thank you for taking the time to respond to these questions. Your answers are engaging and generative.
- Makhosazana Xaba is a Patron. She is the author, most recently, of Noni Jabavu: A Stranger at Home, co-edited with Athambile Masola, the collections of poems The Art of Waiting for Tales (Lukhanyo Publishers, 2022) and The Alkalinity of Bottled Water (Botsotso, 2019), and the editor of Our Words, Our Worlds: Writing on Black South African Women Poets, 2000–2018 (UKZN Press, 2019). She is Associate Professor of Practise in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Johannesburg.