Wednesday, October 4, 2017

BILAKHULU! By Vonani Bila

Vonani Bila is one of the most accomplished poets from South Africa, never mind being a black man with exceedingly humble roots. Over the years he has published many works of poetry and generally encouraged and published loads of other authors; churning out a plethora of poetic anthologies in the process. His published works include the following: I love Ohazurike, In the name of Amandla , Magicstan fires, Pension money The girl with a golden tooth, Magweya, Mali ya mudende, and Handsome Jita : selected poems by Fred Vonani Bila.

Bilakhulu! : longer poems
by Fred Vonani Bila is of course the very latest work which showcases the poet at the peak of his creativity and work. The poems are generally long and encapsulate the gamut of human experience, including Bila’s own roots and antecedents. He has not forgotten his beginnings as he writes here:

I grew up in a mud hut
Drank water from the wells
Slept on the itchy majekejeke mat on a cowdung-smeared floor
At 10, I was still wetting myself in the night
The millipede powder couldn’t stop the habit either
I showered from a plastic basin
Often used a water-filled mug to wipe my face
And extinguished the rotten rat wreaking havoc in my armpits

Readers of Bila’s poetry over the years know that he does not shy away from polemics, or the chilling violence and death often associated with South Africa over the decades. A harrowing feature has always been the way women can be horrifically killed, tortured, raped and killed, mainly in the townships, and elsewhere in the country. One experiences pathos and horror as we read:

The girl with dark-liquid eyes
Song-bird, leader of the church choir
Eagles discovered her this morning
Lying in a pool of blood
Skirt torn apart, a rag
Her throat throttled
Her sharp, pointed breasts missing
Virgin girl, now a frozen corpse

Mr Vonani Bila started writing poetry as a very young man and he is very much a cosmopolitan writer, academic, man of letters, publisher et al, these days. This new work of his is an accretion of his life and work, sundry personal and vicarious experiences, distilled into malleable, wholesome poetry. Kudos to him!
-         - Malome Eric