I cannot tell you what I would have become had it not been for Pick Me Up Poetry. I could have landed in Banking, Accounting or most probably, I’d be the administrative assistant at my dad’s good private practice in our small town in Zimbabwe!
We can only speculate now of course but of all the alternate universes in existence right now- if you’re into that kind of stuff, thank God I’m in this one! So how exactly did this organisation come to be? Our story goes way back to 2013, in the colourful streets of Soweto.
My good friend Isabel was frantically trying to get us to hurry back to campus from Maponya mall for the poetry session. The streets of Johannesburg gracefully embraced the thirty-four-degree sun that bright sober morning. No one barely noticed the weight of its authority bearing down on us anymore.
Every Friday at noon, the University of Johannesburg suspended all lectures for Culture Hour. We were all encouraged to enrol for various clubs like public speaking, chess, poetry and even church! In no time, we hurried into the brightly lit venue where the Arts and Culture department scheduled the poetry session. Lecture hall B3, I took Economics 1A here.
Three dozen or so students sat scattered towards the front in cliques, and hysterical laughter was the order of the day accompanied by buzzing chatter and what I can only describe as somewhat of a healthy ‘vibe’. I noticed a couple of rebels crouching discreetly around the back to peacefully dissect Mam’ Rati’s famous Kota before the show started.
Mam’ Rati made the best Kotas. Her menu was a floor-to-ceiling blackboard boasting a plethora of toppings and combos accommodating any palette or budget. A never-ending queue of students backed up her driveway eager to get their daily fix of her delicious home-made cuisine.
It must have been her very-special chip spice or perhaps the freshly hand-cut fries which were always the right amount of crispy that kept us coming back for more. I always admired how she remembered all our names.
How she would always go, “hello my son!” with genuine motherly cheer as soon as I walked up to the counter, “The usual ne? With no achaar, no chakalaka and extra cheese?”. Talk about personal service! Many of her neighbours tried to get in on her action. Unfortunately, they all went out of business as quickly as they popped up. Anyway,
As Isabel dragged me down the aisle towards the front, a distinct ‘very-special’ aroma danced around the room and made it’s way up my nostrils. Man! what I would have given for some Mam’ Rati’s that day…
We found our seats. A few guys tinkered away at the sound system on stage, “Testing, one-two”, they seemed just about ready to go. I noticed a clipboard circulating in the crowd and soon learned that anyone could sign up for the open-mic. “Eita, my bra, are you signing up?” I looked up, the MC was standing over me with an eager grin, and the clipboard in her hand extended my way.
She could tell I was new here. “Are you gonna perform for us, vandag? ” she repeated. “no ways!” I immediately turned towards Isabel to avoid any further eye contact. “No stress, maybe next time then.” she smiled and moved on to the row behind us.
After doing her rounds, she glanced at the sound guys on stage who promptly gave her the thumbs-up signal. Hence, she confidently stepped up to the microphone in her all-star Chuck Tailor’s and white bucket hat resting carelessly atop her black braids, and with no greetings or salutations, she opened up with a performance. The room stood still.
I remember her poem to this day. It was a contentious slam piece exploring love lost and the pain of being taken for granted. I could feel that every word came from a place of betrayal and hurt. She scrutinised the tribulations of being a young woman in the modern-day Kasi (township). She eloquently summed her rigorous journey towards finding her self-worth, especially in relationships and with her closing line, the room erupted!
“Sanibonani.” She greeted with a cocky smile, “Igama lam Ngu Euphonia and I’d like to welcome you all to Unrivaled Jottings!”
And just like that, My world would never be the same.
- End of part 1.
Part 2 will be available very soon, be sure to subscribe down below to be notified as soon as it’s live. In the meantime, Check out this interesting article by Ethiopian writer Kalkidan Getnet on why she writes for a living.
About The Author
Webster is the founder and managing director at Pick Me Up Poetry. His creative journey began at an early age as an aspiring musician, and by 2013, he was the arts & culture facilitator for the University of Johannesburg. He is currently pursuing a Business Management degree with The University of South Africa and aspires to make PMUP a household name by 2025.