The Italian-born poet, Raphael d’Abdon, lecturer at the Department of English Studies at the University of South Africa (Unisa), Pretoria, is making a valuable contribution to South African and Italian literature with his poetry.
D’Abdon, originally from Udine, Friuli, in Italy, came to South Africa in 2007 when he was a Ph.D. candidate in Linguistics and Literary Science through the University of Udine and Unisa. His studies focused on migrant writers in Italy and South African Literature and his Ph.D. thesis focused on the South African ‘spoken word art’.
He says he did not write poetry before he arrived in South Africa. He got in touch with a community of poets in Johannesburg, including Lebo Mashile, Napo Masheane, Natalia Molebatsi, Afurakan, Catty and Andrew Miller, just to mention a few.
“I like Lebo Mashile. We all do, I guess. She’s a brilliant writer, a phenomenal performer whose gigs leave you breathless, a ‘wordsmith extraordinaire’ whose written and sung words often make you fly into an endless spiritual journey. She constantly reinvents as well. At a recent pro-Zim concert at the Bassline in Jozi, together with sister artists such as Napo Masheane, Simphiwe Dana, Mak Mamabolo, the Mazwai Sisters, Eryka Badu, Jill Scot, India Arie and many more, she incarnated the prototype of a post-Western Shero; a woman and an artist in fully emancipated from.”
D’Abdon tells the very first day he arrived in South Africa, he was taken to Horror Cafe where he was exposed to poetry performance. He started attending all the sessions at Horror Cafe. “I did not start writing poetry immediately, I was just studying the poets, observing what they were doing and why they were so exciting to me. Around 2008/09, I started writing poetry and I also started performing my poems during these open mike sessions. In 2013 I published my first anthology of poems, Sunnyside Nightwalk, which contains 38 poems.”
In 2016 D’Abdon published another anthology, Salt Water. “It is a collection I wrote when I moved from Sunnyside, Pretoria. To me poetry is a form of storytelling that is different from prose. It is another instrument that we use to tell stories. To me, if you are not a storyteller, you are not a poet. You obviously have to know the rules of the game to tell stories and call them poems.
“I know Free State poets like Nthabiseng “Jah Rose” Jafta, Hector Kunene and Serame Icebound Makhele who organise the Macufe Poetry Festival.”
“I have been working with them when I recited my poetry during the Macufe Poetry Festival held at Pacofs in Bloemfontein in October 2015. I remember that Lebo Mashile and Napo Masheane also held conversations with poets and writers. Later in the evening they performed some of their poems at the festival. I have a lot of respect for what Nthabiseng “Jah Rose” Jafta, Hector Kunene, Charmaine Kolwane Mrwebi and Serame Icebound Makhele have been doing in the Free State,” D’Abdon concludes. – Flaxman Qoopane