Constance van Niekerk, Vereeniging, S.A.
Saturday the 8th of November was a day to remember. I arrived in Johannesburg from Vereeniging shortly after 1 pm and quickly made my way down Bree Street to Newtown. The thick dark clouds in the sky were rich with the promise of impending rain. That, however, did not deter me from going, nor did it dampen my spirits. I had this bubbling feeling that I was going to be in for a treat.
When I arrived at Niki’s Oasis Linda ‘Poetic Angel’ Gabriel was at the entrance to welcome her guests. Her demeanour and that radiant smile of hers spoke of the joy and warmth in her heart. I felt so very warmly welcomed indeed. I had obviously made the right decision in coming to Linda’s Farewell Poetry Slam.
Linda’s chosen venue had a palpable warmth and ambience. It is, after all, the legendary home of Jazz in Johannesburg. Niki’s Oasis was opened in 1995 by Nikiwe Rwaxa who elegantly transformed her two great loves, music and good food, into business. What better place than this home away from home for a great artist like the vastly-talented Linda to say her goodbyes!
The event started later than planned. Some artists were a no-show while others took their time to get to the venue. That seemed to make no difference whatsoever. The show went ahead and did so quite splendidly too.
25th, a young talented poet was the MC. He described Linda as, “the mother who groomed many young poets.” He also thanked her for having done so much for poetry and called her the ‘Mother of Spoken Poetry.’
The first poet on stage was Shumi da Poet, a young artist from the Vaal. His first poem was ‘Born and raised in a racist society’ while his second piece was a poem on Xenophobia titled, ‘What is South Africa without Africans? Shumi closed his set with ‘Kudela owaziyo’ which, loosely translated, means ‘The one who speaks is the one who knows the truth.’
After Shumi, enter Siza! Her first poem was ‘Madman’. I could not help smiling during this young poet’s performance. Her diction was vivid and gripping. It was easy to imagine her standing at some street corner chatting to a madman. Siza is quite a story-teller. Another poem from Siza’s line-up was ‘You are enough’. This is a poem she dedicated to Linda. She spoke it as she strummed her guitar. Siza and her guitar did three more poems: ‘I’m a Mother’, ‘Please stop the Music’ and ‘Without a Trace.’
Fire was next on stage. She presented Linda with a framed message and also gave her a statuette of an angel which she described as “an angel for the poetic angel”. Quite an apt offering if you ask me! The Black Bantu Child performed a Namibian song for Linda. Eddie Mugara read some poems from his newly-published anthology entitled ‘Requiem of Hope’, Modisane’s performance was riveting. The lady of the day, Linda Gabriel, a veritable spoken word artist, finally came on and serenaded the audience with a polished act.
Anyone can be forgiven for thinking Linda was born with a microphone in her hand. I had watched her on YouTube, but as they say, there ‘ain’t nothing like the real thing.’ Linda is truly gifted with the gift of poetry. She is a great orator and a cut above the rest. The South African arts’ loss is Zimbabwean arts’ gain. In her farewell poetry slam, Linda began with the passionate and erotic, ‘I undress myself’, before going on to ‘Mai Tino’. She also did an intriguing tribute to her unborn sons. Last but not least, was her signature poem, ‘Sins of my mothers,’ a poetic tribute to the women in her community. This last poem had me bawled over completely. What a performance. Boy, oh boy!
After Linda’s vintage performance I had this sinking feeling of a passing era. Johannesburg arts would never be the same again after she was gone. Hamba kahle, wena sweet Zimbabwean princess of poetry.
Throughout the show, I heard Linda say numerous times to her friends, “We never say goodbye. It’s just see you later.”
It was almost 5 when I rushed out of Niki’s Oasis and was greeted by the Jo’burg rain on the streets of Newtown. I had had a good day, so I had reason enough to smile in the rain. That ring any bell? Old school stuff perhaps? Like the famed Gene Kelly I felt like singing in the rain!
Zimbabwe, here comes Linda Gabriel! She is at The Old Mutual Theatre on Corner Hebert Chitepo and 9th Street in Harare at 6:30pm on the 5th of December before the year goes out.