Who knows AB de Villiers

Poetry from South Africa: Jacob Zuma, my muse!


Read on one side

After her third and final stage appearance, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers looked for a place in the shade in the garden of the Academy of Arts. Leaning back and looking up, she enumerates things she likes. The tree under which she sits, for example. Frisbees ("because they make people run around wildly"). And especially, of course: words. "Because language is the best way to express creativity. If only because everyone uses it." From this point of view, the South African poet and actress thinks that every truck driver is a poet.

De Villiers is one of 149 poets who traveled to the poetry festival in Berlin. She was born in Johannesburg in 1966 and grew up as a black child in a white adoptive family under the apartheid regime. The fact that her father is Ghanaian and her mother Australian was kept from her until she was 20 years old. Today she says: "I am a fugitive from the white suburb." And: "I was both oppressed and free. As if the colonized and the colonizer were at war in my head."

The ongoing struggle for identity, origin, race and justice is the core theme of her texts. In them, the 48-year-old deals with her personal trauma as well as the trauma of her home country. She writes about femininity, resistance and the satirical dispute she fights with her muse.


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I say to my muse: You always just hang around here.
She is lying in bed reading poetry. I say:
Other muses have to haul water for miles.

She asks me to make her some tea.
From the kitchen I call out to her: Can you add a biscuit?
No need, she says. She's not greedy or anything and protests

at least twice a day that she loves me. But somehow
I still think that she is taking advantage of me (...)

(Translated by Odile Kennel)

Mandela at Westminster Abbey

De Villiers has published two volumes of poetry, for the second, The Everyday Wife, she received the South African Literary Award in 2011. She has written texts for television, acted in street theater in Johannesburg, and is now doing a Masters in creative writing. As a 2014 Commonwealth Poet, she carried her poem in March courage in front of the royals at Westminster Abbey.

From the outside, that may be a great honor. For de Villiers it was a classic conflict of roles. Or, as she says herself: "A totally schizophrenic experience. Half of my friends thought it was great. Some were pretty uncool. When I told my birth father about my nomination, I felt like a cheat. You know, the Queen, colonialism ... I considered rejecting it, but let's be honest: Who would have been interested! "

Poetry Festival

Poetry Festival Berlin

The 15th poetry festival in Berlin runs until June 13, 2014. 149 poets appear at more than 50 events. On Thursday, June 12th, the "Ukraine Theme Day" will take place in the Academy of Arts.

There is a YouTube video showing the poet on the day of her big show. She stands in the hallway in the church in a wide, blue robe and does not speak quite as firmly as we know from her. From the commissioned poem about Nelson Mandela she made a poem about the civil rights activists behind him: "Motho ke motho ke batho babang" ("One person is nothing without the others"). "No Mandela without a Mbeki Sisulu Dadoo, no Biko without a Ngoyi, a Sobukwe, a Goldberg." After almost three minutes of lecture, the little woman in the big church energetically holds out her right fist in the air. The reaction of Queen Elizabeth II remains unfilmed.