Madibaland World Literary Festival: Christopher Michael Mann
Chris Mann’s poems have focused on people (South Africans), places (Heartlands), science (Seeing the Cosmos in a Grain of Sand), fruit, cereals and vegetables (The Horn of Plenty), animals (Lifelines), adolescence (Take your Time), faith (Epiphanies), love (Rudiments of Grace) and the classics (Palimpsests – due in 2021).
Then there are generic collections, First Poems, New Shades and Kites. Plays performed at the National Arts Festival include Thuthula and The Ballad of Dirk de Bruin, with Pringle’s Ink due in 2021.
Accolades include an English Academy of SA gold medal, the Olive Schreiner and Thomas Pringle awards for SA poetry, an Hon. D. Litt (UDW), a National Arts Festival Ovation award for drama, and the Newdigate prize for poetry while a Rhodes scholar at Oxford.
Chris is a Zulu speaker whose nickname is Zithulele, a taciturn person. During over a decade as a director of the Valley Trust, a community-based non-profit organisation in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, he initiated with a technical team the labour intensive construction of pipelines, secondary roads, woodlots, sports fields and small dams. This served as a catalyst for the eventual establishment of the national public works programme.
With fellow singer-songwriter and guitarist Abel Ndlovu, he formed the cross-over band Zabalaza which performed locally and on TV before the growth of the Valley Trust and his family life brought the band to a close.
With his wife the artist Julia Skeen, he has produced numerous poetry performances where the words of the poems are embedded in large-scale digital images projected onto a screen. These are accompanied by original songs for the guitar. Based on his books, these shows have been performed at festivals and in schools, churches and universities in SA and abroad.
Under the stage name of Fafa Hopkins, Chris is currently working with local musicians on a series of new poems and songs in the tradition of a troubadour. A selection of these have been loaded onto the Fafa Hopkins YouTube channel and will be featured at this festival.
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