Siphosethu Phikelela, a 23-year-old Xhosa poet, co-founded the Imbewu Book Club with Donald Puza in January of this year, in order to give something back to the community and help other young writers and poets realise their dreams.

The club, located in Khayelitsha in Cape Town, forms part of the Centre for the Book and aims to help students who have learning issues, with the hopes of instilling in them the love of reading and writing.

“The club’s mission is to impart the habit of reading and writing with divergence of heritage in the mix. We focus on intellectually disabled learners, using poetry as the main transformation tool.”

Imbewu has 15 members to date and hopes to continue growing and helping young people with big aspirations for their future.
Phikelela, who goes by the stage-name, Qhawekazi Lokuqala (‘The First Heroine’) wanted to share her love of the arts with other young people by becoming a mentor to them. Her dream was to help them see that reading and writing is not simply a chore that helps you pass from one grade to another, but rather a shining beacon of hope from which you can actually make your living.

“Co-founding Imbewu was an opportunity for me to become a mentor. As a young isiXhosa writer, I wanted to help create a platform to develop young and brilliant future role-models (the kind that I never had growing up) and transfer my gift to the younger ones.”

People can like the Facebook page at ‘Imbewu. Book Club’ and learn all about the various programmes run by the organisation.

Getting to know ‘Sethu

A vibrant and animated young woman with strong African roots, ‘Qhawekazi’ writes solely in IsiXhosa and believes that people should be able to express their art in any language that they feel comfortable with and rooted in. She wrote her first poem at the age of 13, after being inspired by the fairy tales she had been read as a child.

Born and bred in Knysna, she had no idea how much of an impact her work would have on others, furiously jotting down ideas and stanzas as inspiration flooded her. In 2014, ‘Qhawekazi’ took to the stage and her love for spoken-word began.

“When I came to Cape Town in 2015, I couldn’t silence the art inside of me. I felt the need to share my words with others and began asking around about poetry hubs and sessions.”

In 2015, she won the Grounding Sessions Preliminary Slam and in 2015 and won the Open Book Festival and the Khayamnandi Arts and Culture Festival in Stellenbosch in 2016. Some of her works have been published in Imbewu Yesini’s Poetry Collection, a great achievement for this young star, who hopes to publish her entire collected works to date in an anthology that would no doubt reach the bestsellers’ list.

Using ‘life’ as her muse, she weaves her poetry from all she sees around her, both personal experiences, lessons she has learnt, or through looking at the lives of others through an artist’s lens.

“For me the process of writing is all about expressing my feelings and helping others who have gone through something my poetry talks about. I ask myself: ‘Will the next person see my smile, tears or anger on each stanza I pen down?’”

Having audiences awestruck at her performances and making her mark has not made her forget her roots, and the Imbewu Book Club proves that her love for people and helping needy communities will always be there, no matter how great of a poet she becomes.

A few words of inspiration from ‘Qhawekazi’: “You are the main support of your art, it is dependent on you to blossom. You are its body, its backbone, it’ll crawl with you. If you plan to fly, it’ll fly with you. Be a creator who’s in control.”