mzi-mahola-south-africaMzi Mahola started experimenting with poetry writing whilst still in Matric. His first manuscript was confiscated by the state security police in August 1976. After this setback he lost interest in writing, and only took up the pen again in 1989.

He has been writing consistently ever since. Mzi has contributed to various poetry journals and magazines, both at home and internationally, and has featured in numerous poetry anthologies. Selections of his poetry have been translated into Danish, German, Turkish and Malayalam.

Mzi’s first collection Strange Things was selected to represent South Africa in the World Book Fair in Geneva in 1995, and his second collection When Rains Come won the Olive Schreiner prize for Best English poetry 2000/01. Chris Doherty writes: “Mahola’s deceptively simple, lucid poetry has a deep respect for the processes of nature and for traditional wisdom…his work is a search for a common morality in the different perspectives of rural and urban, strange and familiar, traditional and political. He is a poet writing for his people, insisting that they do not oversimplify issues, urging them not to jettison…the past as they move on to the future.”

Mzi writes: “Experience has taught me that if you have a message to convey, use simple language to make it accessible to your reader. I also believe that what makes your work successful is not the amount of words that you use; it is not the quality of words that you use; it is not the story that you tell, but the choice of words that you use in telling your story.”

IMzi is also playwright. His first attempt Not In My Room was awarded first place in a script writing competition, and his second, Something Must Break, was performed in August of this year. Mzi is also the author of two as yet unpublished novels. Mzi is involved in numerous community development projects, including a poetry project at his local library. The Metro Library Services helped assemble their first book Umthombo (The Fountain), which gave young writers an opportunity to see their work in print.

In 2005, Mzi adopted 8 schools in his area for a pilot project in creative writing, and this year started creative writing workshops with language educators from 38 primary schools from the Nelson Mandela Municipality. This culminated in the formation of the Isithatha Literature Programme whose objective is to restore a culture of reading and writing in the classroom.

The Durban launch of his latest collectionDancing in the Rain (2006) takes place during the festival on 11 October.