HOW TO MAKE ART THROUGH COVID
If there was ever a John Wick of words, his name would have to be Philani A. Nyoni. Famous, infamous, or controversial, hate him or love him, the man can spin anything; from sonnets. He even shattered Shakespeare's long standing record of the most sonnets in a single publication, setting a world record of 308 sonnets in his 2016 anthology, 'Mars His Sword' to award-winning screenplays. Before all this, PAN as he is also known in the industry was a slam poet who battled his way to some of the most fantastic stages including Baseline (Newtown, South Africa) and HIFA, where he won in 2015.
Naturally Covid will have to try hard to stop a creative of this calibre. Catching up with him on the effects the pandemic has had on his career, Nyoni described it as being both a blessing and a curse saying. "All the plans I had made, all the bookings went out the window, along with many sources of income. But it was an incredible opportunity to revisit some work that I always said I don't have time to complete. so like an alchemist I turned the weight of the lockdown into gold." Nyoni was not being entirely metaphorical, since the pandemic, he has received eight international nominations for his drama, short stories and poetry, with two wins in the bag. After receiving the African Author's Award, Nyoni insisted that The Daily News desist from calling him "controversial writer", they should instead use "Controversial international-award-winning author". "Now you must call me "controversial multi-international-award-winning author," he says with a chuckle, "at this rate I will have more titles than an African dictator.
Some of his works during the Covid pandemic include "Pen Still Inking", a chapbook written in collaboration with the South Africa poet Xitha Magetha, and a stage-reading of his African Writers' Award nominated play "The Testament Of Black Jesus" through the Almasi African Playwrights' Conference, a platform founded by Danai Gurira. But what is his favourite among all these? "Well, I think the publication of "Slick Dog, Diary of A Ninja" through the UK based Afritondo Publishers comes in a close second. I submitted the short story for a competition along with 421 other black writers from across the world and we came out in the top five. Even reviewers on Amazon shout out Slick Dog as their favourite story in the collection. That makes me very happy."
One of the raving reviews for Slick Dog
So what's next for the writer formerly known as The Madman? "I am a programmes officer with the Harare International Literature Festival which runs from the 25th to the 28th of this month so it's scarce sleep for the next week or two. Hopefully you will get to see a little something I did with the inimitable Owen Maseko. It's one of my finest works to date. I'm also really excited about "We Will Write", a poem out of my last solo publication, "Philtrum 2.0". It's an incredible poem about resilience, and I think that's the message I want to spread during these unpredictable times. Gregory L. Sibanda, the director of the video and I managed to get it to the New York Short Film Festival which just wrapped up in Manhattan, then next week it's screening at the Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Germany. Getting a slot at the Manhattan screenings was cool, but I'm excited about the latter since the Zebra Poetry Film Festival is the biggest space for video poems in the world. I guess Bulawayo does have something to offer the larger global space."