Slamming with Aura
POVO: I am here with Aura at the Crowne Plaza for POVO, Aura how are you doing?
AURA: I am great thanks.
POVO: Can you give us a brief background about Aura?
AURA: I was born Aura, which is also my stage name. Born and bred in Harare, Gweru, I did my upper six at Johannesburg’s British International College before proceeding to the AFDA film school. I come from a small family of two children and am now the bread winner in my family.
POVO: How did you transition from film to slam poetry?
AURA: I have been a performer since I was about four. My mum put me straight through the arts as soon as she saw I had a thing for attention, people and making noise, so I have been in the arts and I have been acting since I was about 5. When I went to college it just seemed natural to study acting, so I took on live performance as my degree which is how the whole film school thing came up. I was fascinated with movies and I have always wanted to star in those big horror movies. My choice was met with some resistance because I was meant to study psychology, which I excelled in. It was a bit of a struggle, but from film to poetry. Let’s just say that it was God’s decision for me to poetry since I had started writing at 12.
POVO: How is the band doing?
AURA: The band No Strings Attached is very small - two guitarists, Tariro Ruzvidzo and Prayer Soul and on keyboards we have DS, a very well-known Zimbabwean producer. The band is doing well and debuted at HIFA’s Poetry Cafe. We only managed to do two songs; it’s tough trying to incorporate poetry and music in a way that doesn't become monotonous and in a way to keep people interested because people don't know yet how to listen to poetry. It’s a challenge on my end to make it more of a performance and to engage people so that when we move from song to poetry they are still on the same level.
POVO: How is the appreciation for poetry in Zimbabwe? Can you give us a bit of history?
AURA: The new generation has a different style, of a slam poetry culture which is unique. There are different types of poetry, you have Slam Poetry, Dub Poetry and then you have reciting and then you have rap which is rhythm and poetry. Slam poetry is a lot more active and very edgy in terms of delivery. It’s very delivery based and it depends on how good you are with words, using the short time allocated. Audiences are also starting to warm up to us and the appreciation is growing. In terms of history, there is not much, can say about the history of poetry in Zimbabwe as i spent 5 years of my poetry life outside the country and started performing in Johannesburg. The Zimbabwean history I know is that our pioneers are all in the diaspora. Of note are the likes of Dickson Monroe, who came second in the BBC Slam Poetry competition but is virtually unknown in Zimbabwe. Other great people who have paved the way for us are Julius, Chirikure Chirikure, ERS, Black Heat and Xapa whose old school style poetry still holds sway.
POVO: Is there any other way poetry is being conveyed to the masses besides the Fist Street slam?
AURA: You have venues like the Book Cafe, for example today I am actually on my way to the House of Hunger Poetry Slam which began in the 90s. The Book Café is a well-known, venue whose audience has grown in numbers. The more you link into corporate functions, NGOs and big public affairs, the more you perform at those things the more you take your poetry out to the people. I believe in performing everywhere and anywhere if it’s possible. I performed at HIFA but that was for a certain sector of people who like the arts. Not everybody went to HIFA. I performed at the National Art Gallery fun day which is open to the public where I know more people come. I wrote a poem for Rainbow Towers who had seen me at a fashion show and thought that it would be a good idea to talk about fashion in a poem. There’s a long way to go, but we are actually moving and it will grow with time.
POVO: How does Zimbabwe compare with South Africa in terms of talent?
AURA: Zimbabwe is way better because I think we have a lot of untapped talent. In South Africa the talent is more visible and they have a lot of resources and opportunity to help people get out there. But in Zimbabwe, it is difficult, to make a name as an artist. That’s why I say Zimbabwe is better because our artists are harder and more real, we have so much to talk about and we have so much to offer and the fact that we have to work so hard builds character. You will find out we have got more to bring to the table simply because we haven't been given the chance to enter the kitchen. No disrespect to South Africa because Lebo Mashile is my goddess, I think she is amazing but Zimbabwean Xapa is dope as well. If we get our poets out there, they are not necessarily better, but are just as good. People just think because we have been through such a rough patch, because we were at such a low stage people think our minds are there as well.
POVO: Can you make a living in Zimbabwe?
AURA: It all depends on your mindset. The only reason a lawyer can make more money than the poet is because he is more organized, and he has got clients. But there is no reason why a poet can't make more money than the lawyer, because you also need to be organized and have your clients. I run myself as a business. I even quit my full time job as Projects Officer for Arts Factory at Pamberi Trust at the Book Cafe.