By Selenathi Botha
Well-known Makhanda poet, Akhona Mafani, has been nominated for best poet in the 2023 Mzansi Arts and Media Awards (#Mama23). There were 21 nominees for the awards but Mafani is now in the top five.
Known as Bhodl’ingqaka, Mafani was born in Makhanda on 15 May, 1996. Growing up surrounded by Hip-Hop music in Vukani Location and surrounded by Nqantsonqa, Njilo and Dezz and Shizomanizo productions, Mafani was inspired at the age of 14 to take out a notepad and pen and start to express himself.
He started off as a rapper (hip-hop singer) before he became Imbongi yosiba (someone who recites praise poetry that they have written). By the age of 21, Mafani was Imbongi yomthonyama (a praise poet who can recite a poem spontaneously, without any preparation).
He described his journey as a very challenging and rough road. One of his challenges that he faced was lack of recognition. He says it was not easy to get recognised when he started off, because at that time people were not a big fan of poetry, and wanted to listen to Gqom and other kinds of music.
He also faced financial instability as a local artist when he was allegedly banned in 2017 by the provincial Arts and Culture department, after sport, recreation, arts and culture MEC Pemmy Majodina said one of his political poems, recited at the Word Fest at the National Arts Festival (NAF), was “distasteful”.
But after all that, Mafani finally managed to get himself a name. After all the troubles and challenges he faced, the sleepless nights, the endless efforts towards being nominated at the Mzansi Arts and Media Awards, being in the top five out of 21 people has been a fruitful outcome. Mafani continues to say that he has high hopes of winning the category and that is all thanks to the people who support him.