First Language(s): IsiZulu
Second Language(s): English
Sihle Ntuli is based in Durban, South Africa. He is an MA graduate from Rhodes University, Makhanda. His chapbook ‘Rumblin’ is forthcoming from South African publisher Uhlanga.
What was your favorite book as a child?
One thing I remember is that where I grew up, there was a certain expectation attached to you if you were reading. It was so uncommon that it was automatically assumed that you were smart. Along with this came the stigma that if you were reading and you were slightly introverted and quiet, you thought you were smarter than everyone else. I will confess, I was not a bookworm as a child and even now I only read what excites me. One author that was able to grab my attention was Roald Dahl and I remember having read most of his books. My favourite book as a child was Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach”. We used to read a lot of Roald Dahl in primary school so I became a follower of his work shortly afterwards. My brother was into the Harry Potter series and my preference was for anything produced by Roald Dahl.
Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?
My earliest memory of South African poetry begins with the presence of imbongi (praise poet) during the period shortly after the beginning of Nelson Mandela’s reign as South Africa’s first democratically elected president. The imbongi tradition is a Nguni tradition popularized by the Xhosa poet Zolani Mkiva, who had quite an impression on me in my youth and is my earliest memory of South African poetry. The purpose of the imbongi is a traditional one, their job is essentially to perform verses that explain familial relationships, retell historical events and even praise individuals poetically amongst others (similar to the Greek oral bard). Initially when I started writing I was writing with the intention of leaving a legacy with art that would outlive me. When I began the journey I never had the intention of being an imbongi or even a slam poet — it was just to ensure that I immortalize my name. I realize now that it is indeed an ambitious goal to have, but I have already dedicated so many years to making it happen and steadily I am working towards the day that my ambition is realized — hopefully while I am still alive.
What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?
In 2010, South Africa was coming off the fumes of having hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup. I had never seen so many people of varying countries in the same place at the same time. That year flew by so quickly which was quite a thrill in and of itself. However, the most thrilling thing I have experienced so far actually happened at the end of 2010 when I got to travel internationally for the first time. I remember having a bit of anxiety of having to spend long hours on a flight as someone that is claustrophobic. In the end I got over this and in retrospect it was an ingenious plan by my mother to book a flight for my brother and I to go and visit her in Gwangyang, South Korea rather than making the trip back to Durban for the festive season. I had flown domestically before but my first international flight just felt exhilarating. We stayed for a month and really it was definitely a thrill. I got to visit Daegu and Seoul on my trip and it was definitely one experience I still vividly remember to this very day.
Do you listen to music while reading or writing?
I tend to listen to a LOT of music before the writing process but during writing and reading I prefer absolute silence. I generally set out to write from the morning following a bout of being anxious at the thought of not having written for a long while (which is often the case). I will set up my folding table along with my camp chair and put on my headsets and begin the process of fishing for ideas to write about (sometimes I never catch anything). When it is time to write I need to be able to hear myself think and I have found that I simply cannot create with music playing in the background. My mind is racing, my mouth is reading the words out aloud to myself, my eyes are moving quite frequently across the page and if music was playing during this process it always ends up becoming a major distraction.
The Brother Moves On
Issue Fall '20