Sitting from across the room trying so hard to concentrate on her tablet phone and avoiding eye contact with anyone in the room, Thandokuhle Sibanda, popularly known as Thando the Poet seems like a young lady who does not have many words to share. Her head remains fixed on the ground as we prepare to do her photoshoot. At first talking to her is like talking to a drill cadet, there is a lot of “Yes” and “No” dominating the conversation. You can tell that she is still fresh from a pedant institution. “I’m 19 years of age and recently wrote my A level exams at Mzilikazi High. I am the last born in a family of four”. That’s the most we can get out of her within a few minutes of meeting.
When renowned multi award winning poet Tinashe Tafirenyika comes through for an unrelated visit, that is when Thando starts to be at ease. She radiantly smiles in Tinashe’s direction and waves frantically as if she is performing an SOS signal. They embrace and quickly chat away into their poetic-world gossips. You can tell she is relieved to come across a familiar face that she looks up to and shares her artistic passions with. Now that she feels warmed up, her photo shoot can begin!
“I started doing poetry a little over 4 years ago when I was still a student at Cowdry Park secondary school being mentored by one of the leading female poets in Bulawayo and the country, Sithandazile Dube. In 2016 I was a contestant on the Starbrite season and I became one of the few poets who made it as far as the finals. Feeling like I still needed to develop my skills and also put my art out there, I went back again for the 2017 season. Again I broke into the finals and this time I felt I did justice to my craft. During that time, I really learnt a lot from Thembani Maphosa, Barney Mpariwa and the legendary Brian Vion Masendeke.
“During the same year I was the best poet in the Albert Nyathi talent search and was the first runner up for the Intwasa poetry slam. In April 2018 I was crowned the slam champion in the Lafarge poetry slam
“I was fortunate enough to share the stage with the amazing Black Lily, Maforty and Mandla the comedian during the Bulawayo Arts Awards. Again I was crowned the Intwasa poetry slam champion a few weeks ago. I recently launched an anthology called “One day to the next” and I am so happy about the project. People should go out and get it”
The poet seems to enjoy recounting her adventurous poetic expeditions and this further makes her comfortable we cannot help but notice how she beams when she starts off narrating them. She still has the fire and energy of success engraved in her eyes.
Her shy demeanour totally fades off as soon as one of the people in the room entreats her to recite her popular piece, “Jah”. In a flash, she quickly erupts into this fiery and unfathomable character that no one in the room recognises. With her commanding, yet soft and feminine voice, everyone is cut off mid-statement and drawn to pay attention. The silence in the room goes icy as we are stunned at how she has quickly evolved from that reserved young lady that came in a few minutes ago into this blazing incarnate. From her expressions you can tell that she is in sync with the character she is flawlessly personifying. At 19 years her short, yet asserted poetic journey has qualified her to stand at shoulder height with the lyrical giants the city, and she attests to this.
We have no doubt that at the rate she is going the sky is the limit!!!!!!!!