October 29, 2016

an interview with raphael d’abdon

Filed under: literature,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 5:20 am


first published here: http://shortsharpstories.bookslive.co.za/blog/2016/10/28/die-laughing-teaser-qa-with-raphael-dabdon/

October 5, 2012


Filed under: politics,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 10:43 pm

Call for Submissions

The killings at the Marikana mine and its aftermath have shocked people all over the world. Following a discussion initiated in the social media, Geko Publishing/BKO Magazine (www.bko.co.za) is publishing a collection of poetry, short stories, articles and commentaries on the Marikana massacre. If you are looking for a creative platform to express your views and feelings and to reflect on the tragedy and what it means for our past, our present and our future, this is the space you have been looking for.
All proceeds from the sales of this book will be donated to the community of Marikana.
If you are interested in supporting this project, please send your inquiries at:


Notes for contributors

Ge’ko publishing/BKO is seeking submissions of works related to the Marikana massacre. Manuscripts are being solicited in the following categories: poems, short stories, articles, commentaries.

All submissions must be written in English.

Poems and Short Stories

Poems and short stories must be written in type-face 12 Times New Roman, spacing 1 and a half.


Full-length articles should be between 1500 (10000 characters spaces included) and 3000 words (20000 characters spaces included) in length, typed double-spaced in MS Word. Submissions MUST follow the MLA style sheet of bibliographic referencing.


Commentaries are short articles between 500 (3350 characters spaces included) and 1,000 words (6700 characters spaces included), discussing the topic under scrutiny, otherwise offering interesting opinions on theoretical and research issues related to it.
All works submitted are going to be reviewed by the editors of the collection. The authors will receive information about the reviewers’ comments decision (accept as is, revise and resubmit, or reject).

Submission Guidelines

Please, include the following information at the top of the document:

Title of the work: titles of articles and commentaries should be concise (preferably fewer than 10 words)
Author: your full name
Your e-mail and phone numbers
Your web page address (if you have one)
Biographical statement: A brief biographical statement in sentence format, maximum 100 words.
How to send your contribution: Submissions must be sent to the Book Project Coordinators at the following email addresses:
Phehello Mofokeng: write@gekopublishing.co.za, phehello@gmail.com
Dr Raphael d’Abdon: raphaelbko@gmail.com

with the head title: “Submission for Marikana”.

Deadline: Given the urgency of the situation, Ge’ko is committed to send the manuscript to the printer in the shortest time possible, hence the deadline for submissions is 31 October 2012.

Please check the General Policies below for additional guidelines.

General Policies

Authors of accepted manuscripts will assign to Ge’ko Publishing/BKO the right to distribute their works in print and/or electronic form, but authors will retain copyright and, after the work has appeared in the collection, authors may republish their text (in print and/or electronic form) as long as they clearly acknowledge Ge’ko Publishing/BKO as the original publisher.

The editors reserve the right to make editorial changes in any manuscript accepted for publication for the sake of style or clarity. Authors will be consulted only if the changes are major.

Contributions which do not adhere to the above listed requirements will not be considered for publication.

Please feel free to forward the present Call for Submissions to your mailing lists and to publish it wherever you feel suitable.

The BKO Team
Dr Raphael d’Abdon, Tereska Muishond (editors)
Phehello Mofokeng (Book Project Coordinator)

August 21, 2012

“walking to school”

Filed under: poetry,politics,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 8:25 pm

in marikana
i have seen black children staring
at their fathers’ lifeless bodies
on their way to school.
stale blood clots under their
perfectly polished shoes.
at school
all the teachers were in their place.
cosatu did not call no general strike.
what for?
the english teacher was crying.
the math teacher was drunk, as usual.
the history teacher spoke about the new constitution.
the geography teacher spoke about the richness
of south africa’s soil.
in the nymex
the platinum futures shot up
to unprecedented levels,
most kids at lunch break
had no food in their scaff tin.
with empty stomachs
they all sang nkosi sikelel’,
then went back home.
their fathers’ corpses were still there.
just a little colder.

19 august 2012

August 27, 2011

another one for jimi

Filed under: raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 2:12 am

with jimi
the blues has reached the sky
kissed by the velvet gloves
of a sex wizard.

all his grooves allow us to do
is fantasizing
that is the best gift a dreamer can receive.

i can listen to this music
for always,
or at least
as long as stars
emit their light.

smoking fingers in a summer night
in which even the laughing breeze
smells of undiluted funk

and a fire
inside blazing eyes
that shows no intention
of extinguishing.

this miracle is neither a dream
nor something metaphysical
or obscure.

it’s nothing but a wild thing
a song
the blue unleashed soul
of jimi’s inner sound

May 31, 2011

“razor wire around an old magnolia”

Filed under: poetry,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 2:43 pm

razor wire around an old magnolia

they don’t want kids to climb on her,

don’t want them
to get hurt.

somebody should tell these safety gurus
that those steel snakes sinking their teeth
into the neck of the silent,
ancient tree

have already caused our children
much more damage

than a thousand headlong falls.

April 7, 2011

Girl In A Miniskirt Reading The Bible Outside My Window

Filed under: poetry,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 2:32 pm

Sunday, I am eating a
grapefruit, church is over at the Russian
Orthodox to the

she is dark
of Eastern descent
large brown eyes look up from the Bible
then down, a small red and black
Bible, and as she reads
her legs keep moving, moving,
she’s doing a slow rhythmic dance
reading the Bible…

long gold earrings;
2 gold bracelets on each arm,
and it’s a mini-suit, I suppose,
the cloth hugs her body,
the lightest of tans is that cloth,
long yellow legs warm in the sun…

there is no escaping her being
there is no desire to…

my radio is playing symphonic music
that she cannot hear
but her movements coincide exactly
to the rhythms of the

she is dark, she is dark
she is reading about God.

I am God.

Charles Bukowski

October 3, 2010

la notte della luna rosso cremisi

Filed under: Italian,kagapoems,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 9:45 pm

translated into italian by raphael d’abdon

sul “politically correct”

Filed under: Italian,kagapoems,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 9:38 pm

prima massacriamo i popoli indigeni
poi rendiamo illegale insultarli

translated into italian by raphael d’abdon

raphael d’abdon on aryan kaganof

Filed under: Italian,kaganof,kagapoems,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 9:30 pm


this article first published here

September 6, 2010


Filed under: poetry,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 9:50 am


“To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread”
– James A. Baldwin

“Cleopatra, queen of Egypt in the 1st century B.C., was widely renowned for her sexual skills. It wasn’t even particularly scandalous, but quite fitting with the prevalent mores. In addition to being queen, Cleopatra was the High Priestess of Aset, which is another name for the goddess Isis. Becoming a high priestess had the requirement of having had sexual intercourse with a thousand different men. That would normally take a while, but it is said that Cleopatra did so in 10 days. The sacred rituals a priestess would carry out would often involve sex. One often went to the temple to have sex because it was seen as life-affirming, and sex was seen as bringing you closer to the gods.”

This volume aims at celebrating human passion in all its multifaceted manifestations, bringing forward – creatively – sentiments that affirm love in its many different forms.
It is an attempt at exalting the virtues of beauty in both women and men, and the vital importance of pursuing free, unconstrained love and its physical and meta-physical pleasures.
The topics a poetry book on eroticism can explore are virtually countless: from the redefinition of “western-centred” standards of beauty, to the significance of mind attraction; from an appreciation of homo- and bisexuality, to the shaping of gods and goddesses’ radiant forms within one’s individual “love cosmology”; from the appearances of the men and women one loves (or longs for), to the nuanced narration of spicy bed stories…
Even though much of erotic poetry (and literature) deals with physical beauty, contributors are invited to redefine the canon by suggesting new concepts about love in general. At the same time, they are also encouraged to reflect upon how pleasurable and rewarding sex can (and should) be, by subtly evoking vivid sexual imagery. The bottom-line is that all poems submitted must emphasize the magnitude, the gracefulness, as well as the healing and liberating power of love, in its sensual and/or spiritual incarnations. And they must appeal to the largest sexual organ: the brain…
Needless to say, no pornographic, homophobic or misogynist text will be taken into consideration for publication. The editors will evaluate what is to be considered as such, as well as the aptness to the project of all poems submitted.

This anthology aims at offering a platform to interrogate, imaginatively, love and sexuality(ies) in a con-text of absolute creative freedom: in fact, when it unfolds at liberty in all its infinite potential, human affection transcends every possible obstacle and demystifies all stereotyped views on what “true” or “natural” love and eroticism should be.
As writers, poets, songwriters and wordsmiths we feel that the most exciting way to express the infinitude of this potential is through words: words that flow into melodies of ardent passion, lust, sensuality and spiritual complicity…

So let us breathe emotionally and creatively, in order to be open to sexual and erotic candour; let us strip ourselves bare (literally and figuratively) to make the power of love be the supreme subject of our metaphorical reflections: if we succeed in doing so, then we have no doubt that this will be truly… an orgasmic collection ☺

The editors

dr raphael d’abdon
Myesha Jenkins
Natalia Molebatsi

Notes for contributions

Poems submitted must be original contributions and not be under consideration for any other publication at the same time.

Contributions must be typed in font Times New Roman, 12 pt, single line spacing.

Each contributor can submit maximum 3 (three) poems.

Poems must be submitted in English.

Each contribution must also include: contact details (email address and phone number); a jpeg picture of the author; a 5 (five) lines (maximum) biographical note.

If the poems submitted have been previously published in journals, magazines, volumes, etc., the contributor must include the full bibliographical references of the previous publication in a footnote at the bottom of the page. Example:

Author: Lodi Matsetela
Title of the poem: “He strums – 340 ml”*
Footnote: *Previously published in: d’Abdon, R. (ed.), I nostri semi – Peo tsa rona. Poeti sudafricani del post-apartheid, Mangrovie, Napoli, 2007, pp. 222-227.

Contributions must be sent as an attachment to the following email address:


with the head title: “Submission for erotic poetry anthology”.

The deadline for submissions is 31 October 2010.

Contributions which do not adhere to the above listed requirements will not be considered for publication.

PS: Please feel free to forward the present Call for Submissions to your mailing lists and to publish it wherever you feel suitable.

August 27, 2010

Il movimento dei poeti-bloggers nel Sudafrica del post-apartheid

Filed under: blogging,dye hard press,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 12:02 am

Le civiltà dell’Africa del Sud hanno sempre affidato ai poeti/cantastorie, alle loro performance poetiche orali, non solo il compito di tramandare storie, miti e leggende del passato ma anche quello, altrettanto urgente, di sottoporre a critica i problemi contingenti delle proprie comunità.

Sia durante le invasioni coloniali che nei decenni più recenti del regime dell’apartheid la poesia ha continuato a giocare un ruolo importante nelle varie lotte anti-coloniali dei popoli sudafricani e la Parola che risuonava in ambito teatrale, nei cortei politici, nei funerali, nei comizi è stato uno degli strumenti decisivi sia per catalizzare l’attenzione delle comunità sulle forme di oppressione cui esse erano soggette, sia per costruire collettivamente concrete pratiche di resistenza e liberazione.

“Il poeta ha esplorato diversi linguaggi: dalla protesta alla resistenza, dalla liberazione alla celebrazione. E oggi nuovamente, nell’attuale scenario socio-politico, il poeta passa ancora una volta dalla celebrazione alla protesta, dall’autoaffermazione alla sfida, alla disillusione nei confronti del nuovo ordine costruito sull’avidità, sul clientelismo e sulla corruzione”. Con queste parole Zakes Mda, uno dei più grandi romanzieri sudafricani, saluta la nascita della nuova generazione di cantori della poesia orale (o spoken word artists) formatasi culturalmente nella fase del cosiddetto post-apartheid, focalizzando ancora una volta l’attenzione sul loro potenziale di rottura all’interno dello scenario politico-culturale della nuova nazione.
Appropriandosi delle opportunità che la tecnologia offre loro (oltre che delle tradizionali forme di linguaggio poetico orale), questa comunità di spoken word artists ha oggi iniziato a servirsi di nuovi strumenti comunicativi, tra i quali giocano un ruolo centrale i siti web e i blog. Il movimento dei bloggers è in continua crescita e i vari fora e le communities in rete si stanno affermando come spazi fondamentali nel dibattito che anima le comunità dei giovani artisti urbanizzati. In essi i poeti si interrogano sulla situazione attuale della poesia e dell’arte in generale, così come sui temi che stanno al centro del dibattito politico nazionale ed internazionale. Alcuni di questi blog sono dei veri e propri punti di riferimento per la comunità artistica urbana del “Nuovo Sudafrica” e rappresentano una nuova frontiera culturale che va tenuta in considerazione ed analizzata se si vuole avere un quadro completo della situazione letteraria, artistica e politica del paese. Il presente saggio si prepone di fornire un quadro delle caratteristiche di alcuni blog animati da spoken word artists sudafricani e del ruolo che essi giocano nella costruzione di quella che è stata definita la “cultura del post-apartheid”.

Alcuni blog curati da poeti del post-apartheid e un case-study: “Kagablog” di Aryan Kaganof

L’avvento della democrazia nel 1994 e il diffondersi quasi contemporaneamente delle nuove tecnologie associate ad internet sono due tra i fattori (tra l’altro strettamente correlati) che hanno avuto ed hanno un peso determinante nella costruzione di quella che viene comunemente definita “la cultura del post-apartheid”. Da un lato infatti il nuovo regime democratico subentrato all’apartheid ha garantito agli artisti (ma non solo) quella libertà di espressione che, per ovvie ragioni, veniva loro preclusa durante i decenni della dittatura razzista; dall’altro lato gli stessi artisti, nel nostro caso i poeti, hanno saputo usufruire di queste opportunità per creare spazi di riflessione, dibattito e creatività (tra i quali siti web e blog), all’interno dei quali ragionare individualmente e collettivamente sui dilemmi del proprio presente. Per non rischiare di cadere in visioni essenzialistiche della realtà, bisogna fin da subito chiarire come la società sudafricana era e resta una società prevalentemente agricola, e che le tendenze che verranno analizzate in questo articolo non interessano la maggioranza degli abitanti del paese, ma solo una realtà ben specifica, ovvero quella dei giovani artisti dei grandi insediamenti urbani (Johannesburg, Pretoria/Tshwane e, in misura minore, Città del Capo e Durban). Questo perché, a qualsiasi livello del dibattito, non bisogna dimenticare le enormi differenze socio-economiche e le diversità culturali ancor’oggi esistenti all’interno delle varie aree geografiche del paese. Ricordato ciò, in questa prima parte si procederà alla descrizione di alcuni blog curati da giovani poeti, nello specifico coloro che fanno parte delle comunità dei cosiddetti spoken word artists urbanizzati. Nella parte conclusiva verrà analizzato più nello specifico il caso di uno dei blog più influenti all’interno di questa comunità ovvero Kagablog del poeta, saggista, musicista e filmaker di Johannesburg Aryan Kaganof.
In uno spazio, come quello virtuale, nel quale per definizione è pressoché impossibile tenere sotto controllo i molteplici oggetti di ricerca che nascono e tramontano quotidianamente, credo sia giudizioso focalizzare la propria attenzione su quelle realtà che hanno dimostrato finora di poter sopravvivere alle sfide del tempo in virtù di un valore intrinseco che le rende qualcosa di più di semplici mode del momento. I blog spuntano infatti come funghi, ma pochi sono, almeno nel contesto qui analizzato, quelli che sono riusciti finora a lasciare un segno si sé nel corso degli ultimi 15 anni. Tra questi ce ne sono alcuni che meritano di essere menzionati perché rappresentano senza dubbio dei punti di riferimento consolidati all’interno del panorama culturale urbano del post-apartheid.
Primo tra tutti, il blog del Timbila Poetry Project, gestito da un collettivo di poeti tra cui il focoso editore Vonani wa ka Bila, June Madingwane e Goodenough Mashego. Un collettivo che dal 2000 ad oggi, oltre a collezionare pubblicazioni cartacee importantissime (che includono i contributi di scrittori del calibro di Don Mattera, Lefifi Tladi, Prof Es’kia Mphahlele, Makhosazana Xaba, Myesha Jenkins, Mbongeni Khumalo e Malika Ndlovu) continua a mantenere aperti stimolanti spazi di confronto nel sito sopra riportato.
Seconda segnalazione è per il blog di BKO, la più importante rivista di poesia orale del paese, edita da Phehello Mofokeng e Andrew Miller, due giovani poeti fondatori, assieme all’artista Robyn Field, della Unity Gallery. La Unity Gallery è un hub situato nel cuore di Johannesburg, autofinanziato e nato per offrire spazi e strutture a giovani artisti dei quartieri popolari della regione del Gauteng. Oltre a pubblicare BKO, ad animare l’omonimo blog e ad offrire opportunità a giovani artisti provenienti dal mondo della poesia, musica, pittura, fotografia e scultura, il collettivo della Unity Gallery ha da poco fondato la casa editrice Ge’Ko, la quale si sta già affermando come un punto di riferimento per gli scrittori emergenti del panorama nazionale. Uno tra i poeti pubblicati da Ge’ko, pur non essendo giovanissimo, è Mario d’Offizi, figlio di emigrani italiani e irlandesi e autore della commovente autobiografia Bless Me Father (2), oltre che curatore del blog Mariowana.
Il terzo sito rilevante è quello gestito dal collettivo femminile Young Basadzi Project che, come recita la homepage, “promuove i migliori lavori di giovani donne sudafricane che celebrano il loro splendido patrimonio culturale”. Quello di Basadzi è un caso affascinante perché, dopo lo scioglimento del pioneristico quartetto Feelah Sista, rimane l’unica esperienza significativa di collettivo di spoken word artists esclusivamente femminile, esperienza culminata tra l’altro anche nella pubblicazione dell’antologia Basadzi Voices (3).
Ultimo blog in questa lista selezionata e necessariamente incompleta è quello dello spoken word artist Kojo Baffoe. Autore di due antologie di poesia (Voices In My Head e And They Say: Black Men Don’t Write Love Poetry), Baffoe è un’artista fine, che gode di una grandissima stima sia tra i colleghi che nei circoli letterari nazionali e internazionali, tanto che, in qualità di poeta freestyle, fu invitato a rappresentante il Sudafrica in un tour chiamato Hammer and Tongue Four Continents Poetry Slam svoltosi nel Regno Unito Novembre e Dicembre 2006. Per queste ragioni, e per la credibilità guadagnata “sul campo” come organizzatore di eventi, educatore e produttore sia di altri poeti che di musicisti locali, Baffoe, con il suo blog, si presenta come una delle personalità di riferimento per chi vuole conoscere il panorama culturale urbano di Mzansi.
Terminata questa rapida carrellata di alcuni dei blog più significativi all’interno del panorama poetico/letterario nazionale, passerò ora ad analizzare più nel dettaglio il caso relativo ad un blog che, proprio nei giorni in cui sto scrivendo questo articolo, è al centro di un caso di cronaca piuttosto spinoso.
Uno dei luoghi di produzione di cultura (ma soprattutto controcultura) più intriganti, frequentati e per certi versi… controverso nello scenario urbano sudafricano contemporaneo è certamente il blog di Aryan Kaganof. Artista eclettico residente a Johannesburg (senza dubbio il centro nevralgico culturale del cosiddetto “Nuovo Sudafrica”) Kaganof da Marzo 2008 ricopre il ruolo di Visiting Professor al New Media Art Department dell’Università di Malmö in Svezia.
“Messo in rete” per la prima volta nel Novembre 2005, e fin da allora gestito dal suo curatore senza alcuna forma di sponsorizzazione né pubblica né privata, Kagablog nasce dalla volontà di Kaganof di creare un forum nel quale scrittori, poeti, artisti, accademici ed esploratori digitali con interessi in differenti campi della cultura potessero proporre i propri lavori. L’obiettivo di fondo fu perciò fin dal principio quello di creare uno spazio culturale che – a differenza di quanto accade nei mass media e nel panorama editoriale ufficiale – non fosse mosso da logiche di mercato, e i cui confini non fossero determinati dalla ricerca del profitto. Spazio liberato dalle gabbie della logica profit-oriented Kagablog è così divenuto in questi anni un catalizzatore delle nuove tendenze artistiche/estetiche/politiche del paese, sia per ciò che riguarda il suo contenuto, sempre teso alla ricerca di nuovi linguaggi, sia in quanto community nella quale potersi esprimere senza tenere necessariamente in considerazione le aspettative del lettore.
La formula sulla quale si basa Kagablog è molto semplice: una volta individuati artisti dei quali si ammira, rispetta o ama il lavoro, li si invita a partecipare al blog come contributors. Una volta messa in marcia la collaborazione non esiste nessuna forma di censura editoriale: ciò getta le basi per uno spazio comune nel quale lavorare secondo criteri di libertà creativa diametralmente opposti rispetto a quelli vigenti nei mass media, che al contrario agiscono con l’unico obiettivo di raggiungere bilanci in attivo a fine anno.
In un paese in cui la diffusione di banda larga è limitata esclusivamente ad alcune aree circoscritte, ed internet una risorsa disponibile quasi solo per la nuova borghesia urbanizzata, Kagablog è riuscito comunque a mantenere finora un alto numero di visitatori e contibutors. È stato stimato (www.kaganof.com) che tra Novembre 2007 e Febbraio 2008 il blog abbia avuto più di 250.000 visitatori al mese, cifre che hanno cominciato a calare nei mesi successivi per la sola ragione che Kaganof, come riportato sopra, da marzo 2008 risiede in Svezia e pertanto, secondo sue parole, al momento non riesce a dedicare al blog “l’attenzione che questo richiede” (4).
Di questi visitatori almeno la metà risiede nell’area dell’Africa del Sud, mentre una fetta consistente dei rimanenti fruitori proviene dagli Stati Uniti, dall’Olanda e da altri paesi europei.
Basta scorrere l’indice della homepage per accorgesi di come Kagablog abbracci uno spettro molto ampio di discipline: musica, arte, fotografia, poesia e spoken word, fiction, cinema, ecc. Non esistendo pubblicazioni con una tale struttura multi-interdisciplinare risulta facile intuire come la distribuzione non-cartacea caratteristica della rete da un lato contribuisca a colmare un vuoto culturale, dal’altro allarghi considerevolmente la potenziale base dei fruitori. Oltre a ciò va sottolineato come uno dei fattori fondamentali di un blog pluriversale come Kagablog è che anche chi ci si avvicina mosso da interessi disciplinari specifici, finisce inevitabilmente con l’aprire la propria esperienza intellettuale ad altri campi dell’arte e del sapere. Visto solo tale ottica il blog si identifica quindi come un luogo d’indagine e ricerca privilegiato per chi vuole emanciparsi dall’eccessiva parcellizzazione del sapere e porre al centro della propria attività di artista, ricercatore, ecc. il superamento delle rigide ed artificiose barriere disciplinari e metodologiche che solitamente tengono separati i vari campi della conoscenza.
La scelta di strutturare il blog in siffatta maniera nasce ancora una volta dall’esigenza da parte di Kaganof di creare uno spazio comunicativo alternativo ai mass media. Il fatto che tutti i principali mezzi di comunicazione di massa in Sudafrica siano gestiti secondo logiche di puro profitto pone infatti l’artista di fronte ad un enorme problema che riguarda niente meno che la stessa libertà d’espressione. Nel contesto mediatico ed editoriale mainstream del post-apartheid infatti (e questo è e sarà uno dei problemi precipui della nuova democrazia sudafricana) il concetto di “libertà di parola” coincide con quello di “libertà di promuovere ciò che viene distribuito nei circuiti ufficiali della stampa e della televisione”(5). Il blog nasce come una risposta a questa situazione di ghettizzazione del sapere all’interno di un circuito non-inclusivo, congiuntamente all’obiettivo di rendere disponibile alla comunità l’insieme variegato di proposte, tendenze ed innovazioni artistiche risultanti dall’incontro di contributors con background culturali eterogenei.
Al momento ci sono circa 90 contributors che regolarmente intervengono negli spazi di Kagablog. Sebbene la stragrande maggioranza di essi risieda in Sudafrica non mancano contributors di altri paesi, in particolare europei (Francia, Olanda, Germania). Va da sé che, com’è ovvio in base a quanto detto finora, il blog rimane aperto a chiunque voglia parteciparvi, indipendentemente dalla provenienza geografica.
Il rischio generato da tale “contaminazione” – se così vogliamo chiamarla per usare una terminologia propria della postcolonialità – è che blog e/o riviste indipendenti come Kagablog o Chimurenga (6) possano in certi momenti rischiare una deriva “eurocentrica”, correndo il pericolo, a lungo termine, di finire con il posizionarsi al di fuori del contesto culturale sudafricano.
Queste critiche, mosse a più riprese da chi giudica con sospetto esperienze come Kagablog, sottendono una visione viziata da provincialismo, parrocchiale, del contesto sudafricano urbano contemporaneo. Come tutti gli altri blog e siti web Kagablog vive infatti nel mondo transnazionale, s-confinato della World Wide Web, e non in quello politicamente e storicamente territorializzato dello stato sudafricano. Ciò fa di Kagablog una realtà al medesimo tempo globale e locale. Il fatto che la stragrande maggioranza dei contributors viva nel contesto geografico sudafricano fa si che il blog abbia notevole rilevanza per coloro che si interessano esclusivamente del panorama artistico e culturale della regione. Ciononostante non pare azzardato affermare che in un epoca nel quale, grazie proprio alla rete, l’incontro e l’intersezione di/tra linguaggi tra essi anche molto lontani mette a disposizione del navigatore un patrimonio di idee e testimonianze pressoché infinito, sia limitativo fossilizzarsi in maniera esclusiva su temi e argomenti di rilevanza puramente localistica.
Più che un tentativo di “europeizzare” il dibattito, quel che al contrario traspare da Kagablog è la volontà costante di proporre e promuovere lavori di ottima qualità e soprattutto provocatori e critici nei confronti del decadente panorama socio-politico sudafricano e mondiale. Questi, più che criteri di appartenenza territoriale, sono i parametri di giudizio utilizzati da Kaganof per definire e ridefinire costantemente l’estetica generale del proprio blog.
Un’attitudine critica nei confronti dello status quo che non ha tardato ad attirare le attenzioni dei gelosi custodi della “cultura ufficiale”, degli inquisitori della “proto-censura di stato” che chi scrive ha già avuto modo di denunciare in precedenza (7). È notizia di questi giorni infatti, documentata nello stesso Kagablog (8), che il sito sia stato ufficialmente messo al bando dalla SABC, ovvero la compagnia televisiva nazionale sudafricana (controllata, esattamente come accade in Italia per la RAI, dal potere politico). Pur rimanendo ignoti i reali motivi che hanno spinto a mettere in atto la censura, tale notizia non stupisce, dal momento che già in altre occasioni la longa manus dell’ANC, il partito al potere in Sudafrica, si era spinta fino a censurare apertamente soggetti considerati “pericolosi” e “sovversivi”, uno tra tutti il sociologo Ashwin Desai, autore di un opera seminale sul post-apartheid come We are The Poors. Community Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa, (tradotto in Italia nel 2003 da DeriveApprodi con il titolo Noi siamo i poveri. Lotte comunitarie nel nuovo apartheid (9)).
Per tornare ai contenuti di Kagablog, credo si possa in tutta tranquillità affermare che, in maniera forse più incisiva di altri blog animati da poeti sudafricani, esso riflette il nuovo atteggiamento nei confronti dei media e soprattutto degli alternative media che si sta lentamente ma progressivamente affermando tra le avanguardie artistiche e politiche del paese. Un movimento che concepisce l’arte, la poesia o qualsiasi discorso critico non più in termini di confini nazionali e/o regionali, ma con occhi, orecchie e cuore sensibili alla percezione di stimoli di più ampio respiro. In altre parole, l’obiettivo non viene più focalizzato esclusivamente sulle regionalità coloniali del pensiero, ma nemmeno su quelle, neutralizzate dalla storia, di natura postcoloniale. Posto in questi termini Kagablog si configura come uno spazio del pensiero collettivo che si posiziona (e in ciò a mio avviso risiede la sua portata rivoluzionaria) sia fuori dal pensiero coloniale che da quello – ad esso oggi filosoficamente attiguo – post(neo)coloniale, entrambi, operanti all’interno di cornici teoriche che, seppure in forme differenti, non prevedono alternative al predominio del mercato e al modello di organizzazione sociale capitalista.
E il futuro cosa tiene in serbo per i bloggers? Oggi il livello di penetrazione di internet in Sudafrica si aggira attorno al 7% della popolazione totale, ma questa percentuale continua a crescere in maniera progressiva e costante. Questo lascia intendere che nel giro di pochi anni la situazione sarà radicalmente differente e molte più persone saranno in grado di fruire di documenti online. Anche se tra stampa e accademici conservatori esistono sacche di resistenza nei confronti dei blog, reputati spazi di pubblicazione non degni di rispetto, non vi è dubbio che in futuro la produzione di cultura passerà sempre di più attraverso la rete. Riguardo a questo passaggio storico Kaganof ha le idee ben chiare:

Le uniche cose che vengono prese sul serio in Sudafrica sono l’alcol, il calcio, il rugby e il cricket. Non posso permettere che il mio lavoro sia costretto entro le mediocri opinioni del mercato. L’unica cosa importante è che io reputo il blog un mezzo serio, che tu lo reputi un mezzo serio e che i contributors e i lettori lo considerano un mezzo serio. (10)

La diffusione del blog come mezzo di fruizione non determinerà inoltre, come molti detrattori all’interno dell’establishment sostengono, che i blog soppianteranno le pubblicazioni cartacee tradizionali. Al contrario, potrebbero salvarle dal declino che stanno attraversando. A tal riguardo Kaganof sostiene:

La crisi del mercato editoriale non ha niente a che vedere con i blog. La causa va piuttosto ricercata nell’eccessivo numero di libri che vengono pubblicati. Toppi libri vengono scaraventati sul mercato, con la speranza che qualche titolo s riveli un successo commerciale. Ci troviamo di fronte ad una grande fiera, e per le gente, per i lettori è stressante stare al passo. Questa è la ragione per cui la gente si chiude in sé stessa, cercando rifugio nei classici, in ciò che già conosce, nella fiction di genere. Perché è semplicemente impossibile leggere tutti i libri che inondano gli scaffali delle librerie.(11)

La verità di fondo che soggiace le parole sopra riportate è che il blog come strumento d’informazione (e contro-informazione) non invade il territorio delle pubblicazioni cartacee, per il semplice motivo che è una realtà da esso totalmente distinta. Al contrario, sempre secondo Kaganof:

[s]e esiste qualche relazione tra le due realtà credo che il blog possa stimolare all’acquisto dei libri. Questo perché il blog mette a disposizione dei fruitori una gran varietà di voci critiche e innovative che scrivono mossi da passione, a differenza di quanto accade con gli “opinionisti” istituzionali i quali al contrario scrivono dalle posizioni logore del potere e autorità costituita. Le pubblicazioni online stimolano la gente ad acquistare libri. Lo stesso fenomeno accade nell’industria musicale. In un certo senso la “fine” dei libri stampati è già stata decretata con la soppressione delle piccole librerie specialistiche e l’usurpazione delle vendite dei libri come mero oggetti di consumo da parte delle catene di supermercati che svendono le opere al pubblico. “Paghi uno, compri due,”, proprio come con le scatolette di fagioli (12).


Articolo pubblicato in “Aut Aut”, Altre Afriche, n. 339, luglio-settembre 2009, pp. 195-208.



1. Mda, Z., Prefazione a: I nostri semi – Peo tsa rona. Poeti sudafricani del post-apartheid, d’Abdon, R. (ed.), Mangrovie, Napoli, 2007, p. 12.
2. d’Offizi, M., Bless Me Father, Ge’ko, Johannesburg, 2007.
3. Basadzi Voices, Mokhosi, R. (Ed.), University of Kwa Zulu-Natal Press, Scottsville, 2006.
4. Alcune parti del presente articolo sono tratte da un intervista di Gary Cummiskey ad Aryan Kaganof in corso di pubblicazione. Editore indipendente della Dye Hard Press, Cummiskey e a sua volta animatore del’omonimo blog di poesia e letteratura dyehard-press.blogspot.com. Ringrazio Cummiskey e Kaganof per il materiale messomi a disposizione.
5. Sull’argomento si veda anche la mia recensione al romanzo Coconut della sudafricana Kopano Matlwa in: “Il Tolomeo”, fascicolo 1, XI, 2008 e Molebatsi, N., Mzansi’s poets through mass media lenses in “Rhodes Journalism Review”, n. 27, September 2007, pp. 72-73.
6. Tradizionalmente,”chimurenga” o “bongozozo” è una parola in lingua Shona propria del contesto zimbabwano che significa “lotta” o piuttosto “lotta popolare”. Negli ultimi tempi il significato del vocabolo si è andato estendendo fino a descrivere le lotte per i diritti umani, la dignità politica e la giustizia sociale e perfino uno stile musicale, la Chimurenga music, genere di musica popolare reso famoso dall’artista Thomas Mapfumo. In Sudafrica Chimurenga è il nome di una rivista cartacea“cult” con base a Città del Capo, fondata ed edita dal camerunense Ntone Edjabe, che si basa sugli stessi principi di inter-intradiscipliarietà caratteristici di Kagablog. Della stessa rivista esiste una versione online consultabile al sito: qui.
7. Si veda l’introduzione a d’Abdon (2007), op..cit., pp. 28-36.
8. Si veda http://kaganof.com/kagablog/2008/05…; e: http://kaganof.com/kagablog/2008/06… . Consultati l’08/06/2008.
9. Nel 1996 ci fu uno sciopero di natura per così dire “insurrezionale” alla ora defunta University of Durban-Westville, dove Desai insegnava. Mandela, allora Presidente, nominò una commissione d’inchiesta che raccomandò il licenziamento dei leader dello sciopero, al quale seguì da parte dell’università l’annuncio di licenziamenti di massa che avrebbero distrutto ogni rappresentanza sindacale nel campus. Per evitare ciò Desai e altri accettarono di assumersi ogni responsabilità, si dimisero e accettarono di essere esclusi dall’ateneo. Il divieto contro Desai fu rimosso nel 2003, ma nel 2004 UDW si fuse con la University of Natal/Durban per dare vita alla attuale Universty of Kwa Zulu-Natal, il cui rettore, il filo-mandeliano Prof. Makgoba, a fronte del fatto che Desai aveva fatto domanda di finanziamenti per fare ricerca nel campus, impose all’università di non considerare tale domanda, sostenendo che il licenziamento del 1997 fosse ancora in vigore.
10. Intervista di Cummiskey a Kaganof (v. nota4).
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.

first published here

August 26, 2010

The Politics of ‘white Africans’ By Owen ‘Alik Shahadah

Filed under: politics,race,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 5:48 pm

The new trend emerging is to classify Europeans living/settling in Africa as “White Africans.” All those that deny their claim to African identity are now labeled as racist. However, the definition of racism does not accommodate in-group exclusion as a characteristic of being racist. And the power of definition like “who is a Jew”, “who is Chinese” belongs with the majority, not the minority. Africans cannot over night just say they are Chinese and then call Chinese racist if they do not accept them.

In the scrabble for linguistic real estate, why would these descendants of European colonialist who devastated and exploited the continent want to be called African? And in terms of self-determination who introduced these concepts? It would be very strange if a European, after 200 years in China or India, could be so powerful to alter the definition of Chinese just to be accommodated.

The fact that Europeans are sensitive to the politics of things suggests that they do not do anything for romantic reasons. It is very disappointing when senior African academics, so desperate to embrace the rainbow theory and share the “African burden” rush with open arms to embrace these pseudo concepts without any political or economic consideration. What is the objective of these claims? It is interesting to note Europeans (including Caucasoid Arabs) constitute around 10 million people verses the 800 million Africans.

Now, this negligible minority, by way of social influence, has caused the majority to need to refer to themselves with the adjective of “black” to separate themselves from a serious minority group who want to be “Indian Africans” or “white Africans.” Minorities of Europeans live in China, in India and in Arabia yet only in Africa has linguistic accommodation been given to these European minorities. Africans now must make room for those settlers who want to identify with the continent for capitalist reasons. Because once you identify with a continent then you have a legitimate claim to its resources. Thus, the saying and the philosophy of Garvey “Africa for the Africans” becomes usurped. In South Africa, the new trend of “Black Economic Empowerment” has seen the broadening, opening up of the borders of blackness so to speak. Indians are economically classified as ‘black’, and recently Chinese have been included in this definition. So again, we see the relationship between linguistics and economic profit.

What about people who are European who speak African languages, wear African clothing, eat African food, etc? With all due respect, the mistake made by Dr. Ali Mazrui in his accommodation was to confuse the empirical reality of being African with the cultural phenomenon of being Africanized. Just as most Africans in the west are to a large degree Europeanized Africans, it does not make them in anyway shape or form European. Studying everything about Chimpanzees and bonding into their social structure as Jane Goodal did, did not make her anymore Chimpanzee. It is clear the Chimpanzees were warmed by her attempts, but when it came time for mating there was no confusion.


According to Dr. Kimani Nehusi, identity should be a foremost consideration, for if it is not then subsequent work would not be grounded. Now we can see how the question of reparations, land ownership, citizenship, free-movement, African Continental union, African People unity, all hinge on a clear definition of African identity. We see all other groups, such as Jews in Israel, clarifying a definition of who is a Jew and denying “right of return” to those who do not fall into that definition. Open definitions allow those who have traditionally exploited Africans to continue to do so. It must be realized that our cultural immunity and cultural defense systems have been the most destroyed. As a group interested in self-preservation and self-determination, the question of who belongs to our group, who has that group’s interest, will be paramount.

Scholar, Film maker and Pan – Africanist

August 25, 2010

jack and coffee (Memoirs of an old mean alcoholic)

Filed under: poetry,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 6:50 pm

What did I do last night?

Who was I with?

Who did I fuck?

Who fucked me?

The last thing I remember

Is a toothless whore yelling at my swollen face

And a sweat-stinkin’ fag sticking his slick tongue

In my ear

A bottle of jack flew against

Old Frank’s mucky wall

another beer slid in front of my beard

as I lit the last cigar

after that

lights went out

and now

here I am


What did I do last night?

Who was I with?

Who did I fuck?

Who fucked me?

‘Cause one thing I feel for sure:

there was a fuck here last night

‘Cause this hair on the pillow is not grey

And these sheets exhale the acid smell of drunken sperm.

Is it mine

Or someone else’s?

To this, my friend, I can not answer

For I’ve never tast’d my own drunk semen

Nor that of other drunkards

(as far as I remember)

At least there is no vomit on the bed

like that day when I banged Juanita

that time when we both puked

After she licked hot vodka over my cock

And I sucked cheap rhum inside her cunt

Whatever happened last night

I know for sure there was a fuck here

Cos my ass’s now on fire

But after all

that doesn’t necessarily mean

they anal fucked me

Maybe I just pooped

And forgot to wipe my ass

(And, perhaps,

to flush the toilet)

The only thing I know

Is that there was a fuck here last night

What I don’t know


who fucked who

And how

And now

Here I am

Scratching my head

After I’ve scraped my balls

Sipping on jack & coffee

Me, my pen-n-pad

a headache

and fragile sunrays

sharing the same old couch

skid-marked pants lying on the floor

over empty bottles of low-priced wine

a breath that tells me a story

And a long stretched road ahead

Headed for old Frank’s

May 20, 2010

I Am Visited by an Editor and a Poet – by Charles Bukowski

Filed under: poetry,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 12:02 am

I had just won $115 from the headshakers and
was naked upon my bed
listening to an opera by one of the Italians
and had just gotten rid of a very loose lady
when there was a knock upon the wood,
and since the cops had just raided a month or so ago,
I screamed out rather on edge—
who the hell is it? what you want, man?
I’m your publisher! somebody screamed back,
and I hollered, I don’t have a publisher,
try the place next door, and he screamed back,
you’re Charles Bukowski, aren’t you? and I got up and
peeked through the iron grill to make sure it wasn’t a cop,
and I placed a robe upon my nakedness,
kicked a beercan out of the way and bade them enter,
an editor and a poet.
only one would drink a beer (the editor)
so I drank two for the poet and one for myself
and they sat there sweating and watching me
and I sat there trying to explain
that I wasn’t really a poet in the ordinary sense,
I told them about the stockyards and the slaughterhouse
and the racetracks and the conditions of some of our jails,
and the editor suddenly pulled five magazines out of a portfolio
and tossed them in between the beercans
and we talked about Flowers of Evil, Rimbaud, Villon,
and what some of the modern poets looked like:
J.B. May and Wolf the Hedley are very immaculate, clean fingernails, etc.;
I apologized for the beercans, my beard, and everything on the floor
and pretty soon everybody was yawning
and the editor suddenly stood up and I said,
are you leaving?
and then the editor and the poet were walking out the door,
and then I thought well hell they might not have liked
what they saw
but I’m not selling beercans and Italian opera and
torn stockings under the bed and dirty fingernails,
I’m selling rhyme and life and line,
and I walked over and cracked a new can of beer
and I looked at the five magazines with my name on the cover
and wondered what it meant,
wondered if we are writing poetry or all huddling in
one big tent
clasping assholes.

February 4, 2010

An indigestible misogynist pizza

Filed under: politics,raphael d'Abdon,sex — ABRAXAS @ 3:13 pm

During a recent lunch break I decide to step into one of Mzansi’s most popular coffee shop/pizzeria chain restaurants, strongly determined to enjoy one of my favourite food: pizza. When the menu is eventually brought to me by a smart-looking waitress, I thank her with a sisterly smile and quickly leap to the pizza section, skipping all the other options. As I lustfully start scrolling the list though, to my shocking surprise I venture into something which suddenly captures all my attention. The pizzas included in the menu appear in fact to be named after a series of mostly male historical characters, namely (in order of appearance):

1. Mussolini (what an elegant beginning! – I think to myself)
2. Mandela (it is not specified if it is Mam’ Winnie or Madiba; though, given the dominating gender of the other pizzas in the list, I’m propelled to think it refers to the latter…)
3. Alexander
4. Gladiator
5. Zeus
6. Pharaoh
7. Cleopatra
8. Achilles

The disturbing look of this menu makes me forget for a moment about the urgent calls of my screaming stomach, deviating my thoughts to those profound socio-historical and cultural inner speculations one desperately tries to get rid of when it finally comes to a chilling break. In fact, I can’t get off my mind Mussolini’s delirious, ultra-misogynist statement “What motherhood is to woman, war is to man!”.

Eish! – I think once more to myself.

For professional reasons, in recent times I have been travelling extensively around Italy (the unquestioned wonderland of pizza) and lived there for relatively long periods. Inevitably, I slowly started to appreciate some very few aspects of the local culture, the first of them being certainly pizza!!! So, without risking to sound cocky, I can claim to have a consistent fieldwork experience with that funny world populated by clay ovens, bread, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and frequently pissed-off indigenous pizzaioli (pizza makers). Yes, after thorough grass root research on the topic, now I am not only a pizza lover, but also ‘a certified pizza expert’! Being, apart from that, also a young woman and a creative writer who feels the need for a long-awaited womanization and Africanization (and thus de-fascistization) of both our local and global societies, I thus feel pushed to recommend two alternative naming-strategies for the menu under scrutiny. This is intended mainly to supply the poor job done so far by the creative team of the prominent coffee shop/restaurant brand.

The first suggestion, driven exclusively by a call for good taste, is to replace the eight names currently proposed with the ones Italians themselves adopt to describe the food they have popularized around the globe. The menu would hence sound something like:

1. Margherita (instead of Mussolini)
2. Capricciosa (i.o. Mandela)
3. Quattro stagioni (i.o. Alexander)
4. Romana (i.o. Gladiator)
5. Primavera (i.o. Zeus)
6. Quattro formaggi (i.o. Pharaoh)
7. Pugliese (i.o. Cleopatra)
8. Marinara (i.o. Achilles)

But if, being creative, one wants to insist in providing a defamiliarizing, eye-stomach-and-butt kickin’ menu, here comes my second free-of-charge piece of advice: to substitute the existing names with other historical figures, which would indeed envisage a landscape shaped along the above suggested feminist guidelines. The list would therefore appear as follows:

1. Tina Modotti (inspiring Italian feminist artist) vs Mussolini (grotesque Italian fascist dictator)
2. Miriam Makeba (contemporary African female icon) vs Mandela (contemporary African male icon)
3. Sappho (Greek funky poetry shero) vs Alexander (Greek bloody war hero)
4. Gogo (old-school African extreme survivor) vs Gladiator (old-school Italian extreme wrestler)
5. Athena (benevolent Greek goddess) vs Zeus (vengeful Greek god)
6. Nandi (ancient female African leader) vs Pharaoh (ancient male African leader)
7. Cleopatra can stay right there where she is!!!
8. Saartjie Baartman (African epic shero) vs Achilles (Greek epic hero)

(NOTE: by the way: pizza is a feminine noun in the Italian language!)

To come to the end of this urban adventure: after glancing at such an unappetizing compilation of pizzas my hunger for exotic European food vanished like dew on a summer morning, to be replaced by a sudden lust for a well-cooked, soulful, traditionally named African dish.

Advertising is about creating desires, hence brand strategists in South Africa should be aware of how they commercialise products in a country that is ever so globally conscious. I imagine if this menu was to land in any Italian table, the brand would certainly be legally persecuted for eulogising a crime (i.e fascism). While naming any consumer product after a dictator (Mussolini) companies should take responsibility for their actions. What would be next? A car named ‘Turbo Pinochet’? Or soap called ‘Die Groot Krokodile’?

Young, sharp-minded women constitute a relevant and fast-growing segment of South African markets, and they are out there with wide open eyes, ears and hearts! For now, herstory records that an amateurial marketing campaign caused a notorious chain restaurant the loss of a potential customer who, conversely, moved to the next corners’ food stall and munched with indescribable pleasure at a rich plate of mama’s pap and morogo!

Georgine Eliot

October 14, 2009

the beauty of spoken word: raphael d’abdon interviewed by the guardian

Filed under: literature,poetry,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 6:55 pm


October 12, 2009

natalia molebatsi and raphael d’abdon thrill abuja

Filed under: literature,natalia molebatsi,poetry,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 2:57 pm


October 9, 2009

The Barack Obama dub

Filed under: raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 3:20 pm

“Contrary to the rumors that you’ve heard, I was not born in a manger.

I was actually born on Krypton and sent here to save the planet Earth”

– Barack H. Obama

So here we are with the most handsome superhero

Who’ll save the world and catch the culprits of ground zero

But me I don’t buy this cheap and vulgar propaganda

Set up by cheaters sit in Washington and London

Nothing but answers is what I would like to obtain

To sweep away some killing doubts outta my brain

So here I come with five straight questions just for you

Please take you time and try to be for real and true:

Are you the guy who does sincerely hold the power

Or are you just another smartly dressed liar?

Are you exercising a real, effective influence

Or are you a puppet in the devil’s filthy hands?

Are you the savior of the brothers on the street

Or just the butler of the masters of Wall Street?

Are you a Moses who will lead us outta Egypt

Or, as they say, are you a big giant deceit?

Are you in the office to relieve poor people’s shoulders

Or are you there to push ahead the new world order?

King of the world is your official middle name

Although we know there’s an elite who rules the game

You said we can, you promised change, and raised our hope

But after voting what I’ve seen is just no dope

Your courteous poets praise the blackness of the banks

Barack forgive me, I’m not aligned into their ranks

Before I leave allow me just a tiny advice

One small suggestion about which you should think twice

Shut down the fed and drop the debt of your great nation

Interest-free money’s the only key to emancipation

So dear Barack of edgy queries you have a list

Answer to them and please don’t call me a pessimist

I’m just a poet with a strong distaste for tricks

So contradict me and prove I’m a just a lunatic

But till the day I’ll see capitulate the fed

I’ll stay convinced that I am not at all misled

July 18, 2009

on the grey vs. zakes match

Filed under: literature,raphael d'Abdon,zakes mda — ABRAXAS @ 9:59 am


hey aryan,

i just received a call from The Greatest. he said he heard about the zakes mda – stephen grey’s skirmish, and he called an immediate press conference. According to reliable sources, this is what he said to the journalists:

steve’s tactics was hit-and-run
he got a black eye in one

his words were slimy like glue
his face was swollen in two

gray thought him smarter than z
he threw the towel in three!

muhammad ali, “The First Heavy Weight Champion of Rap”

July 16, 2009

raphael d’abdon on Masaru Emoto’s Water Crystals and The Healing Power of Spoken Word: A Partnership Perspective.

Filed under: literature,philosophy,poetry,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 4:58 am

Abstract: Starting from Masaru Emoto’s empirical findings on the harmonising and re-balancing effects that sweet musical melodies, printed positive words and evocative photographic images have over the structure of water crystals, this paper aims at expanding the fields of applications of his theory beyond music, the written word and photography. Applying partnership theories to the comparative study of water crystals, written and oral texts, the article suggests that ‘conscious’ spoken word (an oral poetic genre which combines harmonious melodies and positive messages) could be considered an additional potential agent to promote water harmonisation, and thus self and collective healing.

Wish me love a wishing well
To kiss and tell
A wishing well of butterfly tears
Wish me love a wishing well
To kiss and tell
A wishing well of crocodile cheers

Terence Trent d’Arby



In the course of my career as a researcher and in my personal spiritual and artistic journey, I have been most blessed to study, work and perform closely with many individuals who revere the knowledge that comes from indigenous cultures. There is no better way to express my love and gratitude to those people than making the words of Louis Stevens mine:

I’ve witnessed extraordinary healings and methods of communicating with the elements that radically challenged my university-bred beliefs about the nature of reality and gave me insight into the possibilities that I’d been trained to screen out by my traditional Western education (Emoto 2004: 185).

One of the fundamental lessons I have learned from shamans and poets like Habiba, Grand Mother Sara, Lance Henson, Apirana Taylor and Credo Mutwa is that water plays a pivotal role in their extraordinary teachings. But shamans are not the only teachers who consider water the central element in the life of our planet. Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto is acknowledged worldwide as the forerunner of the studies on the “mystical” essence and powers of water within the scientific community. It was Prof. Antonella Riem who first presented to me Emoto’s theories on water crystals, and the effects that different kind of stimulations have on the molecular structure of those crystals. In this article I will apply Emoto’s findings to my main field of research (the art of spoken word) and hence attempt to suggest that well-textured spoken word is a form of artistic oral communication with an innate power of healing. First, I will present the core principles of Emoto’s theory on the healing effects that positive inputs have on water. Next, I will look at some of the features of the so-called spoken word (or “open mic”) sessions and, on the base of Emoto’s experimental results, I will examine the possible positive influence spoken word can have over audiences. In conclusion, I will examine comparatively how the culture of partnership envisaged by Emoto and the conscious spoken word artist “resounds” with the multiversal partnership cosmological vision theorized in 21st century physics.


The healing effects of “conscious” spoken word

Starting from Dr Emoto’s theories on water, this article attempts at suggesting that ‘conscious’ spoken word art can be considered as an excellent factor to positively influence people’s mind and bodies. When one looks at a beautiful picture or landscape, listens to nice music or, as in the case under scrutiny in this article, takes part at a spoken word (or “open mic”) poetry session, one feels relieved and peaceful. He/she feels his own self purified and healed.
Emoto’s experiments show how water improves or deteriorate according to the information one offers to it. Since the human body is composed by 70% of water, Emoto agreeably argues that human beings are highly affected by the quality of the information they take in. In accordance with this vision, the aim of this article is to point out that when an individual is exposed to conscious spoken word, which provides positive information (text) and good “vibes” (music), he/she can improve his own health and state of mind.

In the pictures included in his works, Emoto shows how water displays different shapes of ice crystals: their structure changes its quality according to the information it has received.
Water samples stored in glass bottles respond to positive information – such as delicate, loving words, phrases, pictures, music – by forming beautiful hexagonal (1) crystals. In contrast, water exposed to negative inputs never forms any elegant crystal. Water seems to correctly understand and “absorb” the essence of what it is exposed to. It does not only recognize the word or the picture for its shape: influenced by the electromagnetic fields generated by the stimulating objects it understands their meanings. The corollary of Emoto’s core theory on crystals formation is that

water is sensitive to a subtle form of energy called hado. It is this form of energy that affects the quality of water and the shape in which the crystals form. […] I use hado to mean all the subtle energy that exists in the universe. All existing things have vibrations, or hado. This energy is often positive or negative and is easily transmitted to other existing things (Emoto, 2003: 21).

This statement is confirmed by Icke in his comparative study on what he calls “open-minded real science” and the knowledge of ancient civilizations:

Magnetic energy absorbs information and everything is magnetic-electrical energy […] one physical world expression of this energy is what we call electromagnetism. Some true scientists (Emoto, ndr) have suggested that water has a memory and they have performed experiments to prove it. There is no mystery in this at all, much as mainstream science is aghast to it. Water exists, it is magnetic energy/consciousness, therefore it has a memory. Everything does. It is magnetism, a vibratory resonance and attraction, that allow us to create our own reality in every moment of our lives. Like vibrations attract vibrations and like energy fields attract energy fields. (Icke, 1996: 84)

These theoretical assumptions vividly recall the findings of physicists-philosophers such as Albert Einstein and Fritjof Capra, and stand at the core of 21st century cutting-edge physics (to which I will return in the conclusive notes of this article). More significantly, they share the life views of all the major spiritual teachings of different ‘indigenous’ cultures. Hado is thus a form of energy whose basic principles are “vibration and resonance” (Emoto: 2003: 25). For Emoto the three words that fully encapsulate the power of hado are frequency, resonance and similarity (Emoto 2006: 30 – 32):

The entire universe is vibrating at a particular and unique frequency. Frequency can be modelled as waves, a fact easily supported by quantum mechanics. All matters is frequency as well as particles […] everything is vibrating, and vibrating at a unique and individual frequency. But that is still not all, for the words we speak, the words we write […] all emit their own frequencies as well. Resonance is made possible when there is a sender of hado information and a receiver of the information. A Japanese expression “aun no kokyu”, or “in-breath and out-breath”, means a state where subtle synchronization occurs when we do things together. This also refers to a relationship between a sender and a receiver. (Emoto 2006: 30 – 32, my italics).

This is actually what a spoken word session is all about. In an open mic session the aim is to create an environment of deep emotional and spiritual complicity between the performers on stage (senders of hado energy) and the audience (receivers of hado energy). Furthermore, in the African oral tradition the exchange of positive energy between the poet(s) and the audience is never unilateral (from poet to audience) but is rather a “circular dance” where audience and performer(s) meet in a feeling of intense reciprocity. In a spoken word session the active participation of the listeners (articulated in whistles of joy, moans of pleasure, loud laughs, ululations, hand clapping, screams of appreciation, etc.) is a constituent part of any performance. Unlike in Western poetry readings, with African audiences there is no emotional separation between the performer on stage and the crowd. They are actually as one, and through the “circular exchange” of hado they mutually energize each other (2). This is possible because people and the environment are all connected vibrationally and what happens to one influences them all. They each vibrate to a different “note” (wavelength), but all notes are part of the same “tune” (electromagnetic field). The ‘good vibes’ the spoken word artists broadcast, positively affect the energy field around them. When at a poetry session one says “there’s a good atmosphere”, he/she is actually using a metaphor to describe the energy field of a particular location, of an energy field created by the positive thoughts, the vibes and the words of the participants.

Many scientific disciplines (including physics and musicology) have shown that when two objects have the same frequency they resonate with each other. For Emoto: “our mind and body are affected by this, depending on what intrinsic vibration we resonate with. In human relations, we often say that we are or are not on the same wavelength with someone” (Emoto: 2003: 23). Words like these sound familiar to spoken word sessions goers who, in order to express appreciation for the art they are exposed to, often use similar expressions, such as “I feel the groove”, “There’s a good vibe” or “This guy goes with the flow”.

In other words, following Emoto’s suggestions, I argue that music and human voice (and the combination of them, as in the spoken word art) have an intrinsic wave. Due to this, when spoken word artists craft ‘conscious art’ (i.e. a when they are able to deliver a powerful combination of well-textured poetry and effective stage skills) (3), they offer the audience something that goes beyond the mere artistic performance. They actually heal the audience because they have the ability to send the right kind of “vibes” and thus correct the listeners’ unbalanced vibrational patterns.

The hado medicine practiced by Emoto utilizes the technique of cancelling the harming characteristics of a certain wave by overlaying an opposite wave shape. The application of this principle applied to music (which is one of the pillars of music therapy) has been substantiated by the experiments conducted by Yamasaki, reported in Emoto (Emoto: 2003: 26-7). When human bodies (and thus water) are stimulated with positive inputs, they undergo a process of in-depth purification: “The hado water created in this manner penetrates into the molecules, atoms and subatomic particles that make up the person’s body, and stops the disturbances of the vibration” (Emoto 2003: 28-9). Hence, felicitous words, spoken in a delightful way, have the capacity to purify water, and thus people’s body and soul: they activate the primordial energies of human body at the very subatomic level. Using a metaphor, one could say that they make the subtle matter we are made of ‘dance’ to the diverse musical rhythms of poetry (funk, blues, jazz, hip hop, dub), thus awakening the matter’s innate self-healing powers:

A human body is said to consist of 60 trillions cells. As these cells fulfil their roles harmoniously, we can live our life healthily. Not only these cells but also molecules, atoms and subatomic particles have their own intrinsic vibration. When all vibrations go well, our body, as their composite, can work as beautifully as a great orchestra. If a disturbance occurs in a vibration, it creates a discord, and we can not expect to play beautiful music (Emoto: 2003: 35-36).

Whoever has participated (either as a poet or in the audience) at a funky open mic session knows the feeling of relief, lightness and ease resulting from the exposure to harmonious poetic melodies. This is hardly to happen when you attend “rap battles” which, as the name discloses, are harsh verbal confrontations in which the contenders are more committed to destroy their opponent’s egos than to create the jazzy, smooth and relaxing atmosphere one breaths during a nice spoken word gig (4). So spoken word sessions have the ability to make audience feel at ease with themselves and their surroundings, i.e. to heal emotional and physical dis-ease which, according to Emoto, “is the result of vibrational disturbance at the subatomic-particle level, triggering the disturbance at the atomic level, which in turn causes the disturbance at the molecular level, then the cellular level, and finally at the level of organs.” (Emoto 2003: 86)

By qualifying conscious spoken word artists as “healers” one also attempts to stress the bonds that link today’s urban poets to their ancestors. As a matter of fact healers were (and are) gifted individuals deeply involved in spiritual knowledge, such as priests, shamans and poets (roles which often overlap). As their ancestors did in the past, even today’s spoken word artists can help people heal and attain peace of mind as they contribute the people’s resonance with dis-ease diminish or cease.

According to tsistsistas poet and shaman Lance Henson, a poem is of good quality when it contains at least one powerful image per verse. Thus good poetry (written and oral) is so when it is able to provide the reader/listener a well-textured sequence of touching images. This concept is a pivotal one in Emoto’s research on water and serves the purpose of proving the power of spoken word as a healing force. For Emoto: “we can expect to live our life smoothly. This can be materialized only after an image is formed. The image I am discussing here […] is a form of positive information. As we repeat the information with strong words, water will naturally help us.” (Emoto 2003: 100, my italics). Yet, repetition and parallelism are basic patterns of traditional African oral poetry and still form the textual structure of most contemporary spoken word art. This implies that not only the message contained in the poems, but also the way poems are composed and delivered to the audience, are essential features of the healing power of spoken word. Spoken word is usually characterized by the length of the poems performed: in a standard gig the poet recites (and sings) for several minutes, loudly vocalizing a harmonious flow of melodies and words, creating a solemn atmosphere around him/her. This aspect is a crucial one, since for Emoto this “gives off a stronger hado than writing [words] on paper” (Emoto 2003: 100). Evidence of the healing power of repeated, loudly vocalized chants over the mind and the body can be found in many religious praying practices, one of the most famous being the ritual mantra “Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” sung by Hindus before and during purification practices.

According to this vision, conscious spoken word can be seen as an adaptation of ancient, well-tested healing practices, crafted to successfully address the dis-eased masses (especially the youth) in 21st century urbanized, “globalized” world. Conscious spoken word purifies the soul of listeners and performers because of the harmonious vibes it transmits, temporarily allowing one’s thoughts to release the warped feelings and emotions (fear, grudge, anger, worry, apathy, guilt, etc.) that form a block between the spirit and the body. Taking again Veda philosophy as a subject for comparison, spoken word poetic ‘rituals’ recall the process of purification one undergoes during yoga meditation practices, whose ultimate goal is to cleanse the seven chakras (situated along the axis of human body) from negative feelings. Left aside the mystique attached to the number seven, I wish to recall that these seven chakras correspond to the seven bodily endocrines centres. As Henry writes: “an endocrine gland is one that secrets chemical substances (hormones) directly into the blood stream. Scientists have discovered that this system can be tuned to resonate at specific frequencies or tones […] This endocrine system is the ‘conduit’ between the earthly and heavenly tunes” (Henry 2003: 42, my italics). Again, the passage above seems to support my assumption that spoken word art that delivers positive flowing melodies to listeners can be conceived as an effective healing force for soul and body. In other words, during a spoken word session the spectator restores his/her imbalanced vibrational patterns by resonating with the harmonious energies produced by the spoken word artists. Balancing the essence within the spectators with the essence of conscious wordsmiths places the molecules of water which permeates the participants’ bodies (as well as the environment in which this “energetic exchange” takes place) in harmony, in scale (key) “with the flow”.

This article aims also at suggesting new fields of application for Emoto’s experiments with crystal waters. In Emoto’s works in fact one finds several references to water exposure to music (and related images), but the type of music selected for the documented experiments includes only classic and heavy metal (5). For the purpose of this article, I suggest to expand the list of music used for experiments to other genres such as, amongst others, funk, hip hop, jazz and reggae/dub. Since I believe in the validity of Dr Emoto’s theories, I presume that funk tracks like James Brown’s “I got you (I feel good)”, hip hop masterpieces such as Erykah Badu’s “I want you”, jazz melodies like Billie Holiday’s “Autumn in New York” and reggae classics such as Bob Marley’s “Natural mystic” could predictably have very positive influence on the water crystals’ structure because of the hado of their positive trait. Obviously, the list of music genres and songs which could enhance water purification is virtually endless. What I suggest is that, by extension, Emoto’s view on the healing effects of positive music and words can apply to the spoken word art since, as Molebatsi and d’Abdon point out (Molebatsi and d’Abdon 2007), spoken word is a form of artistic expression which is founded upon the inextricable interface between poetry and music. Spoken word artists are both poets and musicians and their art resides in a unique territory in-between poetry and music.

In addition to being art and providing entertainment, music has healing effects and has the ability to boost the body immune system. This statement is substantiate by scientific literature, but above all by our everyday life experience. But what makes music so powerful when it comes down to look for a cheap and easy-to-obtain medicine for our bodies and souls? For Emoto this happen because the water in our body is healed by listening to the music. Good music reaches every one of our sixty trillion cells […] In the medical field, there are more and more physicians who incorporate ‘music therapy’ into their practice. They say that having the patient listen to music accelerates the recovery process. I am a supporter of this therapy. If the music makes water happy, it must positively affect our cells, which are made up of water. (Emoto 2003: 123-4)


Emoto also reports the successful experiments of neurosurgeon Dr Shibuya, initiator of the “sound-energy therapy”, “a method to cure various diseases by using the hado of voice” (Emoto 2003: 124-5). With his therapy Dr Shibuya basically seeks, through a person’s voice, to find a sound to correct disturbed frequencies. This seems to be a scientific corroboration of the expression ‘I feel the vibe’ employed by listeners of a graceful spoken word artist in action. In other words, by absorbing the waves coming from the voice, the words and the music of a conscious spoken word artist, the water which forms 70% of the listener’s body is empowered to produce the quantum leap which generates ease (and thus purification and self-healing from dis-ease). Stimulated, as it is in the “modern world”, by negative inputs, human consciousness (and subconscious) has become repository of unresolved emotional distress, which must be healed if one is to achieve the vibrational leap that many people are currently embarked upon: the quantum jump to a new state of consciousness. The same concept of a ‘conscious’ individual (as theorized, amongst others, by Biko (6)) is a pivotal one to comprehend the above-cited notion of quantum leap. When artists qualify as ‘conscious artists’, this means that people recognize their words and music as capable of producing a leap, i.e. a positive change in listeners’ consciousness (and subconscious). This, by extension, heals their souls and body.

This notion does not come in a void but underlies, for instance, the whole ancient tradition of alchemy. Alchemic theories state that something must be activated within the human body, which will enable the individual to make oneself over into a go(l)d. This is the meaning of the myth of the Philosopher’s stone. What this tradition reveals is that one of the hidden abilities of the human biological transformational apparatus is the creation of, or ability to flow go(l)d. If correctly activated the human body can generate a field force of love, a tone, a vibration. As Fulcanelli points out:

The secret of alchemy is that there exists a means of manipulating matter and energy so as to create what modern science calls a force field. This force field acts upon the observer and puts him in a privileged position in relation to the universe. From this privileged position he has access to realities that space and time, matter and energy, normally conceal from us. This is what we call the Great Work (Johnson 1980: 263).

For the specific purpose of this article I would like to add: this is what I call a Great Poetic Work. In fact the excerpt above is nothing but a scientific description of comments one hears at spoken word sessions such as: ‘there’s a good chemistry here tonight’. It also supports what Henson says about (good) poetry, i.e. that poetry is one of the highest form of inspired knowledge because it is channelled through the poet by higher levels of perceptions. According to him and to all indigenous peoples’ traditions, poets possess the gift of accessing inspired thoughts which appear to be their own, but actually come from a higher level of consciousness, higher dimensions of themselves and reality. In order to continue to exercise this privilege, poets constantly strive to keep their spirit clean from negative influences. Conversely, one can speculate that most people have forgotten the ability everyone potentially has of accessing these higher dimensions because the mind and consciousness of “modern” individuals are often destabilized by cancerous feelings such as fear, guilt and resentment that inhibit one’s ability to fully develop spiritually and physically. During spoken word sessions the poets bridge this gap, by reconnecting people’s souls to forgotten spiritual dimensions.

Emoto dedicates several sections of his works to the healing power of positive spoken word (7). Ultimately, Emoto’s research sees purification of water(s) through written word, music and other means as a vehicle to push forward a much called-for healing of individuals, the environment and the whole planet (“perhaps pollution of the water is nothing more than the pollution of the human soul”. Emoto 2006: preface). Emoto’s is a true vision of “partnership”, as theorized by North American anthropologist Riane Eisler (Eisler 1987) since, as he claims: “we must use the power within us to keep our thoughts focused on the good around us and not on the forces of destruction” (Emoto 2006: 9). By praising love, gratitude, beauty and purity transmitted through diverse communicative languages Emoto aims at creating a clean environment, liberated from those negative energies that prevent individual and planetary evolution to fully express their innate, unlimited potentials (INSERT FIGURE 2 HERE). One of Emoto’s fundamental lessons is the need to purify our language by eliminating from our vocabulary words that bring forth negativity and confrontation (typical of ‘dominator models’) through the exclusive use of words of love and harmony (‘partnership model’). An identical process of “detoxification” of everyday written and spoken language from words of ‘domination’ is advocated by the theorists of partnership applied to linguistics and literature (Bortoluzzi 2007; Ramaswamy 2007). This process is actually set into motion by conscious spoken word artists who, in their most accomplished works and during their performances, mould texts and music around positive words and images.

In Emoto’s texts we do not found explicit references to the art of spoken word, as a 21st century urban, poetic-musical genre. However, by praising the positive effect conscious speech has over water, he indirectly substantiates the healing nature of this art, which can be considered one of the most harmonious expressions of contemporary mouth-to-ear communication:

One way to look at words is to consider them the switch for turning on or off the vibration of everything in the universe […] Humans are the only animals capable of using words, and this allows us to align our wavelength with anything and everything that exists in the universe. And it’s instantaneous. […] The ability of spoken word to give life is much more powerful than we can imagine”. (Emoto 2006: 21-23, my italics)


Making peace with water: storytelling, shamanism, peace, music, poetry and water

In a highly evocative passage in The Secret Life of Water Emoto quotes a poetic story told by an aboriginal shaman from Australia. In this tale the principle of contamination of water (and, by extension, of people, the environment and the universe) through exposure to negative feelings is magnificently expressed in the metaphorical style of aboriginal storytelling (8) (Emoto 2006: 117-120). Both the aboriginal shaman’s story and Emoto’s scientific experiments show how information is copied into water. However, so-called ‘orthodox’ scientists often ridicule researchers who recur to the words and teachings of ‘non-scientists’, like shamans, to substantiate their theories. This narrow and extremely out-to-date view is a by-product of the claustrophobic methodology of ‘official science’ which categorically labels as ‘unscientific’ (and hence unworthy of attention) all theoretical works produced outside the box of academic publishing. This conservative approach underestimate the fact that the same history of science shows that what is commonly accepted as the only acceptable ‘scientific truth’ in a given historical period, is regularly dismissed as obsolete in the periods that follow. This means that there is nothing like an ‘official truth’. I believe that the present age is one of enormous changes and transformation at various levels: this urges scientific researchers to venture more and more into territories others from ‘orthodox science’. The latter is insufficient to explain the complexities of the multi-dimensional world(s) we live in. In other words, the history of ancient civilizations (which were indeed much more technologically advanced than ours) graphically shows that not everything can be understood by mere research or ‘science’. This is nothing but the great lie lying behind the matrix of the rationalistic/positivistic Western science. The works of open-minded scientists like Emoto (and many others) and the words of shamans and poets must thus be considered as serious as any other ‘scientific’ finding. More significantly, as the collection of essays The Healing Power of Water evidences, a constructive approach to research must see all these fields of knowledge not as mutually exclusive, but rather as complementary. The combination of ‘orthodox’ and ‘alternative’ science(s) is what generates progress, not the stubborn and illogical defence of one vision at the expense of all the others (9). The overcoming of this binary methodological partition is also one of the guide-principles of partnership-oriented methodological research, and this essay is an attempt to proceed in that direction.

Like the myths and tales of other indigenous traditions, those told by Eric, the Aboriginal shaman above cited, are rich in truths about reality, the universe and the way in which we should live a fully rewarding and harmonious life:

For our ancestors, fantasy, science, and theology were all one and the same. And the way to pass on the truths of the world to future generations was through stories. Such stories were based on an understanding of the invisible laws that govern the visible world. The advanced medical practitioners were the shamans who preyed for and healed the afflicted. (Emoto 2006: 121)

From Eric’s tale we learn that “water must always flow” (Emoto 2006: 121). When the flow stops water (and thus life) gets rotten, sick and eventually perishes. This is another metaphor that fits well in the description of a spoken word session. When, as reported above, we hear someone from the audience saying “this guy goes with the flow”, we are simply told that the performing poet is creating a flux of positive energy that permeates the venue, reaching the deepest corners of the soul of the listeners. In his books Emoto insists on the fact that for water to be “in good health”, it must flow freely, unconstrained (or, if constrained by necessity, it must be healed through stimulation with positive inputs). Life is in circulation, in movement, not in stagnation (10) and when the flow is stopped negative energy is likely to take over.

Somebody said: “you don’t fight for freedom, you peace for freedom”. As a promoter of partnership I fully subscribe to this point of view. This means that on one hand one must honour the achievements of yesterday and today’s freedom fighters. Countless celebrated and unsung heroes and ‘sheores’ in world history have dedicated all their existence to the goal of culturally and socially emancipating people from mental and economic slavery. Many of them have sacrificed their own life to achieve this noble goal and must be eternally praised for that. On the other hand however, in 21st century, I believe that armed struggle is an unfruitful strategy for liberating people from today’s multilevel forms of oppression. Today is time for “freedom peacers” to keep their ancestors’ legacy alive, through new means of resistance. The lessons coming from partnership scholars, conscious artists and activists and a growing number of open-minded scientists and thinkers is that positive thoughts, actions and words (rather than gunpowder) might be the most effective tools to be adopted in today’s “peace for freedom”. This is what the recurrent expression of “quantum leap” recorded in the present essay is all about. It is about a transformation of individual and global consciousness to be pursued at personal and collective level. This transformation, this r-evolution, can not be achieved with rifles. It can be achieved only if one liberates his/her own mind, soul and everyday acting from enslaving negative thoughts such as fear, grudge, vengeance, guilt and the likes and substitutes them with love, care, cooperation and gratitude. As film maker David Lynch properly states: “if we want world peace what we need is more and more people in peace with themselves”. Scientists, shamans and conscious artists whose work is comparatively analyzed in this article are showing a possible path to follow. Once one understands this, the possibility to fully express one’s own innate talents and live a potentially unlimited life comes at hand. It becomes a matter of everyday small but extremely significant choices, which indeed could have enormous positive (or negative) repercussions on individual lives and the environment. Partnership theories state that the choice is in our hands, and has always been so, even if religions, politics, mass media and other ‘dominator’, mind-controlling, dogmatic institutions tell us the opposite. As reported in Henry, a shaman from Yucatan who had researched Mayan temples for decades describes the symbol of the black sun, “a hallmark of Mayan teaching”. In the shaman’s words the black sun “is the black mirror of humanity. In it we see our reflection and decide if we are going to use the power of our spoken word to create love […] or fear […] in our worlds” (Henry 2003: 82, my italics). This idea of “small changes which produce The Big Change” is poetically expressed both by hip hop scholar, poet and philosopher KRS One (11), and late North American comedian Bill Hicks, who describes life as follows:

It’s like a ride in an amusement park and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, round and round, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly coloured and very loud. And it’s fun for a while. Some have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question: Is this real or is just a ride? And other people have remembered and they come back to us and they say: Hey, don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride. And we kill those people. Shut him up! We’ve got a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my bank account, and my family. This has to be real. It’s just a ride. But we always kill those guys who try to tell us that. Have you ever noticed that? And we let demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter because it’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s just a choice. No effort, no job, no savings of money. A choice right now between fear and love. (Icke: 1996: 77, my italics)


Many ‘orthodox’ scientists and literary critics dismiss Emoto’s theories and the “street art” of spoken word respectively, by labelling both as “unscientific”. As Hicks states, they attempt to “shut their voice up” by excluding them from “official scientific publications”. However, as this article attempts to show, these conservative attitudes are today questioned by a growing ‘critical mass’ of academics, conscious artists and ‘free thinkers’ who cherish the re-emergence of a subtle energy that is re-awakening human consciences, and therefore re-harmonising the communities. This re-emergence of “female” energy has been symbolised by many shamans, astronomers, human sciences scholars and conscious artists as ‘the return of the goddess’. Zulu sanusi Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa masterfully summed up this universal process of transformation of consciousnesses in the opening tale of his epic Indaba My Children, titled “The Spawn of the Dragon”. In this mythological story Mutwa recalls the legend of Marimba (12), the Goddess of Music, who was not only the undisputed and much loved guide of her people, but also a dispensator of harmony, a universal healer, creator of unity and peace and inventor of melodies and musical instruments. Literally: a creatrix of harmonies (Mutwa 1966: 1 – 47). As South African spoken word artist Napo Masheane affirms, today’s conscious poets are the living messengers of these ancestral voices (13) and, like Marimba, they too are committed in the demanding task of creating harmony(ies) through their poetry and music. This lead us to the conclusive, summarizing considerations on water, cutting-edge science and spoken word. These issues will be addressed with more precision in the paragraphs that follow.


Resonating with the Multiverse. Spoken word art and the “M” theory

In a crucial passage of his study on science, ancient symbols and world mythologies, Henry recalls that:

21st century science tell us the fundamental building blocks of reality are vibrating “strings”, an idea that the ancients appear to have been familiar with. String theory is the idea that all matter is made out of tiny loops of vibrating strings. How does this work? Atoms are made from electrons and the nucleus which if split consists of many other particles. These particles are made of quarks. In string theory quarks and electrons are nothing but tiny loops of vibrating strings. Simply put, superstring theory says that all particles and forces are manifestations of different resonances of tiny one-dimensional string (or possibly membranes) vibrating in ten dimensions. They are so small our science and technology cannot detect them. Superstring theory further postulates that there are two types of strings: strings with a clockwise vibration […] and strings with a counterclockwise vibration […]. Clockwise spirals symbolize water, power and energy. The counterclockwise spirals […] resembles a foetus. Through the vibrations of the strings the attributes of elementary particles like mass, spin or charge and the four elementary forces arise: the electromagnetic force, the weak force (radioactive decay), the strong force (holds the nucleus together) and gravitation. It is the Grand Unifying Theory of Everything. (Henry 2003: 115 – 116, my italics).

Henry refers to the studies of physicists such as – amongst others – Paul J. Steinhardt, Neil Turok (14), Brain Greene (15), Michael Duff (16) Lisa Randall (17) and Michio Kaku (18) whose studies represent the edge of contemporary ‘orthodox’ physics. Pure, simple, noble and elementary, the early “strings” and “superstrings” theories formulated by these physicists dealt with the distribution of the matter in the universe. In strings theory matter is emanated by vibrating strings, like music is. One can compare these strings to the strings of a cello, or a guitar (or even to the keys of a marimba): if one strums the string in a certain way one obtains a certain frequency, but if one shifts position on the same string one obtains different frequencies. This is how the various chords are born. According to this theory all nature is composed by small music notes played on some sort of “superstrings”. The invisible strings of this theory represent the foundation (“soundation”) of all matter of the universe. These assumptions led these physicists to speculate that the universe is a symphony and the laws of physics are the harmonies sung on a “superstring”. When Randall postulated the existence of an 11th dimension (Randall: 2005) though, strings started to transform. Physicists in fact demonstrated that the 11th dimension is a dimension populated by an infinite array of membranes of different shapes, each one of whom could be a universe of its own: this means that reality is the sum of infinite multiverses (or parallel universes). The theory of the parallel universes, also called “Membrane theory” or “M theory”, states that all matter is connected in a vast structure, an intricate membrane of energy. Hence, the multiverses that compose reality are the combination of ever-changing, vibrating membranes each one of whom is a complete universe on its own. What classic science has so far described as “uni-verse” is indeed a membrane which expands in the empty space of the 11th dimension, together with other universes-membranes. For the purpose of this article, I observe that the fascinating aspect of this theories is that they speak of an ever-changing, harmonious reality that exists within and beyond physical laws. The core message of these theories becomes thus accessible also to someone who is not familiar with the complex languages of physics. The same scientists cited above agree upon the fact that when the mathematical study of reality is pushed to its limits, it inevitably enters into the realm of what could be called “fantasy”. This is why, in their words (18), the “M” in “M theory” stands for “Membrane” but can also stand for “Magic”, “Mystery”, “Music”, “Mother” (“The mother of all energy”), “Majesty” (“The majesty of an all-embracing theory”), “Madness” (The madness a theory that defies common sense”), or “Marvel” (“The marvel of a universe founded upon coherent and elegant laws”, as advocated by Einstein). The theory of the “parallel universes” is of extreme interest because it surprisingly admits the existence of scientifically unexplainable “truths”. Indeed its relevance lies in the fact that it implicitly reconciles the most advanced Western science with ancient shamanic and mythological knowledge. In this space of ultimate cosmological “partnership” amongst elements, human life, water, music, energy, birth, re-birth and all other (good and bad) manifestations of creation are not seen as separated, accidental phenomena, but as constituently interconnected parts of borderless, multiversal “cosmic dances” of membranes in perpetual motion. In ancient times this phenomenon has been symbolically described in Hindu mystical tradition with the image of the dancing Goddess. Once physics has proved that everything in our “universe” (and in the infinite parallel ones, unperceivable by human senses) is inextricably interconnected, we can approach similarly-grounded Emoto’s theories and the assumption brought forward in this essay with a less sceptical eye. Healing takes place when we purify our body (made by 70-75% of water) and soul and thus achieve to “get tuned” with the cosmic vibrations exposed by the scientists of the “M theory”. From the beginnings of time meditation, poetry and music have been the ‘rituals’ performed by humankind to attain these goals, and shamans, poets and storytellers have been the healers charged with the crucial task of preserving them and eventually handing them down to future generations. For a researcher in the field of spoken word (specifically South African spoken word), fascinated by the physical and meta-physical scientific discoveries reported above, there is also another intriguing element of mystique attached to the whole idea of the “M theory”.

Masheane, Mazwai, Motsei, Mashile, Molebatsi, Miller, Mamabolo, Manaka, Matsetela, Mabale, Madingwane, Motsemme… This is only a selected list of names of South African ‘conscious’ spoken word artists and scholars, who are frontlining artists, thinkers and activists, fully committed in the “hip hop mission” of awakening the consciousness of their (g)local society. With their ‘conscious’ message they are thus contributing to transform their communities in a “partnership” way (d’Abdon: 2007). Interesting enough (for someone who is attempting to theorize – via Emoto – that the spoken word art can heal water through the creation of harmonies that resonate with the dancing vibes of the multiverse) their names begin all with the “M” letter… Coincidental facts like this one certainly prove nothing within the framework of a scientific study. However, they strengthen my belief – at least at a sub-conscious level – that the melodies, the music, the written and spoken words that these conscious individuals are creating for themselves and their communities are somehow resounding with the dancing membranes in which the multiverse float. As a researcher, but also as a spiritual individual, I can not prevent myself to perceive this “Mysterious” piece of evidence as a manifestation of the joyous, partnership spirit of the Goddess at play.



In this “experimental” critical essay I have examined the theories of Dr Masaru Emoto on the capability of water to retain both positive and negative information. I have argued that conscious spoken word art could be a potential factor of water (and thus self, environmental and global) healing, and I have attempted to substantiate my statements through a comparative analysis of texts and theories that belong to different domains of knowledge. I am… conscious that the assumptions advanced in this article are challenging ones. Emoto’s theories might seem bizarre to the eyes of ‘orthodox’ science, and even more so when they are applied to text-oriented literary criticism. Nonetheless, the case of Dr. Fumihiko’s publication (Emoto 2003: 89-90) but especially the essays included in The Healing Power of Water, indicate that we are probably at the dawn of a new stage, even in scientific publications. Compartmentalization among different fields of knowledge seems to be fading away and a balanced interdisciplinary approach among diverse disciplines seems to be emerging. The present article is an attempt to venture into such unexplored but extremely intriguing territory.

raphael d’abdon

This text is copyleft. Anyone is free to circulate these parts of the document provided they are complete and in their current form with attribution and no payment is asked. It is prohibited to reproduce this document or any part of it for commercial gain without the prior permission of the author.



1. Emoto points out that water has a unique structure which we do not find in other elements in nature. He claims that water came on earth from other planets, and all ancient traditions agree indeed that the origins of this fascinating element are enveloped in a veil of deep mysticism. The fact that the harmonious water crystals of Emoto’s experiments show an hexagonal shape is one of the facts that give support to his mystical speculations. As we learn from ancient Chinese tradition: “six […] is the number of everything. Six is the universe’s number. The four compass points plus the zenith and the nadir are six. There are six phoenix notes and six high, six world environments, six senses, six virtues, six obligations, six classes of ideographs, six domestic animals, six arts and six paths of metempsychosis (Hong Kingston 1975: 75). A thorough scientific analysis of this topic is presented by Glas in his essay “Snow, It Has Six Edges” (Emoto 2004: 95 – 106).
2. When poetry sessions are improvised on the streets they are called “ciphers”. This definition comes from the symbol of circle in African cosmology, but I believe that its meaning resides also in the unique experience of spiritual mutual, “circular” interpenetration that happens between wordsmiths and audiences in performing poetry.
3. The definition of ‘conscious artist’ comes from the hip hop culture. It defines artist who focus on social issues without being necessarily overtly political. Themes of “conscious hip hop” music and poetry include (among others): religion; aversion to violence, leading a healthy life; the spiritual and educational advancement of the communities; the global elite, economics and politics; the history of African people(s); depictions of life in the poorest urban areas to honour the everyday struggles of ordinary people. Even though I do not like to label artists and acknowledge that the this definition can sometimes be a controversial one, for the purpose of this article I see it necessary to focus my attention only on those ‘conscious’ artists who promote a culture of partnership.
4. Through cathartic at times, since they too canalize psychophysical energy (and therefore suppressed emotions) into words, and are entertaining, rap battles are a form of oral performance often characterized by aggressive vocal tones and body gestures and rude physicality, which hardly fit into the realm of “partnership”.
5. Water exposed to classic music always show images of beautiful crystals, while water exposed to heavy metal reveals in incomplete, disharmonious crystals. In this regard, I assume that this happens for two reasons: first, because from a melodic point of view heavy metal is a kind of music characterized by a harsh juxtaposition of bombastic sounds, highly amplified distortion, penetrating guitar solos, emphatic beats and overall loudness; second, because from the point of view of the textual message, heavy metal’s lyrics are often extremely controversial. Nonetheless, unlike Emoto, I am prudent in categorizing heavy metal as an overall inappropriate music genre. I believe that labelling heavy metal as an intrinsically negative music underestimate the ‘good vibes’ transmitted by heavy metal ballads (which, on the contrary, often display lyrics of love and lovely musical harmonies). I therefore advance the hypothesis that exposing water to songs such as Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, Guns n Roses’ “Don’t cry” or Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” could possibly result in the creation of well-shaped crystals.
6. Steven Bantu Biko (1946-1977), South African thinker and political activist, initiator of the black consciousness movement. For an outlook on his theories see his classic I Write What I Like.
7. See for instance the chapter “The Relationship Between Words and Water” (Emoto 2007: 1 – 12).
8. One can find a magnificent visual example of the art of aboriginal storytelling in the 2006 Rolf de Heer’s movie Ten Canoes.
9. This interdisciplinary collection of essays edited by Emoto include the contributions of individuals coming from various fields of knowledge: intuitive healer Miranda Alcott, writer Richard Beaumont, meditation master William Bloom, physician Petra Bracht, spiritual teacher Maril Crabtree, mineralogists Maximilian Glas, kinesiologist Carrie Jost, homeopathic healers Dolly Knight and Jonathan Stromberg, dowser Sig Lonegren, sociologist of religion Elizabeth Puttick, theologian Rustum Roy, music therapist Sayama, educator Rivkah Slonim, engineers Cyril W. Smith and William A. Tiller, environmental activist Starhawk, psychotherapist Josè Luis Stevens, clairvoyant doctor Virtue, priest Alan Walker, holistic healer Darren R. Weissman and artist Terri Windling.
10. Crystals of stagnant waters (like dams’ ponds, artificial lakes, etc.) always show deformed shapes. The same happens to water and rice grains stored in bottles and ignored. For Emoto stagnation and indifference are the most devastating conditions for water. Water exposed to foul words and expressions seem to deteriorate at a slower pace than water that is ignored. For Emoto this means that we must always respect water and nourish it with positive stimulations.
11. “KRS One on Obama”. n.d. www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnCYyGih3PA&feature=related. (Consulted on 31-05-2009).
12. Marimba are traditional folk instruments of Southern Africa (xylophones and drums) named after the Goddess (Mutwa 1966: 35).
13. “I have learned to listen/to the solidness of my ancestors’ voice” (Bila, 2005: 190-191).
14. Steinhardt Paul J. & Turok Neil 2007. Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang. New York: Doubleday.
15. Greene Brian 2005. The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality. New York: Vintage Books USA.
16. Strings 2000: Proceedings Of The International Superstrings Conference University Of Michigan, Usa 10-15 July 2000. Duff Michael J., Liu James T., Lu Jianxin (eds.) 2000. Hackensack: World Scientific Publishing Company.
17. Randall Lisa 2005. Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions. New York: Harper & Collins.
18. Kaku Michio 2008. “M-Theory: The Mother of All Superstrings” in Riffing on Strings: Creative Writing Inspired by String Theory. New York: Scriblerus.
19. “Universi Paralleli”. Documentario. n.d. www.lamentemente.com/universi-paralleli (Consulted on 31-05-2009).


Bortoluzzi, Maria. 2007. Language and Partnership in David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life. In Riem Natale, Antonella, Camaiora, Maria Luisa and Dolce, Maria Renata (eds.). The Goddess Awakened. Partnership Studies in Literatures, Language and Education. 83-97. Udine: Forum.
d’Abdon, Raphael. 2007. The Partnership Spiritual Voice in The Poetry of Lebo Mashile, Natalia Molebatsi and Napo Masheane In Riem Natale, Antonella, Camaiora, Maria Luisa and Dolce, Maria Renata (eds.). The Goddess Awakened. Partnership Studies in Literatures, Language and Education. 171-190. Udine: Forum.
Eisler, Riane. 1987. The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future. San Francisco: Harper and Row.
Emoto, Masaru. 2001. The Hidden Messages in Water. Hillsboro: Beyond words.
Emoto, Masaru. 2003. The True Power of Water. Healing And Discovering Ourselves. Hillsboro: Beyond Words.
Emoto, Masaru (ed.). 2004. The Healing Power of Water. Witkoppen: Hayhouse.
Emoto, Masaru. 2006. The Secret Life of Water. Hillsboro: Beyond Words.
Emoto, Masaru. 2007. The Miracle of Water. Hillsboro: Beyond Words.
Johnson, Kenneth Rayner 1980. The Fulcanelli Phenomenon. Jersey Channel Islands: Neville Spearman.
Henry, William. 2003. The Cloak of The Illuminati. Kempton: Adventures Unlimited
Icke, David. 1996. I Am Me I Am Free. The Robot’s Guide to Freedom. Cambridge: Bridge of Love.
Masheane, Napo. 2002. Shikamoo. in Bila, Vonani and Nghalaluma Wisani (eds.). Timbila 2002. A Journal of Onion Skin Poetry. Elim Hospital: Timbila Poetry.
Molebatsi Natalia and d’Abdon Raphael. 2007. From Poetry to Floetry. Music’s Influence in the Spoken Word Art of Young South Africa. In Muziki. Journal of Music Research in Africa. Volume 4 Number 2: 171 – 177.
Mutwa, Vusamazulu Credo. 1966. Indaba My Children. African Tribal History, Legends, Customs and Religious Beliefs. London: Kahn & Averill.
Kingston, Maxine Hong. 1977. The Woman Warrior. Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. London: Picador.
Ramaswamy, Sampatur. 2007. Raja Rao’s Tri-Lingualism: A Study in Linguistic Partnership. In Riem Natale, Antonella, Camaiora, Maria Luisa and Dolce, Maria Renata (eds.). The Goddess Awakened. Partnership Studies in Literatures, Language and Education. 125-132. Udine: Forum.


“KRS One on Obama”. n.d. www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnCYyGih3PA&feature=related. (Consulted on 31-05-2009)
Official Masaru Emoto’s website. www.masaru-emoto.net (Consulted on 31-05-2009).
“Universi Paralleli”. Documentario. n.d. www.lamentemente.com/universi-paralleli (Consulted on 31-05-2009).

July 13, 2009

if you’re going to try, go all the way – factotum (bukowski)

Filed under: literature,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 9:10 pm

June 17, 2009

george orwell on working

Filed under: philosophy,politics,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 11:59 pm

…why does anyone want him to go on working? I am trying to go beyond the immediate economic cause, and to consider what pleasure it can give anyone to think of men swabbing dishes for life. For there is no doubt that people – comfortably situated people – do find pleasure in such thoughts. A slave, Marcus Cato said, should be working when he is not sleeping. It does not matter whether his work is needed or not, he must work because work in itself is good – for slaves, at least. This sentiment still survives, and it has piled up mountains of useless drudgery. I believe that this instinct to perpetuate useless work is, at bottom, simply fear of the mob. The mob (the thought runs) are such low animals that they would be dangerous if they had leisure; it is safer to keep them too busy to think. A rich man who happens to be intellectually honest, if he is questioned about the improvement of working conditions usually says something like this:

‘We know that poverty is unpleasant; in fact, since it is so remote, we rather enjoy harrowing ourselves with the thought of its unpleasantness. But don’t expect us to do anything about it. We are sorry for our lower classes, just as we are sorry for a cat with the mange, but we will fight like devils against any improvement of your condition. We feel that we are much safer as you are. The present state of affairs suit us, and we are not going to take the risk of setting you free, even by an extra hour a day. So, dear brothers, since evidently you must sweat to pay for our trips to Italy, sweat and be damned to you.’

This is particularly the attitude of intelligent, cultivated people; one can read the substance of it in a hundred essays. Very few cultivated people have less than (say) four hundred pounds a year, and naturally they side with the rich, because they imagine that any liberty conceded to the poor is a threat to their own liberty. Foreseeing some dismal Marxian Utopia as the alternative, the educated man prefers to keep things as they are. Possibly he does not like his fellows very much, but he supposes that even the vulgarest of them are less inimical to his pleasures, more his kind of people, than the poor, and that he had better stand by them. It is the fear of a supposedly dangerous mob that makes nearly all intelligent people conservative in their opinions.

Fear of the mob is a superstitious fear. It is based on the idea that there is some mysterious, fundamental difference between rich and poor, as though they were two different races, like negroes and white men. But in reality there is no such difference. The mass of the rich and the poor are differentiated by their incomes and nothing else, and the average millionaire is only the average dishwasher dressed in a new suit. Change places, and handy dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? Everyone who has mixed on equal terms with the poor knows it quite well. But the problem is that intelligent, cultivated people, the very people who might be expected to have liberal opinions, never do mix with the poor. For what do the majority of educated people know about poverty? In my copy of Villon’s poems the editor has actually thought it necessary to explain the line “They see bread only behind windows” by a footnote; so remote is even hunger from the educated man’s experience. Form this ignorance a superstitious fear of the mob results quite naturally. The educated man pictures a horde of submen, wanting only a day’s liberty to loot his house, burn his books, and set him to work minding a machine or sweeping out a lavatory. “Anything “ he thinks “any injustice, sooner than let that mob loose”. He does not see that since there is no difference between the mass of rich and poor, there is no question of setting the mob loose. The mob is in fact loose now, and – in the shape of rich men – is using its power to set up enormous treadmills of boredom such as ‘smart’ hotels. To sum up. A dishwasher is a slave, and a wasted slave, doing stupid and largely unnecessary work. He is kept at work, ultimately, because of a vague feeling that he would be dangerous if he had leisure. And educated people, who should be on his side, acquiesce in the process, because they know nothing about him and consequently, are afraid of him. I say this of the dishwasher because it is his case I have been considering; it would apply equally to numberless of other types of worker. These are only my ideas about the basic facts of a dishwasher’s life, made without reference to immediate economic questions, and no doubt largely platitudes. I present them as a sample of the thoughts that are put into one’s head by working in a hotel.

George Orwell, Down and out in Paris and London, 1933

June 4, 2009

loxion workers

Filed under: poetry,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 4:03 pm

(dedicated to the miners murdered in the eland shaft. and to all those who are able to imagine what those miners were thinking about before the lift started to descend)

we are the ones
who wake up with the humming songs of morning sparrows
the fat burps of sleek retiring rats
the hammering hoots
of vociferous ventures
hunting the roads
like voracious vultures

we are the ones
who walk the road without the company
of our own shadow
to get to woebegone train stations
and hang like the thread of a tampon
between the thighs of cold coaches

we are the ones
whose regular breakfast is qota, boiled eggs or magwenya
munched in a haste
in dusty street corners

we are the ones
who are screamed at by stinking bosses
and must say ya baas to old school racists
and yebo sis to new guard fascists

we are the ones
who earn
hundred rand a week
but are still expected to say
dankie dear madiba
amandla cosatu
nyiabonga mr boshoff

we are the loxion workers
the circulating system of this sick body we call home
the beating heart of this
and many other
shadow ghosts
our precious bones are buried alive in the hidden truths of the new south africa
adorned with gold and diamonds jewels

we are the sunrise runners
knockin-off bandits
and busy street dogs
are our journeymates
we don’t see each other’s faces
since our backs are bent
under the load of a life
we did not choose
for ourselves
our mothers
and children

in trains and taxis monotonous rock
we move our heads
from shoulder to shoulder
as if figuring things out

03 june 2009

June 1, 2009

sunnyside blues

Filed under: poetry,raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 12:58 am

being mugged
is a curious situation to experience
it happened to me twice
same spot
my hood (sunnyside – tshwane – africa – planet earth)
both times
on my way back from the petrol station

the funny thing
when you gaze at that scintillating blaze
is that there’s place for one thought only in your stoned brain:
are these four kids surrounding me
really ready to stab my broke ass
for 35 rand, an ice cream and a pack of rizla?
the puzzling thing
is that you’ll never know the answer

May 27, 2009

peo tsa rona

Filed under: raphael d'Abdon — ABRAXAS @ 8:23 pm


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