Kyle Louw (27) was working in IT when an idle scroll through Facebook changed his life.
“I was sitting in my grey cubicle punching numbers and running tests. I took a break to scroll down Facebook (as we do when we are supposed to be working) and stumbled across my first ever spoken word experience. I was instantly transported into its magical world to clever rhyme schemes and rhythmic metaphors,” he says. “Within two weeks I found myself standing on a stage in front of 300 people.”
Louw was already unhappy with his job, and an interest in language saw him enrol in a week-long course in neurolinguistics. That coincided with his online discovery of spoken poetry. “I’ve always had a love of language and this self-help course changed everything,” he says. “In record-breaking time I went from that first performance to representing the Western Cape in the second Annual National Slam.”
He now holds slam championship titles from InZync, Linqua Franca, Poetica and the Open Book Festival, holds a Best English Poet award, and has given a TEDxCape Town talk. He also worked with Cape Town Tourism to create their official video.
He rhymes with concern about the Facebook and Twitter era — when we’re lonely despite endless virtual friends — and about women slavishly following beauty magazines instead of letting their real selves shine. Politics and racism get a battering too. His words are witty and entertaining, but intelligent and disturbingly shrewd.
To give back to the community, Louw has run some Voices of Tomorrow poetry workshops for young children. Now he’s drawing on that teaching experience during a three-month tour of India, where he was invited to join an initiative running workshops and performing at universities to help people speak up for social change.
During the tour he hopes to meet global contacts who could provide a stepping stone for his next move, because poetry isn’t a viable career in South Africa.
“There’s a bunch of us trying to build an industry and we’ve got a contract with Joburg Theatre to run productions there. It might not be something I can make a living with in South Africa in my lifetime, but I’m hoping to build it up for kids. You can make a perfectly good living in the UK or US where there are big platforms and networks; we’re just quite young in that area.” — Lesley Stones