David wa Maahlamela

Executive director, UKZN Centre for Creative Arts

David wa Maahlamela is the executive director of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts. The centre runs four annual festivals, including the renowned Durban International Film festival. Hailing from Limpopo, David matriculated at the tender age of 16.

Unable to study further due to financial constraints, he immersed himself wholly in his literature for a year, after which he earned awards as a top poet, playwright and novelist. “I am inspired by the uniqueness of ordinary stories, stories of courage and faith,” says wa Maahlamela. His passion for literature and the arts has seen him perform at various prestigious literary festivals across the globe. With a calling to uplift those around him, he co-founded the Polokwane Literature Festival.

He has helped to level the creative and artistic playing field. ”My 20 years’ experience as a professional creative practitioner has been largely dedicated to rural development in its various forms,” he says. He is currently completing a PhD on kiba poetry within the Zion Christian Church, and exploring the poetic works of Petrus Molelemane and Johannes Mohlala. He has received many awards for his works including the Maskew Miller Longman Literature Award and the 2011 PanSALB Multilingualism Award.

He is also the author of four award-winning books, most notably the acclaimed poetry anthology Tsa Borala. His literary works are published in over 50 literary journals and anthologies, and strongly emphasise African languages, arts and heritage. John Ruganda, a Ugandan playwright and editor of Turfwrite, played a pivotal role in wa Maahlamela’s life when the latter was still a teenager. Rugana ran what was the largest arts, culture and heritage festival in Limpopo at the time. “He taught me to speak less and let my deeds be my ultimate advocate,” says wa Maahlamela. He aims to use the creative industry to unite Africa and exhibit it to the rest of the globe.

— Leigh Wils

Website: durbanfilmfest.co.za