Xero Mahero: The Pioneer Of Pavement Poetry


By Katlego Mereko

Pimville is one of the oldest townships in Soweto. But its formation was hardly an innocent one. It was part of the grand machinations of apartheid, part of a chain of black concentration camps for darkies working in the city. To this day, the township, like many others in Soweto, follows its apartheid architectural and social engineering legacy, with different sections still separated along tribal lines. It is from these streets that Kagiso “Xero MaHero” Motsamai springs, relating through poetry his own observations of township life through the prism of a philosophy he likes to call ‘Pavement Poetry’.

Xero MaHero, as Motsamai is popularly known in poetry circles, has long established a reputation of himself as a no-holds-barred pull-no-punches kind of poet. His journey began in his early teens, which saw him win the Sounds of Edutainment poetry competition as a 14-year-old in 2003.” This was when I realised there could be something to pursue in poetry,” Xero remembers. “From there on, I got invited to several poetry platforms which have seen me travel the country, and even visiting Zimbabwe at one stage.” Xero has graced platforms such as the Jozi Spoken Word Festival, the Soweto Arts Festival, Grahamstown Arts Festival & theatres like the State Theatre, Joburg City Theatres, and Market theatre.

Pavement Poet, Xero Mahero

Something of a socio-cultural activist, Xero lends his voice to campaigns such as the Anti-Violence Against Women campaign. He is also currently an ambassador for a Condom awareness campaign. Furthermore, he is part of a literary organisation in Soweto called Youth Forte Art Forum, which seeks to empower youth with creative writing abilities and raise awareness of African culture and history and works with schools from Zola and Mofolo. “Poetry is a potent tool, and it has opened up several platforms for me,” he muses. 

“My style of poetry is more of a slam, robust, no lovey-dovey kind of poetry, which is ironic since my early attempts at poetry were in the form of love letters back in primary and high school. I call it Pavement Poetry because as guys in the township, we usually hang around street corners and sit on the pavements. It is from here that I observe the everyday proceedings of township life and try to uplift or speak out against some of the ills that happen in our spaces. Which is what poetry is essentially about.”

Xero MaHero returns to his favourite setting - theatre, as he will perform at one of the country’s premier poetry platforms, Poetic Thursdays, at the Soweto Theatres on March 28th, where he is to debut his latest work which he calls Service Delivery Poetry. “I called it such because we are about to go to the elections and so I will be touching on the issues that are faced by our people, whether it is poverty, racism, inequality, etc... I will speak on such issues insofar as they relate to South Africa, so people must expect some thought-provoking poetry” he asserts.

Sharing the stage with him on the night will be the author of ‘Poetry in Nursing’ Southern Comfort, award-winning poet & entrepreneur Mlamli Maloyi, eclectic boy band Tatoo Music and reggae artist Tladiman.

-JP

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