Ari Sitas


Country: South Africa



Biography:

Ari Sitas is a poet, dramatist and sociologist. A founder member of the Junction Avenue theatre company in Johannesburg, he was involved in most of its productions until 1982 when he moved to Durban.

Sitas's involvement in popular and worker theatre since the 1970s has been widely celebrated,  his broader writing and involvement as a leading intellectual in anti-Apartheid movements has left a trail of robust engagements within and outside the country. In 1978 the theatre company received the Olive Schreiner Award for his play Randlords and Rotgut, and in 1981 won an award for the video/film Howl at the Moon. His first collection of poetry Tropical Scars (1989) met with much critical acclaim, and he followed this with a collection experimenting with musical form, was included in the anthology, Essential Things (1990). Sitas's book, Slave Trades (2000), a result of seven years of research and writing has been highly praised. His last collection, The RDP Poems (2004) was his most disturbingly controversial with their precise and bleak analysis of current traumas in South Africa's transition. Rough music (2014) is his current collection of poetry. Sitas has also penned a libretto for an opera for composer Jurgen Brauninger, Dead Fish and Dreams of Love Again.

Ari Sitas is considered to be one of the country's leading sociologists and has been elected by the International Sociological Association on the executive of its world council. Locally, he is seen to be a central thinker around the African Renaissance and of social justice and labour movements. He is currently working on a collection of his plays, a take on Around the World in 80 days (of which the India section has been completed) and a series of lyrics titled Insurrections done in conjunction with other poets and composers from South Africa and India.

Related Podcasts & Events:

Learning to Love

(after Faiz)
FROM AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS

Here:
Some beads for the wave of your tresses
Bead them in hard, shiny against the jet black of your greying hair
Slaves were traded for them, fingers bled to thread them
They shine - little colourful skulls
Of the day of the dead from Mexico
I come from far, here: the beads
Plait them in the jet black of your graying hair
So I can learn to love you

Here:
Some tears for the dimple of your cheek
Run them slow, shiny against the narrow of your chin
Infants were killed for them, palms were leathered to collect them
They shine- sun-struck crystals
From the saltpans and the pampas
I come from far, here: the tears
Rain them softly against the narrow of your chin
So I can learn to love you

Here:
Some soot for your brow and lashes
Texture it in deep, a dark henna against your haunting eyes
Outcasts were starved for them, joints were cracked to scoop them
They haunt- tiny mirages of the desert
From the pit bogs and the crags of the equator
I come from far, here: the soot
Craft it in against your haunting eyes
So I can learn to love you

Here:
Some red pearls for your ears
Hang them low, crimson treasures from your softest lobes
Naked divers lost lungs for them, eardrums exploded to collect them
They pulse- little ripe pomegranate-seeds
From the reefs and the swells of the Red Sea
I come from far, here: the pearls
Pierce them through and hang them from your softest lobes
So I can learn to love you
Here is the soft pink for your lips
Smooth it over, soft and aromatic scent for a future kiss
Jews and pigs were boiled for them, chemists lost their skin for them
They entice- the madness between a heart and flower
From the vats and cauldrons of the subcontracted East
I come from far, here: the soft pink
Caress it on softly, an aromatic scent for a future kiss
So I can learn to love you
Leave your breasts bare
There is no mindless youth or loot to hide there
Leave them just there
Just there
So I can learn to love you

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