Interview Profiles

In Conversation With Emmah Mabye

Interview by: Veroschkka Motimele 


1. Who is Emmah Mabye?

Emmah Mabye is a young, dynamic, conservative, live-wire hailing from Tembisa (a township situated in Gauteng province’s East Rand). I have believed in God (from the womb) and am a lover of words and life, not forgetting chocolate [anyday].


2. What is poetry to you?

I find so much joy in and derive pleasure from words. Poetry to me is inspiration. I have witnessed how much of an impact spoken word has on one’s soul and even spirit. It’s priceless!


3. How did you get into performance poetry?

I got into performance poetry whilst I was at varsity (the University of Pretoria). There were regular poetry sessions which took place on campus and I got inspired by watching poets share their work so publicly.

However, I only started taking it seriously in my final year when I joined Penseed Poets. I am forever thankful to Maanda Nengome who believed so much in me to take that step.


4. Tell us about your latest anthology, “Clocking In with Emmah Mabye.”

(An instant smile from ear to ear just appears whenever I get to talk about the anthology)

The anthology is my first published collection of my poems from the past 8 years. I wanted to bring together all the poems which I felt would talk to each aspect of us as human beings – thus clocking into spirit, soul and body.

The reception has gone beyond my expectations. I’m grateful that the collection has reached countries I have not as yet set foot, such as Canada, Malawi and Zambia and I’m about to add Kenya.


5. Your poem “As He Is, So Am I,” titled after 1 John 4:17 touches on issues of lifestyle and identity. What is your observation of the changing identity and lifestyle of the average, young Christian?

(Hmmm…How real can I be here?)

In all honesty… I find these to be some rough times for MANY young people.

We hear slogans such as “Live your best life” thrown about and it has been somewhat concerning for me to some extent (when it comes to us young people). My concern has been whether we are truly living this “best life” unto the glory of God.

At times we blend in so much with the secular that it’s difficult to tell who’s who really.

Yes we say love the Lord, yes we go to church, but where is the power in our way of life?

The Kingdom of God is not a matter of words, but of power.

On the flip side of the coin, there are also many young people who know Who’s they are and are genuinely passionate about the work of the Kingdom of God. I pride myself in being surrounded by such people and thank God.

We judge a tree by its fruit, so let our fruits identify us with Christ.


6. What is it that you appreciate most about the South African poetry landscape?

I love how versatile we are and how we keep wanting to better the quality of work put out there for consumption. I also appreciate how, especially the younger poets and supporters of this art, are trying to build a formidable industry.


7. And the international poetry scene?

Well… let’s just say the international poetry scene can learn from us, as I believe SA poets are proper quality.

I don’t really follow the international poetry scene as much, however, what I will commend our counterparts overseas on is the ability to make their work readily accessible, have a large stable following, actually monetize their work and get the right people talking – outside their jurisdictions.


8. Has poetry facilitated or encouraged any personal change in you?

Oh yes definitely poetry has contributed to who I am today. I am more open minded and given how shy I consider myself to be *chuckles* … or maybe used to be… poetry has without a doubt upped my confidence and enabled me to share my truth with people from all walks of life.


9. What has been your clearest and most memorable performance thus far?

There have been a handful of memorable performances that to pick one would just not be right with my soul (^^,). So I’ll mention 3:

i) Performing in the presence of now-president Cyril Ramaphosa in 2016;

ii) Opening for and sharing a platform with Drs David and Mamikie Molapo;

iii) Performing at the Thuma (Thuli Madonsela) Foundation’s Women’s Day celebration.


10. If you had to pick between only writing poetry or only performing poetry, which would you choose and why?

PERFORMING! Ever since I had the opportunity to stage my own poetry production – also titled “Clocking In”- at the SA State Theatre (in Pretoria) in 2017, I’ve honestly not been the same. Something was tapped into and I grew deeper in love with the stage. I discovered a new dimension of my artistry.


11. Briefly take us through your writing process.

I write depending on whether I’ve been commissioned to write on a certain theme, or – as is most often the case – what I have lived through or observed. I have absolutely no order in my writing but ultimately as I go along I string a story together. Once I have some draft completed I then take about approximately a week’s break and come back to rework the poem till it’s ready to be shared.


12. What is the current message of your heart?

Realness. Just being real about issues that we as people downplay for whatever reason.


13. Who do you specifically want to share it with?

I don’t have a specific target market for my works.  I go by: Let him who has an ear, hear.


14. What is the current question you are asking about your immediate society?

Where is the love and Ubuntu?


15. Who would you like to ask it to?

Love –  it’s universal, so this one is directed to all of us. Ubuntu is directed specifically to us Black people.


16. Besides “Clocking In”, what other projects are you working on currently?

[Oh my goodness! *somersaults*]

This year I would like to stage the Clocking In poetry production in as many spaces as feasible. I implore everyone reading this to please follow me on social media as I’ll be announcing confirmed dates and venues thereon.

If anyone would like the production staged in their town they can just email or inbox me. This production is worth seeing, without a doubt!


17. Where do you see yourself as an artist in the next five years?

Given how much has transpired in just the last 8 months since my book launch, none of which was planned even a year ago, I’ve realised anything can happen anyehere.

One thing I know for sure which I’d like to see happen within the next few years is taking my poetry around the world. I believe that much in what God has purposed with this art, through me. It might take 5 years, maybe even 10, but it’s certainly something to look forward to.


18. Where are you performing next and how do we get hold of you?

Performances happen ever so randomly in my world, so I can’t confirm anything at the moment. But I can guarantee a performance every month.