Born in Nkandla, South Africa, on May 14, 1990, Siyabonga Mpungose is a renowned slam poet who shot into fame in 2010. He has an amazing ability to write and recite about any aspect of life, ranging from everyday life events to current social and/or economical issues. He has performed in many stages around South Africa and has a poetry slot on Ukhozi FM every Friday. Siyabonga Mpungose is now one of the leading South African poets and his poetry continues to edutain (educational entertainment) millions of South African citizens every day.
Early Life and Background
Siyabonga Mpungose was born in a small village called Mahlayizeni, Nkandla, under Chief Bhekizwe Biyela. He didn’t stay there for long though. He left when he was only eight(8)months old to stay in a small township in Pietermaritzburg called Mpophomeni(Howick). He enrolled for grade one at a local school called Qhamukile Lower Primary School. Through routine primary school programs, his class teacher recognised his exceptional story telling skills and was later chosen to represent his school in a provincial story telling completion. Lack of education or training in the township elders prevented them from seeing Siyabonga Mpungose as an upcoming performing artist; they instead reduced him to a talkative attention-seeking boy. That didn’t stop him though.
His talent as a performing artist became more apparent when he was doing grade 5-7 at Zamuthule HP School. He participated a lot in school’s art and culture activities and was soon known for being a good actor and comedian. He then went to Mpophomeni High School where he finished his matric where it didn’t take long for him to settle in. On his 9 Grade he was part of a play titled “Youth Against Drugs” which was an initiatives from the then KwaZulu-Natal Premier S’busiso Ndebele where he was a standout performer even though he didn’t get a prominent role in the play.
His high school teachers amazed by his performance in the play, appointed him to write another play that was going to be shown to visiting Swedish students. He excelled once more, and the school gave him a certificate for his outstanding acting and acting costumes to use for upcoming plays. He thus became a certified actor! He continued acting up until his poetry talent took over.
Entry Into Poetry
Siyabonga Mpungose discovered his talent in poetry accidentally where everyone knew him as comical actor. His talent in poetry was unearthed through a grade ten assignment where each learner was instructed to compose and recite a poem in front of the class. Although he didn’t pay much attention to this assessment as a result couldn’t finish everything, what he had written was recognisable to his classmates. They all loved his poem and started asking him to recite it during break-time and after school. Students from other grades began asking him to recite his poem as well. Surprised by the amount of loved his was receiving, he wrote another poem, students loved it, he wrote a third one featuring his female classmate Lucia, it became a school’s anthem… and the rest is history. The pair went on to organise after school poetry shows in their classrooms.
They later decided to record a live DVD with Lucia titled “Intombi Engasile” and sold it around the township. The DVD went viral
In 2010, together with poets from and around Pietermaritzburg, they organised weekly poetry sessions that were held every Friday afternoon at Pietermaritzburg library. The poetry session became a huge success, attracting poets in and around Pietermaritzburg, and a few from Durban. The poetry sessions are still running even today, and they are proving a good platform for up and coming poets.
In the same year, he started visiting campuses around KwaZulu-Natal to share his work with varsity students. The year 2010 was a special year for South Africa and Africa as a whole, the 2010 World Cup was coming to South Africa for the first time in history. Siyabonga Mpungose took it upon him to compose a poem about the 2010 World Cup. The poem was aired on Mgungundlovu FM and other local radio stations. Around this time, his poetry became well known in and around Pietermaritzburg.
His big break came later that year after competing with poets from all over KwaZulu-Natal in a show called “South African Poetry Invention”. On that day he took home two awards, “Best Slam Poet”
and “Poet Of The Day”.
Many doors opened after those two awards. He was invited by South Africa’s largest radio station Ukhozi FM (almost 7,3 million listeners a week) for an interview about the two awards he just won and after the interview he was asked to recite one of his poems. Hundreds of listeners were calling the radio station begging the show’s anchor to let him recite another poem, but because of time constraints he was asked to come back the following week. He came back the following week, recited another poem and listeners loved it. He has been going to Ukhozi FM every Fridays to share his recent work ever since that day. With Ukhozi FM boasting of 7,8 millions listeners per week, Siyabonga Mpungose quickly became well known in South Africa.
In 2011, he won the “Poet Of The Day” award in an event organised by the South African Department of Art and Culture that was held at uShaka Marine World.
Later that year he received an Indondo Awards 2011 nomination and was recognised as the “Best Upcoming Poet”. Siyabonga Mpungose immediately became a household name, catching the attention of the living legend Mzwakhe Mbuli (The People’s Poet). Mzwakhe Mbuli
at the time was organising a prestigious award ceremony titled “Siyabakhumbula Awards” that recognise and acknowledge the immense contributions of iconic South Africans from all walks of life. Siyabonga Mpungose was invited to perform at this prestigious event, and he left all the delegates begging for more.
In 2012, he received yet another nomination from “The Crown Gospel Music Awards” and graced the awards stage with a poignant performance. He has continued to perform at numerous high profile events like Ukhozi FM Nyus’iVolume,Poetry Africa 2011, SATMA Awards, PMB UKhozi FM celebration, Magic Tour, 99% Zulu Comedy, Midmar Music Festival and many more
In 2013, the award winning Maskandi musician, Thokozani Langa invited Siyabonga Mpungose to work with him in his then album titled “Inyakanyaka”. The album was release in the same year and is available on iTunes and in good music store around South Africa. Later that year he worked with ‘The People’s Poet’ Mzwakhe Mbuli in his album titled “Aluta Continua”. The making of this album saw about 20 principal artists (Thokozani Langa, Hugh Masikela, Solly Moholo, Kholeka, etc.)
coming together to compiled an album that spoke in defence of mine workers and about the conditions mine workers are subjected to in South Africa. The album was released in 2014 and is available in good music stores in South Africa.
In 2014 he was involved with SA Poetry Road Shows where he travelled around the country visiting different Municipalities.
He has also proven to be a great programme director and has hosted numerous high profile events like IDP’s, Mayoral Cup, events around Uthukela District Municipality
Furthermore, he works closely with many Municipalities organising “Back To School Campaigns”. In addition, he works closely with the office MEC Ms Peggy Nkonyeni and eThekwini Municipality in motivating high school learners to stay in school and abstain from drugs and unprotected sex.
In 2014 he continued to collaborate with Scelo Mpungose where they also had duets on some of the poems. They would do program directing on different shows and events that more people were used to seeing the duo together and hearing their poems. This being a rare thing in poetry, having two people performing together and that made Siyabonga and Scelo to be known by many. Together they performed in varsity events educating, warning and motivating young people. They also worked with Ukhozi FM with listeners always left wanting more.
In 2016 they decided to do a DVD collaboration which had always been their goal. The DVD titled ‘Paving The Way’ was a great success was shot in March, released and launched On 25th June 2016. This DVD sold over 12 000 copies within a month. On YouTube it had over 100 000 views.
Realising that people liked seeing their work on their digitals, they started shooting small clips and sharing them with their friends on Whatsapp&Facebook As an experiment, in 2017 Siyabonga shot a video of his then new poem called “Induna yabafazi”which spoke of how women should be treated trended. That pushed him to record another video about the lack of recognition by most South African artist called Ayikho Ivari lana. https://www.facebook.com/1030931967/posts/10209988510722616/This video became move viral, shared by many including biggest artists in South Africa. He was then recognised for his video clips and scored an invite to Poetry Africa in 2017 and excelled.
And University of Wits invited him to their Zulu society where they honoured him for using IsiZulu that is really improved.
Currently in 2018 Siyabonga focus more on sharing video clips of his poems. He made a video of one of his poem called ‘Ngisebenzela abantwana bami’ https://twitter.com/jabu1ani/status/966617535096524800?s=21 which was even on the trending list on twitter. People were now requesting his videos more. He then decided to do professional videos which grew the brand; many were influenced by these videos.
Siyabonga Mpungose’s uses IsiZulu on most of his poem with clique sounds making a unique sound. He recites poems on current issues, prominent people and many other issues happening around him.
It was just about yesterday when I had visited the hospital,
Not that I was sick or anything but just to pay a typical visit
In some of the wards, it was just normal flue conditions that
were soon to pass, with just a few remedies taken the could get
back to their normal lives... As I proceeded to another ward,
all I could see were just the elderly people, crying about pain
in their joints of which the nurses gave attention to.
It was just about Yesterday that I had visited the hospital.......+6
Moving further I came across a Ward which was so critical,
seeing people who had been just operated with some of their limbs
missing, only to find out that it was caused by accidents due to
driving under the influence of substances.
they had only advised me to advise those who still stand a chance
to safe their limbs, to abstain from substances when you're about
to take on a vehicle
What I found devastating, was when I saw a covered corpse of
a 14-year-old child, who had just delivered a baby, only to find that
she found the pain of delivering unbearable and it took her life
after giving life, had it been only a person who was fit and old
enough her condition wouldn't have been so critical to take her life
as I went on and on the conditions, that I was exposed to made me
want to starve myself of hunger since they were unbearable
It was heart-breaking to see this woman, lying on her
bed, helpless but you could see that she was ageing,
I felt remorseful when I had to make eye contact
with her, if only I could I would have run out like
wild person making my way out of the hospital, but I had
no choice because she then called me closer to her
Only to say " you may not recognise me because I've slightly
aged but we use to go school together. I am Madlala
Slindile" and I got the shock of my to only question her
which one is she referring to, because the bright and beautiful
Slindile I know and the woman I saw lying there helpless
looked way different compared to the one I went to school with
and she replied "Yes, I am that bright and beautiful Slindile, but I’m
offering you the chance to go out there and let the Youth know
there are no shortcuts to life and the wild life doesn’t pay back,
it’s all fun and games, when entering the club as a couple but you
must bear in mind that your grave belongs to alone and not your
partner” my heart sank as I she repeatedly coughed, grasping her last
breath, as puzzled as I was I could call the nurses, they then covered
her corpse but her words kept on playing in my mind and therefore
I decided to pass on this message to you