Siphokazi Jonas

South Africa

Siphokazi Jonas is a writer, poet, performer, and producer with a strong national footprint and growing international presence.

She holds an MA in English Literature and a BA in Drama and English from the University of Cape Town. Her background in the theatre is what makes her a truly captivating performer whose work leaves a lasting impression on audiences across the world. 

Siphokazi has written and performed in numerous productions including #WeAreDyingHere (2020) at Artscape and Joburg Theatre, and Around the Fire (2018) at Artscape Theatre. 

She is a co-producer, co-writer and performer on the short film adaptation of the #WeAreDyingHere film. In 2016 she was the first African ever to perform at Rhetoric, the biggest poetry event in the world, in Los Angeles, California.

In 2015 she was crowned the Cape Town Ultimate Slam Champion. Her poetry education project won Western Cape Top Achiever at the DAC Debut Awards in 2019.

Siphokazi’s stage work includes Natalia Da Rocha’s Adam Small Festival in 2015 and Mandla Mbothwe’s Oratorio of a Forgotten Youth in 2016. She was nominated for a 2016 Broadwayworld.com South African Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in Around the Fire

She was the runner-up in the prestigious 2016 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award, coming second out of 600 poems submitted nationally. Her work was longlisted again in 2017. 

In 2018 Siphokazi delivered The Widow, her directorial debut, as part of Artscape’s New Voices programme; returning the following year to present the production once more. 

In February 2019 she toured as the headline act on the first-ever South African national poetry tour, the Fresh Poetry Tour. Siphokazi has shared the stage with South African legends such as Thembi Mtshali-Jones, Celeste Matthews-Wannenburgh, Natalia da Rocha and musicians Hotstix Mabuse, Pops Mohamed, Zolani Mahola, and Freshlyground. She was also one of the storytellers invited to perform for Yo-Yo Ma on his visit to South Africa.

In February 2021 Siphokazi was invited to the South African State of the Nation Address, where she delivered a captivating poem prior to the presidential address.

 

Her commissioned work includes writing poetry for Google, SA Tourism, the University of Cape Town, an artist exhibition in Milan, Italy, and the Swedish Embassy in South Africa. 

She has also created work for a school project in South America that uses poetry to make STEM subjects appealing to young students. 

She has also been a featured performer at the Open Book Festival, Naked Word Festival, Word and Sound International Youth Festival, the 21st Poetry Africa Festival, the SA Book Fair and the Abantu Book Festival. Here she has been featured along with international poets, including Alysia Harris and Miles Hodges.

Siphokaza has also co-curated the Open Book Festival and the Time of the Writer Festival poetry competition. In her capacity as a speaker, she’s contributed to national and academic conferences, including Music Exchange and The Justice Conference South Africa, presenting on issues ranging from writing, the art business, art and activism, and social justice.

Her most recent multi-genre production, #WeAreDyingHere, was co-written with poet Hope Netshivhambe and award-winning musician Babalwa Makwetu. It debuted at the Artscape Theatre in November 2019 and was performed at the Joburg Theatre in February 2020, where both runs received rave reviews. The recorded stage version was later streamed on the Covid-Zero streaming site to over 20 countries. The production was mentioned in Time Out New York as one of the best productions to stream during the lockdown. 

In 2020, #WeAreDyingHere was adapted into a poetry short film with Optical Films, in partnership with Executive Producers Siya Kolisi and Rachel Kolisi. The film debuted at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles and was nominated for Best Narrative Short.

She has been profiled on both print, radio, and television media including the Daily Maverick, Sunday Times, IOL, Hectic Nine-9, Expresso, eNCA, SABC, eTV, Cape Talk, 702, and many others. Siphokazi teaches spoken word and theatre online at an elementary school in Florida, USA, and is the current English Poetry editor for New Contrast.