The poet, performer, actress, presenter and producer Lebogang Mashile, daughter of exiled South Africans, was born in the in 1979. At the age of sixteen years she and her parents returned to their home country. In her work as a life skills facilitator for adolescents – focussing on topics like gender issues, teamwork and sexuality – poetry has been her preferred medium. Mashile regards its expressive power as the most effective tool to bring about those changes in mental attitude which are needed in the aftermath of the socio-political changes in post-apartheid .
Mashile began to achieve recognition as one of South Africa’s most popular young artists in 2002 when she performed her hip-hop inspired show at the Urban Voices Spoken Word and Music Festival to a large audience. In 2003 she co-founded the »Feel a Sistah!« Spoken Word Collective, which rapidly gained wide-spread popularity. Just one year later Mashile made her acting début in the Oscar nominated film »Hotel Rwanda«. Moreover, she was the presenter and producer of the successful television programme »L’Atitude«, a concept of her own creation.
Her lyrical and gutsy poems in the collection »A Ribbon of Rhythm« (2005) also speak about life in the new South Africa. Issues such as the diversity and unity of the »Rainbow Nation«, the status of women, violence and the fragility of individuals are all treated with a sense of urgency, humour and at times with melancholy and a certain rawness. Mashile’s self-produced album »Lebo Mashile Live!« combines her performance poetry with hip-hop, house and R&B.
In 2008, Mashile published her second anthology entitled »Flying Above the Sky«. This collection deals with the artist’s signature themes of gender, identity, spirituality, love and socio-political conditions in South Africa. Mashile can currently be seen on South African television screens as the presenter of »Drawing the Line«, a game show dealing with moral issues. She has returned to the theatre this year in the stage adaptation of K. Sello Duiker’s »The Quiet Violence of Dreams«. Currently she is working on a cross-media and cross-generational collaboration with renowned choreographer Sylvia Glasser entitled »Threads«. One can also find Mashile’s thoughts in her monthly column, »In Her Shoes«, which she writes for »True Love« magazine.
Lebo Mashile, who has featured on numerous covers of South African lifestyle magazines, has also appeared beyond South Africa, to date in Kenya, Austria, Germany, Cuba, Jamaica, Ireland, Zimbabwe, the United States, Britain, and Switzerland. In 2006 she was awarded the prestigious Noma Award. The jury characterised her poetry as of »a distinct oral flavour, developing oral poetry and performance beyond the boundaries of the poetry of the era of resistance«. In 2007, she was the recipient of the City Press/Rapport Woman of Prestige Award. Mashile lives in Johannesburg.
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