By Chamu Wilson –
Names have a bearing, either inertly or overtly, on the life of the people carrying them. The belief cannot be more pronounced than in the case of Bloemfontein-based poet, Kwena Peu.
The 23year artist describes himself as having the versatility of a kwena (crocodile) which can breathe easily both on land and in the water. That versatility has seen him studying as a final year Quantity Surveying student at the University of the Free State while immersing himself in a totally unrelated field of art.
Born and bred in Limpopo, Kwena Peu says he is an embodiment of versatility and an inherent need to propagate wisdom through art, probably something that comes from his surname which means “seed”. Asked why he chose to use his own name instead of coming up with stage name, Peu says his name carries his identity and would naturally be uncomfortable with shedding it off when he is performing.
“I believe my name best describes who I am and what I strive to be known for. I want to be able to adapt and not be limited to a particular environment while I encourage other people thus planting a seed in others,” he said.
Peu believes his art traits came from his father who was a teacher who used to pen a lot of short stories, which, however, were not published. True to the old adage that an apple never falls far from the tree, the young artist soon found himself pouring his introverted thoughts though the tip of the pen onto a willing paper.
“I started drawing a lot when I was young because I was shy and an introvert who preferred not to socialize with many friends. I only began writing poems late in primary school when my only friend then, a rapper, would visit me and show off his works.
“In grade 8, another friend, began writing and so I joined in and we would present our works in class.”
Inspired by the likes of Motle Mothibe, Mogale Sedibe, Saul Williams, Tom Revellers, Peter Mokonyana, among many others, Peu believes his work is “untainted” by politics or commercialisation. He writes what he feels and believes in.
He believes the arts environment in Bloemfontein is conducive to the development of various forms of art. This comes through the availability of spaces such as public theatres and rehearsal places the likes of the Performing Arts Centre of the Free State (PACOFS). He says this is one of the things that attracted him to the City of Roses away from Polokwane where he attended primary and high school.
The young artist is also into prose as he writes short stories.
On the subject of poetry being viewed as too complex by some people, Peu says he has attempted to break down that “complex” barrier by introducing innovative ways of performing his pieces.
“You will find that my performance is not the usual orthodox one but I have added elements that make it unique. Sometimes I perform with an orchestra while sometimes I will be with a band of vocalists and violinists. It’s not the usual form of just reciting because I hope to appeal to as many people in my audience as possible.”
He has taken part in the Mangaung African Cultural Festival (MACUFE) in 2014 and 2015, he has also performed at Bloem Poetry, Audit Randomness Poetry Showcase as well as in the Northern Cape, among some of his many performances.
On what he intends to do after completing his studies, Peu has no hesitation in saying he wants to get a job as quantity surveyor and use that as a means to an end.
“I see myself as an artist primarily so whatever I do as a quantity surveyor should be part of a process of supporting and establishing myself in arts. It’s an investment in my arts,” he said emphatically.