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Staceyann Chin in Border/Clash: A Litany of Desires


International slam poet and activist Staceyann Chin in Border/Clash: A Litany of Desires at the Baxter

"Every day I get better at knowing that it is not a choice to be an activist; rather, it is the only way to hold on to the better parts of my human self. It is the only way I can live and laugh without guilt." - Staceyann Chin

The internationally acclaimed slam poet, full-time writer, performing artist and activist, Tony-nominated Staceyann Chin, returns to Cape Town at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio in her own one-woman play, Border/Clash: A Litany of Desires, from 6 to 24 July.

Performances have been scheduled for 6pm from 6 to 10 July to accommodate the starting times of the World Cup games, leaving ample time for audiences still to catch all the soccer action, and then from 12 to 24 July they will commence at 8.15pm.

Thirty-seven-year-old Chin, a New York resident of Jamaican and Chinese descent, last performed in South Africa in April this year at the Wits Arts and Literature (WALE) programme and before that at the 2009 Urban Voices Poetry Festival. She has performed in the country five times and in 2003 she had a hugely successful whirlwind tour to Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, including a quick visit to Soweto.

Her worldwide popularity is evident in her active and direct relationship with her fans and followers on her social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and other communication mediums including her own website. Through these mediums she welcomes dialogue and discussion as she shares her messages of social injustices where she talks about her own life experiences.

She is the recipient of the 2007 Power of the Voice Award from The Human Rights Campaign, the 2008 Safe Haven Award from Immigration Equality, the 2008 Honors from the Lesbian AIDS Project, and the 2009 New York State Senate Award. She identifies as Caribbean and Black, Asian and lesbian, woman and resident of New York City. She has also won and been nominated for several awards in the slam poetry category and in 2002 she was nominated for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Art Initiative, where she was considered as a possible protégée for Toni Morrison.

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, the author of Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam, , described her by saying, “To watch Chin perform is to watch the very essence of poetry manifested: her performances are imperfect, volatile and beautiful. Chin’s poetry is passionate and well-written, sure; but it’s her ability to communicate that passion in performance that is unparalleled. She becomes the poetry.”

From the rousing cheers of the Nuyorican Poets' Cafe to one-woman shows Off-Broadway to poetry workshops in Denmark and London to co-writer and original cast member in the Tony- winning Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, Chin credits the long list of "things she has done" to her grandmother's hard-working history and the pain of her mother's absence. She was also featured on five seasons of the series when Def Poetry Jam was aired on American television.

Her Border/Clash: Litany of Desires is a vivid recollection following her experiences of abandonment by her parents, the tough yet supportive love of her grandmother, and her artistic and political awakening. It is an autobiographical account employing hypnotic prose to describe the ecstasy and tragedy of her life. She seamlessly moves between the joys of her first love to the violence of a homophobic assault. This riveting emotional experience is conveyed with humour, yet embodying fury, while personifying vulnerability and tenderness. 

The New York Times wrote that Chin "is sassy, rageful and sometimes softly self-mocking". Border/Clash: A Litany of Desires holds great significance for audiences as it speaks of an increasingly complex and diverse populace struggling within the structural constraints of society, and the desire to overcome the physical and ideological borders that bind us. It is critically relevant to South Africa, a country plagued by intolerance struggling to come to terms with the multiplicity of identities, cultures and beliefs.

Her autobiographical book The Other Side of Paradise, published last year, has already received great acclaim with five-star reviews. One reviewer wrote, “From the iconic performer and one of the most original voices of her generation, an unforgettable memoir about growing up in Jamaica.”

She has shared her stories at numerous institutions of higher education across the USA, including New York, Harvard and Boston Universities. Her work has been profiled in more than 21 newspapers, journals and magazines such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Pittsburgh Daily and her poems can be found in numerous publications. On television she has been interviewed and featured on 60 Minutes and the Oprah Winfrey Show as well as several other cable network television programmes.

Her first one-woman show, Hands Afire, ran for ten weeks at the Bleecker Theater in 2000 and a year later the same Off-Broadway theatre welcomed her second show, Unspeakable Things, in before she took it to Copenhagen for a week-long run. She is the first poet commissioned to write and perform a piece with the prestigious Dance Africa Chicago

Staceyann has enjoyed great success internationally, with much-lauded performances in London, Denmark, Germany, and New York's own Central Park at the Summer Stage.

Ticket prices for Staceyann Chin in Border/Clash: A Litany of Desires range from R70 for the Baxter Monday special offer, which includes a light meal, to R130 at weekends. Performances from 6 to 10 July are at 6pm and then at 8.15pm from 12 to 24 July.

Booking is through Computicket on 083 915 8000, online at www.computicket.co.za or at any Computicket and Shoprite Checkers outlet countrywide. For discounted block, schools or corporate bookings, charities and fundraisers, contact Sharon on 021 680 3962 and Carmen on 021 680 3993, during office hours.