Jubilation Foundation Fellow Thandiwe Shiiphrah

Thandiwe Shiphrah

Poet-Performer
Tennessee
Fellowship: 2011 / 2012

“The biggest obstacle,” says Thandiwe, “is people think they have to be an artist to even appreciate it. Or they say, ‘I can’t write, I don’t know what to say.’ I tell them, You can do this. This is for you. You don’t have to be a musician to make up a song, let’s make one right now!”

Enter a place where words dance and voices fly. This is where Thandiwe lives. Lucky for us, she’s willing to guide us there. A Poet and Artist of Encouragement, Thandiwe creates low-cost, high-impact community arts programming for all ages, working in partnership with schools, libraries, nonprofits, and community groups. She demystifies the creative process, encouraging everyone to try it.

Thandiwe’s programs include Poetry Playground (ages 5 and up), an interactive rhythm section using hand instruments, rhyme, alliteration and onomatopoeia; Curious Poems & Everyday Wonders, interactive storytelling that draws on wordplay, sound-making, imagination, as well as bells, harmonic whirlies, spring drums, and rain sticks; and Why Not Make Something Up? an improvisational arts immersion workshop using sentence fragments, and random sounds from traditional instruments as well as household objects such as lamps, glasses, or pots.

“It’s never to late to be an artist,” she says. Thandiwe was well into her 30’s before she put poetry in the forefront of her life. “It felt like coming back to myself,” she says. Her one-woman show — … and then God Created Woman (The Making of a Stand-up Poet) — is a combination of autobiography and fairy-tale. “It’s about a middle-aged woman who finally allows herself to do her art,” she says.

Thandiwe is using her award to create and record an audio guide to writing poetry for young people. Rudy Rhythm & the Poem Makers is a 14-stanza poem with hip-hop beats, contemporary music, and writing prompts. Using rhyme, alliteration, metaphor, and personification, she teaches children to craft their own poems. “We are all inextricably connected to each other,” says Thandiwe. “Poetry can play a vital role in community health and quality of life. I want children to know that making art, music, and poetry is an avenue for them. That’s why I make myself visible to young people,” she says, “so they’ll know it’s an option.”

Link:
Jubilation 2012 retreat video

Publications:
Leftover Light: Poems
Don’t Make No Sense: a Creative Response to Your Life’s True Calling


Recordings:
The Secret Marvelous Instead
Biting the Peony


Inspirations:
Mother Nature and the Muse of Hope. The Muse of Hope is a woman who sees in the dark. She’s bigger than your beliefs and more creative than you’d ever think possible. Her motto: Make your own luck. Imagination is always in order.

Thandiwe is Reading:
Morning Haiku by Sonia Sanchez
The Raven and The Philosophy of Composition by Edgar Allan Poe
Fearless Creating: a Step-by-Step Guide to Starting and Completing Your Work of Art by Eric Maisel, Ph.D.

Thandiwe is Listening to:
Thelonious Monk’s Underground
Joy Harjo’s Winding Through the Milky Way
Cassandra Wilson’s New Moon Daughter

(photo by Glowing Heads)

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