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Friendzone: Mbali Vilakazi

Mbali invited me to come see her perform at a venue in Rondebosch one night. What she didn’t know was that I was having a really crappy week because I was living in a crappy place in Rondebosch, thought all my housemates were a bit nutty and didn’t go out much.

So when this girl, I had never met before, invited to me come see her perform her poetry at a show, I forgot to ask what she looked like. So when I arrived at this place, I hung around the bar and bumped into some people I knew and thought I’ll know it’s her when she jumped onto the stage and then, I will go greet her afterwards.

But it didn’t even get to that because here she was ordering a drink next to me with people swooning over her and calling her by her name. That was the first time we met and became friends afterwards.

From then on we would go to share a beautiful house in Woodstock together (bye bye crappy house in Rondebosch) and realise that we actually had a lot of people in common and we had the most awesome dinner parties which included lots of wine and a playlist laced with our favourite rapper, AZ.

What I like about Mbali, besides the fact that she is super talented, is that she is real. In the sense that she has always been honest with me, especially when I am fucking up (think guys) and I appreciate that because I feel sometimes people try too hard to be liked.

She has really good taste in music and cooks like a demon and she is good company. She is also very sensitive and we get up to all sorts of crazy things when we go out. She has also taught me everything I know about poetry, before I became friends with her, I didn’t know who some of my favourite artists like Stacey Ann Chin or Ian Kamau were.

She has also met my family because my older sister kidnapped her when she was in Pretoria. Ok, That’s a joke, she wasn’t kidnapped, but she got to spend time at home with my family and as a result my dad is always asking after her.

Humblebrag: her recent poem on SA Swimmer, Natalie Du Toit won an NPR 'gold' prize in a competition they were running during the Olympics. Basically they got poets from around the world to write about their favourite Olympian and hers was voted the winner by NPR listeners. Read all about it here 


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First published on

Neo Maditla is Editor in Chief of Design Indaba online, South Africa's leading design and creativity platform. features some of the best talent on the African continent and from around the globe. Not only is Neo passionate about African art, but she's also a seasoned writer with experience in print, TV and online. We just had to have her on the Rise Art Prize panel for Africa and the Middle East.

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