Spit Pit creators, Bachelor of Journalism students Leago Mamabolo and Lilita Gcwabe, said it was the Rhodes University space that first inspired them to start the project. “We were inspired by hearing students express themselves in different ways and we felt that we could contribute to that by bringing people together in one place to let them express themselves together,” explained Mamabolo.
Although it started as a Rhodes University initiative, the students wanted this project to be a community-building one, and have therefore decided not to register Spit Pit as a Rhodes University Society. “A big part of our vision with Spit Pit is to have it continue inspiring students and residents long after we graduate. We decided to have Spit Pit as a ‘Society’ outside of the University, so that it will be accessible to anyone in Makhanda, and perhaps event reach into other places in the Eastern Cape,” Gcwabe said. Since its launch, there have a number of people from the Makhanda community join in as well.
The way Spit Pit works is it gives poets and visual artists a platform to share their words and works according to the themes for each event. Each Spit Pit session is divided into segments - each with a different style and intention.
The first is the “open mic” segment, which is open to anyone to perform any poetry-related piece. “This can range from testing out new poems or reading out old poems, and the crowd can be included interactively, either as part of the performance, or to share their thoughts or views on the piece that was performed,” said Mamabolo.
The next segment is the “playlist” portion, which merges rhythm, music and poetry. Gcwabe explained, “We play music that suits the theme of the evening and that creates the necessary ambiance. During this portion, we often have students that are musicians who play a piece of music, or who come together to do a piece collaboratively. We have had artists such as Tsukudu, Patfaded and The Soul Collectiv perform.”
The third segment is a freestyle session. A series of back tracks are rotated in fifteen-minute intervals and members of the audience are invited on to “the pit” to “spit” and share bars, words or thoughts.
“While this is going on, we prepare for the Poems for Bread League, which is a very vital part of the Spit Pit Poetry Sessions,” explained Gcwabe. Part of the purpose of the league is to motivate rhythm artists to follow this art as a possible career path.
“We want people to realise that poetry can be more than just a hobby, and that it is something worth pursing professionally,” Gcwabe stated.
The Poems for Bread League works by having 10 contestants sign up for the league and to compete for prize money. “The prize money comes from a combination of a base fare and donations from the audience members during the league performances,” said Gcwabe. “It is to help people realise that money can be made from poetry – and to inspire them in that way.”
Spit Pit also has a visual component where photographers, painters and sculptors are invited to host mini-exhibitions and present their artwork to audience members. “Visual artists are also given the opportunity to have their artworks for sale during the performances, at no gain to Spit Pit,” Mamabolo explained.
Since launching this year, Spit Pit has grown considerably, especially following interviews on Rhodes Music Radio (RMR). “Our dream is to grow the project even bigger, to really make an impact,” said Mamabolo. “We’re not here to make money – but to make a difference.”
More information on Spit Pit & Live Visuals:
Facebook: Spit Pit Poetry & Live Visuals