AVBOB Poetry Project celebrates “family first”    
Tue, 24 May 2022

The AVBOB Poetry Project is committed to promoting South Africa's cultural heritage and to building a community of poets who support and encourage each other. With the importance of family at the heart of AVBOB’s brand, AVBOB launched a poetry mini-competition on Family Day (18 April) to encourage poets to reflect on the people closest to them.
The results were beautiful and powerful. Three prize-winners, each at a different stage of their writing career, wrote compelling poems that conveyed a core truth about their ancestral connections – past, present and future. 
First-prize winner:
Scott Dunlop
Cash prize: R1 000
Second-prize winner:
Nkululeko Zondi
Cash prize: R700
Third-prize winner:
Amanda Mokokobale Manamela
Cash prize: R300
Editor-in-Chief of The AVBOB Poetry Project, Johann de Lange, noticed that most of the poems he received focused on the influence of a loving maternal lineage. “Fathers were noticeably absent, except for two or three poems. There were also a good number of poems which featured sisters,” he reflects. “So, there’s a definite female slant to the entries, which highlighted the role of mothers and grandmothers in bringing up children.”
First place winner, Scott Dunlop, is a Cape Town resident with many years as a professional writer working in the book trade. He has always had a fascination for words and their ability to shift emotions and perceptions. “I've written poetry for fun for years, as well as song lyrics,” he says. Scott enjoyed having a prompt and the challenge of the mini-competition to focus his thoughts. “The presence of those who are no longer here is as influential as those who are. My poem is all about family, seen and unseen."
The empty place setting
Scott Dunlop
“DINNER!” came the clarion call,
From across the house. We’d all
Race to gather, keen to eat,
Dogs, circling at our feet,
Able to run faster than us,
Hoping to catch a scrap (or two),
Strictly forbidden to beg, of course.
“Elbows off – all joints on the table will be carved!” you said,
Echoing Debrett’s quaint etiquette –
‘Manners maketh the man’ – and yet,
The child expects that being fed
Is a right, a promise, our daily bread.
Squint-eyed grace prayed,
Amens muttered, bread, thickly buttered,
Dogs looking on, drooling, dismayed.
There at the table sits your plate,
Where once you smiled, chatted and ate,
Serving the food to each of us,
Claiming the skin off the custard (yuck!),
Teaching us how to hold fork and knife,
Lessons we’d keep all through life.
“I don’t think the Queen eats like that”, you’d say,
And yet we’d eat like that, anyway.
Your chair sits empty at the table,
But if I close my eyes, I’m able
To see you sharing the joy of food,
Remembering all the moments, good
And bad, that tallied up, made a decent life,
A wonderful mother and wife,
Who taught us how to eat, and feel
The strength of family through a meal.
Second place winner, Nkululeko Zondi, is a widely published poet and journalist based in Johannesburg, where he works in HIV/AIDS education. He was also the second place winner in AVBOB Poetry’s recent Ecopoetry mini-competition. His winning poem now is a powerful tribute to the experience of alienation. For people who don’t fit easily into their families of origin, the desire for human connection remains. The need for love, encouragement and nurture is not automatically granted, but poetry helps people grapple with difficult experiences.
Nkululeko Zondi
there were moments when my prayers
were times for inconvenient mourning
when my forebears were just standstill walls
and my friends were books and more books
to socialise and problematise conversations with
there were moments when my lineages
were depression and Dutch courage
when these two breeds provided solace
without judging or pinpointing my weaknesses
those were the moments I most wish
to leave behind and forget
those moments pass, only to return 
Third place winner, Amanda Mokokobale Manamela, aged 16, is a newcomer to the poetry scene. Born in Ga-Mothapo village, Limpopo, she is now in Grade 10 at Gerson Ntjie High School. This is Amanda’s first entry into a poetry competition. “I was encouraged by the love that my mother gives to both me and my siblings,” she says. Amanda was very grateful for the encouragement of her English teacher, Manare Matabola, who helped her enter the competition at the eleventh hour!
A mother’s love
Amanda Mokokobale Manamela
She, who loves, will always grow a protea
She, who loves, will always grow an Empress of Tomorrow
Limitless, that’s her love
You are the token of my life
A mother’s love is pure and forever keeps its shine
The only thing to ensure that my soul is evergreen
Light to the darkness I fear
She offers the hand that dusts off the dirt on me 
I look up to her
For I will never hit rock bottom with her
We conquer every enemy together as one
I asked myself, who brought this champ I see? 
The smile on her face is my strength
I swear by the Almighty, I will be the key to that smile

Whether your family is one you were born into or one you chose for yourself, The AVBOB Poetry Project looks forward to reading the poems of comfort and consolation, hope and inspiration that come from your pen.

The sixth annual AVBOB Poetry Competition opens on 1 August 2022 and offers cash prizes of R10 000 in each language category. Visit for information on how to participate.