from M&G : By Karabo Keepile – Oct 21 2010 13:38
Photo : Lemon Andersen reads a poem from his book to male inmates. (Lauren Clifford- Holmes, M&G)
“I lost my mother at 15-years-old to HIV/Aids and her lifestyle. I didn’t have a strong family to support me with morals and ethics so I had to pretty much fend for myself and learn how to try and survive and I learned the hard way from 16 to 19,” Lemon Andersen told the Mail & Guardian this week.
The critically acclaimed poet, spoken-word artist, and actor is in South Africa for the annual Urban Voices Theatre and Poetry Festival.
According to Roshnie Moonsammy, executive director and founder of Urban Voices, workshops form an integral part of the Urban Voices programme.
As part of this year’s workshop programme, Andersen was asked to share some of his poetry and personal experiences with male inmates at the Johannesburg prison.
For the first time this year Urban Voices involved male inmates in workshops that have been taking place at the female prison for the past three years.
According to Moonsammy, the workshops were originally designed for women as it started with the Medea project “which is essentially theatre for incarcerated women”.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm, there is a lot of talent here, and the officials really want to get things going together with the inmates who have formed committees,” said Moonsammy. “But we really need more support for this programme. We can’t just be doing it as Urban Voices. So we are really reaching out to government and [the national] lottery at looking to make these programmes much more sustainable.”
Andersen attributes his success to his inherent talent and his determination to succeed. The Brooklyn born Puerto Rican artist spent much of his teenage life in and out of prison. His mother, father and stepfather got high together and shared needles, eventually leading to them all getting “sick”.
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