Book Review | Collective Amnesia


You might have heard her 2016 PEN South Africa Student Writing prize-winning poem, Water;


“…But we,51vdajlv2dl

we have come to be baptised here.

We have come to stir the other world here.

We have come to cleanse ourselves here.

We have come to connect our living to the dead here.

Our respect for water is what you have termed fear…”


It is the poem I remember watching, on YouTube, which she gave a live spoken word performance for; one that still gives me chills even when I read it myself. It is only one, of her deeply moving and poetically jarring pieces in her debut collection of poetry, Collective Amnesia.

Koleka Putuma was born in Port Elizabeth in 1993 and is a facilitator and theatre maker as well as an award-winning performance poet.

Her writing debut, is raw, real, unapologetic and deeply personal. Within her collection she explores blackness, womxnhood, history; all through dealing with pain, memory, joy, grief and self-care.

She says what many would rather forget or not mention at all and her visceral writing style captures and opens wounds while still offering some much needed healing, especially in our post-apartheid South African society.

Exquisitely written and crafted together Koleka delivers a powerful masterpiece that calls for a collective awakening.

I am already eagerly awaiting her next one.


-Review by Nadia Myburgh