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Ari Sitas PDF Print E-mail

Ari Sitas (1952 - ) is a poet, writer and dramatist. Although a professional sociologist with a distinguished academic record, Sitas has always been involved in the arts and literature. Between 1976-82 he was a founding member and participant in Junction Avenue Theatre Company with Malcolm Purkey, Ramolao Makhene, Arthur Molepo, William Kentridge, Astrid Von Kotze, Sibongile and Siphiwe Khumalo among others, creating some of the most important theatrical pieces in the country.  In 1978 he was awarded the Olive Schreiner Award for his play, Randlords and Rotgut,  and in 1981 he won a further award for Howl at the Moon, a video fiction for which he wrote the screenplay and also directed.  He found employment at the University of KwaZulu Natal in 1982 at its Industrial Organisational and Labour Studies (IOLS) department, emerging as an anti-apartheid intellectual with active involvement with trade unions and community organisations.   Sitas worked with trade unions to set up a dynamic black worker theatre movement both in the East Rand and as from 1983, Durban. He was also a founder of COSATU's Cultural Unit, the Natal Culture Congress, the Congress of South African Writers and was part of the leadership that negotiated and defined the post-apartheid cultural dispensation.  In May 2009 he joined the University of Cape Town as a Professor at its Sociology Department.


Selected Work


There is
an expanse of green and dust hemmed-in
by cane and a stitchwork of hills
there, here,
this expanse
spat at by waves
pummeled by sunblasts
stewing in sweat yes, liquid
yes, waves: whose necks are
thickset with corrugation
there, here
is this expanse that claims me: my Hell.
From here
from this hell's odours
- tomato street, guava avenue, molasses valley steel-shavings township,
glue location, masala hill melting and boiling
there is no stench of heaven left to prize
there is a sky: yes
blue-like, grey-like, alien-like
weighing downwards
at dusk

riveting all aground
downwards, yes,
with only sideward escapades.
There, here,
mechanical bullfrogs and cicadas grind away
and sometimes wounded cars cough-by pierced by assegais*
and sometimes surfers emerge from the mouths
of micro-wave ovens

and always
life continues like the sound of splintering glass.

This hell,
hemmed in:
its forced geometry of concrete boils
spreads outwards
in its rashes of sack cloth
of shack, of specification matchbox to touch the stitch work of hills
as near the docks
the boss drives by in his Shepstone Benz
as his "boys" load Cetshwayo's skull as cargo
here, there,
where visions of heaven subsided long ago
with the arrival of sails creaking
under a hyperload of sparrows

here, there,
in this maze of splintering glass
in this expanse that claims me
in these infernal flamewaves tanning my fate
I was lost there
porcelain smiles
and waving
ox-hide kites.


1986.  In A. T. Qabula (ed), Black Mamba Rising:  South African Worker Poets in Struggle.  Durban: Worker Resistance and Culture Publications.
1989.  Tropical Scars. Johannesburg: Congress of South African Writers.
1991.  William Zungu: A Xmas Story.  Cape Town: Buchu Books.
1993.  Etopia:  A week in the life of a worker in the year 2020 (An instruction manual).  Durban: Madiba Publishers.
2000.  Slave Trades;  An Artist's Notebook.  Grahamstown: Deep South Publishing.
2002. Theoretical Parables.  Pretoria: University of South Africa Press.

2005. Voices that Reason: Theoretical Parables (Imagined South Africa). Brill Academic Publishers