Poet Muse: Ntozake Shange (1948-2018)

zamantungwa | November 2nd, 2018 | poet muses | No Comments

(poet, playwright, novelist)

“i found god in myself
and i loved her
i loved her fiercely” ― Ntozake Shange


Poet, playwright, novelist and activist Ntozake Shange passed away on 27 October 2018. Shange was 70 years old at the time of her passing.  Born Paulette Williams on October 18, 1948, Shange adopted her new name in 1971 as a way of affirming her African identity. Ms Shange was the author of 19 poetry collections, 15 plays, six novels, three essay collections and five children’s book and the recipient of numerous awards and honours.[1]http://biography.jrank.org/pages/1282/Shange-Ntozake-1948-Awards-Honors.html She wrote with fierce intent and love about and for black girls and women.

Her most acclaimed work is the choreopoem ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1975). A play held together by poetry, music, dance and drama. It burst onto the theatre scene and immediately disrupted the patriarchal comfort zone men (and some women) were floating in. In the foreword to the book adaptation she states;

“There was quite a ruckus about the seven ladies in their simple colored dresses. I was truly dumbfounded that I was right then and there deemed the biggest threat to black men since cotton pickin’, and not all women were in my corner, either. The uproar about how I portrayed black men was insidious and venal”[2] … Continue reading



For Colored Girls would go on to win an Obie Award and received nominations for a Tony and Grammy award. The choreopoem has also been adapted into a book and feature film. Adapted versions are still being staged in theatres across the world and continue to inspire generations of black girls and women.
Ntozake Shange leaves behind an oeuvre that aimed at bettering not only the human condition but that of black women and black girls in particular.

May she rest peacefully.



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1 http://biography.jrank.org/pages/1282/Shange-Ntozake-1948-Awards-Honors.html
2 https://books.google.co.za/books?id=fKCLNBDQPQAC&pg=PA10&lpg=PA10&dq=%E2%80%9CThere+was+quite+a+ruckus+about+the+seven+ladies+in+their+simple+colored+dresses.+I+was+truly+dumbfounded+that+I+was+right+then+and+there+deemed+the+biggest+threat+to+black+men+since+cotton+pickin%E2%80%99,+and+not+all+women+were+in+my+corner,+either.+The+uproar+about+how+I+portrayed+black+men+was+insidious+and+venal&source=bl&ots=5UPkKI0etN&sig=6lHXGkOCoaMnZyQQ7IETKG7-Nrg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiTpe_L07XeAhVP5IUKHViSD7sQ6AEwAHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9CThere%20was%20quite%20a%20ruckus%20about%20the%20seven%20ladies%20in%20their%20simple%20colored%20dresses.%20I%20was%20truly%20dumbfounded%20that%20I%20was%20right%20then%20and%20there%20deemed%20the%20biggest%20threat%20to%20black%20men%20since%20cotton%20pickin%E2%80%99%2C%20and%20not%20all%20women%20were%20in%20my%20corner%2C%20either.%20The%20uproar%20about%20how%20I%20portrayed%20black%20men%20was%20insidious%20and%20venal&f=false