Chris Mann, a South African of English, Dutch and Irish descent, was born in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. He started his working life in rural development and poverty alleviation projects, such as low-cost water-supply and sanitation, small-scale agriculture and labour-intensive public works including secondary road and pipeline construction. This multi-faceted, multi-talented writer has also taught English in a rural school, lectured in English at Rhodes University and worked in teacher development and job creation. He has volunteered for various trusts, has been a parish councillor and was a founder and song-writer of Zabalaza, a cross-culture band performing in English and Zulu.
His formal education includes a BA from Wits majoring in English and Philosophy, an MA from the School of Oriental and African Languages (London) in African Oral Literature and an MA from Oxford in English Language and Literature. Now based at the Institute for the Study of English in Africa at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, he is the founder and convenor of Wordfest, a national multilingual festival of South African languages and literatures with a developmental emphasis.
Chris Mann's poems have appeared in a wide range of journals, textbooks and anthologies in South Africa and abroad. He performs his work at various festivals, schools, churches, universities and conferences around the country as part of a life-long passion to promote poetry in the public domain.
Able to converse in Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa, Mann writes poetry influenced by the richness of the different languages he speaks and which reflects the diverse work experiences and social encounters he has had. Keenly narrative, his poems convey to the reader the textural details of the South African landscape and the intimacy of its people. As he examines his own spirituality, which appears rooted in the history, place and potential that is contemporary South Africa, his practical musicianship emerges clearly in the lilting lyricism and rhythm of his poetry.
First Poems, Bateleur Press, Cape Town, 1979
New Shades, David Philip, Cape Town, 1982
Kites, David Philip, Cape Town, 1992
Mann Alive! David Philip, Cape Town, 1992
South Africans, University of Natal Press, Maritzburg, 1996
The Horn of Plenty (with Julia Skeen), ISEA / Rhodes, Grahamstown, 1997
Heartlands, University of Natal Press, Maritzburg, 2002
Lifelines (with Julia Skeen and Adrian Craig) University of KZN Press, Maritzburg, 2006
Institute for the Study of English in Africa
Chris Mann's acceptance speech on receiving the Thomas Pringle Award
Video of Chris Mann singing at the Franschhoek Literary Festival
Chris Mann's poetry live at African Writing