Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

Phillippa Yaa de Villiers (born 17 February 1966) is an award-winning South African writer and performance artist who performs her work nationally and internationally. She is noted for her poetry, which has been published in collections and in many magazines and anthologies, as well as for her autobiographical one-woman show, Original Skin, which centres on her confusion about her identity at a young age, as the bi-racial daughter of an Australian mother and a Ghanaian father who was adopted and raised by a white family in apartheid South Africa. She has written: "I became Phillippa Yaa when I found my biological father, who told me that if he had been there when I was born, the first name I'd have been given would be a day name like all Ghanaian babies, and all Thursday girls are Yaa, Yawo, or Yaya. So by changing my name I intended to inscribe a feeling of belonging and also one of pride on my Afrikan side. After growing up black in white South Africa, internalising so many negative 'truths' of what black people are like, I needed to reclaim my humanity and myself from the toxic dance of objectification."

In 2006, the Centre for the Book published her first volume of poetry, Taller than Buildings, which was described as "an extraordinary debut collection of poetry, that is provocative and original, mirroring the transitions of self and country." Her second collection, The Everyday Wife, was launched at the Harare International Festival of the Arts in April 2010.

She has toured her autobiographical one-woman show, Original Skin, in South Africa – including at the Market Theatre (Johannesburg) and the Grahamstown Festival – and abroad, and has performed her work from Cuba to Cape Town, Berlin to Harare, as well as in her home town, Johannesburg.

Among her many awards are the National Arts Festival/de Buren Writing Beyond the Fringe Prize 2009, and in 2011 a South African Literary Award. She is the recipient of the 2012 Overseas Scholarship for studies in Creative Writing at Lancaster University.

In 2014 she was commissioned by the Commonwealth Education Trust to write a poem in celebration of Commonwealth Day, which was performed in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on 10 March as part of the Commonwealth Celebrations.

On 8 December 2014, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers gave a performance for the ASC Annual Event. Photo impression: http://www.ascleiden.nl/news/pictures-asc-annual-public-event-2014