Monday, December 5, 2011


Mzwandile Ishmael Soqaga is a well known Mangaung-based essayist, author and activist. He is renowned for his Pan-Africanist vision. But he is also a sports enthusiast. Here he ventilates his feelings on SA Sports…

What is your overview of the sports scenario so far?

South Africa is a very diverse and heterogeneous country that is always striving to work for unity through diversity. Everybody, beginning from the government, business people and the people at the grassroots level are mostly and habitually affectionate in the event of their country and they often exhibit such sentiments so blatantly. South Africa is a country that grows in gargantuan fashion despite its social setbacks and challenges. It is gratifying that the legacy of 2010 soccer World Cup left behind us beautiful stadiums.

Although South Africa is a dramatic country that is bountiful to the tourists and to the foreign investors, however it still needs to accelerate and bolster its effort to be a winning nation. In fact, South Africans are people who are not apathetic to sports but the crisis is that the people are always disappointed when their national team performs badly. Usually, I don’t think there will be a nation that will like its team to lose so many times!

You have a soft spot for the Springboks, don’t you?

Among popular sports in South Africa I can see that the Springboks (national Rugby squad) is one of the teams that is keenly determined to satisfy its nation. The nation and the world have seen how they played in the rugby world cup recently and in actual fact they are used to hoisting world cup trophies as champions. They were champions in 1995 when they defeated New Zealand All Blacks, and in 2007 they also made the world mark by beating England in the finals. First and foremost, the team was aware that the whole nation was behind them and they never played to bring sadness on the people’s hearts, the springboks played with great zest and with full of energy to ensure that even if feasible they could lose and everybody will accept the outcome with satisfaction.
What I really like to compliment is that during, and before the Rugby World Cup which New Zealand won, the rugby team was utterly aware that they have the support of the nation. Much credit must be given to the Minister of sports, Fikile Mbalula who was in the forefront as a sterling paradigm and advocate of sports as the minister. Through his contributions, the nation responded positively to the Springbok action. The Minister ensured that when the World Cup started, all South African became green and gold. South Africans bought the boks’ merchants to show support for their rugby national team and meanwhile the market was booming. Moreover, what was pleasing mostly was to witness how people in general showed attention in watching the game on television, talking about the boks matches on the street, radios, in the press, working places and elsewhere. It was wonderful and fabulous indeed.
Certainly, if the Boks’ were playing on the soil of South Africa, definitely they were going to defend their championship status successfully, and ultimately they were actually going to produce the appropriate results to make their nation proud and satisfied. I am very content by the enthusiasm and seriousness of the springboks when they played. Their commitment showed that the team understood what it means to play for their country.

These days Bafana Bafana (national soccer squad) seem to be in the doldrums?

Ah! Unlike Bafana Bafana, it is apparent that our national soccer team is the draw players even in their own backyard. They don’t demonstrate any authentic play to the nation. Their loss in Zimbabwe this week was a poignant illustration. It becomes so excruciating to watch Bafana nowadays; sometimes one can sadly recall the momentous and brilliant yesteryear of Doctor Khumalo, Mark Fish and Philemon Masinga etc. Bafana of 1996 were very committed and competent, but currently we witness disappointments and the dwindling standard of football in our national team especially in international matches and African championship. No one can forget that great moment unless someone is ignorant and envious. The magic boots of legs of “Thunder” Jerry Skhosana did a spectacular work for Orlando Pirates in Abidjan Cote D’Voire on 16 December 1995 when ORlando Pirates were crowned champions of Africa after recording an entirely unexpected 1-0 win away to the might of ASEC Mimosa.
Similar with Bafana Bafana’s triumph in 1996, almost the South African people celebrated with gusto with Orlando Pirates. During those days South African celebrated as if it was the New Year. Last year, South Africa hosted soccer World Cup, one of the most lavish and exciting tournaments for the first time on African soil, and Bafana’s performance was not convincing. When we won the bid, Africa and the world celebrated with us; much infrastructural development took place. It was sizzling, and the people’s anticipation was so high, people were expecting a lot.
Overall what transpired ultimately was a great grief and disillusionment. Bafana was knocked out in the first round and it became the first team to fail to qualify for the second round as the host in the history of soccer World Cup. Furthermore, despite the exploits of Ghana Africa did not pull up so many trees at the tournament which saw Spain crowned the champions in the soil of Africa. Verily, as South Africans we must appreciate the fact that losing games is not the fault of the coach. It will be naïve to make noises about the apparent inefficiency of the coach; the current national coach Pitso Mosimane tried to propel the country to quallfy for the Nations Cup finals. Unfortunately it all ended in heartbreak though.

Yet you believe our footballers essentially play exciting football…

No doubt Bafana play very good football. They know how to play and pass the ball, their ball control and defence is impressive but their problem is scoring goals. Scoring goals is part of winning the matches. Playing quality football must concur with scoring goals. In their last qualifying game for African Cup of Nations with Sierra Leone, they were supposed to win that game. They were supposed to confirm that they can make us proud by being a winning nation, but what they did was to preserve a draw and simultaneously they misunderstood the CAF rules and subsequently they failed to qualify for AFCON.
Yet fundamentally Bafana play a rather thrilling brand of football, but they need to learn and adopt the habit to win on their own soil. Their friendly match with Ivory Coast last week again exposed their vulnerability, and a similar situation happened and they secured a draw again. Essentially they were playing good football but fell short of scoring the winning goals, even after they had created clear and plenty chances to win the game. Bafana Bafana needs motivation and the fighting spirit to defend the image of football in this country.

So the victorious 1996 Bafana remain a benchmark

Now current Bafana Bafana players and enthusiasts need to learn soccer lessons from their old heroes who lifted the African Cup of Nations with pride in 1996 in the presence of the revered old man, Nelson Mandela and the late sports minister Steve Tshwete. Surely the boys need to acknowledge and apprehend that once we used to be African champions through the effort of yesteryear soccer legends like Neil Tovey, Lucas Radebe, Mark Fish, Mark Williams and Philemon Masinga etc. They must be inspired and should be filled with confidence to win their games in their own backyard!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Hector Kunene and Deon Simphiwe Skade...two of South Africa's most promising and talented wordsmiths. Here Hector Kunene Interviews Deon-Simphiwe Skade over the forthcoming release of his (Deon's) book, A Series of Undesirable Events, and about other matters of importance. The interview was conducted through the wires of the Internet as the interviewer is based in Free State, while the author in Cape Town. This blogger might be biased but this is a monumental interview!!!Below is what the two passionate writers shared...

Hector: I understand that this is your first publication in a book form. I have seen your poetry in one publication when I visited Cape Town last year, which was of various contributing artists. What prompted the idea to publish your own book?

Deon-Simphiwe: I think it’s only fair for me to openly concede that I had been reluctant to publish some of my work, more so a complete book. But this choice was for a number of reasons. For one, I had been keen on learning various ways of approaching and presenting stories through literature for myself in a way that I would believe stories I tell. I don’t have any issues with what the institutions teach as means of telling stories for those finding relevance in such teachings. I just wanted to define story telling for myself first, so that whatever information I encountered to that effect would have a base for myself, upon which my own understanding of my work could be consolidated further. I think it’s very important for an artist to understand the dynamics of their craft so that they may know where and how to carve a niche for themselves through their expressions. It is one thing to just present work of art that only perpetuates the sameness, and definitely another to offer an alternative view on such matters.

Perhaps I should point out at this stage that I’m in no way saying that with the release of my book, A Series of Undesirable Events, that I’m offering an alternative of storytelling. The approach I had is different no doubt, but the reason was not to appear fresh or anything like that. I had a complete story I wanted to tell and chose to present it in fragments, which worked beautifully well for me. I think it would be fair to state that were it not for the Centre for the Book, part of the South African National Library, I may have not published my first book yet. My debut complete book would have been a novel that I had been writing since the latter part of 2008, which I hope to finish by year end.

I came across some communication on the Internet that one could submit a manuscript to the Centre for possible publication, and that’s where some ideas I had about the Series of Undesirable Events were refined and led to my writing and submitting my manuscript. As for the poetry part of things, I decided to stay away from that art form until I’m in the right frame of mind to refine the many poetry drafts I had written. I’m very pleased that the New Coin published few of my poems.

Hector: Where is the book going to be published and why this particular publisher?

Deon-Simphwe: As I indicated above, the book will published through the Centre for the Book in terms of the process followed in selecting the publishable manuscript from the pool they had, and funding the whole project. My manuscript along with about eight others was selected from about 70 entrants, I think. In essence, the whole project is a self-publishing initiative, one I would highly recommend for authors, emerging or otherwise, because through it one learns so much about the book industry. I’m not quite sure how creative freedom and artistic independence is handled in mainstream publishing; all I know is that self-publishing offers that platform which may enhance one’s vision and output in the end. Seeing that Centre for the Book is housed in the Cape Town branch of the National Library, and I’m also an adoptive Cape Town resident, I would say the book is published in Cape Town. Besides all the work on it was done in the elegant Mother City.

Hector: Please tell us more about yourself

Deon-Simphiwe: Interesting question Mr. Kunene. Mmmmhh... Let’s see. I think it’s best to present myself as a dreamer. Other than that, I’m life’s most enthusiastic student who prefers giving back to the same life that inspires me so much. I’m a concept, a pulse and a belief. I’m a belief that I can be the best me I can be if I continue nurturing myself. I’m a commitment to that self-concept through love because through love all is possible. I’m grateful for the love I have been given by loved ones all these years. Through that and new people I meet, I feel I’m becoming a better person. I hope this helps (chuckles)

Hector: You were born and bred in Klerksdorp, but later moved to Welkom where you spent a considerable amount of time. Which writer/s from your hometown would you say have paved a way for you?

Deon-Simphwe: This question is interesting too and sadly puts me on the spot. In spite of the fact that I had been a very vigilant kid who always went out there to absorb whatever information that came my way, I won’t quite say I had a favourite author, especially in both primary and high school years – we did not read much. Many other things occupied my consciousness that to single one out as having being paramount to my reading habits would be misleading. I could point out the books that made a huge impact in my childhood because I could relate to them with acute profoundness. And both were prescribed for the school curriculum.
The first one was a book called Tahleho, a Sesotho novel which we read in standard four, I think (Grade 7). Then followed The Calf of the November Cloud and Love, David, both in standards six (Grade 8). I think the fact that we were very active and creative kids (me and my twin brother) we would usually be telling stories to friends and this came from all that we were exposed to as kids. I could mention Mr Sibuyi, my former High School English teacher, as a catalyst in my interest in the English language which may have subsequently led to my writing today. It is through his continued mentoring on the use of the English language that I grew attached to this language and eventually encountered amazing writers in my young-adult life. I also owe a lot to my beloved cousin, Abe Skade, whose witty command of the English language presented a beautiful and colourful world of a need to express myself better. My highly cherished twin brother Dean-Sipho, had been my lifelong inspiration to this day – he’s the most intelligent, witty and loving man I know.

Hector: What kind of books do you read?

Deon-Simphwe: I read anything that is honest in its presentation, but mostly fiction. I used to read like a mad man before: markets, IT, politics, etc. But through that I also learnt to see through agendas that the communicators of these messages embedded in their stories. That’s when I somehow got disillusioned for a while, until I got back to reading again, but minimally this time. The work I come across ought to be honest enough for me to warrant it my interest because somehow I’ve become a very fussy reader. Whatever is presented needs to be done in such a way that it does not reproduce what has already been there in terms of presentation, style and all those sometimes inhibitive disciplines of writing. A story may be hackneyed in terms of its subject, but as long as it’s being told with honesty and independent identity, I will read it. What normally threatens to give me a heart attack are these formularistic stories that we see everywhere. Oh! I also dislike anything with motivational talk (self-help books) or formularistic philosophy, not that I read any philosophy books anyway.
I think I also need to mention that my reading goes beyond books. It goes as far as great movies (there are so little of them), music, social dialogues, and anything where people tell stories – those are my books.

By the way, I’m currently listening to Saul William’s Volcanic Sunlight. Now, that’s a record I would listen to for a long time because it is truthful in its presentation. He opens the album with a short and powerful poem, which seems to be the only conventional slam poem as the tradition of spoken word suggests. What follows is what feels like a cosmic journey into the pleasant unknown, once the listener gets the piece much later. The opening track, Look to the Sun, plays a beautiful narrative of heavenly bodies in the manner that engages one’s consciousness and leads to pondering. I get reminded of the late Lewis Nkosi’s thoughts on the significance of the heavenly bodies like the sun that he used in his masterful novel, Mating Birds. That kind of relationship people have with nature interests me because it offers an important reflection of people’s fears and other emotions. I have used some of such narratives in my book, trying to demonstrate the relationship we have with nature beyond flowers and other conventions.
I suppose that is why Volcanic Sunlight is on the repeat mode on my music player. Those who know Saul’s earlier work as a spoken word poet may find him to have evolved into a mode that challenges them to find him again. But he’s reached a much more profound terrain that sees him loom large over many art forms of conventional expressions we see perpetuated mainly by television. I’m drawn into such honesties and confidences. Saul may have chosen to ride the crest of the slam poetry wave he helped spearhead after the immense contribution of the Lost Poets and Gil Scott-Heron among other forefathers of this art form. But Saul looked inside and discovered these intense expressions that elevate him to a position of an ultimate leader of thought and creative output. It’s like Bilal Oliver Sayeed, the soul singer. His latest project, Airtights’ Revenge is a majorly profound shift from his previous brilliant releases (if you consider the leaked Love For Sale album to be a release in spite of being available on the Internet) That’s what true artists do, I think, they always shift the bar, not for anyone but themselves, because if they are honest enough, people would relate to their creations. So, it will be difficult to confine by response in terms of what I read to literature. I read music and all these other beautiful pieces people create.

Hector: You chose to publish fiction. Does this make you only a fictionist?

Deon-Simphwe: I’m not quite sure about the fictionist part of it. All I know and believe in is that fiction, contrary to what may be a popular belief out there, is one of the most powerful ways of reflecting our world with all its victories, tragedies and all that burdens it. Movies are works of visual fiction, so are many other aspects of our lives. And I suppose that is why to some extent I have some problem with the so-called biographies or autobiographies. I don’t wish to dispute what has been established as this genre by the names given to it, but wish to say that there’s so much fiction in our lives we’re even fictitious about how we embrace some of these defined concept – we’re creatures of habit as they say.
Fiction for me presents a vehicle to reflect the world as I see it, in the manner that no other platform has afforded me thus far. The closest to that confidence I have with telling stories is through music, it’s a pity I cannot play any instrument or can sing. But I write about music which helps my course a great deal. If I could play, music would be my kind of fiction. It still is in some ways. I suppose that is why I weave music into my work in general. As the saying goes, “good writing should sing”. I hope to master my craft so that I can sing well too.

Hector: You chose to write your book in English; any particular reason?

Deon-Simphwe: Well, like I hinted earlier, I had a very incredible English teacher who instilled the love of this language in me. I think I was heavily drawn into how he made English his own by speaking or reading it in the most amazing manner I had ever been exposed to a black person speak or read it. It was so honest it did not feel like it’s an acquired language after all. He spoke the way he would speak his own language, except his tone and presence was music to one’s ears – and his wit (I’m drawn to witty people). He did not change his accent or assume a conceited position where he twisted words in pronouncing them and attempted to turn up the nose like some black people do when they want to appear a certain way. So, I was drawn to the richness of the language which I liked a lot because the material around us had been predominantly in English – still is, to the gloom of traditional African languages. The world of English grew in me as I needed to acquire more knowledge about our world as you know that a very limited volume of text is available in indigenous languages. In a nutshell, I think my need to learn about the world beyond my domestic frontiers made English my language of choice. But I wish to write in Sesotho one day. For this book’s purpose, the stories I related in it needed a much wider audience, which would have greatly disadvantaged non-Sesotho speakers had I written them in Sesotho, my Father-tongue.

Hector: Would you consider writing in your mother tongue? Looking at the emergence of your peers like Jah- Rose, Teboho Masakala, Vonani Bila, Maxwell Kanemanyanga, Mbalenhle Xulu, Skietrekker and yours truly (Hector Kunene) etc, they have all published texts in different languages including their mother tongue. Are we not loosing touch with our roots by neglecting our indigenous languages?

Deon-Simphwe: Well, like I said earlier, I would love to write in Sesotho, and to date have begun getting into that space through various vehicles like e-mail, SMS and so on. I recently had an attempt of writing a flash fiction piece called, Johnny, which I published on Acoustic Strings. That piece opened my eyes wider on how some aesthetic of language are lost through simple things such as thinking in a certain language for a prolonged time. I mean there was appoint when I was writing the short piece that I literally had to bring my thoughts into an environment that was completely devoid of English, and it was very interesting and challenging at the same time. But with that difficulty, a set of new challenges present themselves: the choice of words, the arrangement of these words, and the manner in which the story is being told, are just a few things one pondered over quite seriously. But, I’ll get there in the same way as I have done in English.

I admire writers who publish in their mother tongue because that way a language and one’s heritage are preserved. The names you mentioned are an inspiration to me because they are a very small percentage of people trying to fight a course which should be handled by a large body of a people, government included. Besides, language is the power. But I also don’t want to write in Sesotho for the hell of it. Otherwise I would not be helping the course. Besides, I don’t want to look back and regret ever publishing a badly written piece because it had to be in my mother or father tongue. Like with other things, there has to be great discipline in this language.

Hector: What can be expected from you in the long run?

Deon-Simphwe: Well, I can’t say. All I know is that I just wish to tell many stories. I hope to finally finish writing my novel. I have invested so much time and dedication into it. It would be very fulfilling for me to see it published. Hopefully I may finish by year end.

Hector: How is the culture of reading and writing in Cape Town?

Deon-Simphwe: Well, it’s not quite easy to say. There is definitely a culture of reading as reflected through book launches around Cape Town. But my biggest concern may be with the small number of young people from these events, especially black. But again, I could be moving in the wrong circles. I think people read which is very important. The content of what they are reading may be a subject of another time for those keen on dissecting such issues. We need people who may create as beautiful literature, if not better than our predecessors. And this need not be confined to this discipline called literature, but may be in various forms of expressions. Sello K. Duiker and Phaswane Mpe, whom I both admire (I still speak of them in the present tense because they are that important to our course) added formidable voices to literary legacy. We need much more and Cape Town is offering that on a number of platforms, be it poetry, music and so on.

Hector: You have met and shared conversations with great writers in South Africa, one such distinguished writer is Aryan Kaganof, who seems to have had a great influence in you, kindly elaborate.

Deon-Simphwe: From an artistic point of view, Kaganof is for me a consummate artist who is deeply dedicated to his art forms. I greatly admire his work ethic and honesty, all which is reflected in his many projects. As to how he does all that he produces puzzled me a great deal. I learnt invaluable lessons from his honesty and dedication. I think we share what I may term similarities in some of our motivations and perspectives, which is what I may say for many other artists I admire. I find Kaganof’s work very engaging and perhaps provocative for other people. But because he’s a bona fide artist with a beautiful heart, which like some great artists I know, puts him in a very good position where I’m concerned; he’s a pleasant inspiration for one to have – an artist should inspire. Oh! I admire his profound and effortless wit too – you should read his work!

I met Vonani Bila too, whom I respect immensely for the work he has done through his Timbila project. Allan Kolski Horwitz comes to mind also for great work done through Botsotso. So is Sis’ Malika Ndlovu and many other inspirational people, all whom showed me love through our varied engagements.
Through my book, I was very blessed to have had contributions from amazing people in the calibre of Victoria Collis-Buthelezi, Daniel Rosmat Kubayi and Graeme Arendse. They all showed me so much love and shared invaluable lessons on book issues with me.

Hector: Your own perspective of the role of critics in literature?

Deon-Simphwe: I’m glad that you asked this question Hector. Before I address it, rather allow me to focus on the aspect of general reviewing first, which much like criticism, rests on looking at the presented work of art from a certain point of view. As a person who writes reviews myself, I personally believe that as a reviewer, I should not impose my views on the readers of my reviews. My fundamental responsibility is to share my take on a work of art as honestly as I can. What people should never forget is that reviews and criticism are but opinions of the reviewer or critics. It is not fact and cannot be passed on as such. Criticism or reviews should be a basis on which the created work may be dissected for various reasons. Some people would appreciate the motive behind the story while others would appreciate language and other aesthetics. Invariably and perhaps inevitably, there’d be those who would dislike certain things about the work of art before them. All those views, whether positive or not, form part of a social dialogue that the audience should have – an author is part of this audience too. Also, such debates should not be confined to academics. For we all belong to this world.

Criticism, much like reviews, look at aspects of the whole which is interesting if you think of it because no story is complete. You may have written 150 000 words and call that effort a novel, and someone may reduce all that effort into a perspective of a mere 1000 words at best; which if you apply rationale, would realise just how superficial reviews and criticism may be at times. Even this restriction of 1000 words I made and example of above is generous in some publications because there are space issues and the capital vehicle to maintain with others. That is why when I review, and perhaps that is why blogs are so important because they are not regulated by people with ulterior or vested motives and interests, I don’t have any restrictions. If I write a review or an essay of 2000 words, I hope someone would read it someday. Even the opinions shared in a 2000 worded piece are just mere pieces of a very large whole. Besides, no one would ever articulate the motives of the story and all the tools used to construct it than the author of the work. But there are sometimes unintended consequences from one’s creation that may result in people discovering themes that the author may not have had in mind when creating his/her stories.

All in all what I’m trying to say is that reviews or criticism are needed in a society in order to better aspects of our lives. Regrettably, other reviewers and critics go about these tasks in an authoritative and repulsive manner that lacks an element of being constructive. Stories are constructed and plans were made to create them. But at times one gets an impression that some reviewers and critics overlook this aspect or at best deliberately ignore it so that they may tear other people’s efforts into undignified reflections. But they are entitled to their opinions in the same way as everyone is. I suppose it’s just a matter of preference. Look at all these words in this interview. We’re sharing opinions that some people may not agree with us on. But the good thing one can do is to take in the criticism and see if the critics had a point by evaluating one’s work for flaws that may have been pointed out. And if the author is convinced that those are not flaws with regards to what he/she was trying to create, then they should not be bothered. Besides, next projects usually present an opportunity for one to do better.

Hector: What would you say is the best remedy to bring back the love of books to young people? As of late it is all about the Internet, Facebook, Skype, Mixit, Tweeter etc?

Deon-Simphiwe: It would be autocratic of me to prescribe to others what to do with their time and life. I’m not part of any of the communities you mentioned except for my use of the Internet for other things. So it will be unfair to make recommendations really. Besides, my blog is hosted on the Internet which is the mother of these developments and communities you mentioned above, all which serve a huge role in the lives of millions in spite of what we may think of such developments. Besides, people are engaging each other through such platforms which is good – people thrive on contact.

All I can say is that the best discoveries one may make are through books among other products. People need to read in order to have a complete perspective of the world they are living in. There’s nothing as tragic as a person living in a glass house but throws stones at a world tremendously bigger than his imagination. If you wish to unlock some key aspects of this world, do so through reading; that’s my only advice. In spite of what the many had predicted at the birth of the information age, books are immortal. They may be changing form and have resulted in e-books and other developments; what is key is that the power these products have to unlock puzzles for us may never end. The Internet has just widened the reach of the book albeit other distractive features hinder such discoveries on the net.

Hector: You are a master behind a world class blog called Acoustic Strings, what inspired it?

Deon-Simphwe: Gees! I did not expect this question. Well, first of all thanks for your flattering comments about Acoustic Strings. I feel other people deserve such generous credit for their inspirational efforts though. I started blogging in the latter part of 2009 after what I may term a period of great need to celebrate life, particularly black life (there was a lot of negativity in the air – there still is). I remember telling a dear friend that I would love to run a website where I would collaborate with other writers to highlight the beauty about black people I feel is often overlooked or simply less celebrated. But for that I would have to get a hosting company which I would have to pay for such services. So I created Acoustic Strings as a blog platform instead, a free tool to do exactly what I wished for. And the very fact that it’s free inspired so many other aspects of my life. We borrow books from the library for free; we breathe free air and enjoy the benefits of many other free things – it would have been improper for me to pay to celebrate others. Besides, the fact that blogs are free, is a political statement in every sense of the word, a subversive development that is still reflective of the fact that not all people are driven by the need to amass wealth. I would like to thank Google’s Blogger for such a free and powerful platform – we seldom say thank you.
That is how the blog started – I wanted to fundamentally throw my little weight in celebrating black life and other people who do inspirational work across the colour line, but more so for the black mass for reasons found from our history and our present. Besides that, I would also note these very interesting aspects of Cape Town’s life that I would write down or capture through my camera phone, or I would have thoughts about a particular product of art that I would want to share my views with others. I also wished to reflect some aspects of our lives as I see them, hence the by-line of the blogs says: strumming on life with all its victories and follies. Oh! I also wanted to write about music – I love music greatly.

There had been various changes on the blog as I began to find my place and refined what I was trying to do, and I love the form the blog has taken. I’m thankful to the readers too who have inspired me to be more focused, disciplined and dedicated through their very flattering remarks that they share with me behind the scenes and on the blog itself (their contribution in posts, comments and so on). What came out from my blogging initiative was a discovery of other amazing blogs like the Kagablog.

Hector: This blog has reflected work of various people, low and high profile individuals. What was the aim and has it lived up to it?

Deon-Simphwe: There is so much to put out there and celebrate, so much that the little that I have done so far to that end seems insignificant. I wish I could have more time in my hands to widen the scope of my interest. By that I mean things that inspire me greatly that I believe inspire others too – all our people, black, yellow or blue, as long as it’s human beings, people are too beautiful man. In terms of the people whose work is featured there, I made it clear from the beginning that no person should be treated better than another one because they are widely known. For me “Everybody is Famous” (That’s a title of one movie I adore by the way), that is why I treat everyone the same and afforded them the same attention. In fact, I feel “non-famous” people are marginalised and this is tragic because great and inspirational stories come from the so-called unknown people. Even the famous began little. Everyone matters, that is why I have set that principle from the word go. Now I remember how I would go out there at some shows or events and getting back home to write about them and publishing them. That was great fun. It’s a pity I don’t have as much time as I had back then.
Personally, I’m against any prepared information especially the one that purports to be objective and all. If it’s really objective and democratic, we should not read about the same people in the news and other mass communication media. I don’t listen to the radio anymore, one tool I used to love more than a lot of mass communication media because of its engagement before I discovered its preparedness too. Listening to the same artists because entertainment industry politics favour them more than others really “sucks”. We should hear so many artists being played on radio that if for example you hear one artist today, you’ll hear them again next month because there are so many great artists who are not being played on the airwaves. But this will never happen because we’re governed by capitalists who tell us we’re living in a democracy yet they monopolise aspects of our lives. The key to survival in our times is to live outside the conventional means. Besides, life is fulfilled and exciting like that. Everything has become “much of muchness”. But Acoustic Strings and other platforms are there to offer alternative views, and if our efforts are not recognised, we’re happy with a few audience that would support our courses. I suppose that is why I appreciate blogs so much. They are very independent; more so than what is passed on as independent out there – you know corporations and all that stuff.

Personally, I have a problem with the so-called authoritative or official voices for number of reasons. Such existences suggest that people outside what is considered to be an official position are dumb and don’t have an insightful opinions about matters of this world. Some of these people forget that the world is ruled by opinions. Look at the recent Twitter exchange between Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, and musician and activist, Simphiwe Dana. According to the reports, if they are true anyway, Premier Zille is said to have said the following regarding Miss Dana’s take on the way the Western Cape is run:
“She is also a great musician, and I am a fan of her music, especially Bantu Biko Street, which means a lot to me for obvious reasons,” Zille said.
“She is not a politician, nor a political analyst, nor does she pretend to be. So I am not surprised that we have differences on this front.”
Now if this is true, it would be very tragic. It would be a means of continuing to silence the voices of the multitudes. Why is Miss Dana not entitled to air her insightful views about the province? Is it because she’s a musician and not a politician? Well, artists played significant role of advocacy across the world for a long time – they helped bring many changes in social dialogue and politics alike. As far as I have seen texts written by Miss Dana, I’d say she’s a lady well versed in the political and social matters of our country – one of a very few musicians who speak their minds and help carry the weigh of the many people who continue to suffer in the so-called “New South Africa”. She has an interesting insight which needs to be listened to like the many politicians and the so-called officials whom some don’t make sense at all; incoherence is even an understatement; oh! And some political analysts, who all of course, are entitled to their opinions.

I think we’re living in very interesting times. We’re said to be in the democratic South Africa, but a lot of contradictions to that end arise. Voices are silenced; people are labelled as racists when they are frank about some subjects of great importance, especially when they have to do with the divide between rich and poor and many other ills of South Africa. I suppose that is why I also don’t consume the news anymore – that stuff takes away a lot of ones energy one could channel to creative output. Besides, there’s fiction (through various disciplines) which I think is a perfect tool to reflect and at times mock our lopsided reality. Acoustic Strings sees and recognises everyone equally and tries to cover anything consistent with what its by-line proclaims – including the links shared that direct the readers to other thoughts, perspectives and things authored or created by others. Like I said, “Everybody is Famous” (chuckles)

Hector: Briefly, your book is going to be released and launched in Cape Town. You plan to do another launch in Bloemfontein too. What is the motive behind this intended move?

Deon-Simphwe: People in Bloemfontein, or should I say the Free State, have shown me great love and support through Acoustic Strings. Their contributions to that platform and their words of appreciation have been overwhelmingly beautiful. Chief Bolaji has been phenomenal in that regard too, through sharing a wealth of information with me and other “emerging” writers. So, to say thank you to all of them, a book launch would only be appropriate.

Hector: Your future aspirations in literature?

Deon-Simphwe: I just wish to tell many more stories. There is just so much to share and I hope my growth would allow me to present these stories I have in appropriate and befitting manner, because each needs just the right voice to articulate and at the moment I’m listening to many such voices in my mind.

Hector: Thank you Mr. Skade, your contributions means a lot and I wish you the best in your future endeavours.

Deon-Simphiwe: Thanks to you too Mr Kunene. Let’s all be love.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Interview by Bongani Tshabalala

Today Free State News catches up with the young and vibrant Xolelwa Mvumvu who is a Radio Presenter for Motheo Fm. The bubbly lady orchestrates an early slot show of “The Family Breakfast” which is on air from 06: 00 to 09: 00, to the delectation of Motheo Fm listeners in Bloemfontein.

Briefly, tell readers - who is Xolelwa Mvumvu?

Xolelwa is a twin sister even though I’m the first born who hails from Sterkspruit, a 21 year old from Eastern Cape. I came to Bloemfontein in 2004 after studying Journalism in Johannesburg at Media House, as a four year course but I only did two years (2008/09). I have my twin, who is so intelligent studying Accounting at CUT. He is like my best friend. I like him so much!

Where do you live?

I am staying at Vista Park with my father, my twin brother and two little sisters; because my mother is in the Eastern Cape.

When did you develop your love for radio?

I started to develop the love of radio and the media at large way back when I was doing grade 9; at the time one of my friends introduced me to the media. She also went with me to the Radio Station that was there at that time. Alas, she has now moved to Johannesburg. She was my role model, and made me to love radio. Then I started to pave my way up to here.

What do you like and hate about your job?

What I love about my job is that it keeps me on my toes, and I get to know about the happenings around the world. And what I hate about my job is to wake up very early in the morning, as I love sleep! Yet I have to prepare at 3:00 am, especially if I didn’t prepare it the previous day.

What is your most memorable moment in Bloemfontein?

It was in 2005, the MACUFE poetry session. I basked in listening to poetic artists and then the whole week I started to attend all the poetry sessions.

What is your favourite Building in Bloemfontein?

My favourite building in Bloemfontein is ‘Glass Palace’. It is so artistic because it stands out, as I like art.

June is Youth Month, what can you encourage youth of today about?

They must know where they come from, and find acceptance because it is time to stand up for ourselves. Do not depend on government, as the youth of today have got so much power in many things

How do you feel about the country and politics today?

A lot needs to be improved, as we still have corruption in certain quarters. But I am glad that in these days, young people have choices to be leaders of tomorrow.

Thanks Xoli see you next time and good luck in your job!

The next interview is with the ever smiling Radio partner presenter of Xolelwa – the one and only Luvuyo DaDa

Who is Luvuyo Dada?

Luvuyo is the last born of Me Dada. I am 33 years old and I hail from Meloding (Virginia) with three sisters. I am an ordinary guy who loves music, reading, especially motivational books in order to improve and enhance my vocabulary.

Where do you live presently?

Right here in Bloemfontein CBD.

How did you get into your career?

After Matric - even-though way back in grade 8, radio was my passion and one of my friends introduced me to the late Aubery Menong who was an employee of Lesedi Fm who inspired me to pursue a career in the media industry. Though it was difficult, persistence and perseverance got me through, and finally I had the chance to be behind the microphone!

What do you like and hate about your job?

What I love about this job is pressing this button and talking to many people out there, advising and entertaining people! Just to press the button and do my thing, What I dislike about my job is when I am not given enough support from colleagues.

What is your most memorable moment in Bloemfontein?

It was in 1996 when I was 17 years attending Kwaito Festival. I saw celebrities that one always sees on T.V. Now I see them live. It was cold, but full of fun.

What is your favourite Building in Bloemfontein?

Sand Du Plessis Theatre.

It’s Youth Month; what can you encourage youth of today about?

I like this, because we are heading to a conference in Gauteng to elect our leadership who are supposed to represent youth properly, and to move youth forward in matters like Bursaries, Business opportunities and jobs. The youth must believe in themselves.

How do you feel about the country and politics today?

It is sad to see others progressing whilst others suffer and wallow in poverty. We’re all blacks and don’t even need or prepare to share; we need to address issues like unemployment and poverty, especially now in the wake of recent elections. We must prepare service delivery in order to deliver on the promises made to the citizens in times of elections.

Thanks my bra Luvuyo. It was nice talking to you.

* Interviews reproduced courtesy of Free State News

Saturday, May 14, 2011

MEET JAH ROSE, an exhilarating poet!

Exclusive interview by O Bolaji

BOLAJI: You have done very well to establish yourself as a powerful female poet in the Free State. How did your love for this genre (poetry) start?

JAH ROSE: well it kinda started even before I realised...Bareng Dichaba was the one who actually un-blinded me to say what you’ve been writing is actually poetry, so I was excited to find out that I'm a poet and never looked back. That was back in early 2000.

You have performed/read your impressive poetry at many occasions. Can you tell us about some of these events?

Mostly at home - I perform at are governmental events, to sharing my writings at poetry sessions around, in and out of South Africa...there is nothing more thrilling than being at an event full of art and artists themselves, so poetry festivals have become my church - that’s how much I have dedicated myself to my work.

Allied to this, what would you say was your greatest moment as a poet?

I have so many very beautiful moments as a growing poet... I have met kings and queens through my gift as a writer, I have crossed seas and borders, rivers and mountains, I have and continue to travel the world through my art, so this is one call I’m glad I never missed, for it is a calling.

South Africa is blessed with a crop of powerful female poets. Which ones of them do you admire most, and why?

I love Napo Masheane mainly because I can hear her, I adore Mme Myesha as well thanks to pacofs we have worked together on so many occasions and she is a mother figure artistically so, she is a sweetheart.

In the Free State, how would you describe the awareness of women as regards poetry at grassroots level? What can be done to sensitise even more women to relish poetry?

Fortunately I am a field worker, so I work with most artists especially upcoming I know for sure that the culture is booming a lot compared to the last five years...and there is real talent out...people who have the ability to tell their generational stories and write tomorrow's history. to women/’wemen’ poetry is a weapon of self discovery, self development and self empowerment and beyond anything else it is a self creation work on sculpting your craft until you shape it to what you want, who you want and anything else that you want out of life,,, so if you have the spirit of writing in you...use it.

Obviously, you have read anthologies, books of poetry published by South Africans – by the likes of Don Mattera, Mongane Serote, Vonani Bila, Lebo Mashile etc. Which of any of these books are you likely to read again?

It will be Napo's - like I said I hear that woman too much, Lindiwe Mabuza and Ntate Don Mattera - he is also very clear in what he wants to say and he is not afraid. You feel it as you go through his work. I love simplicity, so they do it for me.

Internationally, who are the poets that have impressed you most?

I love Asa from Nigeria, I love...''why is it that when Lauren comes from the Hills of India she's always Arie''; for me these ladies sing their poetry.

I understand you are set to publish your first book of poetry. How will you describe the collection?

Yes it is true, I'm hoping to launch it in August this year for it is finished and by the way looking for a publisher, it is called ROOTED FROM THE HEART!, It is an intro of me to the world of literature , who and what I'm about...the high's and he low's, the fears and vulnerability, joys and peacefulness, aspirations and admirations of young woman and how she views and has experienced her environment, emotionally, spiritually, politically and all other ‘cally's’! Basically how I found myself through art and poetry as it has become huge part of me, all these are reflected in this compilation. Thank you…

•This Interview first appeared in Free State News (2010) Jah Rose’s book, Rooted from the Heart has since been launched with fanfare

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Rebaone deserves a world platform too" - Bolaji

The book MY OPINION, penned by O Bolaji was rather panned this week by well known Free State book reviewer and critic, Rebaone Motsalane who took exception to the work being put together in book form. Your blogger, Jerry, an enthusiastic lover of books was rather taken aback with the attack and spoke to Bolaji about the criticism

JERRY: You have read Rebaone’s views on your book, My Opinion. I was quite shocked, to be honest, when I read the piece (in Mangaung Issue). My first thought was that it was so unfair and a-times ridiculous. The reviewer said that you should write new books, not put your column in book form - since the book was published many years ago and you have published many new books since then, how do you feel?

BOLAJI: That’s not the only absurdity in the review. Rebaone has this crazy idea that there is something wrong with compiling a book consisting of one’s short pieces, columns etc – she is very myopic in her view. Books like this are written around the world every time and valued greatly. I see why Pule Lechesa was so upset with what she had written earlier about one of his books too; Rebaone is displaying great ignorance and short-sightedness in this respect. She thinks the whole world is Bloemfontein, and a few areas of the Free State; whereas the literary world comprises thousands of other towns and cities in South Africa, in Africa, and the world at large. The column I wrote came out in a local paper read by relatively almost nobody by world standards…do we invite the teeming countless outer world to Free State to come to read scattered, disparate columns published years ago? Will people in America or Canada ever read the columns if not for the published book?

JERRY: I thought so too, but there were other problems with her review…

BOLAJI: (Cuts in) Sorry…I was also thinking about some young readers who met me at the library in Bloemfontein city a few months ago and told me how much they enjoyed reading the book, My Opinion. They said: “Oh Mr Bolaji, we were rather too young when you were writing the Column so we are very happy we can still read them in book form now. Which brings in the fact of new generations of readers. Such readers, as the years go on, will never even know I ever wrote a Column - if not for the published form of the book. Just because Rebaone belonged to the generation that could read the Columns as soon as they were initially published, she can not envisage that EVEN LOCALLY countless other readers, new readers will not have had the same opportunity and as time goes on further only the Book will be on record

JERRY: A real problem is that Columns are generally local initially; whilst potential readers are all over the world…

BOLAJI: Lovers of fine writing world-wide enjoy reading the thoughts of others and the only real way they can do so (apart from internet, partially) is through books. Look at the great English female columnist, Julie Burchill for example. We can not fly to England weekly to read her Columns but thank goodness many of her Columns are in book form which are distributed internationally, sent to sundry libraries etc; hence we can read her Columns in the end! The same applies to other wonderful columnists like Brian Glanville, Keir Radnedge etc who have published books. The trick is to try to avoid being narrow-minded and tragically looking at important issues only locally.

JERRY: Additionally, what puzzles me most is that Rebaone suggests that you should write new books, not My Opinion, whereas the latter was published years ago.

BOLAJI: Thank you. My opinion was published in 2005. Early 2005. Since then despite bad health, I have published at least 6, 7 new books, most of them creative! So really I am afraid I’d have to agree with the likes of Lechesa that our beloved Rebaone can be a clown sometimes!

JERRY: I also know that quite a number of local writers are unhappy with Rebaone’s reviews

BOLAJI: Rebaone is doing a very good job, despite the bloomers, the clangers she makes every now and then. An important writer like Flaxman always tells me how much he appreciates her reviews; it’s better than nothing. On my own part I always personally urge her to make a book from her Column – she would be very foolish if she does not do so. At least 99 percent of her potential readers world-wide will not come to Free State to read her column weekly – but in book form, around the world lovers of books, literature, will appreciate her input. Rebaone deserves a world platform too. Reviewers, critics often make mistakes too, and one must always read, examine things carefully. As regards Rebaone she must sometimes remove the blinkers and realize the literary world out there, is gargantuan, not local! But I have no problem with Rebaone, we are good friends!

JERRY: Yes I always thought too that it would be a tragedy if the world out there is denied reading her literary views; after all Free State is a very very small place in African, never mind world terms. Thank you Mr Bolaji

Sunday, January 30, 2011


PAUL LOTHANE, who originally hailed from the Free State, is one of the unsung literary heroes who have put the Free State on the literary map. His perceptive essays and studies have been published all over the world; with his essay on Saint George Vis’ book – “Indaba with Free State Writers” (2009) being particularly celebrated. He was recently in Mangaung for “some family business” where Jerry caught up with him for a chat...

JERRY: Skhokho! Great to see you after such a long time. Why is it that people like you who have done wonders for our (Free State) Black literature over the years, prefer to be in the background in these days when what we might call “flashy literature”, the love for acclaim, is so much in fashion?

LOTHANE: There is nothing like flashy literature, only ignorance or and immodesty. I don’t know any real great writer who is “flashy” anywhere in the world. Ideally, writers and people like us that you call “critics” – I prefer “reviewers” – should be in the background, with the media seeking us out, not vice versa. But the real focus should be on worthy writers. I mean – we know overseas, Gerald Moore has published great studies on Wole Soyinka, but nobody knows anything about Moore; similarly, Adele King has published one or two great books on Camara Laye, but the world knows almost nothing about King. Here in South Africa, the white scholar, Prof Mackenzie, has published over FIVE books on Bessie Head, but hardly anybody knows who Mackenzie is. That’s the way it is supposed to be. People like myself, Raphael Mokoena, Rebaone Motsalane, etc should be read and not seen!

JERRY: Critics – or reviewers – like Lechesa have expressed unhappiness about what they have called the lure for “cheap fame” by younger writers these days. What do you think about this?

LOTHANE: There is no cheap fame in literature, you can’t deceive the experts. Of course, among people of low mentality in a restricted community who might think seeing a writer in a local paper makes him or her great, one might receive such ”fame”, but it is not the real thing; it is illusory, shoddy, very local, even illiterate. But what Lechesa said is not in any way original; the great Mazisi Kunene said it long ago that what kills young writers these days is “cheap fame”, they get carried away before they have even really started.

JERRY: So how do you feel that a writer like Hector Kunene came miraculously onto the stage, became famous quickly and is now “Free State Author of the Year”? Do you feel any hostility towards him? Can his “fame” last?

LOTHANE: What you mean is, can Hector continue to grow by leaps and bounds? It is up to him if he focuses on what real literature is about, and keeps his feet firmly on the ground as Ntate Flaxman has advised him. There is this crass illiteracy these days amongst younger writers that modern stuff like facebook etc enhances literature, but it is actually the opposite; these are just social networking gimmicks for people who have really nothing important to do in their lives. I can not feel anything negative towards Mr Hector as I hardly know him, and I was happy to have at least THREE essays written by me used in his book on Mr Bolaji. I can’t be jealous of creative writers, as I am not one of them. The simple truth is that Hector has a long way to go before he can get anywhere near real greatness in literature. He must produce some powerful fictional works, for example

JERRY: How important is the role of critics, reviewers etc?

LOTHANE: I have discussed this in the Free State context in my essay on Saint George Vis: Indaba with Free State Writers. Those interested can check the internet! All I’ll say here is that a writer who is ignored by critics etc is not a writer at all, and is wasting his/her time.

JERRY: So you support Lechesa’s robust criticism?

LOTHANE: It’s not about supporting or not. People tend to exaggerate things – Lechesa, as far as I know essentially concentrates on his career as a journalist. In the recent past he did great things for literature by publishing books for other writers etc which we must always commend in this era of greed and selfishness. As far as I am concerned, Lechesa was doing special favours recently by reviewing two or three new FS books – you check the internet, and see how celebrated his reviews or critiques are. You can even say he made such books world recognised; so many writers in Africa have published works which are never properly reviewed for the international market...

JERRY: You have seen the special Chimurenga Online Tribute to Free State Black Literature Online?

LOTHANE: It shows how much FS Black Literature is respected all over the world. Ntate Bolaji, Ntate Flaxman, even the younger Saint George Vis, have done great things for the Province. The Chimurenga website is one of the best in Africa, and the world. And the main reason why FS Black Literature is respected is because of the quality of essays, critiques, reviews etc on these published books.

JERRY: So the writers owe people like you, Lechesa, Ntate Moroe, George Rampai, Rebaone Motsalane etc a great debt; perhaps they do not even realise this. It is part of the ignorance as regards literature locally; writers do not want to be criticised; yet they want to be famous. They can’t have it both ways! By the way, what do you think about Mme NMM Duman’s debut work (Deepest Springs)? I have heard one or two local writers criticising the book in a petty way. And I must stress personally here that I think these writers are much inferior writers to Duman. What do you say?

LOTHANE: I have said it before, and I will say it again – Mme Duman is a world class writer. Her novel, Deepest Springs is actually more than world class. Anybody who has anything against the work is either jealous, narrow minded or completely ignorant; I suspect such people, if they are writers, can never attain even ten percent of the skill and talent of Duman. Bolaji likened Duman to Charlotte Bronte and I can understand why. What made the Bronte sisters so world-famous? What made Charles Dickens so great? The main reason was their fantastic, realistic IMAGINATION which Duman has a-plenty. Forget about fine writing skills, grammar, big words and the other extras. The most important ingredient for any good writer is a wonderful imagination. In Duman’s case she has a great imagination and very fine writing skills...she just needs to be better exposed to the western world and I can tell you she will be regarded as one of Africa’s finest.

JERRY: Thanks so much. I really do feel that people like you, Raphael Mokoena and Pule Lechesa etc who have been the real pivots behind publicising our writing to the great intelligent world out there, should be getting the awards. But as you said earlier, if world class white critics like Gerald Moore and Adele King can be in the background, then we can understand and still appreciate how imortant people like you are

LOTHANE: Thanks. But the creative writers actually do the major work. Let them enjoy the limelight!