Sunday, November 4, 2012

Meet Phinithi James Ntelekoa

Bloem's own diamond roughing it!

You have been making waves in literary circles even before your works are formally published! How did it all start for you?

I was born 1983 October 24 in a village called Motsemotjha, Mafeteng, Lesotho. Around the age of 3 or 4 my grandmother, older sister to my maternal grandmother, took me with her back to Bloemfontein when she came for a visit. Growing up in Bloem meant adopting its dialect, and it's one interesting point because in Lesotho they have names for literally everything under the sun that comprise their fauna and flora. One other distinct feature of Basotho language is their affinity for endonyms or autonyms (for patriotic sentiments, of course). Back to me...I went to school 'till standard one; my other grandmother came to fetch me back to Lesotho. Leaving your lil' life behind isn't a cakewalk but I 'assimilated' back to my native habitat easily. Like most boys my age, I duly rocked up my herdboy gear - blanket, wellingtons, and a stick - to join my peers at the meadows with our family cattle (talk about coming to greener pastures).

And how did you really get introduced to the world of books, creative works?

It was during this period in my life that I discovered an old 'trunk' stashed under my grandparents' bed. Inside was the world I would frequent a la escapism; a range of used books of literary and scholarly merit tagged with my mother’s and her siblings’ names. Books are not government-funded in Lesotho. Sadly, gradation of syllabuses defeated the purpose of keeping ‘em for the next generation. I devoured all but the algebraic, but even these would spot occasional "if Peter bought 5 apples..." of which I'd search the entire math books for. If there’s a scale for literature, I’m unashamedly a plus size. I used to have a feast back then. The ones with pictures would further nuance my reading experience. Of all books that I read, I fell for Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. I still read it even today and I never cease to discover something new, so every time I grab it a literary expedition ensues; the more you learn, the more your extra-sensory perception heightens.

What about your early education?

After 5 years I came back to SA as my mother got married this side of the Mohokare River. I went to Setswana primary school called Kgonyane in Phahameng. I was so good in Setswana once the teacher got irate at his class for being outdone by Mosotho: he flogged the entire class, except me, and sent us all outside. ‘Went to high school in Tsoseletso, then CUT (Technikon Free State then) to study Office Management. I dropped out on the 2nd year due to financial constraints, did some shady office work for few companies, and discovered my love for graphic design and sound engineering in the process as I'd download softwares and fool around with them. Now I dropped office work for Graphic Design and Sound.

Obviously you have augmented the work of other (FS) writers, haven't you?

DVD for Hector Kunene's book launch was post-produced by me. I conceptualized and designed an anthology for UOFS lecturer called In The Potter's Hands (my poems to this project were rejected for no apparent reasons). I volunteer for an international NGO called - It's under the umbrella of this very initiative that I'll be going to coupla township high schools in Bloem to record poetry for Amisrael Poets for Peace (Africa) CD+Book, to be available from our Bloem libraries. These will embrace students and average poetry enthusiasts.

You are making progress in this wise?

Remarkably so, as Bloemfontein libraries were happy to assist me in any way they can. You and your readers are welcome to submit their (strictly) ‘positive’ poems at Amisrael Poets for Peace (Africa) on Facebook. The criterion for submissions is social cohesion. I volunteer my services (music production and design) to Tessa Muller's projects (Young Legend's Academy and Mangaung Cultural Collective) from UOFS as part of doing my bit to empower women on the move. I volunteer my graphic design services to Trevor Barlow Library and there are few pipeline projects. I have collaborated with Brigitte Poirson, author and former lecturer (France/England), where I conceptualized an anthology (its title and design) and contributed few poems. Friends from South America (Chile) are awaiting my arrival to exhibit what I've been carrying out in my country a la Cannes.

It is also understood you are also putting a novel together?

Yes, I am busy with a novel, "My People". If it wasn’t for the mind-numbing research it demands I believe your question would have been slightly different…probably quoting from it. I found a secret, if not an epiphany, to writing a good novel: if you don’t feel xenogeneic to the characters, you’re not there yet! *ahem*

You obviously have a bright future ahead in the world of writing...

I sincerely hope so. Literature comes second to my first love, Sound & Design. I’m my worst critic as am never satisfied. Phillippa Yaa De Villiers advised me to ‘let go’. BTW, I have a collection of poems enough for an anthology and I RARELY write. I noticed that I can write an anthology within a week’s time. I’m both visceral and organic – I worry about the art of semantics later – when you write to impress it becomes perfunctory. But, I want my novel to precede the likelihood of my releasing an anthology.

What are your general thoughts on literature?

Just a two cents: one thing I loved (and still do) about literary zeitgeist of the time, after every read there would be this lingering aura around me, though I understood one-third of diction employed, as though I've been to some idyllic, picturesque place 'far, far away.' It's unfortunate (for me) that literature is by nature fluid, susceptible to evolution; I terribly miss authorial styles of yesteryear, not classics per se. These seem to write in a different dimension from your post-modern authors. But, to its credit, post-modernism literary landscape is much deepened, now. For example, I'm a hay-uge fan of review aggregators (tech-insight and savvy, books, movies, music etc). They are repositories for [witzardry] - portmanteau I coined, thank you very much - and I'm their apprentice. Another thing that I find uncanny about classic literature is what I like to call quasi-cinematography. Today, if a writer lacks this quality I read him once, from there it's designated disposable (I give it away), lest the story offset this literary abomination with a compelling and involving yarn.

How far are you with the novel?

I can't say for sure, but all I can say is I have about two-hundred and something pages of drafty odd bits and pieces to compress into 100 pages. I hope to immortalize Free State with "My People". Anthropological as it may be, it’s quintessentially ecclectic. Also, I would like to see it landing rights on both sides of the pond - cinema and tv. Bro Omoseye read an ask him for a ‘theatrical trailer’.

I rarely protest in poetry, if ever that. I write solely with creativity in mind, so some of my works may be tad vapid, and some elliptical, but they all help to weave an intricate tapestry of my layered personality. For brevity challenged individual, I have obsession for Haibuns and Haikus - that infinitely concentrated moment of perception condensed into 17 syllables of verse (I can’t remember where I purloined this phrase) – and I’m not a huge fan of odyssey- esque works though I do acknowledge the creative feat behind them. More often than not, when I do write poetry, the goal is to conjure that unique brand of awe esoteric to the audience watching every magician's move but then remark, "woa, how did he do that?!" Exhibit A:



Or avant garde

Forms, colours and textures,

Either undulating or flexuous,

To enchant the aural or ocular

With their own artistic vernacular


Of the semiotics

Achieved with a brush stroke,

Sculpted stone or in harmonic tone,

Through our social lenses, mirrors or prisms

Exhibit our collective poetic isms


By the way, our National Laureate, Ntate Keorapetse Kgositsile and Dr. Bantu Steve Biko touched a bit on 'semiotics', and I think I'm one of the few who noticed this intellectual feat. I don't want to get into this subject so to challenge your readers to ascertain my pseudo-dissertation for themselves. I keeps it elliptical like that. (side note: don't edit out "keeps")

About the anthology you've done with Brigitte Poirson, though 'brevity' isn't your best trait, can you give us a synoptic review?

That’s a good one. Speaking of which, here is an ode I penned for Via Grapevine, a production of various poets from around the globe. This serve also as Exhibit B for the 'awe' statement I made earlier. (see the link below for free PDF download of VG)

St Lear: Ode to 'Via Grapevine'

VIA Grapevine

Is our baseline

VISA to unchartered galaxies

Stave of legends and galleries

VISTA of memory lanes viewed from places hypeathral

Some are sepulchral, and others scriptural

VITALS that sustain our inner cosmos

Imbued with Ethos, Pathos and Logos

ESTIVAL are others, like a 'good season' for Pinot Noir

Authored in black and white, like an auteur of Urban Noir

SALIVATE at this titivated Cipher's Digest

A banquet consummated at the Rhyme Fest

VARIETALS with earthy African notes are on the house

Be imbibed in spirits and let your sixth sense be aroused


NATE IV (nate the fourth), is it your real name if not what does it denote?

Yes, it's my personal brand, nom de plume if you like; it’s an anagram of 'native' as well. I love anagrams and my novel is peppered with those. Anagram for Sesotho is 'soothes'. It is said there's uncanny truth in anagrams and all life’s wisdom is in them. For example, anagram for Clint Eastwood is “old west action”, for Parliament “Partial men”. Just Google "Truth in anagrams". Now, just to show off:

Via + S = Visa + t = Vista + L = Vitals + e = Estival + a = Salivate + r = Varietals

My ego is yours to lavish with awe-some adulations. I don't know if you have noticed but I show Hip-hop influences. There are good stuff out there, though rare and far in between. Oh ja…I can read Spanish, too. No praises….tough…tough audience tonight.

Thanks for your time. I enjoyed talking to you. Please, stop flying below the FS literary radar.

Why thank you. I'll try not to. Thanks for the electronic interview; I'm monosyllabic and socially awkward in person. Thanks to Omoseye Bolaji and Pule Lechesa - they've spurred me on to take writing seriously. I give much love to my friends, Libby Stroik, (University of Winsconsin, USA), Brigitte Poirson, my sister in arms, and to all who comprise the repertoire of Free State orature (oral + literature). A term introduced by the Ugandan scholar, Pio Zirimu.

Any last thoughts?

Just for levity, if I may, do socks give you nigh-unbearable discomfort in summer as they do to me? No? I can't believe I'm the only one in the predicament of this fashion. Yes, my mantra…”don’t take yourself too seriously: Carpe Diem!”


raphaelmokoena said...

Awesome. Awesome. A real talent. The way the Free State churns out these great wordsmiths is uncanny...from what one has read here - and other snippets - this might well be the most talented of all with the zany intellectual brilluiance combined with a touch of the bathos

Jerry said...

Great stuff, but not what one expects from average fine African writer - the elevated language hovers above and pushes the excellence of answers to some sort of abstract

TM THIBA said...

Indeed Free State is one of the Province that is leading in literature fraternity and Sir Ntelekoa proves me right. And I believe Lesotho must be proud too.