Wednesday, October 23, 2013


‘Mbali Press is performing wonders” – Lothane

Literary commentator, Paul Lothane was on a whistle-stop visit to the City of Roses (Bloemfontein) this week. However he could not hide his excitement at current literary trends in the Free State…

Do you think the FS is still doing well in respect of Black literature?

LOTHANE: Very much so Ntate! In fact it seems to have reached incredible heights these days, with many new books churned out. Apart from the new Jah Rose production book (Peopress), Soqaga’s book on African Writing, Matshidiso Taleng's SECRETS, and Kanemanyanga’s latest book (Chapindapasi)…but of course by far the most remarkable thing is the series of fine books churned out by Mbali Press. Quite breath-taking.

You have seen some of the firm’s new titles?

To be honest Mbali is performing wonders. I don’t think anything like this has been seen before in Black publishing…I mean last year Mbali brought out a remarkable work like Interviews with Effervescent Writers. Now it is not even a case of raising the bar; it is much more than that…almost ten excellent books released in a year by Mbali! The National Arts Council grant has bolstered quality in this wise.

Which titles impressed you most?

Pule Lechesa’sBolaji in his pomp is fantastic. I read it; and with an international literary icon like Mongane Wally Serote writing the Introduction to the book, you can see it sets the tone from that…the Foreword is magnificent. I would recommend it for everybody to read. Lechesa is doing great things…he also put together a book of short stories – Free State Brewed Short Stories - where the contributors are powerful wordsmiths…people like Maxwell Kanemanyanga, Bolaji, TselisoMasolane, Charles Matorera, the always exciting George Rampai…the award-winning TebohoLetshaba has also published his new book with Mbali Press.

There is also a lady who published a book of literary essays with Mbali this year, eh?

Ja, that’s Mme Mautjana’sThrobbing SA Black Literature. A fantastic work. Another book I will recommend as a guide for all those who love our writing. What is startling is that a writer like Lechesa never rests on his laurels. Despite what he has achieved he keeps on working on other major literary projects. I understand he is now doing some projects with the great Maphalla…

You mean Dr K.P.D Maphalla, the illustrious Sesotho writer?

The very same one. I understand Mbali Press will soon be publishing the great man’s very latest work; and Lechesa is also writing a study book on him; in the mould of the one he has done on Ntate Bolaji…


(laughing) Ja. Mbali Press is taking the literary world by storm. Thanks Ntate, but I must run now…

Friday, June 21, 2013


Poet and Author Matshidiso Taleng has written and published a book titled SECRETS. It’s her first collection of poems which she began writing from a very young age. Her passion for literature has not only grown but has enabled her to reach heights she herself had not imagined. In this interview, the feisty Taleng opens up about her views on the world of literature and tells us about her inspiration for writing her book. This Bloemfontein based writer has been performing her poetry around the Free State for close to ten years now.

1.     How did you get into the world of creative writing? How did it all start?

The first time I was introduced to writing was in 2004. I was invited to a poetry session by Tebogo “Naycha” Molatole, the founder of a group called Beyond Mind Control Poetry Club. That is where I met other writers, such as Lerato Nonyane, Simphiwe, Nkabiti, Onthusitse Molefi and that’s just some of them. I began finding my passion for poetry and that is where my love for art began.
I started writing poetry as well and I didn’t even think I would end up publishing my book.

Poetry allowed me to reminisce about the things that happened to me, the people close to me and to reflect on the good and bad things that happened to me.
I also used to listen to artists such as Jill Scott, Lauren Hill, Floetry, the type of artists whose sounds are poetic and whose message resonates.

2.     Which books or authors over the years inspired you?

I was inspired by Dr Zakes Mda’s book, Ways of Dying which is a book about a professional mourner who was paid to give life to a funeral. What intrigued me about the book is its ability to tackle issues that people do not take into consideration. The way he describes the scenes and the way the plot thickens, is bound to keep you captivated.

3.     How long did it take you write your debut book?

I had been writing for almost all my life without realizing that it was actually poetry I was doing. I began writing way before I even entered the poetry groups and so I can’t clearly specify the exact period I started compiling my debut.

I decided to edit some of my old poems and include them in my book.  Many of the poems I have included in my book include even those from 10 years back, signifying my growth and maturity as a writer. 

4.     You are a passionate person not scared of revealing your innermost feelings to readers, is this part of your personality; or can you separate your own identity from your own work?

Some of my poems are from a personal experience and in some I just put myself in somebody else’s shoes. So this means that sometimes I can separate the two.
I wrote the poem Secrets when I was in a depressed state and although I couldn’t write it then, I found the strength to confront my past and pain and that enabled me to put it out there. I was raped as a child and although I received the support from people in my life, I still needed to come out and deal with what had been haunting me. I am strong today because I feel nothing is holding me back and talking about it has enabled me to regain my strength, giving me back my voice. It’s not a lot of people who can open up about what they went through and so by me coming out, I’m giving a voice to the voiceless. What I wanted them to know is that they have nothing to be ashamed of.

5.     The Free State has a very vibrant black literature scene, what do you feel about contributing your own quota to this environment?

I feel that every writer contributing their work to literature sustains literature as a whole; therefore I, contributing to the environment will help other writers who come after me.  
Some of the challenges faced by writers are that there is a lot of jealousy and we just don’t support each other. This is a very small town for us to conspire against each other; we need to build on our strengths and improve our weaknesses.

What I have realized is that people seem to be discouraged from attending poetry sessions, undermining the talent that is out there and by doing so, we are killing literature. People do not read. We only focus on the books we are given in schools and not taking much consideration to books that are available out there. Some people choose to go to the library to get books instead of buying them.
We as artists need to make sure our voices are heard.

6.     Generally speaking, how can we encourage more people to read more creative writing?

Creative speaking (poetry) is the fun part of the art, by teaching them that we’ll be teaching them creative writing. Encourage people to come to poetry sessions which will inspire people to write more.

7.     What are your future literary plans?

It is to read and write more about my mother tongue. I’m considering writing another book; it’s not a done deal yet.

CONCLUSION: Take your craft seriously by reading more to better your skills in writing and understanding literature.

Friday, May 3, 2013



Charmaine Kolwane Mrwebi is a young female writer born and bred in the Free State. She has published two books comprising a literary study; and poetry. Well known literary critic and essayist Raphael Mokoena recently engaged in a quick question-and-answer session with her…

RAPHAEL: How do you feel having published two important books – as a quite young Black SA lady?

CHARMAINE: I feel like I am in a reverie state and I still have  to be awoken; yes I have always had a dream of publishing for as long as I can remember, it is just that the possibility of me publishing against
thousands of odds painted it as an impossibility. I feel honoured that people, friends, God and circumstances in my life have made my dream of publishing a reality. I feel like a small child who received a Christmas present, I still go back and re-read my books in the privacy of my room when no one is looking just to convince myself that it is done.

How difficult is it for a black woman to be a writer these days?

I will like to believe that  the difficulties that were supposed to be experienced by me today as an black women  were paid for during the yester years by literature soldiers  in South Africa and in the my
Free State province. We all know what apartheid did to our black writers and heroes who were dictated on what to write and when to write. So over the years literature soldiers of old have fought for the
writing environment to be more accessible and inviting to the up and coming writer, I mean when you think of Mr Mokopu Mofolo , the first literature soldier who was the first black man to publish back then ,
for one to just imagine and try to think what he had to endure to make his dream of writing a reality. Challenges facing me as a black female writer include funding and to publish my book and also distribution of my books. I had to finance the publication of my second book and it has been an expensive investment as I had to pop out some thousands of rands to invest in this baby of mine, and eventually I had to print less copies because of my limited funds and as I myself , I had to go out and sell and knock on doors that are welcoming and some not so welcoming.

Who are the Black female writers who inspired you?

I was introduced to Bessie Head during my matric in the year 2000 by my English teacher Mr Wesi, and I was smitten, it was indeed love at first digest! I love Bessie Head ‘s style of writing and how she endured discrimination and her personal crisis yet she was able to pen down such moving stories. Mr OmoseyeBolaji introduced me to Tsitsi Dangarenga and Buchi Emecheta six years ago and till today I am still in love with these authors, I personally favour Buchi Emecheta because she was a single woman with 5 children in a foreign country but was able to defeat the odds and published numerous book and got to graduate at University. Lebo Mashile is my personal poet goddess who moves me with her performance

Pundits - like myself - often wonder; why would you write a whole book (study) on Omoseye Bolaji in particular?

I wrote a whole book on Omoseye Bolaji after meeting him and reading most of his books, I was firstly inspired  by his human nature, as he is a humble individual who loves literature and people in general, for
I expected someone in his calibre to be arrogant but he presented himself as a mentor - as he also introduced me to the writing of my now favourite author Buchi Emecheta and Tsitsi Dangaragemba whom upon reading their collections moved me as a young woman to press on against all forms of challenges and sharpen my vocabulary and view on life.  I also wrote about his books as I love his style of writing and his hard work as an author. His style of writing is informative, deep and filled with a lot of suspense , I felt moved and privileged to give my views on his sophisticated works and collection.

You have inspired other black female writers to come out and write and publish. How do you feel about this?

I feel blessed and praise God that the seed planted in me by literature heroes including Bolaji, Dr Zakes Mda ,Buchi Emecheta has now born fruit and now includes galvanizing other writers to publish their work. The literature fraternity is blessed when each one teaches the other and eventually we are going to have a community of writers telling stories and contributing towards solutions in our country. I feel that I have to keep pushing and investing seed of literature continuously even in midst of challenges.

From the internet we can see many articles, appreciations of your own writing. Do you think black African writing should be judged by we Africans, or by the “white” world largely ignorant of many aspects of our lives?

This is a very emotional question and I had to think deep before I could answer, but after serious thought I have come to the conclusion that as a writer it is of less importance who critiques and judges our work, whether black or white; as a writer our main concern should be to write and not concentrate on critic’s view on our work. And lastly we should march on and acknowledge that as writers we shall receive critiques and compliments for our works and I shall choose the latter… and let the compliments I receive heal any pain and confusion provoked by the critic.
Thank you

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


TIISETSO THIBA is a young man very much enamoured with the world of literature, especially poetry. Apart from being an established poet, he is also a short story writer and essayist. His works have appeared in many newspapers, journals, books and on the internet. Here he speaks about how he fell in love with writing, the mechanics, his inspiration, his favourite authors etc

Perhaps a few words about yourself first?

First of all I'm a meek soul, Originaly from the hamlet called Ganyesa in North Province. I'm a Writer/a performing poet,essayst, commenter on literature blogs. I Like media as a whole because is my

Any literary projects you are working on now?
I'm busy with my long over due book, and I can't declare when it will hit the shelves because I've realised that the more it is taking a while is there more is getting matured. I do believe I have to create
hype for myself before I realesed my book, because I've seen many artists fail in this industry by rushing to release their book, and people didn't bother to buy their books 'cos they don't know them at all. E.g Sabata Mpho Mokae took something like a decade to release his debut Anthology, and his book was well received because society knew what he was doing.

What are some of the challenges artists face these days?

The challenges that Artist are facing nowadays include Marketing for their work, The principles or Rules that draws a line regarding Artist expression, because if you can express yourself about situation bothering your society or nation as an artist you'll be restricted to perform in the future because they consider you as a rotten potato! This might affect others.

You have a lot of respect for FS Writing?

Ha ha - Free State Is the province that made me who I am today in terms of growth of my writing and publicity, E.g newspapers like Free State News,NC Times, and Northern Cape Express published My work... and Obrigado to all of them.

Any way forward generally?

What could change Literature and industry and benefit the Artist  is liberation of expressions with no boundaries or red lines not to cross by those who are in the helm. It was on the sunday 17-03-2013 on The
Big Date Show, where the core topic was about the Artist and their challeges, it is on the show when Dr Mongane Wally Serote said Artists' rights must not violate others rights and as Artists we should decide
to build the nation or destroy it. and it means the answer is up to any soul call Artist to verdict to build the nation or destroy it by their works or expressions.

Any role models?

I personally look up to those who build and bring changes to the society and the nation we living in. I have plenty of names to quote but I'll avoid the dawn to shadow us before the we wrap up our interview and I dedicate my revere to those who took part in building my career. Respect to all of you My Kings.

Which books are you currently reading?

The books I'm reading at the moment include 'To Every Birth Its Blood by Mongane Wally Seretote, Indaba My Children by Credo Mutwa, Nko Ya Kgomo by T.L.Tsambo. I believe in reading 2 to 3 books in a month. Much Respect to Vigorous Writers and power to the Artist....

Friday, February 1, 2013

Omoseye Bolaji talks about his new book, It Couldn’t Matter Less (2013)

Book: It Couldn't Matter Less
Author: Omoseye Bolaji
Isbn:  978-0-620-55980-5

Congratulations on your new book, Mr Bolaji! It is remarkable that you have been consistent as an author for many years – averaging a new book at least, every year. Is it a deliberate policy?

BOLAJI: Probably. I think that those of us who claim to be writers should try to be consistent, come out with new books fairly regularly. Zakes Mda has been doing this for decades; he is a real icon. I don’t think writers should become complacent or rest on their laurels. Take Pa Chinua Achebe for example – he published his first classic, Things fall apart in 1958; and at over 80 he has just released a new work, There was a country (2012) Writers, I believe should churn something of quality out on a regular basis even if it be literary essays or clusters of poems…the range of literature is wide; as we have genres like poetry, fiction, drama, literary criticism, general writings, etc

Yes. Your new book can best be described as “general writings” – short writings of yours over the last couple of years or so. You have put these writings together in a book, just as you did with Miscellaneous Writings (2011). Your range is fairly diverse; but as usual lots of the writings are about literature and sport

BOLAJI (smiling) 'Guilty as charged'!

Seriously, in many of your writings you make allusions to famous literary works most of our people do not know about – like the one you wrote on Revenge, where you brought in Moby Dick, a classic work overseas. Is it also deliberate on your part?

BOLAJI: I don’t think so; perhaps it is a mélange of many things. We learn a lot from classical works, you know; we can’t cut ourselves off from what is eclectic and excellent indeed. Revenge is a motif that runs through the work, Moby Dick…by the way at least two people contacted me and said for the first time in their lives they sought out and read the book, Moby Dick, thanks to my column.

In another of your essays, also in this new book, you refer to the fact that Africa a huge continent with over 50 countries has had just a few Nobel laureates, whereas the United States of America one country has had hundreds! It is a shocking revelation…

BOLAJI: I think I have heard this question before! (laughing) What can one say? We Africans must realize that the gulf between us and the so-called advanced, Eurocentric world is very huge indeed, a mammoth chasm really, despite the efforts of a number of Africans. In respect of literature we must pull out all the stops to ensure that our people read much more…and our writers must avoid complacency which is a bug bear.

In another essay in your new book, you compare – or is conflate a better word – two white ladies, Mary Slessor and Emily Hobhouse, both who went out of their way to better conditions in Africa. Yet your write-up admits that most South Africans would know Hobhouse, whilst Nigerians would know Mary Slessor. I never heard about Slessor, e.g until I read your piece; then I did research on her and admired her remarkable life…what can be done to bridge such ignorance even among educated people?.

BOLAJI: We must continue to learn on a daily basis and realise there are countless things we won’t know about anyway. On a facile level we can state for example: Flora Nwapa was the first Nigerian woman to publish an authentic novel; and Miriam Tlali was the first SA black woman to publish a novel. But the shocking aspect comes in when we realize that not many so-called lovers of literature in these respective countries know this elementary fact! I think we should continue to encourage the younger writers in our midst who relish learning regularly about the world of literature; I have people like Tiisetso Thiba, Charmaine Kolwane and Masakala in mind

But Charmaine is an established writer…

BOLAJI: Yes but she realizes, as we should all do, that we can learn more, much more on a regular basis. She really enjoys reading and basking at literary occasions. She is a researcher to boot. I pity half-baked writers who go around strutting like peacocks because they have published maybe a book or two. I think writers should always regard themselves as learners…there are so many great writers out there who still remain humble.

In this your new book, and in your many other writings, you pay tribute to many accomplished writers…

BOLAJI: Yes, and there are many others I admire intensely that I have never actually mentioned. Take Britain’s Peter Ackroyd for example; a superb superb writer: prolific novelist, essayist, poet, biographer. He has published scholarly acclaimed studies on iconic writers like Charles Dickens – books of over 600 pages! And his fiction, novels etc are outstanding too. If such writers can remain humble after doing it all, why should those who are just learning to crawl literally, get carried away?

Thank you Mr Bolaji. I must say that just like your collection, Miscellaneous Writings, this new book of yours is very good and a mine of information for us all.

BOLAJI: Thanks