Last night, I was invited to SA FM’s The Mash Up, a show about poetry and music collaboration hosted by Naledi Moleo. When the producer of the show asked me which musician I would like to collaborate with, I immediately thought of Mpumi Dhlamini, a talented multi-instrumentalist and (fun fact) my uncle. Music is my go-to device in my work and it just made sense to be accompanied by an actual Jazz man.
I would say, “Mpumi this poem will be better with saxophone, like a Fela Kuti vibe” or “something Miles Davis-y” or he would just listen to the words and just start playing. The whole point of the show is to encourage spontaneous collaboration so, no rehearsal. Just a few words about the theme of the poem and sometimes, just starting with the poem and meeting in the middle.
I really enjoyed this experience. I usually get nervous about collaborating with musicians because it could easily throw me off but Mpumi and I clearly work great together. We have to do a show together or something one of these days. I mean, the host even said that our collaboration has been her favourite in the history of the show. What a compliment!
Below, the podcast has been split into parts and I think that’s great because you don’t have to hear adverts, news and cricket updates. Enjoy and let me know what you think.
The Reading Club meets regularly on Saturday mornings at African Flavour Books in Braamfontein. The sessions are interactive and the children are encouraged to engage their imaginations (and confidence) to also stand at the front and make up stories for their peers. I think this is a great way to spend the morning with your little ones.
Thank you to Lorraine Sithole of The Reading Club for hosting Mpumi’s Magic Beads. Thank you to all the grown ups and little ones in attendance. This dream gets to have wings because of you and I appreciate you all for being there yesterday.
Tomorrow morning, bright and early, The Reading Club will be hosting me for a reading of Mpumi’s Magic Beads. Please brin your little ones. Entry is free and there will be books on sale. You’re welcome to bring your own to read along with me too. See you then!
How fantastic is this? I just came across a book review by Likamva (age 7) of The Chocolate Hair Sisters, an adorable, blogging duo from South Africa. Previously, they had chosen Mpumi’s Magic Beads for the Sibahle Collection Book Club holiday read this Summer. It makes me so happy to know that Likamva enjoyed the storyand that it has taught her, as she says in the video below, about “kindness and loving everyone”. That truly means the world to me!
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Thank you, Chocolate Hair Sisters. So glad you like my book!
A bunch of really cool researchers (you can read about them here) and myself have gotten together to create a multidisciplinary pilot study that incorporates Anthropology, biomedical research and photography to find out what young people have to say about sexuality in its current state in South Africa.
Please join us? All the criteria and info is on the poster. I’m so keen to meet you! Click here for the application form download page.
This is what I remind myself of everytime I step out. It is why I will always give my best. It is why I will always think of how to do it in a way that has never been done before. It is why I will always just try my damndest.
The reading for Mpumi’s Magic Beads at Sandton Library was full to capacity! I arrived and immediately had to get into media interviews: one for the Chinese Global Network and one for Vuzu. I think that it is really cool because it’s a big deal and I didn’t know that Vuzu, specifically, cover literary events. Right after that, the show began with a puppeteer who told a great story and had the children singing and laughing. She is amazing!
Then came the time for Mpumi’s Magic Beads. There’s a saying about innovation that I don’t recall right now but back in April, when I had to fulfill my pledge for the #Today campaign, I hadn’t yet published the book but I had made a commitment to read to children and I intended to honour it. So, I had to improvise. I used an easel and huge laminated posters of the story. Ever since that time, it’s my preferred method. It just makes sense to me because you want all the children to be able to see the pictures, follow the story and engage with it.
It worked wonderfully. I memorised the words to the whole book because I just wanted to give my all to the audience; I didn’t want to be restricted by checking words and pages. Just as I was performing (because that’s what I do), a little boy screamed out: “But where are the words?!” A very valid question. Ordinarily, that would have thrown me off and I would have lost my place and been flustered. However, I took it in my stride and stopped to answer him and we all had a laugh about it and the story continued.
I love that I got through the story without blanking out! I was confident. I was measured. I did justice to my work and efforts. You have no idea how exciting and thrilling it is to watch children’s imaginations working in real time, keeping pace with the narrative and having their faces light up in the moments where you hoped they would – and they did! They did!
After the performance/reading, I had an interview with e TV and signed many, many books and took just as many pictures with beautiful, smiling children who looked just like the ones in my story. It made me feel so warm inside to become a part of their libraries and hopefully, some inspiring childhood memories, as my favourite books have always been for me.
A special moment was when I got to meet my illustrator for the first time ever – and she also had red magic beads in her hair! Masego Morulane and I worked on this entire Mpumi’s Magic Beads project, from March 2017 until January 2018 over email, text and very few phone calls. I was elated to see her, hug her and thank her in person for bringing my imagination to life with her gift. We both teared up.
After everything, I went to have a celebratory lunch with my father, my little brothers Mpumi and Tshiamo, and my friends Jabu and Monti. So many more friends and good people from Twitter and Instagram also came through to show love at the event and I was so happy!
What a wonderful morning! Thank you Ethnkids for hosting me, giving my work a home and for the amazing role you play in supporting the work of African authors and ensuring that children’s imaginations are nurtured on Saturday mornings! Thank you to Khumo for reaching out early on in my publishing journey and always being so lovely.
I am so, so proud of myself. This, right here, is self-love. All of it. It requires hard work. It requires discipline and I don’t always get it right but I do try my damndest. I also suspect that I am really good with children and I like myself a little bit more for it.
In the evening, I went to The Orbit with my friends Xolisa and Khaya. While I sat there eating, a woman came up to me and told me that her sister-in-law had taken her daughter to the reading and she showed me her phone: there I was with her daughter, smiling and holding a freshly signed copy of Mpumi’s Magic Beads! I may or may not have cried a little into my food at that point. Today was just so beautiful. Is this my life, really?
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Thank you you each and every child and parent/guardian in the room for buying Mpumi’s Magic Beads and giving my dream wings!
“Bra Willie is and will remain a teacher, a mentor, a friend, a hero, a challenger, an inspiration, a brother, a light that does not flicker, and a fellow soldier. We’ve admired his persistent battle against white supremacy and human exploitation large and small. We’ve been transformed by him and his work and by the struggle he carried out, on the page, in the streets and in the corridors of power. We are all Bra Willie’s people.” – Prof. Stefan Rubelin
Him, the walking library of Setswana lore, Jazz music, African nationalist politics and the emancipatory poetics of struggle spanning spirits and continents. Him, whom we can thank personally for influencing the very birth of this Hip Hop* that the world so loves. Him, the great intellectual with a ready smile and a life full of words that weaved struggles into tapestries of hope. We are so profoundly privileged to have known him and to be here in the world of words that he has made. We, the poets. We, the writers. We, the thinkers.
I bought my copy of This Way I Salute You at the Polokwane Literary Festival in 2012, where I shared a stage with Prof. Kgositsile. The book is full of poetic odes to his creative peers across the fields of music and poetry. Every time I read it, I am touched that he felt it necessary to go beyond documenting the times, as artists must do, and chose to pay homage to both the living and the departed. At his memorial service at the Market Theatre, I had the honour of also bidding him farewell through poetry. I read the poem “For Ilva Mackay and Mongane”, with ntate Mongane Wally Serote in the audience. In the words of Kanye West, Prof. Kgositsile gave his people flowers while they could still smell ’em.
In a similar vein, I would like to think that we too gave him his flowers. Prof. is one of the greats who walked among us and became a bridge among the generations of poets in South Africa. We felt his presence and support for new movements, both in how he was there physically but also in how he did not suffer bad poetry; his critique delivered in ways that I personally found both necessary and endearing. He kept us sharp. He kept us agile.
We have indeed lost a monument of a man. As Prof. Kgositsile now rests, I would like to think that he knows that he was appreciated, admired and greatly respected by us, the new generation of writers, thinkers and poets. After his funeral – a beautiful affair of heartfelt tributes, poetry and Jazz – I sat steeped in sadness as I reflected on his amazing, full life that touched innumerable lives with the work of his words. How remarkable? I too would love to live a life in which I can do what I love and honour my blood by bettering the human condition with the work of my words. Prof. Kgositsile did that.
He has given us so much. It was at his memorial service that I sat in conversation with his nephew, Towdee Mac and his friend, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers. It dawned on me that Towdee was part of the songwriters on Reason’s “Endurance” on which I feature and which has been a special moment in my career. I also had a moment to speak to his son, Thebe (alias, Earl Sweatshirt) to thank him for Doris, my favourite album of 2013, as he shared some insights about his forthcoming album and the powerful way in which it came together in relation to his father. Which is to say, Prof. Kgositsile has left us with his incredibly, gifted people and has left us as more thoughtful, considerate writers than we were before we discovered his life’s work.
Indeed, we are all Bra Willie’s people. And, it is in this way that I salute him.
Somehow, it is on this day of the monumental Hugh Masekela’s passing, that I have found my ability to write through and complete this ode. So, here we have Prof. Kgositsile: giving flowers, perhaps calling his comrade home and reminding us all about time and what it is known to do.
*Please seek out and read the work of Prof. Kgositsile’s biographer, Dr Uhuru Phalafala on his connection to the birth of Hip Hop and the immense importance of his work.
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Robalang ka kgotso, bagolo. It has been an honour to walk in your light. Thank you.