On 12 September the Department of English, in collaboration with the Department of Library Services, hosted Lesego Rampolokeng at the Level 3 Auditorium at Merensky II Library.

This was part of the “Meet your writer” series, which the two departments regularly run to expose UP students and staff to famous writers.

Senior English lecturer Dr. Nedine Moonsamy was the MC of the event and expressed her gratitude to Rampolokeng for his presence at the event. As a prolific South African playwright, writer and performance poet, Rampolokeng has published 12 literary works including three novels and two plays.

As he was about to read extracts from his new novel Bird-Monk Seding, Rampolokeng said he was not sure about “these labels”, referring to people calling his book a novel including his “smart” Rhodes students who say that it is indeed a novel because it is “new”. To him, Bird-Monk Seding is a “coming together of everything [he has] done in his life”. Mail & Guardian describes Bird-Monk Seding as a “stark picture of life in a rural township two decades into South Africa’s democracy”. It is this life the narrator escapes through jazz and radical writers.

Rampolokeng recited his works with haunting capability, which transported listeners to the mind of his characters. A section of the novel called “The Yearn” compares an exhilarating drug-induced high to that of a thrilling sexual experience. An excerpt says, “Builds up to explosion and then just peters out, leaves you whimpering it is mejangling, electric-wired like the brain cells will explode”.

An audience member noted that “all of [Rampolokeng’s] works regardless of it being poetry or a novel, sound like a jazz solo”. When asked about his writing process of organising his “musical lyrics” into more structured prose or poetry, Rampolokeng chose to recite his poem Bavino Manifesto in explanation. It includes the lines “my scriptures picture sutures for my sounds/ wounds psyche bound/ it begins with sounds”.

Rampolokeng’s last recital was a piece on Thabiso Mohapeloa, a fellow prolific South African creative. Rampolokeng joked about the “sorry natives” experiences that they had when they travelled abroad to non-English speaking countries to recite poetry. He said that his “rhythm is often killed”, as during a performance, he is often interrupted for a translation. He added that the fast paced poem laced with Jamaican Patois (a language linguists call Jamaican Creole) was cheekily born out of the frustration of that constant interruption as it is a difficult poem to understand and therefore hard to translate.

Photo: Ciske van den Heever. 

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