Mpho Ramaano is a 25-year-old social delivery activist with strong rural credentials. He is what people looking for easy to swallow labels will call a leftist. The failed social experiment called Ga-Makhushane village in Phalaborwa (Limpopo), where school children still learn under trees and roofless classrooms is where he calls home.The village typifies the legendary Biblical Bethlehem and every fibre in his skinny frame was derived from the village.
Ramaano rose to prominence when he became the winner of the Crown BUWA Campus Poetry Challenge at University of Limpopo, Turfloop campus (then University of the North) in 2003, hosted by Yfm DJ Rudeboy Paul. He went on to lose under questionable circumstances at the national finals.
Ramaano is also an award-winning actor and playwright who started acting seriously in 1996 while at high school. He suddenly followed his newfound enthusiasm with writing two plays, My Stepfather and The Beginning of the End. His book of plays (with Oupa Mongwe) Twilight: four South African tragedies was published by Timbila Poetry Project and launched during 16 Days of Activism last year.
He confesses to having started writing poetry in 1998. His heartwarming, often thought provoking poems have appeared in Under a Quicksilver Moon (International Library of Poetry, USA), New Coin, Turfwrite and Timbila. He was awarded the University of the North African Heritage Week Arts and Culture Festival Best Poet (2000-2002)
Sometimes poverty tends to confine people to aquariums and limit their capacity to see beyond its confines. Ramaano refused to be chained by what was created to keep him and his likes down. As a playwright and actor his ambitions are big. He told a Sunday newspaper, "I intend to penetrate white theatre and get a white audience. It's not much about who you are that makes theatre, but what you can give. It boils down to being given a chance to showcase there".He said the above in reference to a theatre in Haenertsburg, a small predominantly white town with the only known theatre in the whole province of Limpopo, which still has to host a black production. It is that uneven allocation of resources that made Ramaano the artist to join Movement for Delivery, a Limpopo based social delivery watchdog with much emphasis on rural areas.
Some critics might accuse Ramaano of being too moralising in one of his signature poems about innocent Mpumi; a young woman who came to study at Unin a virgin and left being the most promiscuous girl of all. In this poem Ramaano occupies the moral high ground at the risk of being referred back to the book that started it all, "judge not, lest you be judged yourself". He doesn't try to interrogate the circumstances that led to her being a slut, but judges her for her behaviour.
However Ramaano still has a heart as he once related the story of how one day while he was in a Cape Town township a man was cold-bloodedly shot at point blank range and killed a few metres from him while he sat frozen in a car, just a fraction of a second after the first bullet missed him by inches. He confessed that he has not yet written anything about that incident. His closest brush with death and being a witness to a murder at the same time.
Ramaano loves to write love poems while he loves to recite his social chants. In fact, he loves to write about women. This draws a rude conclusion; Ramaano is actually three people trapped in a Masai archetype - the activist in search of an audience and a revolution, the romantic lover shying away from verbal expression at the risk of being too exposed and the introvert who's only comfortable when he's a character on stage and not himself. He can laugh and cry without having to explain himself later.
In an unthankful mode, or rather reflective of the abject poverty witnessed whenever this Bachelor of Science student is back home in Ga-Makhushane, Ramaano took the Israelite stance in a poem titled What is the Difference, "tell us leaders; did you take us this far to suffer?/ where is the land you promised?/ it is better to be in slavery than to suffer in liberty".
Ramaano’s outstanding performance in Oupa Mongwe’s play The Ultimate Disaster won them the best production award in 2003 at the Windybrow arts festival. They took his play The Best Man and ruffled feathers there during the week long festival. Quite an achievement for a young man coming from a province without a playhouse or organised theatre.
Between all the madness, chaos and studying Ramaano managed to put together a poetry collection entitled Talks With the Sun (Timbila). Talks With the Sun is also the reason why Ramaano took his unrivalled artistry and energy to the Grahamstown Arts Festival two years ago as part of the Timbila Poets, together with Myesha Jenkins and Vonani Bila on a performance directed and starring Makhosazana Xaba.
Ramaano might not be considered a trump card but he is the Ace of Spades, and any poker player can testify, it has the capacity to bring down the whole book.He is undoubtedly Phalaborwa's best export since asbestos. The Star journalist Alameen Templeton commented about Ga-Makhushane, "here a plastic bag with a bit of sand, wrapped in a confused bundle of other bags, is a makeshift football that boys and girls of all ages chase in a mad kind of take-it-anywhere carvival that staggers, constricts and explodes all around the dusty playground. No one's disappointed because they didn't get a PlayStation 2 and game updates last Christmas".
This is also where kids spend dark scary nights making wishes upon stars, even when there are clouds. And their days are spent schooling under morula trees, often at lunch, like Ramaano, indulging in those casual but compulsory 'talks with the sun'.

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