One Hot Spring Day THE RED ANTS Came...
Botsotso number 14 begins with an outstanding picture on the cover. It is
a well-shot Red Ants invasion along Johannesburg's Bree and Harrison Street. It's a very strong portrait which is the reason why they said, 'a picture's worth a thousand words'. Well, this one is worth a million words, even though photographer Kabelo Mofokeng decided to be economical with them on page 118 (Red Ants Photo Essay - Monis Mansions - corner Bree & Harrison) "Dilapidated voices corroded the staircase as they packaged loads of furniture, stomping mine boots in a streamline of red overalls and red helmets, ruthless as the rotting sun. Residents basked in the heartfelt streets of Jozi, disempowered of the right to basic shelter. A killer dollar opportunity for trolley boys and bakkie owners like scarecrows on the rampage under capitalists clouds". Ja, that's advocacy if any has ever saved the innercity dwellers of Jozi. Mofokeng's piece is followed by disheartening pictures of people being evicted and denied a basic human right, toddlers figuratively strewn away from the breasts of their mothers and a dream deferred for scores of poor people.
The essay born out of the cover picture is preceded by a poem by Botsotso editorial member Alan Kolski Horwitz titled Red Ants. Then you know Botsotso 14 is largely about advocacy for sure.
Admittedly it would have been wasted if all the 265 pages were dedicated to the exploits of the Red Ants and their masters. On page 19, winner of the now-defunct Sanlam Literary Prize for Poetry (who is also my older brother)
Katise has a poem that in sixteen lines wraps up the predicament and confrontation with prostitutes. I don't know what is it with my family and prostitutes [Vomit 35 - Taste of my Vomit].
, Katise's poem has lines which I find pretty interesting; 'pimps sellin
g what/ i cannot eat.../remember the whores/ do not smile for nought'. And indeed they do smile hey? Or they spend the better part of their naked days advertising Colgate for nought.
Author of The Kanga and the Kangaroo Court Mmatshilo Motsei comes with a poem entitled A Woman's Heart of Steel, which in a partriachal court would be submitted as evidence why misguided feminism should be grounded. Motsei has a thing about making moutains out of anthills and seeing conspiracies where there's testament of transparency. What I like about the layout of the poem is the approach taken by Botsotso with some of the poems in this anthology by providing translation. This one was translated to Sepedi by LP Boshego and illustrated by Kim Berman. This process is called synergy.
Further on there is my favourite mad-bard
Michelle McGrane. In On Receiving a book of bukowski's poems McGrane goes for the jugular; 'goddamn, he was ugly,/ i thought, lying in the bath/ looking at the picture/ on the/ back cover/...i'd never seen his/ photograph before/...sure, i'd have fucked him,/ even at 73/ but would he have fucked me,/ even drunk?/ hell, probably/ not./...i reached for the towel/ smiled to myself/ lit another cigarette,/ got the/ carpet/ wet.' Yeah, you know you're tuned in to Michelle FM when you finish reading a poem and sigh 'ja neh'. Her other contribution is meditation on red silk blouse.
Then in another crossover moment there's Zimbabwean author Brian Kajengo's wartime memoirs (Pains of War) which's extract covers eight pages of Botsotso. Kajengo's chimurenga tale spans when Zimbabwe was still Rhodesia and the Shona and Ndebele shared a common foe, not the equally dead Ian Smith but colonisation and European imperialism.
May Day, David wa Maahlamela's hypocritical poem graces page 146 of this thick anthology. He says he sees nothing wrong with working on May Day if it guarantees him double-pay. Then he says "don't you know/ leaders of our unions/ the honourable madishas and vavis/ are getting paid/ to celebrate this day". Maahlamela works for debeers-Group as he says in this poem, "all I know is to dig/ dig, dig, dig and dig glittering stone/ but I see no guilt in me/ working on this day"
Arja Salafranca takes up the issue of street beggars. Yeah, it is a painful lament of a child who's six years old and as Salafranca suspects might probably have known no other life than that of begging. Sindisiwe, the poem is translated to Sesotho by Dr Maria Letsie and illustrated by Pontso Sikhosana.
Overall Botsotso 14 is a gathering of artists, short story writers, novelists, poets, commentators, photographers and everybody from a discipline that starts with an 'A', followed by an 'R', then a 'T' and finally an 'S'.
All the repeat offenders are here as well, Lucas Ledwaba, Abbey Khumalo, Mike Alfred, Myesha Jenkins, Kai Lossgot, Joop Bersee, Vonani Bila, Liesl Jobson, Lionel Murcott, Mark Espin; there's even one illustration by Gabisile Nkosi to a poem by Maria Smallberg which was translated to Afrikaans by Mari Pete; Bandile Gumbi, Mike Hageman, Anna Varney, Muthal Naidoo, Siphiwe ka Ngwenya, Kobus Moolman, Mphuhlane wa Bofelo and fifty more that I didn't mention.
It is a very comprehensive read that should form part of every home or public library, more since it was published using public funds from the National Arts Council of South Africa and National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.
Botsotso titles are available at Botsotso P.O.Box 30952 Braamfontein 2017 South Africa or you can email botsotso@artlink.co.za.
Alternatively for all you green or orange paperless society fanatics read more works at www.botsotso.org.za.
Red Ants
Beware the Ides of March!


  1. Yeah, I was just trying to see if my little Dear Commentator message actually pops up. And now I'm like wow, I'm a wizzkid.


Dear Commentator

Kasiekulture encourages you to leave a comment and sensitize others about it. However due to spammers filling this box with useless rhetoric that has nothing to do with our posts we have now decided that to comment you have to go to our Facebook Page titled THE Kasiekulture BLOG. We will not authorise any comments. Apologies for the inconvenience.