“Sasol Inzalo Eyethu”, - What the F*ck?

That controversial poet Lesego Rampolokeng cracked me up once again some few weeks ago while I was reading my favourite arts and culture supplement in Mail&Guardian, Friday. The story was about poetry and the cover of Friday featured him and a poet I hold at high esteem Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile who wanted a formula of unscrambling an egg the last time I heard him recite. On the same night I spoke briefly with Lesego who was billed to perform but didn't, according to him because there was former minister Dr Pallo Jordan and other government people who would be offended by his piercing lyrics.

Before that the last time I was with Lesego was at the Market Theatre precinct and he was his jovial self puffing on a pencil thin spliff that smelled like some good purple. He was shooting the breeze with his girlfriend Bobby and another artist. Well, we joked that we need to give him Lifetime Achievement Award to retire him before something bizarre pops up in his repertoire. I referred to him as an ancestor and joked that since my daughter was named after him, he better behave or otherwise he’ll be upsetting my external heart.

On Friday Lesego was taking no prisoners, arguing that South Africa can not have a reading culture and produce smart writers because the government was not prioritizing the building of libraries in black areas – by the way blacks are the majority and to deny them books is to maintain the pre-’94 status quo. Okay, unfortunately it’s still the same today.

But he made a killer point that cracked me up, primarily because the last time I was with him we did discuss it - celebrity poets. In the South African context what is a poet? Simply, what is poetry? We had a long chat with him that Spring afternoon at the Market Theatre and after reading his on-point rants I decided to consult informed books written by people who grew up around libraries.

My own definition is; “poetry is that which makes you a dog. Poetry is that which you vomit now, which ten years from now you can spot amongs many pukes as your own puke and which you can proudly gulp if offered the opportunity to. Poetry is vomit you can be proud of”. Well, that’s me, no wonder my second book is titled Taste of My Vomit, I can gulp that muthaf*cka ten years from now and abstain from brushing my teeth for three days, loving the taste. My definition of a poet is “a dog”. And their doctor is a vet.

Now, a Yiddish dictionary I have defines poetry as, “the language of imagination expressed in verse; metrical composition; imaginative composition”. Well, please underline imaginative because it’s crucial to the definition as Lesego lashed in the article. Imaginative means ‘that which is imagined’ and is taken from ‘image’ or ‘picture’. I’m not going to be academic with ‘picture’ since we all know it’s got something to do with visual stimulation and visual has everything to do with seeing and seeing has everything to do with the eye - even with your eyes closed.

Okay, Lesego said that people these days are singing the praises of Cremora, Transnet and Sasol and call that poetry. I shared that sentiment. I have been wondering what is happening to the Joburg poetry scene the moment I saw someone I respected (I don't know if I still do) so much Bra Don Mattera doing a Sasol television ad and ad-libbing a few senseless words and wanting us to christen them as poetry that I realized something was wrong in Jozi.

Then I saw Lebogang Mashile, well, I wasn’t surprised about her because those are the type of ‘gigs’ she would do whereby the recitation (not poem) is by commission. She will recite about anything from Albatross to Zimbabwe or Ahmedinejad to Zuma as long as the money is right. I kept saying, ‘funny that any sister you meet will tell you their favourite poet is Lebo Mashile but if you ask them just one of her poems you hit a snag’. One of my friends, who I consider a playerhate said, ‘she’s talking a lot but saying nothing’.

Then Mak Manaka on Sasol, damn I bemoaned the dying of true poetry. Bra Mak used to say in his recording, ‘my father always told me never put that pen down’ and I wondered if he used his pen to write the recitation for Sasol or it just popped from somewhere in his brain. I was left worried that if the three ‘poets’ represented what is best about South Africa especially Joburg then this country is in sh*t.

Reading Kgositsile and Lesego’s piece I felt consoled about what I told one fellow writer when I said, ‘I don’t have a Msholozi poem. I don’t have a Parliament of South Africa poem, I don’t have an ANC, DA, COPE, PAC or whatever political party formation poem but I have lots of poetry about the suffering of my people and if I was given a tender to do a poem during inauguration or the opening of parliament I shall not be given a tender document spelling out words I should not use. I would tell the procurement manager to take his R40 000, and go buy happiness with sicne I can’t lie about the achievements of people whose level of corruption hurts me everytime I see kids queuing for water in Manyeleti, Mahushu, Mdantsane, Philippi, Kanana, Makwarela, Galeshiwe, Matatiele, Mankweng and other such places. I shall not find glory in a regime that has lost sight of a better life for all

And they tell me I’m saying that because I’m not hungry enough. But with Lesego having said what he said on Friday and still eating, whenever hunger hits me I shall knock at his door and ask for a breakfast of poetry with milk, and we can chase that concoctio with Purple Haze.


  1. Anonymous8/21/2009

    Yaa- Neh!!!
    But writing is a business like an other business. I mean why should a poet have to wonder how they will be paying the rent? Why should you have to find a rich white woman or man to pay the bills and be kept like some 'house nigger'? I think it's great that the world of business see's value in poetry. I think they could use poetry differently, but it's a start.

  2. Anonymous8/23/2009

    Isn't it a little rude to assume that if someone has a white girlfriend then that makes him a 'house nigger'? I get your point, but true artists should ask themselves if they answer to a calling or an SMS? It's fine that some people can conjure pieces about Sasol but the argument would be they should market themselves as PR people instead of poets. Whatever they are doing defies the definition of poetry and qualifies as copywriting or PR. So, imagine if a teacher called himself a pastor because he stands infront of people and blurb some things. That someone stands infront of people and speaks does not make them what they claim to be, you become something but qualification. But I like your points; I just deplore the narrow racial interrogation of Black people's ability or lack of to measure up.Black-white chick, what's the difference?


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.