moses seletisha

Curtain Call - Moses Seletisha

The late Professor Es’kia Mphahlele believed the silver lining apartheid provided was it allowing indigenous languages to flourish through investment in their development. This was not the case in other parts of colonial Africa.
In a post-apartheid South Africa there are complaints from language practitioners that the democratic government has little regard for Black languages. “I have seen groups growing and dying of hunger. It is the Department of Arts and Torture that is not doing us right at times. They will always tell you there is no sufficient budget”. Sepedi performance poet, playwright, actor, translator, writer and intellectual with a keen interest in African languages Moses Seletisha (27) protests. 
He is one of a growing number of young artists who choose to express themselves in their mother tongue because as he says, “why do you want me to speak your language when I have mine?”
Seletisha was born at Mooihoek Village in Tsimanyane. He grew up in Leeufontein next to Marble Hall in Limpopo Province.  By his confession his father passed on when he was five-years-old, leaving his mother to raise him, a brother and sister with her R500 a month wages. He remembers that his father worked in the mines and alleges his pension was squandered by his uncle. As a result he was raised by his grandparents Martha and Stephen Seletisha with whom he still lives.
His first literary awakening came when he was recruited by a theatre company. From here his formative stage mirrors that of most Limpopo artists. “During Heritage month I saw myself reciting my first poem ‘The University of The North’ which was a dedication to the late Prof. John Ruganda organised by University of Limpopo. The reception was too overwhelming and made me escalate my pen. At the same time I was serving as an actor performing at The Market Theatre Lab and National Arts Festival (Grahamstown)”
Seletisha prides himself on being ‘an old lion’. “My pen started making sense at the age of fifteen “ he says. However, for a 27-years old man who models himself after the doyens of Sepedi literature O.K. Matsepe and N.S Puleng it seems Seletisha is comfortable with not getting much attention. He has shared the stage as a poet with notable voices such as Vonani Bila, Lois Reeds, Lesego Rampolokeng, David Wa Maahlamela, Matete Motsoaledi, Mmatshilo Motsei, Antonio Lyons and many others.  “If it was not of poetry I would have become a murderer, I use it for verbal masturbation”, he confesses.
It however is not poetry that pays the bills in the Seletisha household. Stage is what he is known and famed for; often wowing crowds across provinces with his animated presence. He has been an artist for the better part of his adult life where he acquired experience working in different stage productions such as Kgorong (The Royal Court), Le kae letsoalo, Khupamarama (The Secret), Swana ya Mosate and The Way.
The big project of this prolific English to Sepedi translator is Tšhutšhumakgala (Coal-train). Tšhutšhumakgala is the biography of Frans Tlokwe Maserumule, a former Umkhonto we Sizwe combatant who is now a member of parliament. “A first black prisoner on Robben Island to get married in Pollsmoor Prison during the apartheid system. He was granted a 10-seconds honeymoon. Tlokwe is an unacknowledged hero of the liberation struggle in this country.” he says. Seletisha believes through this book Tlokwe, who still has bullets lodged in his body will finally be honoured.
The biography is edited by Motsoaledi and wa Maahlamela, both of whom Seletisha calls “my gods of poetry”. Foreword is by former APLA commander Letlapa Mphahlele. 
He swears by Bila. “He is one honest writer, his work contains the truth.” 
Himself, wa Maahlamela and Motsoaledi are the trio responsible for the renaissance of a language that is endangered by the emerging middle class which prefers foreign to native. Seletisha is optimistic, “The upcoming generation will also donate the tongues to add on the spice. Instead of investing in sex, alcohol and human trafficking, crime and all unprofitable activities.”

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