Freeing the land with words
When and where were you born?
In the late 1960s in Meadowlands, Soweto.
When and where did you matriculate?
In 1986 from Mmabatho High School.
Who was your favourite teacher?
At Tshimologo Primary in Meadowlands it was Mam’ Poe.
She never used to spank me because she thought I was clever. At Maponyane Higher Primary it was Meneer Moswane. His idea of teaching good English was to make us recite poetry from memory. I ate it all up, although I did not understand all the poems. In high school it was Ms Daniels. She loaned me a copy of Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like. I liked it so much I did not bother to return it. She didn’t seem to mind.
What were your favourite subjects?
History was my favourite. I am against forgetting.
Any fond memories you have of your school days?
While I was at Mmabatho High School, George Orwell’s Animal Farm was a prescribed textbook for Standard 9. Our teacher suggested that we adapt the story into a play. I was taken by surprise when I was chosen by my classmates to direct the piece. That experience planted seeds in my head.
How did your education influence your choice in career?
A combination of things I picked up from my parents, my teachers and the streets, brought me here. Being an emerging writer and scholar requires a large appetite for listening and seeing - absorbing the world.
While at school, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had scores of vague ideas about making it in life. These ideas kept chopping and changing depending on the company I kept. As I grew up, I knew that I would be more comfortable where I didn’t have to wear a suit and tie.
When and how did you realise that you were a writer?
It was a series of encounters with the world of the word that sparked me. My grandpa, Keorapetse Kgomanyane, used to recite during family gatherings and I imitated him.
I did not know that I was on the path to being a writer. It was only after high school, while studying music, that I began to think of myself as a writer. That’s after I met Bra Zinga Don Mattera who held my hand and walked me into the house of the word.
What books have you written, and how hard was it for you as a black writer to have them published?
So far I have published a collection of poems titled Thy condom come. I have also been published in various collections, with other writers. Now I am working on short stories. All these stories are part of my collection of poetry and prose, to sink the censorship, which I have just completed. Where are the damn publishers?
Meanwhile, I publish my poetry and prose on my website www.kgafela.com.
What inspired these books and how long did you take to write them?
My life inspires my writing. The people I meet. The pictures they paint. The music I hear. The books I read.
How important is it for people, young and old, to read?
It’s urgent in fact. We need to kill the virus of white supremacy very quickly and free the land and its wealth. Reading the right books and acting accordingly will
take us there.
Do you think that South Africa has a reading culture?
Well, the answer depends on the company you keep. Where I go, people read. Just visit Pimville in Soweto for instance. Young people are reading and discussing Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Franz Fanon, Bantu Biko, Lekalaka Ntloedibe and so on. There’s no lost generation here. The one you see on television is a lie.
How would your promote a reading culture?
I am doing it already, through poetry recitals and workshops around the country.
What are your views of education today?
It needs to be overhauled completely. The Model C’ing of education is a fraud because it is uprooting our children and implanting them into a place where they will forever feel indebted to the apparent charity of white supremacy. We must inject our teachings with the soul of the soil, not the romantic ‘return to the source”, something that knots us to the pulse of self-emancipation. In the main, education must be free.