Frankly Romantic

It is by now an open secret that I am enamoured by Frank Leepa’s work. The emerging academic in me actually believes that his work must be regarded as his intellectual contribution. My dear friends can easily attest to how, depending on the quantity I have imbibed, I come (very berry) close to creating an impression that all of my research could hopelessly lead to his answers. (And, if one thinks about it, this is not an entirely a bad thing: for, any worthy research must yield Frank answers!)

This said, and tempted as I am, I shall not bore you with my half-baked sentiments on why I believe Frank’s work—from a point of view that rejects the white gaze—may add value to the academy. In this blog post, I just want to write about the man who could express his love—the romantic Frank.

Just to be clear, the romantic Frank remains one with the genius Frank. The genius who, for example, elaborately crafted the “make love and not war” message in Obe, a song with a spiritual dimension that celebrates J.P. Mohapeloa while offering social commentary: to effectively put the past and present in dialogue.

Undoubtedly, with his ability to put one to work to mine a message,the genius Frank is elegant. However, he is never quite direct as the romantic Frank. The romantic Frank, who admittedly is confined only to matters of the heart, simply and elegantly lays it down as it is. Oa lememela, ke metsi a foro!

To the ‘Mysterious One’, a true ‘wonder’ that captured his heart, he frankly declares that his ‘neck is on the line for an embrace’. He is certain this embrace, together with the love that comes with it, will ‘fill [his] world with a sense of dignity’. All he but requires is an opportunity to freely demonstrate his love by giving all he wants: his desire! A desire to fill his ‘sense of beauty’ in the world of the ‘physical’, ‘mystical’, ‘wonder’, that makes it near impossible for him to compose a fitting love song—which obviously is his idea of a love letter.

If this doesn’t leave you in awe or perhaps nostalgic for times when suitors were willing to wear their hearts on their sleeves, then I imagine you might not see the romantic side to Frank. In my imaginative life, a space where I also intimately engage him, I have concluded that this romantic side, in fact, explains why to love him is to be a little obsessed with him.

I am cautiously using the word ‘obsessed’ to vindicate those women who in the process of loving Frank Moki Leepa got misunderstood. Here I am talking about the women who could have easily loved him to the ends of the earth, as guitar man, monna oa likatara . (To those who may not be familiar with the turn of phrase “o tsamaile le monna oa likatara, o ntse a tlola meqomo Bekesetala” , there is significance to the reminder that Frank was a guitar man.)

I believe, as a “guitar man”, Frank got to understand deeply that love transcends the material and other people’s opinions. To (romantically) love is to honour the truth of your heart. Pelo e ja serati. To honour that truth is a question of choice: to see or not to see the beauty and tranquility in the storm that others may perceive.

In my humble opinion, this is the essence of the song Moonlover in Frankly Speaking, and the raison d’être for the line: ‘no more blue days/only choose days/I swear by the moon/I will fall for you’. Tying to the chorus, this particular line conveys a clear message, which can be liberally paraphrased as follows:

You, who makes my heart sing, I will choose you every day, even if others call you ‘trouble’ or an impeding ‘hurricane’—ke re uena, mabina-bina a pelo ea ka, hore na ba ka u bitsa setsokotsane sa meleko, ke ikhethela uena!

With such an assurance, how can one doubt that Frank was romantic? I mean…honestly…what could be more romantic than a person who understands love in terms of choice or their sense of agency; while believing, of course, that the shared intimacy must bring in humanising beauty and dignity?!


A Frank Dialogue on “Boloi”

Despite and in spite of the efforts by many people to do what is right and just, things are falling apart around us. On some level, because we are yet to make sense of boloi ba bokhooa in our efforts to decolonise ourselves.

As far as I can tell, Frank Leepa (my wise musical man) believed in having conversations around boloi we can spur ourselves into redemptive action. I surmise this from the fact that boloi was a firm theme in a number of his songs; listen to, for example, monoana, house on fire, lekhari-khari and dumela.

To Frank, boloi was more than witchcraft, as one might want to translate. Factually speculating, it was a manifestation of greed and the erasure of botho by whiteness. The song greed points us to this understanding, even though there is no explicit mention of boloi—just as there is no single use of the word greed in the song.

History is essential to cement the above understanding, which came from intricate exploration of meaning from the very first Sankomota album, in songs monoana and house on fire. The song greed, which appears in what I call his sunset album, merely crystallises why Frank knew by instinct the necessity of teaching our young in the song monoana to point at ‘witches’—supa, supa baloi!

The pointing line, in fact, is what makes monoana a memorable song. For the benefit of those who might not know, monoana is a siNtu (setho) counting song in as far as our counting is identity based first, before it is numerical. Perhaps to clarify, an illiterate man—in the Western sense of the word—does not need to know how to numerically count to determine that one of his cows may be missing: he verifies his herd through the identity and knowledge of each cow. Metaphorically, this is part of the reason that each finger (monoana) must be recognised as distinctively different from the other in teaching a child to count in siNtu.

To return back to the matter at hand, Frank in his teaching makes an effort—beyond making counting fun and memorable—to instill the agency to act against evil, boloi: at the very least, by pointing at the evil instead of pretending to not see it. Admittedly, this is not always an easy task. How do you, for instance, point at anything done under the cover of darkness? To an extend, this particular question ignited the creation of house on fire.

Although it is not easy to categorise Frank’s songs, I believe house on fire is an anti-apartheid protest song that is deeply rooted in the 9th December 1982 Maseru Massacre. This fact, however, is muted. In part, because Frank had the art of recognising the global in the particular, and as such, managed to communicate his message with some abstraction.

In my mind, one of the tells regarding the massacre lies in the tentative mokorotlo—grumblings for men to take up arms to fight the enemy—which dissipate into celebratory/prideful melody to mask the intention. Another definite tell lies in how boloi is crafted into the song: as a reminder that the killings were done during the mythical operating hours of witches i.e. from the dead of night to the early hours of the morning.

Without history and the ability to read through the silences, the above tells can, of course, be missed. And I think this was intentional: for, Frank was purported to be a perfectionist, which would mean he deliberately avoided locking the song in the particular. In my opinion, because the particular was also very close to home. His own father, Clement Leepa, was brutally killed under the cover of darkness in 1970 by forces, similar to the apartheid soldiers, that feared the existence of principled beings willing to challenge the status quo. Forces, lest we forget, that had a white man in the helm—a (cock)Roach—sanctioning the brutality.

By creating emotional distance, Frank acted to remind us that the South African questions were indeed African questions. His empathy for the families of those who lost their loved one in the massacre propelled him to point us to the evil apartheid regime, which sought to maintain its power by using soldiers that better qualified as baloi, as in: baloi ba bolaeang bana ba batho ka sehloho!

I cannot fully corroborate my sentiment, but baloi and boloi was a grammar of his expression because not only was Clement Leepa killed, standing his own ground, his corpse was apparently later shot at to convince the powers that be that he was truly dead. And the Judas of Clement Leepa, as the story goes, is alleged to have taken his liver post-mortem. If anyone understands liretlo or ritual killings, this is interesting in that body parts are deemed to have medicinal potency only if they are taken from a living body. So, the allegation itself speaks to either how much a warrior Clement Leepa was, for his liver (sebete) to have value post mortem, or speaks to how sinister Judas and the regime were to the Leepa family in purporting they returned a liver-less body for the burial—suggesting basically that they took measures to ensure in the after-life he will not be courageous, ha a na hoba le sebete. I am again undoubtedly on speculative ground here, but hopefully one can begin to appreciate the complexity of boloi as a concept, and perhaps, grasp why the song greed practically ends with a fading dialogue:

Itse ke ntse ke re ke etetse bophirima-tsatsi,
Ka be se ke utloa lioeleseng ka motho enoa hao,
Sekitiri sa motho!

Ke ne ke o joetse,
Maoba mona…
ka khalana le eena a ts’oere nama,
Nama ea sebete!

Having provided context, I really don’t feel moved to offer literal translation; I will therefore happily leave this for the reader as homework.

To finally come to an end, the take home message is that boloi is the antithesis of botho, a phenomenon erased largely by bokhooa (aka broad systems of whiteness). Thus, to regain botho, we will need to urgently have frank conversations that hopefully take us out of the paralysis of merely exclaiming, like Obierika in things fall apart, that:

The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.- Chinua Achebe

MaAfrika, it is now or never! Let’s us find the courage of the warrior Sankomota to recover what was severed by the knife wielded by the white man. Our humanity depends on it!



Happy new year! Nothing profound to say, may 2017 just be happy!

Like most people, with the end/start of each year, I make an effort to convey my appreciation to my beloveds. For the most part, I avoid a one-fits-all-solution. I tailor things to the individual—unless, of course, the person fundamentally believes e-wallet or a million-whatever-deposit is the only way to express my love and appreciation.

Below, is a poem that I wrote to one of my beloveds. Enjoy!1

Ba re tlou ke phoofolo ea ho se lebale,
Sentebale motloung e motle.

Ha letsatsi le chaba,
Ha le phirima,
Le teng ke re: Sentebale!

Ha litsukunyane tsa bophelo lifihla,
Ha khotso e phallaka se ka metsi a foro,

Ha mariha a fihla,
Le ha lehlabula le fihla,
Ka ho ts’oana,

Sentebale, “forget-me-not”,
Nna palesa ea lihlaba.
Nna palesa ea botle ba bo siila-tsatsi.
Sentebale, “forget-me-not”!

  1. Ordinarily, I would have considered a translation. However, the elegance and/or simplicity of this poem lies in the false binary tone that qualifies it as an end/start of the year type of a poem (yes I am inventing a genre here…hahaha).

    On a serious note, I believe a translation could have rendered the false true. In translation, we could have lost the very essence of what lies at the heart of using binary opposition in Sesotho. Basically, we position things in binary for impact, while holding the understanding that things exist in continuum. #ExampleOfHyperboleInSesotho 😎

Expressing Mistrust of Whiteness

Sesotho culture, like many other African cultures, is largely founded on orality. Transmitting knowledge orally is no easy feat contrary to what others might believe. It is an art that often carries some poetry or musicality to it. Okay, this is just my opinion based on how I rationalise, for example, the condensed format of clan knowledge.

Use of shorthand or brevity is for memorability. It is not, and I repeat, it is NOT for devaluing the importance of context. I needed to stress this because we seem to have forgotten this. It seems we are quicker to imagine or conclude that our elders were simpletons without nuance and/or a strategy for communicating with future generations.

This increasingly irks me. I suppose because I have set myself unwittingly on a path (particularly through this blog) that I can innocently be asked to translate clan praise poems. Often I have had to explain, with part tongue in cheek, that some ideas cannot literally be translated into English. Part tongue in cheek because I recognise that people know this already, but through some kind of whiteness logic they hope the translation into English will be more insightful.

Actually, I am not even sure what it is I mean. All I know is that it would seem it is easier to interrogate ideas in English than in our own languages. As a consequence we fail to understand why we having lingering sentiments such as ‘makhooa ha a tsoane’, which translates more or less to ‘whites don’t betray each other’.

The above sentiment is true on some level. However, I dare say, it did not become part of our conventional wisdom for purposes of valorising whiteness. Our elders, bound to the medium of orality, were trying to warn us. Basically, like Biko, they wanted us to understand that we blacks are on our own!

Think, for example, how class or race supposedly did not matter for the brothers in arms during World War II, until the end came. As captured in one of my favourite songs, disposable hero, when that end came, the question of who was to be the first on the breadline (or plane in my warped interpretation) was asked. The answer was clear: it was not to be the black man. The effort to pretend otherwise was but a dance; for, ‘makhooa ha a tsoane’!

MaAfrika we need to get this to reject whiteness. It has ‘fudged’ us up! A friend drove this point home for me by noting that whiteness as an imperialist system has not only messed us up as black people, but has destroyed the ecological base of the planet. This means aside from the socioeconomic and the psychological we need to centre the environmental issues as well. To succeed, we need plurality of thought, the wisdom of our elders and all the knowledge we have acquired so far to subversively and strategically work at reclaiming our throne.


Barricading and opening doors with naked bodies

On Monday, Dr Stella Nyazi at Makerere University got the door to her office opened after she got naked. On Tuesday, a number of womyn at Rhodes University barricaded a road with their naked bodies.

These womyn were compelled by different reasons to undress; but that they did in their respective universities is rather interesting for me.

Their actions have, for better or worse, inscribed the naked body to the university discourse in a new yet old way. New in that the ‘man of reason’, it would seem, can only be reasoned with by staging (or perhaps erecting) naked protests. And old, in that, we remain, in a sense, and to borrow from Oyewumi, with the oppositional constructions of a ‘man of reason’ and a ‘woman of the body’.

At this stage, I am not sure how best to process all this. I am unsure how to express the pain and trauma of patriarchy. Still, I intend to hold on to the hope that all will work out.

Why? Because when Charles Taylor’s shit was no longer tolerable, the Liberian womyn undressed at one point, as part of their sustained prayer for the devil to go back to hell. For me, these womyn are a ‘historic’ reminder that naked bodies can, if needs be, open the doors of dialogue and act as barricades against brutality!

With this historic reminder—and as I take heart in the possibility of things changing a bit—I am beginning to slowly grasp why Basotho talk of “ntoa ea libono”, when fighting for that which matters! We are in this fight and overcome…we shall!


Sekunjalo—Time to be Frank

I have been in hibernation. Alas, I have not really rested.

A lot has happened and is continuing to happen. It would seem the time to be frank has arrived. There is a need to think and re-think matters if we, Blacks, are still invested in a change that affords us dignity. 

This need to (re)think matters has caused me to meditate deeply about Frank Leepa’s Sekunjalo.

As some have come to know, I am a serious fan of Frank’s work. Frank has entrenched a deep understanding in me that the South African questions are indeed Black/African questions. He gave me a firm understanding of intersectionality–long before I learnt such a term existed.

So, based on the events of this year alone, I am of the opinion that Sekunjalo qualifies as an intersectional #BlackLivesMatters song. It is a protest song, but also a prayer. This comes out very clearly to me when the youth represented in the song declares that his determination to bring about change is, in a sense, a reason for the loved ones to pray.

If we consider how the song begins, these loved ones are the women being left behind; the father, though not explicated, is probably in Marikana.

I know this sounds like a leap. However, if you take Frank as nuanced and intersectional, you know there is a reason the father needs to be informed about the son’s departure. In fact, based on his style of writing, one should intuitively get that the reason has been omitted deliberately. My thinking is: to possibly aid the amplification of the single short line of “pray it”!

In my opinion, this line is loaded with meaning. It is a reminder to think about the women and the struggle. A reminder that many are forced to pray, fend for themselves, and hold on to radical hope that the men and children will return home.

Interesting for me is also how the “pray it” line is preceded by humming and the line: “I want to hear you sing”. This reminds me of the value of song/singing.

When I attended the Highway Africa conference recently, it dawned on me how much song is not understood in the context of a struggle. This is what happened: the Black Student Movement (BSM) entered the conference singing; there was a slight mild panic; and it occurred to me that in the imagination of some, protest singing is strongly linked to violence (despite the body language of those singing speaking a contrary truth). 

This troubled me. I couldn’t really explain to myself, why? My Senkujalo meditations have shed some light. Singing and spirituality are linked in my mind, even in a protest context. For me, singing is a deep spiritual act for expressing unison—or solidarity if you wish. Above and beyond solidarity, I also believe singing serves to soothe; and for this reason, I find it hard to understand the possible associations with violence. I mean…if I am making efforts to soothe my pain, do I really hold the intent to be violent?

This is a very pertinent question for me. It makes me wonder how much we understand Black pain.

Just so we are clear, I do understand how sometimes this pain comes through as anger—anger that seems to stem from nowhere, except this would be a lie. The anger comes from an embodied knowledge that one’s own truth in some spaces can/will easily be denied and delegitimized. This is knowledge of being rendered invisible. (At a very personal level, this knowledge has often caused me to speak in angry tones—because as I have often explained to myself, my body goes into internal convulsion mode to give weight to the spoken word.)

I have digressed. The point really is that Sekunjalo, for whatever reason, paints for me a clear picture of the moment we are in. Basically, the song makes me appreciate that 40 years of the Soweto uprising will be about the youth declaring:

We are the leaders
[Elders, there is] no need to be afraid
Batho bana ba re tlolisa khati!

And, without bothering with the actual translation of the conveniently bolded line, it gets idiomatically understood that it will take a stick to deal with the anti-transformational human beings. For, the carrot has clearly failed.

From the youths vantage point, with this failure, the only prayer left is for the elders to prepare, if needs be,”to put out the fire”. For, “with defensive guts [and] determination”, they shall forge ahead to bring change and reclaim the throne for Black people. Senkujalo, beloved elders…sekunjalo!



So, I have been in many conversations with a friend that range from education of the Black child to use of African languages to repress intellectualism and erode any sense of bolekane, equality amongst Blacks. Because as they say, talk is cheap, we have been thinking about what we can do as a contribution to realising the reality we aspire for.

In one of our conversations, the friend asked me if I have ever thought of writing erotica in Sesotho. At that point, I awoke to a new realisation that through sex we might actually make a breakthrough to the discussions that we are attempting to have, while pushing for the idea of producing content in our own languages that may revive the reading culture.

The above provides a short context for this snippet, I wrote.

“Reetsa, motho oa ka, linonyana li a tsoibila. Ke hoseng. Moshanyana e be o tsoile? E re ke utloe …”

Ha a cho joalo ka ho hoeshetsa, mabina-bina a pelo ea Moeketsi oa phethoha. Ka letsoho le bonojoana o pholla serope sa Moeketsi ho leba moshate—botoneng ba hae.

Moeketsi o bula mahlo butle ka seboso-selo hammoho le tsebo ea hore nako ea thahameso e fihlile.

A juice translation.

“Sweetie, hear the birds are chirping. It is morning. Is the boy possibly awake? Let me find out …”

As she makes her soft utterances, Moeketsi’s sweetheart turns. She gently strokes his thighs towards the kingdom—his manhood.

Moeketsi slowly opens his eyes with a gently knowing smile, the glory of a new day awaits.



Blame the vulture…

When will Lesotho break the pattern it is in? This is a question I have been trying to answer for myself for several days now.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Some people have argued that ntate Tom has brought us to this current moment of instability that we are in. This, I don’t completely dispute, given that ntate Tom has practically been in senior government leadership positions of almost all governments since the 80s— including the period where I could have been forgiven for thinking “Lebua ke mmuso ngoanaka!” was Lesotho’s national anthem.

So, as I said, I cannot dispute that ntate Tom is partially to blame for recent events, at the very least, for perpetuating the use of legal instruments to pursue political agendas. But, lest we forget, the one person who truly helped normalise this use was ntate Ntsu in the very act of “ba furalleng“, when he basically established a new ruling party (LCD) in parliament: to rule through application of legal mechanisms not based on anyone having literally put a cross against its name.

The moral question was secondary to ntate Ntsu. He concerned himself mostly with the legal question(s). For him, once he had decided to turn his back on his own sisters and brothers, he swiftly moved on and extended an invitation for everyone to do the same–“le ba furalleng, ‘na ke se ke ba furalletse”! To be sure, I am suggesting that it didn’t take him long to forget that he had implored us “ho hata mmoho“: to take synchronised steps towards peace and prosperity because together we can!

Personally, I think that swift change in positions characterises the moral flexibility of our political leaders … too flexible for notions of negotiating in good faith to work. Thus making it easy to rely on legal instruments/mechanisms because the question of bending the law is mute as long as one doesn’t break it.

By the above albeit warped logic, Ntate Tom wasn’t breaking the law when he prorogated the Parliament; he was acting out of an existing script, which he was also party to crafting with ntate Ntsu and many others. To blame him exclusively is unfair, especially if all he is doing is to bind his peers to this very liberal code of bending and never breaking the law.

As it stands, even as I pen this view, I don’t know what qualifies as the truth in Lesotho. All I know is that a vulture is almost always to blame. And at times, it may indeed be the “bearded vulture”, which, should we dare to blame, we can but find solace in the idiom, “lebitso lebe ke seromo“.

Can we do away with the carcass called power, in order to do away with all the vultures including the patiently waiting ones like the Guptas? This is a question-cum-prayer for me and perhaps many other Basotho.