I am really trying hard to get ‘clicking’ in order to communicate in isiXhosa. Enunciating X and C words is proving to be somewhat challenging. The Q words on the other hand are easier to deal with. I suppose this could be explained by the fact that we actually have Q in the Sesotho alphabet — C and X do not exist; “nxa!” in all good conscience cannot be used to contradict my assertion.

With the above said, may I quickly point out that we don’t necessarily have a tide of ‘Q words’, though Q exists in the Sesotho alphabet. I know I could be wrong, but being innately in love with knowing (or speaking from a relatively infallible position) I decided to embark on a little pet project to verify my “facts”. In this project of mine, I tried to find Q words that were not associated with mountains, rivers or other types of landmarks e.g. Senqu, Qiloane, Qhobosheane, Qoqolosing, etc. Then moved on to consider words that could possibly be classified as mundane like: moqoqo (conversation), qabola (to incite laughter), qhibiliha (to melt), seqha (bow or sling –if we make technical accuracy expendable), seqhaqhabola (sour soft porridge). I then progressed to those seriously “cool” words that hardly come in everyday conversation.

An example of a “cool” word that came my path is moqasea. Moqasea is a Sesotho synonym for ‘khethollo‘ (discrimination). Observe how I have decided to go the synonym route, so as to avoid nuances that may exist between the words discrimination and prejudice. This, of course, is intentional and self-serving! First, it allows me to retain my “relative infallible” position. Second, and most importantly, it helps me to (hopefully) hype up the word, which I regard as cool –be it only because it got my poetic juices flowing, see below:

Ka terapola, ka lelera ‘na nthoana batho!
Ke ne ke batlana le makhulo a matala,
Ke batlana le liliba tse sa psheng.
Ka teana le moqasea, ka makala:
Mofuta oa feela oa tšoana le qoba la koae!1

‘Nete ea ba sebabetsane ho ‘na.
Pelo ea hlonama, ea hopola lihlaba tsa Thesele.
Ea re e khutla mafisa, bofifi ba apoha.
Ha luma mantsoe a nkhere, Mohlomi: “pelo ke setlhare”!
Ha hlaka hore ho nena moqasea e le kannete ke pheko.

Ka hona, ke etsa thapeli ke re:
“Ha re neneng moqasea, khotso e rene;
Hoba Seokamela ke ‘Mopi oa batho bohle”

A contextualised translation of the above poem is as follows:

I travelled, and wandered with naivety!
I was in search of greener pastures,
And wells that never go dry.
Instead, I met prejudice and got astounded:
My own humanity was precariously in doubt! 2

The truth became bitter.
My heart, depressed, yearned for Moshoeshoe’s land.
But as it lifted, the dark was illuminated.
Words of the great sage, Mohlomi echoed: “The heart is medicinal”!
Sincere hatred for prejudice was and is a cure.

For this reason, I appeal to all:
“Let’s truly despise prejudice, so peace may reign;
For we are all beings of one Creator!”

  1. “Mofuta ha o nkhoe ka nko e se qoba la koae” — is an old adage that suggests you cannot treat a foreigner like a pitch of snuff, which you can sniff to determine its quality
  2. Worded to invoke Judith Butler’s idea of precarity, where some lives may be deemed more precious than others: if, for example, one were to consider the reality where the humanity of foreigners or outsiders can be reduced to a point of it being “ungrievable”. In my mind, this invocation fits well with the Sesotho adage -see above footnote- that was initially used to capture the idea.


Sometimes I express myself in silence and through observation.
Other times I express myself through laughter and dance.
And the rest of the time I express myself gladly in words.

Yet words have proven to be unreliable and unfaithful to thee:
They flatter and condemn even when my intentions are pure;
They delight and confuse even when my mind is filled with clarity;
They heal and injure even when I purposefully leave them unspoken in my heart.

Words, you are a double-edged sword that tantalises and taunts my existence.
You are a lifetime friend and foe that truly defines my essence.
So, I will never turn my back on you – the colourful ink of my soul.
For you give life and spirit to the (im)potency of my expression.

Heart’s Desire

August being women’s month in South Africa, I decided to (re)engage with the question: am I a woman? In the biologically sense, I am a woman; there is no doubt about the matter! However, from the cultural perspective this is debatable. In my mind, it seems marriage and/or motherhood are the only determinants of womanhood. And since I am neither, I am making the most of my situation with a healthy degree of disdain (to bring just an ounce of envy into my life 🙂 ). This is indeed what inspired the poem below:

Ba re: ke lefetoa,
Ke lehana puso.
Ha ke tsoa ka lehlafi,
Ha ke arabe lipotso.
Ke ea ha pelo-ea-rata.
Ha ke khutla,
Ha ke tenoe ka lipotso.
Hoba moo ke tsoang,
Ke ha pelo-ea-rata!

‘Na ke re: ebang balekane,
Eseng ba salang!
Hoba ha pelo-ea-rata,
‘Musi ke pelo;
‘Moloki oa thabo le khotso!

A close to literal ranslation of the above is as follows:

They say: I am one passed over 1
For I refuse governance.
When I walk out of the door,
I answer no questions,
I go to where my heart desires.
When I come back,
I am bothered by no questions.
Because where I come from,
Is where my heart desires!

My response is: be partners,
As opposed to those left behind!2
Because where the heart desires,
The governor is the heart;
The protector of hapiness and peace!

  1. As in: I have been passed over for marriage
  2. To unpack this statement, one needs to briefly explain the construction of the words ‘molekane’ (partner) and ‘mosali’ (woman) in Sesotho. Molekane is derived from the word ‘lekana’, which means equal. ‘Mosali’, controversial as this may be, is derived from the word ‘sala’, which means remain (or be left). I know some may argue why ‘mosali’ as opposed to ‘mosala’? For this, my response is: Sesotho is a language that operates in the subtle and overt modes. In the former mode, guided by reasons that range from respect to diplomacy, construction of words is based on the art of distortion. Of course, there are instances where the distortion might have been purely motivated by a sense of economics (i.e. to shorten things a bit); for example, it is much more economical to refer to maja-a-ikana (those who plead their allegiance as/before they eat i.e. “pray”) as majakane just to quickly convey a message. This said, the simple point I am trying to make is that the word ‘mosali’ embodies a degree of distortion but one that was intended to show respect for the role of the traditional woman in staying behind to look after the children.