Tea or Sugar?!

I have said it before and I am willing to say it again: I am in total awe of Frank Mooki Leepa! His compositions just have a way of sugaring me up. Unexpectedly, I seem to find (his) humour in songs that some would regard as serious.

Ramasela, a favourite of mine and many others, is, in may opinion, peppered with unbelievable humour; yet this is a fundamentally serious song of migration–a song of how parents lose out on some of the tender moments of their children’s lives because of the need to work.

One part that really stands out in the chorus of Ramasela is “mots’elle tee” (pour tea for him/her) which is followed by what I regard as a very loaded response “there’s no sugar”!

To perhaps let one judge how loaded the response is, it might be worthwhile to briefly explore what drives the “tea culture” within our society.

Tea in the world of whiteness (aka privilege) is regarded as very calming and soothing. It has magical properties that can even help to avert wars. This pretty much means for all of life’s problems you can consider having tea because:

If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited, it will calm you.- William Gladstone, 1809-1898

In the world of blackness (oppression or marginalisation) tea is but regarded as the medium for comfort. The sugar that goes in the tea is the real deal. In fact, this why some individuals who are awake to the realities of the world in general have observed a correlation between social class and the quantity of sugar that one may have in their tea. In Lesotho, for example, it is hardly the “bourgeoisie” who will ask for more sugar and follow the request with a disclaimer in the neighbourhood of a retort: “I didn’t grow up in Natal’s sugar farms”!

So, getting back to the tea and sugar matter in Ramasela, Frank Leepa is essentially asking: what good is tea to a child bitten by a lizard (khalimoletsoana) when there’s no sugar nor parents to lovingly do the comforting?

Without doubt, the question is very serious, though, admittedly, I do find some humour in it—partly because of the “sugar farm” phrased disclaimers/retorts. For me, the seriousness of the question largely stems from engaging with the curious question of “why a bite on the (rear) cheeks by khalimoletsoana“?

I have found an answer that satisfies me. But I had to make peace with the idea that I possess a mind of a contortionist. In my mind, what I did was to connect “khali” to the concept of “khang-khali”, enticement. And this eventually lead me to see a picture of greed, which bites us all (in the arse) including the innocent members of our society. Since I have no intentions of revealing how warped my brain or thinking really is, I shall skip the details in the formation of this picture.

Instead, to end on a slightly humorous note, I shall digress. I take a bit of a historical detour to remind everyone that if it weren’t for sugar, Mokhachane, ntat’a Moshoeshoe, would have died a bitter man. It is purported that according to Mokhachane, the only redeeming thing about the missionaries that his son Moshoeshoe invited was the sugar the came with. Ha e se ka ts’oekere, ruri baruti ba Moshoeshoe mahlong a Mokhachane ba ka be ba sa le bona! –Without the sugar, well … let’s just say there would have definitely been no loving at all!

All in all, one take home message from Ramasela or even Mokhachane’s tale is that sugar or sweetness is what we all need to have just an ounce of love and/or caring.