For The People

Author Upholds African Literature in Rural North West

Solomon Star speaks to a North West, Taung born author on his new book, called; Bana ba Mpa which originates from a Setswana idiom and can be translated as “brotherhood”. He runs various initiatives in his community in an effort to promote education and literacy.

Tell us about your childhood and upbringing. What was it like growing up?

Kgotlaetsile Mokabeng is third born out of 5 siblings.  We were raised by both parents, my mother who was a domestic worker and we did not have much growing up. Our parents played the best role they could in the difficult situation we found ourselves in and they ensured that education was a running theme in my life.

Tell us about your new book?

Bana Ba Mpa talks is a series of short stories that ranges from issues we experience every day.  Issues include things such as hatred and violent attacks towards each other, the power of reading and land controversies. My aim in penning down the book is to teach people about the world that they live in, and to empower my readers in making everyday life decisions. The purpose is to ultimately bring solutions to challenges that the world is facing.

Do you intend on writing more books in Setswana?

Yes, I’m not doing this because I’m bored. This is a calling and I’m hungry to learn more about writing. That’s the reason some days I would wake up really early in the morning or in the middle of the night to read and write.

How long did it take you to write the book and what challenges did you come across in the process?

It took me about two years to pen the book down, including the process of editing and publishing.

It was very difficult for me to publish this book, even though I was receiving support from my family and family friends. But through love, passion and faith here I am.

Tells us about the process of preparing yourself to write the book.

The first thing I did was to attend writing workshops organised by the North West Department of Arts and Culture. I’ve been attending workshops from 2015 until today. Don’t expect me to have a cup of tea and relax when I hear there is writing workshop somewhere. Today, through Book clubs we can organise writing workshop for those who want to write freely so.

When and by who was your book published?

My book was published by “Somarela Puo Publishers” which is owned by a powerful lady in Taung, Ausi Jeannet Gabonnwe. “Bana Ba Mpa” was published in 2019. So far we have a good working relationship.

What has the reception been like for your book so far?

Wow, what can I say? So far I’m impressed with the support and reception of my new book. Authors around the North West Province and Northern Cape have purchased my books as well, that is very humbling. As we speak, our municipality is in the process of buying copies for libraries that are under the jurisdiction of the municipality. Truly speaking, so far so good, I am happy.

Where did your passion for reading and literature begin?

I think it started 12 years ago, after reading “Maru” By Bessie Head and “Cry the Beloved Country”, a light was lit in me, a light that told me I needed to tell the stories of our African people in our indigenous language. We need beautiful Setswana books like this one. I think people must quote me right. There are good written Setswana books. Although there are a lot of books written in Setswana I just felt that there was still a shortage.

Which writer influences you and your writing

The one and only Kabelo ‘Mabinagotsholwa Kgatea. He even edited my book. He has written Setswana novels like, “Leba seipone, monona wa bosupa, njeng manong fa ke sule, Dikhutsana Tsa Marikana” to name a few. He is an inspiration to lots of young writers here in North West.

Do you feel that government is giving enough support to writers in the country?

I think my answer will be influenced by my experience. I don’t think so. Maybe in future writers will get fair opportunities from the Departments.

Tell us about your book club, what is its objective and what purpose does it serve in the community?

 Taung Imatlafatse book club was established on the 27th February 2016. It is a young adults organisation that instils the culture of reading, encourages the use of library resources, encourages and educates members to read and write mostly in Setswana, and engages in social welfare programmes. The purpose is to assist in keeping the youth out of the streets and to decentralise information. Knowledge is power and we need to share it.

Are you writing something at the moment?

 Yes, I’m busy with another novel at the moment. I hope I will tell more about it when I finished it.

What other projects are you busy with?

Currently I have a campaign in social media called; “#12Books-12Months”. This is an initiative aimed at encouraging reading. I’m saying read a minimum of 3 pages a day, and when you multiply 3 pages by 30 days it gives you 90 pages. I hope this campaign will do well in the future. One book-one month, that’s all it takes.

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