“Icons are essentially products of our times, and of their times, their construction is informed by their specific reaction to social and political circumstances. Such reactions though generated from a subjective place, are never private”
Lesego Rampolokeng, affectionately known as Papa Ramps, or Bavino, is one of our greatest minds and voices. Described by some as a dissenter, a rabble-rouser, disruptive, an inspiration, abstruse, profane, hard core, amazing, storyteller, immortal…
He’s a wonder to watch as he recites his poetry, never afraid to speak the truth while employing the most wicked arrangement of words possible. What you don’t usually hear about Rampolokeng, is how big-hearted he actually is and how there’s something glorious about the man, when you peel back the layers. Now anyone who was at the Afrikan Freedom Station that week in May preceding Afrika Day, is sure to tell you that. And unlike some critics will have you believe, this poet is not ready to be put out to pasture. And the work of this poet belongs in the canon of world class literature.
In May, in the week leading up to Afrika Day, Afrikan Freedom Station presented TjoViTjo Bavino – focussing on the poet, Lesego Rampolokeng, and his poetry. Afrikan Freedom Station (eThula Ndivile section) is one of those grand spaces, slightly ahead of its time and nostalgic at the same. This Afrocentric multimedia gallery hosts fine art exhibitions as well as live performances. So, this was the perfect spot for this kind of event.
“Lesego is not a very simple man, he’s a very difficult man. And part of that difficulty, I forgive him [… because] to exist as an artist you have to pay for your sins through your creativity. And Lesego pays for his sins…”
The programme included a lecture by Xoli Norman, a master class with Rampolokeng and performances by poets and artists influenced by Rampolokeng. It ended with a multimedia performance on Afrika Day with Rampolokeng, S’bu the General, Lefifi Tladi and Kemang wa Lehulere.
Between Xoli Norman’s talk and Rampolokeng’s master class, one begins to understand the various experiences that influence and inspire the poet. The chance to hear both people, allowed us to catch a glimpse into the mind behind the poems. Like when Norman played his horn, exploring sonically what he was to discuss. He said, of the unfinished piece“it destroys the tonic point… every time it establishes the key it destroys it.”
What he said was an attempt to capture the spirit of what (or who) he was going to speak about and how the poetry (and the poet) go against the current. Norman’s talk set the tone for the rest of the week nicely. It wasn’t about explaining the poetry but rather providing context and a jump off point for us to begin to find our own meaning in the work.
“Poetry is the distillation of the universe…”
The two nights of performances were in part a demonstration of what had been spoken about the two previous nights and also a celebration of what was, what is and what will be in this poetic landscape. The Bavino Sessions featured poets and emcees who are inspired by Rampolokeng. The range of voices, experience, talent, style on that stage spanned various experiences and ages. The combination made for great energy – the Station came alive.
Ike Muila, Siphiwe ka Ngwenya, Original Cuff Sista, Motho Fela, Quaz, Makhafula Vilakazi, Basemental Platform, KMS, Dimakatso Rapulane, Afurakan, Matete Motsoaledi, Icebound, The Pharaoh Express, Mak Manaka.
Between the words and music, minds and spirits were loosed.
The collision of visual, auditory and aural expressions all proved to be more than just a celebration of one poet. This wasn’t an exercise in stroking an ego but a communion of various aspects of our creative selves. Many of us left with lists of words and names to google – not merely because we didn’t know or understand but because Rampolokeng and everyone who spoke and performed sparked a hunger in us for more. We wanted more yet we were sated.
The highlight of the week and perhaps the best way ever to spend Afrika Day, was when Rampolokeng performed his work accompanied by Sbu the General on the decks. But then as if the beats and the word were not enough, Lefifi Tladi, legendary poet and painter, joined the performance and started to paint. Mind-numbing! As if that wasn’t epic enough, mid performance, artist Kemang wa Lehulere sat down with a dictionary and a grater and started to shred the words. Sensory overload!
This wasn’t one of those watch, get entertained, clap hands and go home typa events. This was a gateway to an even bigger world of poetry (all literature), music and art. For having been part of this week, one left feeling blessed – not in that ‘wow I was there kind of way” but we all left with our worlds having exploded, become much larger and richer. This is part of what makes the Afrikan Freedom Station such an important place in our cultural landscape.
It is still difficult to put in words what was experienced at Afrikan Freedom Station that week. The best words are sublime, sensory overload, ecstasy, mind-boggling, intriguing, full of love, challenging, inspiriting, fulfilling… really, heads were set on fire.
Every Generation is the theme of the second print quarterly of Poetry Potion. Inspired by Frantz Fanon’s “Each generation, must out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it.”; this edition features poetry, reviews, a poet profile of Mphutlane wa Bofelo and a q&a about the new Praat Poetry Festival.
This edition is available in print and digital formats at Book Lover’s Market, Adams (Durban), from our sales man in Durban – Menzi Maseko, at The Love House in Sunnyside Pretoria, Street Hawkers Concept Store in Dube Soweto (opposite the Dube train station), Roots Restaurant and Gallery in Jabulani Soweto or you can order by clicking here – click here for more info on our stockists