MoAfrika Mokgathi


While most might associate Mamelodi with old infamous lyrics Banyana/Majita ‘a Mamelodi ‘arata di Social. It is safer and more enriching to quote MoAfrika Mokgathi Mvubu when she said “Re bana ba Tshwane fela ga re tshwane” which encapsulates the rich diversity of this township.

Blacks Read too: Xitha on the left with MoAfrika on the right. Photo by Tokelo Hlagala
Blacks Read Too! Xitha on the left with MoAfrika on the right. Photo by Tokelo Hlagala

A week ago I attended Mamelodi’s first ever book market which consisted of poets and published authors. Founded by 11 young people who are writers, publishers and readers. The book market was almost postponed but as one of the founders Phindile Nqana said “We can’t fail to start.”

Among the attendees was Mamelodi legend, author of Evasive State and Mamelodi: Reflection of a Lifetime, Ntate Aubrey Magase. He shared with us a very brief history of the township and Pretoria at large. Published author MoAfrika spoke of the importance of editing your work and not losing the essence of what you were writing about when someone else edits your work.

SHARING WISDOM: Photo by Tokelo Hlagala
SHARING WISDOM: Ntate Aubrey Magase speaking at the Market Photo by Tokelo Hlagala

Godfrey Mnisi the Founder of Afro Zwanaka, a literature house in Soshanguve, had two of his books on display at the Market stalls. “One of my books, Cosmology of Success talks about dreams under the moon, must compliment Dreams under the sun, which loosely translated means ‘what you dream at night must be complimented by actions during the days'” he says.

“It’s beautiful that black people are writing themselves into existence, the challenge is that we don’t know how or where to sell our books or advertise them. The culture of buying books in the townships needs to be emphasized by having a consistent number of book markets being hosted in townships. There is no doubt, my people are writing …we need to start buying books and actually read them. We’ve already started, we can only go up from here” says Godfrey.

HERE FOR THE BOOK WORMS. Godfrey Mnisi sitting by his stall. Photo by Tokelo
HERE FOR THE BOOK WORMS. Godfrey Mnisi sitting by his stall. Photo by Tokelo Hlagala

While strolling around the stalls I met Khutjo and Kgothatso Swafo, an interesting team of siblings from Soshanguve. The pair run a stall called Parks & Read. They go to public parks where most children in the townships play at and gather them around, introduce themselves and share books, stories and take turns in reading to them. “We rotate around Soshanguve at the moment; we visit one park 10 times before moving to the next one. We love working with kids and what better way to do it while helping them advance their reading skills, we read books of all South African languages” Khutjo says. Their business is only a year old.

DOING IT FOR THE KIDS: Khutjo and Kgothatso Swafo. Photo supplied

Our Townships are truly fortunate to have spaces such as Mo’s Coffee Shop as an art friendly space and gives Mamelodi residence a platform to showcase their talents. The coffee shop will host the up-coming market next month.
It was English South African writer Sheila Fugard who in 1991 said “The Writing scene in South Africa is quite extraordinary. A flood of raw material by a population which was silenced for so long, a really necessary outlet. Poetry, workshops, theatre and short stories abound but no novels.”


I met MoAfrika Mokgathi around 2005 or ’06 at Stanza Bopape Community Hall, where she hosted poetry sessions, Azanian Seeds-one of a few people hosting sessions in Mamelodi. That’s when I was exposed to her work, a huge part of me hoped that she writes a book but now that I know better, she couldn’t have given us My Tongue is a Rainbow at a better time.

Born in my beloved Mamelodi, MoAfrika’s voice is a familiar one. It took me a week to finish this book and I loved how much of an easy read it is. MoAfrika touches on feminism and family orientated issues.

Cover of MoAfrika's book. Photo supplied
Cover of MoAfrika’s book. Photo supplied

My Tongue is a Rainbow is MoAfrika’s first offering and this is also my debut book review- so this is a big deal for me because we’re both infants at this. The title gives away what the poems could be about. Initially when I saw the book’s cover circulating on social media, I had an idea that the book focuses on events taking place in post-Apartheid South Africa. She has a poem tilted Marikana, about the 2012 massacre that saw the police gun down protesting miners in the North West and the piece also talks about how women are violated in South Africa.

When you’ve known someone’s work for as long as I’ve known MoAfrika’s, one prays that one of their all-time favourite poem is included in the book. When I received it, the first thing I looked for was an opening line to a poem I love…They were found fire dancing in the palm of God’s hand…I really love that poem ninani, I was actually sad for a sec [hahhaha].

MoAfrika also pays homage to Her Skin Speaks, a movement I dedicated to telling women’s stories in a poem called Monyamane. It was heartfelt of her to recognize real life events, female trauma and acknowledge the work put into trying to heal the female body holistically.

She has a poem in the book titled Rakgadi that I relate to. The piece highlights the importance of an aunt, specifically from one’s paternal side of the family. Her role in the family is important as it is stated in the poem that…

My paternal aunt has stopped ululating

She has stopped reciting the family clan names during family gatherings gutted that Mokgadi doesn’t greet her with jubilation. Mokgadi is getting married and Rakgadi is taciturn

In our culture Rakgadi is the overseer of everything; she gets the most gifts, and she is one of the people ‘ba layang ngwana’ in this case would Mokgadi.

I truly enjoyed reading this offering and I’m stoked to see what she writes about next. It’s been such an honour to share my two cents

The book is available for purchase. To get a copy you can email MoAfrika here

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