Poet and master's candidate Lebohang Masango on her upcoming children's book and the power of poetry
A Master’s candidate in social anthropology at Wits University with research interests in gender and the materiality of love, intimacy and sex, Lebohang Masango is passionate about beautiful writing, African feminism and women’s creative expression. She’s working on a children’s book, Mpumi’s Magic Beads, and has the best book-inspired tattoo she’s ever seen. ‘Poetry is how the world came to be; through spoken and written language. So poetry is a way for me to make sense of the world around me. Through it, I’m able to talk myself down from sadness or talk myself through experiences of joy – reminding myself that words are powerful and magical,’ says the Joburg based poet, who discovered this passion at 15 after being inspired by scenes from the film Love Jones and attending the Urban Voices Poetry Festival in Newtown.
Her budding interest in Africanist history and critique of the kind of consumerism that’s prevalent in middle-class teenage culture laid the foundation for her first piece, Untitled. Four years later, she performed To Do List for Africa at the Word and Sound poetry slam competition and won the Queen of the Mic title. Her hope is that the art form helps to make a real impact. ‘Poetry, especially relatable South African poetry, being taught in schools will improve the interest in literature because learners will be engaging with material that represents their realities. Poetry also inspires lessons in narrative history since so much of the South African canon comprises protest poetry.’ Over the past year, she has challenged herself to write shorter poems in order to indulge in the economy of language that one has to explore when the work has to express as much as possible with fewer lines. ‘I think I try to show that we can all save each other’s lives by being gentle enough with ourselves to be vulnerable in our art. There are so many poems and poets who have helped me push through to the other side of whatever I was feeling, simply through their honesty and bravery in their sharing. I hope to be that for other people.’ She loves that she constantly strives to blend her art with her passion for anthropology. ‘My greatest achievement to date is having been awarded a PhD scholarship to study gender and intimacies. I’m super-chuffed because getting my doctorate is the dream!’
Originally printed in ELLE August 2017