“DR COOL” REVELS IN GRAHAMSTOWN TRIP
Seiso “Dr Cool” Mpete (above) is one of the 18 writers in the Free State who were bound for the Grahamstown National Arts Festival this year (June 29 to July 7).
The 22 year old hopes to launch his audio book called “New Civilization” to the world of artists who will be converging at the arts festival the next coming weeks.
According to Mpete, the arts festival hopes to expose his talent to a wide market where he will be able to expand his brand.
“We are hoping to expand our brand as Free State writers and hoping to get recognition for the work that we have done,” he said.
Mpete who is a poet, writer, hip hop artist and film-maker said the group was funded by the Department of Arts, Culture and Recreation in the province will be funding their one week stay.
According to him, the support they received from government is beneficial to the growth of Free State literature.
Mpete is one of a few writers who are able to write in their mother tongue languages (Sesotho). He is remembered for his poem “Rohaka Modimo wa hao” meaning curse at your God which is a poem about how people have turned away from God. It is a controversial poem which aims to question people’s faith in God.
Another of his most common poems include “Ba re na ebe ke tswa kae” meaning ‘they ask where I come from’ which is a poem about a warrior who returns home to reclaim his kingdom.
According to Mpete, most of his Sesotho work was inspired by his father, Thabiso who still lives with his mother, Violet Mpete in Botshabelo Township 45km outside of Bloemfontein.
Mpete said he remembers his father, reciting Sesotho poems at a very young age. “He used to recite them to me and for some reason, that passion was instilled and grew inside me. He was my mentor in a way and without realizing it, harnessed something great in me,” he said.
Mpete said the support he received from both his parents is what had sustained him and motivated him to achieve success. “My mother, although not a writer, said a few simple words to me that resonates within me till today. She said a man is judged by his actions rather than his words I have strived to live by,” he said.
Mpete was exposed to poetry at a young age but began writing in 2001, in primary school. In later years he learned to write in both English and Sesotho but the ones people seem to remember are the ones written in mother tongue.
He then opened a poetry group called African Mind Speakers at Pertunia High School in Bloemfontein when he was in grade 11. “I moved from one school to the next but it was when I went to Pertunia when I began a poetry club,” he said.
Mpete said one of the major challenges was that writers did not read and said that the only way they could measure their growth is by judging themselves according to the standard out there.
According to him, he has travelled to Angola to market himself and expose himself to a different culture of writers.
“Most of the Angolan writers I met were mostly Spanish speaking and so language was one of the barriers of communication. Although many of the writers did not understand Sesotho, it was surprising to find that most of them enjoyed the Sesotho ones. They said they enjoyed the tone of the poems and my stage performance and that for me was a humbling experience,” he said.
Mpete said that he hopes to take the Angolan experience and take it to the Grahamstown Arts Festival.
- Neo Mvubu