Aug. 31, 2023


3 min read

Sesotho women authors receive standing ovation

Sesotho women authors receive standing ovation

Ladybrand literary critic and author, Pule Lechesa

Story highlights

    Lechesa extols pioneer Sesotho writers
    Budding authors get chance to rub shoulders with their mentors

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WELKOM – PROFICIENT Ladybrand-based literary critic, writer, and researcher, Pule Lechesa delivered an impeccable paper on August 25 in Welkom at the Lejweleputswa Art Centre, Studio 2, as part of celebrating and recognising the resilience and contribution of Sesotho female writers in Southern African Sesotho literature.

The informative and educational event was facilitated by the Sesotho Literary Museum (SLM) in partnership with Language Services and Lejweleputswa Arts Centre under the auspices of the provincial Department of Sport, Arts, Culture, and Recreation.

Lechesa who was the keynote speaker aligned his message with the organisers' theme titled "Celebrating the Legacy of Sesotho Women Authors".

Explaining the purpose of the event, the multi-faceted Curator of the Sesotho Literary Museum and Acting Deputy Director, Tšiliso Masolane said: "The event was also in line with these departmental units' annual performance plans by providing an opportunity for practitioners to benefit from capacity-building opportunities and strengthening the outreach programmes with communities."  

He added: "It was a rare moment for attendees to benefit from the immense research work by Mr. Lechesa and an opportunity to engage in dialogue and map the way forward to ensuring the sustained effort of preserving and developing the literature in African languages, and in particular, to ensure an increased number of titles by women."

Lechesa, who is dubbed 'the backdrop upon which Sesotho writers shine" by his mentor and role model, Professor Nhlanhla Maake, focused on the "foundational writers" such as ’Mamosili Mokorosi and Dr. ’Masechele Ntšeliseng Khaketla and dwelled more on ’Makhokolotso Albertina Mokhomo.

He explained that the first Mosotho female writer to write a book in Southern Africa, contrary to popular belief, was not Khaketla but Mokorosi.

"Some people often give Mme Khaketla credit as the first Mosotho woman to publish a Sesotho book in Southern African literature. She published her first book in 1954, and it was called Mosali eo u mphileng eena. Mokorosi published her book, Bolebali, in 1951, making her the first Mosotho woman to publish a book in Southern Africa. Lechesa explained that Khaketla's husband, the late Bennett Khaketla, who was a respected writer and politician as well, also confirmed this in his book, Lipshamathe,” Lechesa said. 

"Towards the tail end of 1951, something humongous took place. Morija Printers Depot published yet another poetry compilation book, called Bolebali. This was a colossal feat as the author was a woman and she was the first Mosotho woman to have ever published a book in Sesotho," reads Khaketla's translated preface.

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Lechesa explained further that the first Mosotho female writer in South Africa was the late ’Makhokolotso Amelia Mokhomo, who was groomed by her former teachers Bennett Khaketla and Kemuel Ntsane.

"The actual year of publication remains best guessed as it is not written on the original book. In the book, A Bibliography of Neo-African Literature from Africa, America, and the Caribbean, published in London in 1965 by Janheinz Jahn, it is stated that Mokhomo's book was published in 1958. On the other hand, the late renowned and outstanding Sesotho scholar, Denise Ngcangca, in Mabalankwe ka Bangodi, gives the publication year as 1955. The research that I conducted for my book The Life and Times of Makhokolotso A. Mokhomo revealed that the correct year is 1955," Lechesa noted.

In attendance at the event were budding writers, and in their midst was legendary writer and teacher by profession, Letshase Nakeli, known for his books such as Lesapo and Mphe Leihlo that he co-authored with the late Dr. K.P.D. Maphalla and his elder brother, P.M. Nakeli.

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