Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth: Napo Masheane

Source: Arts Review

As a poet, I am always looking for new poets to love, and I came across South African poet,  playwright, director, and producer Napo Masheane on Poetry Potion (their latest issue, On Being Human). Masheane’s poetry has a magical and mythical feel to them as she writes about black women and her own heritage. Her books are Caves Speak in Metaphor and Fat Songs for My Girlfriends. She has also written plays about body image and wanting to change the preconceptions about black women and their bodies, including My Bum Is Genetic Deal With It and Fat Black Woman Sing. Read her interview from Word N Sound and some of her poems below:

SAMBURU ‘My People”

We are travellers
We carry our names
With the beat on our feet
Re Barolong, Bakoena, Batlhaping,
Bahlakwana le Bakgatla
We are Samburu north butterfly

I stand on the backs
Of those who are called Bakganka
Singing songs that the rains and the winds
Never whispered to dinoka.
Badimo baka waiting to be praised
With the buzz of the bees,
The beats of the drums
They chant to my unsaid choruses.
I stride on shoes of giants,
Creating the legacy of their conquest,
Embracing their names in verse,
Reflecting their voluptuous looks on lakes,
Pulling their strings from Khalagadi,
Placing them on borwa ba AFRICA

Tshika ngwe ya rona comes from the reeds
They have built Maluti Mountains with their hands
Beautifully, engraved their narrations on sunburnt hills
Leaving their birthmarks on olive caves

We are Samburu north butterflies
Glittering with diamonds attached to our wings
Living after ancient tales,
Our souls are wrapped
In long wedding shawls,
We the wise ones speaking in riddles,
Where our words pass through
Village gossips, metaphors,
Our lands marked by chocolate pebbles
And pale skies
These lands where warriors glide
Effortlessly over rocks.
Striding easily across long life distances

My people have placed graves of their Kings
On top of Thaba Bosiu
They have shaped thorns
To protect their languages
Allowed their spears to rise in anticipation
To create the intimate magic.

And in the night of wisdom,
We sing in puzzles
We come out of our cocoon like little babies covered with life,
We jump like butterflies that have reached their glory,
Our sounds, travel far on the still air
Of story telling and spell dances.
We sleep with darkness calling our names.

At dawn the rays of the rising sun
Kiss our lips
As Virgo the morning stars make out our names

We are Samburu north butterflies
Stringing cords from our ancestors’ guitars
Moving with songs of time
As the meadow carries our fairy-tales
Reitea Kosha, retswa ka pina
As the forest echoes our clan names.
Our tongues recite clicking sounds of the desert
We the Sand people
Constantly in search of the grazing sun
Our red veins mark the soil
The spilt blood of our warrior-ship
Dances with the safari snakes

We are Samburu north butterflies
Our roots are rooted in Leole Mountains
We are calling out Thobela Sekhukhune
Mampuru Mopedi Moholo
Moshoeshoe moshoashoailana
Re Barolong, Bakoena, Batlhaping, Bahlakwana le Bakgatla
Hotswa mosi oya thunya
Re Bo Mankurwane le Bo Manthatisi
We are merely travellers
Carrying our names
With the beat on our feet
We chant and chant Freedom


God grafted the lines of the universe
Making the sunshine
At the birth of every being.
The fire that lights,
Through which new rays of life breaks,
A moment of time,
Where our new voices collectively
Must heal the diseased land-souls,
Liking the aged and the unborn.
Turning our childless grave yards
Into laughing homes,
Where our people are empowered and developed
The chains of our past
Should not trouble us forever,
But seal the lips of slavery caves.
Our people should stop
To live under the tyranny of silence,
Turn deserted lands into farm fields.
We must sow the seeds of UBUNTU
Building and shaping our future on firm grounds,
So that our royal languages can echo proverbs,
At a place where our ancestors walked.
Let us help the poor and the lame
To open the closed doors
So that they can dress our hearts differently.
Let us move earth and assemble our villages
So that our tears can become raindrops
For the sea of education
For the rivers of prosperity
For the lakes of democracy

Our voices should write new poetic bibles
And prose of golden beauty,
Casting away HIV/AIDS- unemployment and felony
Let us use our voices to fashion the old
Build strong bridges of awareness
Bridges that will take us far beyond
The skyline of time.
Bridges that will transform our core from
Dance floors of misconception
As we re-create who we really are.

Let us dress our behaviours like monks
Allowing our offspring to pick fruits
From the highest trees of spirituality
So that they can destroy the walls of orphan villages
Giving each home a name

We are pillars of a proud vote
Bound by a period in which
Every being must speak colour sounds
Of togetherness.
Let our voices find ways
In which the webs of life are woven

A place where mothers cannot escape
The messages of their own bodies.
Let’s allow our fathers’ spirits
To stretch and match science, history and politics
Let our unique voices teach us
How to dig, plant, water our seeds
So that we can buy our children’s smiles.
Let our words call peace
As ancient drums still our voices
Sending us to a place
Where the love of UNITY lives
To draw our people as a unit,
Let our SUNRISE voices shout
For we know where it all begun
We know where we are
We know where we are heading

The sparks of the sun
Opened the sealed envelop of my words
They, tied in endless riddles
Are perused out to the world by my faith
For God grafted the lines of the universe
Making the sun shine
At the birth of my soul.
The fire that lights,
Through which new rays of life break,
A moment of time,
When our voice together
Must weave the diseased land-souls
Liking the age and the unborn.
Turning our childless grave yards into laughing homes
Where our people can speak the same
Let our SUNRISE voices shout


Source: Flickr

Fat Love

Where I come from hearts are chained together
Beating in one rhythm, searching words like FAT music
So this is for fat girls
Who hold the sun entwined in their arms
Carrying purpose names in their curves
Laughing hard when the wind sings our fears
They are beauty conceived of madness
Sunset shakes, mouth full, bodies living through lessons
The winter of their summer outshades their comfort
They can hear themselves, beyond the touch of their toes
These full sized girls, who allow the moon to blaze their feet
‘Till the yellow blanket clothe their waists

This is for fat girls who play philosophers’ stones
To build temples in our minds
To write life with one hand
To walk sideways with idiocy,
Fat babies who perch on mountaintops
Reciting ancient chronicles
Cover girls sell the dream
Of being complete, complete, completely nice
They named you fat to own your pride
And lied
So that you can die
To break your stride
And called you not good enough.

Biko …70s

Steve Biko

When they killed BIKO

They thought those who were born

In that era will never learn

The language of the soil

And through transition of words

Heart trending we were cultured

Into black consciousness

We looked at the scope of politics

Through the hour-glass of the minority

Agree that Lexis like

Discrimination, prejudice and racism

Exist beyond the thought

Of being classified as God’s step child


I fell from my mother’s womb

When the 70’s generation was

Confused with misplacement of colour

I was born when MAN

Spoke about revolution and democracy

I came to be when those

With lighter skin

Openly sit in their own devils

Laboratories and workshop

How my life should be


In the 70’s my father introduced me

To the faceless names of Nelson Mandela,

Robert Sebukwe and Walter Sisulu

I was born when men and women

Spoke openly about freedom

Of the soul

I was shown the chains that bind

My sisters and brothers

Who were called spies and terrorist

Against their own words of equality

In their land


I was born when voices of BLACK-POWER

Stole Tsietsi Mashinini, Khotso Seatlholo, Onkgopotse Tiro

And threw them inside a pit of hate

apartheid is the word

My community base churches wouldn’t preach about

In the 70’s I learned I was born different

And Through MOZABALAZO scriptures

I woke up toyi toying in the street

When the language I sucked from my mother’s breast

Was to be substituted with Afrikaans


When my black soul started to speak louder

My father took me out of SOWETO

He became God who took Eve

Out of the Garden of Eden

Just because she has tasted the fruit

Of good and evil, right and wrong


In the 70’s I discovered the boat of fear

That my people were sinking in

Even when my own father

Tried to camouflage my knowledge of truth

But now a full-grown woman I know

I am the embodiment of my people

I am a symbol of their strength and struggle

My feet freely race

From the North Star to the South Sands

I fight back to the world of racial dust

Badimo baka have sent me

To wipe the dirty floors of

Race, poverty and class

That my father left untouched

I am STEVE BANTU BIKO’s descendent And I know it ain’t a sin to be born


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