The passage of any era brings about changes that will be felt for years afterwards. The change is more profound in the cases of wars, plagues and other events that bring about marked social upheaval. The world is going through one of the longest plagues in the history of time, and any form of expression that will come after this period is bound to be of a sort that will reveal a sense of peculiarity that will mark it as uniquely different from all the other forms of expression that came before this period.
There is an almost inborn human need to express the opinions relevant to the bigger population through the art of storytelling. The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that there are now new ways, new perspectives, new attitudes and obviously new stories that shall be told in a new way to recount the experiences of the pandemic.
This is the new form of literature that we shall see come to the fore meant to explore the human condition in the face of challenging times. It will be a form of literature history will note as it did the works of such authors as Toni Morrison and Albert Camus, William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.
The realities unfolding at any given point in time can only be interpreted for the consumption of the larger global audience by the mind that observes them. It is if one observes an entity closely enough that they ever truly get to understand it to a reasonably high degree (for one can never claim to know certain aspects of existence in their absolute or to have full knowledge of them; we can therefore only deduce of their meanings in the relative, comparative, or, objective sense).
Life comes to us all in a manner that largely remains a mystery and, only the myth, the philosophy, and the religion of the time can claim to understand some of the salient aspects of life. However, even such an understanding is not to the full due to the simple fact that life itself is ever-revolving as the stars and the planets and the moons that make up the universe within which all the realms of life exist.
The characters Camus creates in his works are of this current era’s ilk; all of them are separated or exiled from the rest of the world within which the live. The truth of the matter is that one can only observe the world or any other entity if they are without it; within it, the act of observation becomes hard to execute for then full control is in the hands of the observed entity.
The character of Meursault is put into question when he does not mourn the passing of his mother in The Outsider (L’ Etranger or The Stranger).
Human society mourns the death of any of its citizens, and if a citizen does not mourn the passing of another, their act is considered strange or absurd.
But Camus places a character like Meursault in his works to question why we should be forced into conforming when we are born different (though not exactly ‘unique’ as many would like to believe). Society casts out those who dare to be different and Monsieur Camus argues that:
‘In our society any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.’ I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.
Conformity is good sometimes, but it often turns out to be a detrimental factor when it comes to self-expression, and it retards such virtues as honesty and trust. That one behaves in a manner concomitant with the set norm does not necessarily mean they agree with such a norm, custom, or, tradition, and the writer as the observer and the teacher of the society within which he or she lives sometimes has to assume the stance of the outsider who does not conform to the societal rules that govern the individuals in society.
The current pandemic has forced us all to be the outsider even when it comes to performing something as simple as living within society. The position of the poet, the philosopher, the scientist and the journalist have all been forced to live in a world that is fast changing to exclude and to trim and to limit on the basis of the precautionary measures to counter the epidemic.
There are no large funerals anymore, no more lavish weddings, and almost all human celebrations that usually meant human congregation have been shelved for a while.
In The Song of Solomon the ‘old folks’ lie about the return of African-Americans is proven true when Macon Dead sets out to reclaim his heritage for, it is in his own words far more precious than gold.
The current flow of events has forced the individual to be defined by other people; one is safe only if the larger community understands the true essence of the precautionary measures undertaken in the light of the Covid-19.
That there are still events of corruption that are a result of the abuse of power, it is often the case that this heinous behaviour by unscrupulous individuals is based on the unequal scales of social structure supposedly designed by the powerful ruling class.
The truth however is that the way one ends up is in reality passed from father to son, in the process creating a perpetual inferiority complex that draws the individual deeper into the clutches of inhumanity where people feel they are entitled to gaining more than others irrespective of the prevailing conditions. Too often, we dream of equality but forget to exorcise the demons of being defined by other people whose only interest was erasing our true self, so that we could be more pliable tools in their hands.
Toni Morrison captures the essence of being human in a world that considers certain sections of society a permanent underclass despite the tremendous contribution such sectors have made in the civilisation of the world. Considered inferior does not exactly mean one is inferior; inferiority is determined by how one defines themselves in the mental prisons of the world where colour bars keep the oppressed man from seeing the true light of the world.
Colonialism put the whole world upside down so that the only one who could see the wealth of the world from the correct perspective was the colonist and the slave-master. Toni Morrison presents this picture in Sula, where the place called ‘The Bottom’ is actually a useless, rocky infertile land on top of a hill overlooking a rich valley where the rich white folks live. A passage from the book reads:
The master said, “Oh, no! See those hills? That’s bottom land, rich and fertile.”
“But it’s high up in the hills,” said the slave.
“High up from us,” said the master, “but when God looks own, it’s the bottom. That’s why we call it so. It’s the bottom of heaven-best land there is.”
So the slave pressed his master to try to get him some. He preferred it to the valley. And it was done.
The nigger got the hilly land, where planting was backbreaking, where the soil slid down and washed away the seeds, and where the wind lingered all through the winter.
Those blacks in Sula are sadly represented by Shadrack, a shell-shocked twenty-two-year old whose mind has been ravaged by war. Content with living at the Bottom, many of us fail to see our true place in the world; that the madman clanging the cowbells is actually a saint come to save us from our state of being. Steeped in self-serving self-interest, many of us that have ‘made it’ forget that the ‘top’ we have reached is actually the bottom to those races that presented it to us.
We should wake up and live and see our place as we should, as it really is, so says the voice of Sula. The world before the advent of the viral pandemic had steeped into the clutches of debauchery, the literary hope such reading brings up is that it will be a better place despite the continuing corruption and power struggles.
Upon reading Beloved and The Bluest Eye, one enters into the houses where the people live with the ghosts of their past, their dreams, their wishes, and their true selves hidden from the rest of the world. The voices in Toni Morrison’s books are many and deep, but the message they deliver to the human folks to deal with the past to understand the present is singular in its pursuit of true human history and identity in the dark background of slavery and colonialism.
The Atlantic is a sea full of ghosts from a dark past, but those ghosts are part of black history which should never be forgotten if the human race is to reclaim its true history. Barnett states of Toni Morrison:
Morrison guides her readers through the pain of extracting the memories that these characters have so long repressed, and the struggles they face “to confront a past they cannot forget. Indeed, it is apparent forgetting that subjects them to traumatic return; confrontation requires a direct attempt at remembering…”
That we cannot make peace in the present is simply because we treat the past and its events like a hushed wrong. Instead of recounting facts as they are, we shove them under the rugs at dinner tables of ‘truth and reconciliation’, pretend we have forgotten the past, and then wonder why it rears its ugly head the next day.
I believe we should be inspired to write truthfully about our diverse histories as the muse does. Toni Morrison is a mother whose words can guide the world to a better place, where black girls and boys do not dream of being white; because they have been taught that the only standards are white.
Love your fellow human beings as you love thineself, forgive them of their wrongs. But first love and forgive yourself first, then forget the sad past truthfully.
If the bow and the arrow were realities of a given era, guns and bullets assume their position in a different age, what remains is that the target is one (and the target now is to do away with the virus and all the hardship it brings), that is, the two entities may seem different when observed from the point of view of one focused mainly on their outward appearance without delving into the essence of their goals and objectives (to shoot at a target’s bull’s eye).
The artist does not focus only on the outward but actually bothers to find out what is within, that is go all the way to the purpose. Writers like William Shakespeare have been noted as timeless due to the simple fact that their stories cover the actual width and spread of the experiences of human beings in the world.
Writers from different countries can from this point on tackle the issue of governance in a similar fashion ignorant of time and place. These are elements that define what we call ‘the human condition’, in short those elements to daily living that differ not from place to place but are common no matter where one goes in the world.
The purpose to write, draw, dance, act, and express how one as an artist sees life actually serves to make others aware of what may under ‘normal’ circumstances be missed. In the thick of the competition, many tend to follow the urge to do so mainly because of the ‘demands’ of the moment.
In this stampede, the likelihood is that the simple things are missed and what connects humanity is thus lost. It is in the current moment that should learn to work together to douse the flames tearing the neighbour’s house that is on fire. The reality of the Covid-19 may seem a world of endless contrasts working in opposition, the sudden change in the environment somehow serves to define life in a new way.
The quiet neighbour who did not speak on the normal day actually remembered to greet on a Sunday because of the sermon he or she has to attend at their home church has had to change to work together with those they did not work together with before. There is just no time to be hypocritical because the demands of life and work in these times render one myopic, that is, all are now focusing largely on the duties meted out by the ruthless employer of the day (Coronavirus).
In the process, we all end up missing the simple things in life such as greeting the neighbour. Literature has to come in at this point to remind the common folk to understand the true value of the simple things in life before the realities of the moment shut the world out for good. It will be a literature of recovery and of restoration from this point on.
Tšepiso S. Mothibi
Harnessing imagery in writing
All writing is imaginative. Every piece of writing reflects the artistry and mental resourcefulness of the writer.
Effective writing also reflects the colourfulness of the writer’s mind and heart; their ability to paint the world to the reader and their capacity or facility of taking the reader with them to beautiful mental and physical and picturesque journeys.
In this piece we focus on how we can hone our creative abilities through the use of imagery and the effect of using colourful and evocative imagery in writing. Let’s go! What if I say, “Learn to prepare wisely and meticulously in time,” you will still grasp the message in a very clear way, isn’t it? But would that be interesting and colourful?
But what if we put it in a colourful manner, “Make hay whilst the sun still shines,” you really grasp the colour and the full import of the message, isn’t it? That’s what imagery does to your writing; it allows you to feel, touch and smell what you are reading.
There is no doubt that the proverb, “make hay whilst the sun still shines” has taken you to the countryside, in a farming community. You hear the bleating of sheep and the neighing of horses.
At the same time, you visualise the good farmer gracefully at work, cutting grass which he is piling in orderly stacks, preparing fodder for his animals in the future. The sun’s rays buoy his attempts and ensure that the hay is prepared with care and colour.
Thus, the point of good imagery is to capture in full detail a world that allows the reader to grasp and enjoy using their five senses. Let me give you a small but beautiful extract which further drives home the point.
“With his machete he detached a brittle clod, broke it on a stone. It was full of dead twigs and the residue of dried roots that he crushed in his fingers.
“Look, there isn’t anything left. The water has dried up in the very entrails of the mountain. It’s not worth while looking any further. It’s useless.” Then, with sudden anger, “But why, damn it! Did you cut the woods down, the oaks, the mahogany trees, and everything that grow up there? Stupid people with no sense!”
Thando struggled for a moment to find words. “What else could we do, brother? We cleared it to get new wood. We cut it down for framework and beams for our hearts. We repaired the fences around our fields. We didn’t know ourselves. Ignorance and need go together, don’t they?”
The sun scratched the scorched back of the mountain with its shining fingernails. Along the dry ravine the earth panted. The countryside, baked in drought, began to sizzle.”
What a colourful piece! The extract aptly paints a countryside’s pulse and the rhythms of seasonal and climate change and how that affects the livelihood patterns of the inhabitants. Have you seen how the sun has been endowed with human-like features?
And the description of the earth assuming human-like features, for instance, “the earth panted.” No doubt, you have seen the earth subdued by the intensity of heat in a way that is similar to a person who is panting.
To paint excellent images the writer needs to have the gift of observation. He/she should be able to observe quite a panorama of things around him and immerse them in the soil of their imagination. Let’s see another good extract where you can discern the link between good images, excellent description and the power of observation.
“It’s in the morning, the fourth watch, to borrow from biblical discourse. It’s damp outside. I brace the slicing chilly weather to go outside. There is a drizzle, constant showers seeping deep down. I pace up at least 400 metres from my hood. I see lined-up, almost cubicle-like houses.
I keep walking, with a spring in the step buoyed by the damp aura wrought by the incessant downpours. I take a deep breath, and step back as it were.
I want to be deliberate. I want to take in everything in my environment; the colours, the diverse hues and plethora of landscape contours. I notice a woman, almost in her forties, from my eye-view assumptions. She is grabbing a basket clutched tenaciously almost close to her big bosom.
She is going to Mbare Musika, the famous agricultural market wherein she intends to buy items for her stall. Behind her, there is a big strapped baby covered in velvet. As she briskly walks, I see her jumping a poodle of water as she observes her stall. I also observe a man, clad in sportswear running trying to cure a big belly.
As I keep watching, I see a woman sweeping her small veranda. I keep walking. I see a woman, plump tending to her garden. She seems animated by the drizzle, thanks to the rains.
I hear another woman, especially her piercing voice, she is selling floor polish. Her voice fills the air. As I drown in the sweet voice, I notice a man staggering. He is filthy. He could have calloused the whole night. He is holding a Black Label quart, speaking gibberish in the air. I keep watching.”
So here were are! Writing is a matter of painting with words, carving images and allowing the reader to experience the impact of all the senses so as to fully grasp the sense of what is put across.
Vuso Mhlanga teaches at the University of Zimbabwe. For almost a decade and half he taught English language and Literature in English at high school.
Send your comments and questions to: email@example.com
Politicians’ propensity to score own goals
Lesotho politicians are often in the habit of scoring own goals. For example, look at the circus that took place in the country at the opening of parliament after the winter break. These events remind me of the article that I wrote with the title ‘Scoring own goals’.
This article appeared in this publication dated March 18 – 24, 2021. It argued that Lesotho’s politicians had a propensity to score own goals.
Many say that education and academia should not involve themselves in politics. This belief is a fallacy. The two are intrinsically intertwined. Education and politics link in a complex way.
For instance, parliament is an organ that passes laws that govern and guide national education policies. The interconnectedness includes the curricula that educational institutions and schools teach. Now, if the National Assembly’s focus is misplaced, important legislative decisions may stall or be derailed by lack of action.
I must make a disclaimer though. I am not promoting any view about a political party. I am writing this article purely as a concerned citizen.
I revisit the own goal tendency of those in authority by assessing the drama that unfolded in politics and governance. I review the recent events that culminated in the failed vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane and his government.
I use arguments from research to demonstrate the fluidity of Lesotho’s democracy. Some politicians often take advantage of this fluidity for selfish gain. I contest that the Prime Minister and his government should treat their adversities as stepping stones to meeting their targets.
A constitution is a living document. Accordingly, to keep Lesotho’s constitution alive, current and relevant, parliament should regularly amend it.
However, in so doing, parliament must be careful that tinkering with the country’s constitution does not compromise the essence of democracy they champion. National and democratic principles must form the dogma that underpins the improvements and amendment exercises.
Personal aspirations, ambitions and creed must not underpin the amendments.
The recent events in and out of the National Assembly make one question the perceptions of the different roles players in the democratic playground in Lesotho have.
First, there was a vote of no confidence that the Speaker ruled to defer subject to the high court’s decision.
Second, there was the allegedly drunken MP’s own goal.
The third is the press conference led by the Commissioner of the Lesotho Mounted Police Services flanked by the head of the Lesotho Defence Force and the Director General of the National Security Services.
It is already a hat trick of own goals. Fourth, there was the statement of the Prime Minister claiming an attempted coup.
The fifth own goal is the moratorium that prevented parliament from holding a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister before the lapse of three years of his inauguration.
The sixth is the practice of shirking responsibility by MPs. MPs often refer political matters to the national courts for decisions. The seventh, and the mother of all own goals, is the electoral system that Lesotho elected to pursue. The National Assembly has 120 MPs. There are 80 MPs representing constituencies and 40 proportional representatives.
The Commonwealth suggested that Lesotho review the modalities of the PR nominations. Sekatle and the Commonwealth agree that the PR system introduced plurality but at a cost. The cost is what scholars and commentators term minority rights and coalitions.
Also, it compromises accountability and transparency. It undermines the collective intelligence of the voters. Chief Jonathan warned against coalition governments by citing their instability. Political instability plagues Lesotho today.
Sekatle and the Commonwealth cited the overreliance on a threshold in awarding PR seats in parliament, cheapening them.
The PR system ballooned parliament unnecessarily. By comparison, Botswana had a population of 2.6 million in (2021). Lesotho had 2.3 million (2021). Botswana parliament currently has 65 seats, and Lesotho has 120.
A consequence emanating from the PR system in Lesotho is a hung parliament. Since 2012, there has not been an outright majority in the National Assembly. The results yielded chaos. Over that period, PMs constantly look over their shoulders. All these coalitions imploded.
Democracy is about the majority. Politicians must be persuasive to attract votes to achieve the majority. In other words, the PR system rewards failure.
The own goals cause stagnation. MPs score these own goals by serving their selfish interests. They waste time and energy on trivial things. And yet, they receive full-time salaries and earn allowances such as sittings and petrol allowances. How, then, would one explain that the external urging of parliament had to engage in the reforms exercise?
Today, reforms are lying latent. Politicians use the reform programme as an excuse for ensuring that they retain or access power. In the recent correspondences to SADC, the government and the opposition cite reforms and democracy to justify their actions. But as I write this article, there is nothing much that is happening along the lines of these very reforms. Why?
The starting point of any achievement is desire and definitiveness of purpose. The definitiveness of purpose is more than goal setting. It is one’s roadmap to achieving the overall objectives. Elsewhere, I took the definition of desire as explained by the author, Wallace Wattles.
According to Wattles, ‘Desire is possibility seeking expression, or function seeking performance’. All desires began as a thought. Expressing their desires through a manifesto is a means by which parties attempt to concretise them (their desires).
The starting point of an election campaign is the expression of political intentions and goals through manifestos. A manifesto is a public declaration of aims and policy by a political party or candidate. Political parties express their desires for what they will do in their manifestos.
After elections, these desires become the guiding principles and laws. Politically mature voters would then elect political candidates based on these manifestos.
Who instigated and drove the reforms in Lesotho? The contemporary history of Lesotho reveals that external forces pushed the reforms. Basotho merely reacted. They do not own the reform process. High on the list of their drivers are SADC, the US through AGOA and the European Union.
The practice contradicts Wattles’ definition. According to Wattles definition, desire must emanate from inside the individual, or in our case, from Basotho and be expressed outward through actions.
I do not want to comment too much about the involvement of the security agencies in politics. In my view, the relevant bodies, namely, the Law Society of Lesotho, the media and the opposition parties dealt with their involvement adequately.
Former PM Leabua Jonathan often described democracy as the government of the people by the people. But, the meaning of the construct of democracy is fluid and elusive, depending on the position of governance in Lesotho’s political arena.
Authors Hughes, Kroehler and Vander Zanden explain that democracy is a system in which the powers of government derive from the consent of the governed, namely the masses who vote, in which regular constitutional avenues exist for changing government officials.
The authors characterise the system as one which permits the population a significant voice in decision-making through the people’s right to choose among contenders for political office. Also, the system allows for a broad, relatively equal citizenship among the populace.
Lastly, it affords the citizenry protection from arbitrary state action.
Now, the question is whether the recent activities fit all the three criterias. Are the actions of the MPs who moved for the vote of no confidence in the PM’s government acting in line with Lesotho’s constitution and democracy?
This definition of democracy says that regular constitutional avenues exist for changing government officials. The no confidence vote exists in Lesotho’s constitution. But the PM and his security agencies questioned this. They claim the move by the members of the opposition to dethrone the government was a coup attempt.
The drama began when an MP from the ruling Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), Thabo Moea MP, sought an order from the High Court to delay the motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister until after the completion of the reforms process.
The opposition contests that the prayer by Moea stifles a democratic process for self-serving ends. Subsequently, the Speaker cited this impending case to defer the matter.
The constitution of Lesotho stipulates that the legislature is to pass laws, the executive is to approve and execute them, and the judiciary is to expound and enforce them. But a scholar, Nwafor, claims that the courts in Lesotho often intrude into the functions of the other arms of government.
Lesotho ‘s constitution confers powers on three arms of government in such a manner as would ensure cooperation and coordination in governance. The courts ought to bear in mind that the effective discharge of the responsibilities of the courts largely depends on the effectiveness of the other arms of government.
Nwafor brings up the issue of encroachment. He asserts that the powers of the different arms of government in such a manner would guarantee a coordinated discharge of government responsibilities to the nation. But, parliament overly relies on the courts to make political decisions. The practice encourages the risk of overreaching.
The PR electoral system denies Basotho the right to choose their representatives among contenders for political office. Instead, parties ‘hand pick’ these representatives in the pretext of the constituency elections outcomes. Often, these PR members are the ones who lost their constituency elections.
These are the politicians whose constituencies rejected them. They represent their parties and not the voters. They do not account to the voters.
Both the PM and the opposition made presentations to SADC. They overlooked the electorate. Why would SADC have power and not the electorate that elected the politicians to office? Running to SADC, an outside organisation, to settle Lesotho’s internal problems is not a solution. It is scoring an own goal. Lesotho, with its 57 years of independence, should be able to solve its internal problems.
Nonetheless, I have a completely different take from Mokhothu on the issue of the protest march by the RFP. It is unimportant to find the instigator of the protest march. The people to persuade are the voters, the people who put governments into power in a democracy, not external bodies such as SADC.
Napoleon Hill’s creed reads: ‘Every adversity brings a seed of equivalent or more benefit’. Any business person knows that business is a solution to an economic problem. So, the PM and his colleagues in his party who are business people must look at the adversity emanating from the opposition as a seed of equivalent or better benefit.
The government must dig deep to find how the problem may benefit them.
They must identify their failures and use them as stepping stones to success.
Elsewhere, I presented the views of an American scholar and activist, Anderson, who suggested that marginalised communities must cease granting candidates blank cheques. Instead, the electorate must draw their expectations and demand the campaigning party or candidate promise to meet them.
This practice is called quid pro quo. It enforces accountability and transparency.
You scratch my back, and I scratch yours. Quid pro quo is an example of one of the universal laws that demonstrate reciprocity. Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit. The universal law is the Law of Cause and Effect. It means that for every effect, there is an equal cause. You plant a seed, so shall you reap.
Both the government and the opposition ran to SADC for help. Remember, Matekane is a successful businessman. He has, on more than one occasion, explained that he wanted to use his prowess in business to take Lesotho forward. As a businessman, Matekane has faith in his ability.
Words that come to mind here include self-confidence and trust in himself. He believes in himself. Running to SADC does not display this faith in his ability to deal with problems emanating from his opposition.
Hill argues that riches, or any form of success and achievement, begin with a thought. Faith removes limitations. Matekane must apply his faith as a businessman to become a successful politician.
To summarise, the article explores the events emanating from the fiasco of the no-confidence motion. The individuals who ought to champion constitutional democracy in Lesotho betrayed Basotho by scoring hordes of own goals.
I explored the meaning of concepts that helped me unpack some of these own goals. These were democracy, faith and desire. Also, I coupled these with scholarly research views on the constitution of Lesotho.
I contest that while the opposition may argue that they are within their rights to ruffle the government, the PM must use different tactics. He must display faith and confidence in himself and trust Basotho.
The move to influence the voters to back him deserves a big WOW! He must hold more campaigns to persuade voters to support his government. Voters may make or break him.
MPs waste time in discussing trivial issues that have no bearing on the national agenda. Often, they focus on self-serving matters. The RFP promised to refocus Lesotho towards national development and improving the quality of life.
The article also shows that the PR system does not benefit Lesotho. It diminishes accountability and the principle of quid pro quo. Also, it ballooned the numbers in parliament unnecessarily. It increased political instability by forging formations of coalition.
Politicians must refrain from abusing the judiciary by making them make political decisions. Involving the courts in making political decisions leads to encroachment. Encroachment defies democracy.
In conclusion, Matekane must not allow his detractors to derail his mandate. The same is true for the opposition leaders who attempt to dethrone him. No party campaigned on removing sitting PMs.
Also, the MPs must take the responsibilities that Basotho entrusted them with. It is high time that they make the political decisions instead of shifting them to the judiciary or external bodies.
Matekane, his business associates and technocrats in his government should revisit attributes that made them successful. One such attribute is their faith in their abilities. They must remember that riches (and success) begin with a thought, and faith removes limitations.
Dr Tholang Maqutu
Painting mood effectively
Writing is not different from beautiful artwork. Just like a skilled painter holding a brush with its broad strokes, the writer occupies the same place and vocation in life. Writing is a work of painting life’s experiences, its hues and beautiful unfolding internal journeys. In this piece we focus on mood and how it can be achieved. Many students struggle with understanding and contemplating the scope and ambit of mood in writing.
It is hard to define and frame the scope of mood in writing. What really constitutes mood? Generally, mood encapsulates the totality of the “air” or “spirit” or “aura” that a certain work of art evokes in the human mind, feeling or sensibility. There is a certain dominant feature or streak associated with a certain work of art, place or person.
There is something which is evoked in our hearts which is associated with a certain place, person or event. Every place or event or person carries or imbues with him or her a certain mood or sensibility; and there is a panorama of sensibilities; for instance, a happy or sombre or whimsical mood. We will now focus on a certain extract and discern how it paints mood.
“He quickly rights himself and keeps walking, but there is an unsteadiness to his knees. He has been given many looks in this quarter – dirty ones, blank ones, sympathetic ones, annoyed ones. For the most part, he had learned to tolerate those than can be tolerated, and ignore those that should be ignored, but the look this woman gave him is not a look one gives to humans but to flies, ticks, cockroaches, fleas…Thato feels anger, then humiliation, then something nameless. If he were in his own country he would turn and confront the woman; but now he’s hurt, wounded, a part of him wishing he were invisible. Breathing evenly, he walks with care, only lifting his eyes once he reaches his own quarters, among his own people. He proceeds to his shack. He could stop by Thapelo’s, his neighbour, where he knows that men and women are already congregated to watch videos from home. Yet, no matter the promise of good fellowship and laughter, Thabo does not join them. Watching videos is a form of forgetting; the 2008 elections, the police with batons, the soldiers with guns, the militia with machetes. Do you remember? Limbs broken. Roofs blazing. I remember.”
This extract is characterised by the intensity of feeling and evokes feelings of sadness, despair and pain. The excerpt paints a harrowing and blood-curdling account which produces a sombre, dull and subdued mood. Thato, the protagonist in the story is in a foreign land. He was impelled to leave his country as a result of political violence which saw many people lose limbs and lives. He feels lonely and unwanted in the foreign land. He feels lost and alienated.
There are sentiments of xenophobia expressed through the glances of citizens of the foreign country he is in. Even if he were to entertain himself together with his countrymen residing in that foreign land, Thato still felt a deep and nagging feeling of being an outcast. Thus, we have made very deep and broad descriptions of the circumstances in which the protagonist finds himself with a view to demonstrate how mood is created in a narrative. The creation of mood feeds into the description of the character’s circumstances, his mindset and the space and place in which he finds himself.
Mood, as we have demonstrated from the portrayal of Thato’s experience, has a link with pathos. Pathos is that streak of sadness which pervades a story and creates empathy in the reader. The aim of effective writing is to move the reader and to impel him towards certain sensibilities which are of an affective kind. Mood, when effectively created, allows the reader to grasp meaning which is not directly said in the story or composition.
Meaning in a story is an interaction between the words in a text as read together with the effect of the words, the tone used and the created mood. There are certain words in a text which do not just communicate, but etches in the reader’s mind certain thoughts, viewpoints and feelings. These words would be so evocative. One such word describes Thato’s deepest sense of alienation in the extract given above.
The word describes him as nursing a wish of invisibility, he felt or wished he were ‘invisible.’ His wish for invisibility is of great importance. It portrays how he was deeply affected by the loathing expressed in the eyes of those looking at him with hate and disdain.
So, here we are! Creating a mood is a craft which takes time to acquire and hone. But when achieved, it makes effective reading and allows the reader to get meaning which goes beyond the text.
Vuso Mhlanga teaches at the University of Zimbabwe. For almost a decade and half he taught English language and Literature in English at high school. Send your comments and questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawyer in trouble
Trio in court for killing ‘witches’
Opposition fights back
Harnessing imagery in writing
All set for Lesotho Tourism Festival
Joang locked in rentals row with tenants
Drugs crisis fuels gangsterism
Lesotho shines on MCA scorecard
Politicians’ propensity to score own goals
Co-option tactics for self-preservation
M13.6 million for police cars
Matekane’s new Cabinet
Weekly Police Report
Reforms: time to change hearts and minds
The middle class have failed us
No peace plan, no economic recovery
Coalition politics are bad for development
Academic leadership, curriculum and pedagogy
We have lost our moral indignation
Mokeki’s road to stardom
DCEO raids PS’
Literature and reality
The ABC blew its chance
Bringing the spark back to schools
I made Matekane rich: Moleleki
Musician dumps ABC
Bofuma, boimana li nts’a bana likolong
Mahao o seboko ka ho phahama hoa litheko
Contract Farming Launch
7,5 Million Dollars For Needy Children
Ba ahileng lipuleng ba falle ha nakoana
Ba ahileng lipuleng ba falle ha nakoana
Weekly Police Report
Mahao o re masholu a e ts’oareloe
‘Our Members Voted RFP’ Says Metsing
Matekane’s 100 Days Plan
High Profile Cases in Limbo
130 Law Students Graduate From NUL
Metsing and Mochoboroane Case Postponed
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SA tycoon angers MPs
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Young Mpeka’s big dreams
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I’m here to help, says Mashudu
News1 month ago
𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐦𝐨𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐇𝐢𝐠𝐡-𝐐𝐮𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐁𝐞𝐥𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐑𝐨𝐚𝐝 𝐂𝐨𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐚 𝐁𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐅𝐮𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞
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RFP member fights election disqualification
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A fitness festival in Butha-Buthe
News1 month ago
‘Fake’ prophet swindles duo of M13 600
News1 month ago
Man claims M5 million damages for lost eyes