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Africans do read!



Of the way of the world, many shall spend a large part of their lives trying to figure it out, and the many events that shall come to unfold are but just a singular occurrence among the many one shall get to see.
The truth is that we are not given 360° vision, and this means that our observations cannot often cover the full circle unless we give ourselves time to pause and analyse the varying realities and phenomena occurring in front of our rested gaze.

Aural, visual, olfactory, physical, and gustatory, the manner and pattern of that which is unfolding in front of, within and or without the scope of one’s eyes, ears, mouth, skin, and tongue is through pausing and observing processed in the mind.
At this point in time, there are no rules that apply, only the observation of that whose occurrence is a continuing affair. It is in a moment of repose, rest and relaxation that one can truly sense the world because there is little that disturbs the mind’s inner faculty termed as judgment or the ability to draw conclusions and to make decisions on what to do, where to go, and when to go with regard to that which is occurring.

We can reach truly beneficial decisions if we detach from the grind for a while (if only for a short while) dependent on the number of commitments that have one go to work, put in some strain at given points, and have to attend to some responsibility one cannot escape.
There is always some inner instinct in many of us to reach a certain level of comfort, and this is expressed as evidence in the many wishes, aims, goals, and dreams many want to reach as is heard, seen, tasted, felt, and smelt in the world around us.

Despite the many differing opinions on what one should do to keep in touch with the world, there will always be the difference: that which grants each and every living and inanimate thing big or small its own uniqueness and commonality with the rest of the world. This is what should be acknowledged by everyone to avoid unwarranted discomfort due to surprise, sudden shock, denial, or ignorance.

Understand always that there will be something different to come across with each passing moment, acknowledge its passing, its advent, and its presence in those moments when one can forget about the grind going on in the world around, if only for an ordinal period.
There is the reality of the world; this is the reality of the world: rest awhile and reset the machine from time to time so that the understanding of the difference can remain clear at all times.
Singing, reading, ‘playing’, storytelling through act, sightseeing, and many such other activities of leisure and relaxation help one to reach the state of mind where one can fully appreciate and acknowledge the differences in the world around.

The ones in the quest for knowledge know the necessity of repose, however long or temporary such a point in time or moment may be. Music, literature, or drama can serve the purpose by being avenues down which one can walk or run to reach a comfortable enough state of repose to muse and to rethink the patterns of thought and the manner of execution of tasks related to the constantly revolving world and its realities unfolding in a progressive or sometimes regressive continuum.
It is perhaps likely that it is only when one is listening to or watching some musical performance that they can think straight, that it is only when one is reading a certain kind of literature on a given subject that they begin to understand.

It is not only when one is engaged in leisure activities that they can find their repose for even under the tedious torment of the toil, some individuals actually find their rest from the world and can think on it and its unfolding trends from the point of view of the detached: a view which Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hakagure expresses as consulting the ‘advisor’.
In short, one should afford one’s self moments of rest, become detached for a short while from the world if the space within which they are in cannot give them enough peace to think on what to, how to do it, and when to do it. Tsunetomo posits that:

When one is not capable of true intelligence, it is good to consult with someone of good sense. An advisor will fulfil the Way when he makes a decision by selfless and frank intelligence because he is not personally involved.

True intelligence means that one knows and understands their goals and objectives enough to follow them through to the end. Without this mental commitment to the task, existence loses meaning and one is forced to go back to the drawing board and to recharge. Many follow the leisure pattern of recharging and others still work or read to gain their bearings. Reading offers the best route because it presents the scenario where one can read on the characters and their lives from the point of view of the outsider, to mull on them, and then to point out useful elements they can inculcate or adopt in their lives and lifestyles.

Upon gaining new insights, one automatically changes their way concomitant to the goals they have, and it is found only in reading in the solitude of the space it is done in.
The authors on the continent have for the longest time offered us the best avenue for repose in literature, film, and other arts or media through the works they have penned. I have always been one to dig my face in the works of my preceding authors to get an understanding of how the world around us has evolved.
This is due to the fact that the works they have penned are to a large extent the covering of events that occur in the many different communities on the continent across different eras in continuing history.

From Frantz Fanon to Ngugĩ, Mungoshi to Dangarembga, Rotini to Soyinka, Achebe to Camus, Mofolo to Sekese, DCT Bereng to Z. D. Mangoaela, and others, there has always been a message that anyone can read to understand why and how the world pans out.
The stories and their characters are always in one or another way similar to the story of the one reading it, and this means that one can relate to them and adopt certain meanings found if one bothers to read in between the lines.

The normal speak is that we Africans do not read, but this view may perhaps be one-sided, that is, one of the realities could merely be in the fact that readers have differing manners of reading and understanding events in the world due to the different customs, tradition, cultures and circumstances they grow under termed as socialisation.
Our manners stem from this intricate process that is termed socialisation, and how we are socialised depends more on the majority rather than the minority.
The minority however small still adds up the fine details as to how one can go through day-to-day living: for in society, the big and the small have their own and individual element of significance to contribute in the makeup of a character.

The assumption is that the average character on the continent does not read enough, but close analysis soon reveals that the average character does read, if only in a manner different from the usual and the common. Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks attests to the reality of the reader understanding that which has been written. Perhaps not reading the western way is just evidence that there are other manners of communicating the African reader uses that are different from the usual and the conventional way the West reads and understands the world. To support this argument Fanon posits that:

Every dialect is a way of thinking, Damourette and Pichon said. And the fact that the newly returned Negro adopts a language different from that of the group into which he was born is evidence of a dislocation, a separation.

One cannot just make a sweeping and generic conclusion that Africans do no read, they just have a manner of reading that is different from the usual.
The average African’s understanding of the ‘now’ is different from those in other regions and time zones in the world, the assumption that they do not read is just often the result of the view and analysis of the outsider commenting or attempting to understand the inside without actually bothering to enter and understand it from within its confines.
The argument that we do not read is therefore based on a misguided premise of one that speaks without first experiencing that which they make an opinion on. This view is common and has sometimes even been inculcated into the minds of the Africans themselves despite clear evidence that it is not so.
The view is just a sure sign of the last dregs of colonialism that sadly was allowed to pass from one generation to the next through common-speak. Victim to the untruth is the African that listens to this assumption without analysing its true intent and purpose.

There is simply no way one can understand any phenomena without giving it full attention for a given period of time. That the world is as it stands at this present point may have its roots in the past that occurred and not the kind of past many imagine it to be, for this imaginative path is in blank terms the result of someone’s thoughts that are prone to self-interest than the interests of the community at large.
Divide and rule as that brought by colonialism inculcated this pattern of behaviour, thought, and act in the African individual that came across it in any of the different locations the era landed them in.

The city smart-boy came back home to the village with tales of the city and recounted them to the village peers with gusto, and they took what he told as the reality in the cities.
Whether the city the teller is recounting of is just a halfway dorpie/town does not matter, the story has been told and heard by the audience who themselves go on to tell to others that were not there.

What kind of story shall it be if it goes on to cover a large audience? It becomes the popular story that soon adopts varying versions to be recounted in differing audiences from the various communities resident on this vast continent.
Writers on the continent have written, and their works have gone on to be adapted into different media for consumption by the different audiences. The only catch is that they are told in an outside voice or language thus forcing the audience to interpret.

Professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s 2013 address at Makerere University touches on the problem of having to read in a foreign language on internal matters that affect the African citizen.
Africans are said not to read of books because they deliver a kind of ‘knowledge’ that is delivered in languages that are foreign to the ordinary man and woman that form the core of the entity termed as society or community.

The need arises that the writers of the continent begin to question this aspect where the children of the continent are forced to gather knowledge through third-party translations of the original language and not in their aboriginal mother tongue. Ngũgĩ poses the assertion that:
What we can question is the fact that our various fields of knowledge of Africa are in many ways rooted in the entire colonial tradition of the outsider looking in, gathering and coding knowledge with the help of native informants, and then storing the final product in a European language for consumption by those who have access to it.
In other words, we still collect intellectual items and put them in European language museums and archives and people have to dig into those languages in order to access knowledge about themselves.

It cannot be said that Africans do not read because they do not look into books the same way those in the West or the East do. The fact of the matter is that far often than seldom, the average scholar first has to struggle with another culture’s language before they deal with the inner or core ramifications of their mother tongue.
By the time they get to the gist of what is being told, they are tired due to the struggle with a language that changes with every turn in their absence and without their prior knowledge.
We do read, but I guess we enjoy reading material that is in a language we understand enough to read in between the lines, that is, in a language from which we can draw our meanings from decisively.

Fail we shall as a continent if the denigration of our aboriginal languages goes on and new languages from lands foreign to us are deified and then imposed on the children of the masses who are in actual fact the continent’s future.
English is enough as a second language, we can competently read between the lines when we deal with its texts. Let us read between the lines.

By;Tšepiso S Mothibi

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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.

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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


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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:

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