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How we rise and fall



Met a friend I have known from the first days I spent living in the city, where the simple village boy soon transforms into a hetero-metro-sexual man as per the classification of the modern times. This is the type of man focused on the practice of grooming one’s self according to the basic requirements of the city where appearances are everything for those that instinctively need to assert their identity, that is, those who have their hands and fingernails manicured, and their feet and toenails pedicured.
Alien in nature but simply adopted for the sake of not standing out from the crowd, through that simple social process called fitting in, the village boy becomes a different individual soon as they reach the peripheries of the city: instincts kick in and tell him that, “this is the city!

Be of the city/in the city”. My friend used to own such a place where men and women of the city would go to groom their selves (well before this age of ‘selfies’…the man in the mirror was the ‘selfie’ of age back then), and the place (his salon) was full all the time, him being a celebrity groomer of some sort in having an edge of pedigree amongst the first-class citizens of the city.
The reality we share living in the city is that there is the constant ‘rise and fall,’ ‘fall and rise’ movement that means that one should always hold on tight to their dreams if they want the propensity to succeed to stay constant in one’s mind.

This degree of constance in terms of focusing on one’s goals is reflected as the hope to reach one’s goals. If one lets go even for a second, then their dream is bound to be lost to others where the vain declaration that “so and so stole my idea…”, or to the winds of time where the answer comes in the form of a weak, “I fell on hard times…” become the regular speech one makes on a daily basis after the failure.

It is the wisest move not to obey the sinkhole theories of a more tepid age in the past where the world could afford to live at a snail’s pace because they understood their technologies fairly well enough not to be bothered by them to the point where they would have to rush just to feel normal.
The reality of the present times is that one should stay more up than down if they are to succeed in whatever endeavours they may choose to undertake either in the natural call of nature to fill the belly for the sustenance of one or to busy the body for reasons of good health.

To succeed in the broad sense termed as ‘life in the city,’ one has to believe in not sleeping before they reach their dream.
The pursuit of ‘Happyness’ as adopted by the more ‘cultured’ of the colonised masses of the early days meant losing one’s freedom as found in the sedentary life of the traditional village, for the more upbeat life of the ‘modern’ man living in the streets and walking up and down the avenues of the city.
The poor knowledge was that life living in the city was faster, largely due to the requirements of the ‘industry,’ that unceasing human activity where one has to be busy for the sake of being able to deliver services and to attend to the needs of the clients and customers.

This quality means that life in the city never actually reaches a point of pure standstill (total rest), but is always in some way on a movement towards some point or destiny. For the individual that wittingly or unbeknownst has to live within the confines of the city, there is no escaping the clutch of the city ways and patterns that constantly demand that one should be on the move if they are to eke a reasonable standard of living.

The movement should be constant and one should learn to adjust to its ways, both in hesitation and in haste to suit the time demands of the task at hand. Failure to adopt this pattern means that one soon finds themselves lagging behind in terms of time and achievement.

The concrete jungle Bob Marley and the Wailers sing of becomes a reality one lives with on a daily or most days basis, grabbing a cab there and catching a bus here on the various journeys and excursions between home and work, home and the city, home and the pub, home and the park where we stroll.
These are different scenes of the city where home is the point A and the other space is a point B on many of the days. The movement is as sure as that of the door on its hinges, most of the time never-changing, punctuated only by the odd holiday or leave that comes on a rare occasion.

Other than this, the grind goes on and on and on until one has to be accompanied to the graveyard for their final moment of rest. I am in love with the life of the city, the very hub of economic activity in any given state, the cauldron where the brave make it through the hardest of the circumstances and the cowards fall by the wayside to languish in some karara pub where the patrons quaff endless Babatons of the potent hops brew spiked with battery acid and such other chemicals that have the drinker grow fine down on their faces and cook the liver to the point where the drinker hobbles around with a yellowed skin and browned teeth.

Of the struggles in the city, a million pages have been written on how they come and so, I choose not to beat this dead dog of a story but rather, I choose to trace the trajectory of how one rises from being a zero to being a hero, and also how we possibly end up being a zero again after attaining the coveted status of being called heroes. At the root of this is the incessant spirit of colonially inculcated habit or behaviour: competition for everything, over everything.

The city forces one to be on a constant competition mode, to fight for the scraps the plebeian masses receive from the capitalist feudal lords. It is a mean excursion, and those that make it are actually just plain lucky or are so stubborn that they do not give in even under the most challenging of circumstances.
These are the ones that survive the effects of the PHD (Pull Him/Her Down) syndrome that plagues the continent; one is never safe if they succeed, for there is always some visible or invisible clique of PHD’s that is plotting one’s downfall that one should be wary of.

As a nation, we are often too polite when it comes to addressing issues that affect us negatively, for example; there has never been diligent effort to deal with the unsavoury repercussions of poverty, unemployment and disease on a forum level.

What one sees are campaigns that far often than less seem to polish the countenance of the campaign leader rather than address the real long term effects of the scourges plaguing the society. The campaigns are well and good and the intentions behind them are honourable enough, but the fact of the matter is that they do not provide needed long-term solutions to the problems that are prevalent in different societies across the continent.

My friend is a living example of how different governments that ruled this state in the past 52 years of independence have never actually understood the power of supporting those exceptional individuals that have the entrepreneurial spirit. These figures actually give people jobs and their success is the success of many, as is their failure which brings down a lot of people if their businesses fail. There has always been the misconstrued assertion that state control of business will garner success for the larger economy, but the truth is that government is lacking in terms of policy and infrastructure to address the challenges of small businesses.

Many individuals have started businesses and registered them legally, but the businesses fail due to the fact that the taxman’s hand is too heavy on them, and there is often no education or information on how such businesses can get the needed support from the relevant authorities in government.

A salon is seen just as that, a salon where ‘women’ go to get their hair and nails done and its bigger impact in terms of providing relief to the larger economy seen through such a business’s employment of different specialists in the beauty industry is not acknowledged.

Though it is an everyday effort to run a small business, it is however a sad reality that such a business is not seen as an industry good enough to be given relevant tax relief and support in terms of funding from the government.

The amounts given as help are in many instances an insult if one is to be truthful to the basic needs of running a business. Without needed financial support, business soon falls and the people employed in it lose their jobs.

How one builds a business from scratch to the point where it becomes the talk of the town, only for such a business to fall to the status where the owner has to look for employment elsewhere means that there is actually no concern on the part of the ruling authorities for the welfare of small businesses.

That colonial spirit that excludes locally produced products and services on the basis of their political affiliation, caste, or class is what actually pulls this continent backwards in terms of progress.
Africans have an affinity to consuming what is not manufactured by them, and this means that they are always looking outwards when it comes to selecting products to consume. This kind of practice boosts foreign business at the expense of the local businesses that often have to deal with red-tape and subtle sanctions which hamper their progress in terms of output and influence.
We buy products from lands that are actually not meant to see us progress but actually enforce the spirit of perpetual economic dependency.

Having to depend means that we shall never actually be free economically even though we claim to be independent. Africa shall only gain its true independence soon as it realises the power of supporting local business on the part of the government-sponsored economic empowerment programmes.

That there are people you and I know who have been selling tasty food on the street for ages in a shoddy mkhukhu who have not advanced to the level of actually owning a decent stall. This means that we are not aware of the potential such businesses carry in terms of employing people, or that we have given in to the spirit of economic hopelessness.
We fail because we do not believe in what we see, we fail because we do not acknowledge honest effort and give it support, and we fail because colonially influenced jealousy actually turns us against each other.

Where one opens a stall that sells popcorn soon turns out to be a place of unnecessary competition, because one finds themselves surrounded by a crowd of others selling the same product one is peddling.

The basic argument is that there is no marked territory and everyone is therefore entitled to sell whatever it is they want to sell, meaning that they can just barge in on one’s territory and sell the same exact product one is selling.

This concrete jungle mentality kills the spirit of business diversity, because ‘survival of the fittest’ becomes the credo and those businesses that actually began based on the need to get out of the clutches of unemployment end up going under due to foolish competition from individuals that hijack ideas and projects.
We fail and fall because we are at the most basic still colonised, ruled by autocratic governments that never actually consult with small business pioneers but are quick to impose laws on how small businesses should be run.

These small businesses are actually the lifeline that feeds the masses on a daily basis, providing the larger economy the needed relief that enables the government to focus on larger long-term projects. A 2009 article on Thomas Sankara by Demba Moussa Dembele states that Sankara said:

“I think the most important thing is to bring the people to a point where they have self-confidence, and understand that they can, at last . . . be the authors of their own wellbeing.”

I think it is wrong to meet a once-thriving businessman poor on a Sunday morning, and I believe it is wrong for any government to impose laws on the weak just so that autocratic policies that serve one side of society can be implemented.

It is the government’s responsibility to see to the success of the small businesses in the state: unless such a government is made of jackals in sheepskins. Support the small man if we are to rise out of the mires of poverty into which we fell over the long colonial years.

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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