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Howls of protest



There was a time before the Corona virus outbreak, before the Hong Kong protests, before the controversial Donald Trump speeches on the virus’ origins, before the increasing levels of unemployment and poverty, before we came to realise that we are in the midst of the most crippling lockdown in modern history; there was a time. The poverty that came with the virus outbreak is of Depression-era proportions (possibly worse), and at this point in time, there is the glaring reality that it might just last longer than we think.

The changes in the past two years have all been unexpected, and the reports on the political hordes are keeping us busy on television; reports of their thinly-veiled corruption antics and chants about their ‘wealthy poverty’ are the order of the day. We have all seen these discussions about corruption and we have all seen the crimes of fraud on a gargantuan scale go on without being punished. The howls of protest that the accused are being cheated out of office are normal day-speak discussed at office and in speakeasies; there is nothing unusual about the defence: it is part of political speak in the circles of the corrupt.

It happens every time a regime has to make way for another across the world that the ruling regime wants to clean its countenance and tell the masses of what they have done in terms of benefits. The crimes committed are usually left out of the conversation.

There is one simple fact of life: human resistance to change is normal, because for some reason that is little understood because we refrain from questioning it in depth, we prefer to live in the ‘comfort zone’ rather than venture out into the unknown. It is usually with reluctance that change is accepted in human society, because the human mind prefers dealing with the tried and tested, and following the beaten path rather carving a new road out of an uncertain landscape.

An observation made from a literary point of view is that we prefer to deal with the familiar rather than with the unknown. This behaviour is common to a larger part of the human race who would rather live in the squalid comfort regardless of whether the future promises better if we change. A move into unfamiliar territory despite the prosperity it promises is never enough inspiration for us humans to accept the new changes that come with the passing of a season, a regime or an era. What usually happens in these instances is that we begin to formulate new conspiracy theories about the new changes, often denigrating the new and reminiscing on the past with a sense of attached nostalgia.

One sees the same attitude in the speeches on corruption that is usually defended with tales about liberation wars and struggle movements. It is a matter that tells us in the face that struggle movements never actually made the transition into the parliamentary politics era. Another possible answer is that they use the struggle tales as a screen to hide the rampant looting going on in the background.

The reality of the human condition is that changes in circumstances, thought, and behaviour will definitely come: resistance to the novel conditions, ideas or ideals humanity encounters with the passage of time will only waste time that could be used to engender a spirit of resilience we need to keep on surviving. Literary writers and authors have throughout the span of history observed the trends and offered their perspectives and predictions on the unfolding realities. Some of these observations were accepted if understood or rejected if they were misunderstood; but the changes observed and recorded kept on coming regardless of the resistance to their status.

Change is often presented as many entities and phenomena in literary and other written works, but we have to understand that the characters which we read about in the works actually represent change in human form: Ayi Kwei Armah foresaw corruption after liberation, Sembene Ousmane defined the post-colonial condition, Jules Verne foresaw the space age, and Charles Dickens defined the industrial revolution. Change definitely comes to us, it does not matter whether it comes as a Frankenstein with many different interpretations or as a single entity as the present era seems to us.

The era of the Covid-19 pandemic is real change in action, though it is a figure with many different faces. We may never get to understand it in full until we accept the fact that it is occurring to us, and that we are still in the middle of the confusion of its metamorphosis. The change we are experiencing at this point in time is confusing, and the human behaviours of interaction will tend to violence born out of the instinctive defensive fear of the unknown.

The behaviour however shall help us none in dealing with the unfolding realities of a new era being birthed. It is a reality that every new era and regime seeks to assert its authority on all those that are watching and listening to the speeches associated with it or are living in its new realities. That we are stuck somewhat with the past and the familiar is slowly eroding into a spirit of acceptance of the new terms and conditions.

Change in a new form is occurring at this point in time, like it has come before and as it will surely come again in the future. There are certain trendsetters that we have had to follow from the past, and the changes in the past two years with the Corona virus being the lead topic will have the last word despite the reluctance to their existence.

A return to the 1991 speech by the then US president, George W Bush Sr about the possibility of forging ‘a new world order’ was actually a clarion call for change in human behaviour because the old age was in essence gone. The current world fosters the kind of thought pattern that we have at this point of history people that want to control others through the use of The Big Brother (Eye in the Sky) mindset.

It is ‘the wear your mask or perish’ thought pattern that was seen in Orwell’s 1984 where the devices we have in our hands have become not only tools we communicate with but also spy contraptions meant to invade our privacy and further spread the rumours, in the process driving the ideologies of compliance despite the many personal questions about the unfolding realities around us.

What is occurring at this point in time may sound like a conspiracy theory coming to life, but the realities that are unfolding with each phase of the virus reveal that we may indeed have reached a point where we can all be put in uniforms according to the orders of the ruling classes. We should wear our masks lest we get infected or infect others. It is an uncomfortable change, but change can only be accepted if it is to serve the best interests of one.

We have heard of the Nokia story and how resistance to the android realities of the new led to the demise of the once mighty telecommunications brand. This means that we should perhaps comply with the rules of the mask: or should we? There will always be many personal questions that will go unanswered.
An avid reader of the Jehovah’s Witnesses magazines because of the simplicity with which some of the articles present the world, I came across one that stated that:

Today, millions of people are in bondage to false religion, and many choose to remain that way. At the same time, more and more are demanding political freedoms.
We have become worshippers of the religion of small smart-phone and computer screens, speaking of change whilst in the same breath being servants to the god of the social media that is ensuring that we forget the world immediately around us, arguing we are about realities in worlds far away beyond the seas: and the third world we live in slowly disappears with each technological advance. It is as if we are on some pill that induces an amnesiac state of mind when it comes to the world around us.

The reality is that the change we need to cope with the new realities will come from within the world we live in even though the gurus of the social media preach that we shall be changed by whatever opinions they share on the web. These figures are similar to the new type of politician that knows not when to shut up, especially if they have been defeated in elections, meaning that the lobbying of the pre-election only finds continuation in defeat.

Each individual that has a blog or some type of platform passes forth their ill-researched opinion for the consumption of the willing masses at the expense of researched truth; and the poor masses are guzzling down tonnes of unfounded opinion with gusto and without question.
There was a time when the only television we watched sat in the corner of some sitting room. That era is gone and the social media gurus have become the new television and this will make the process of figuring out exactly how the current era will pan out given the circumstances a harder endeavour.

The exercise of understanding exactly what is going on has been given another level of complexity by the pandemic, meaning that the process of understanding exactly what is going on will with time become impossible as the virus progresses into more phases.

The problems a larger part of the human population cannot be solved by politicians: it will take individual effort to deal with the realities of the Corona virus. We have seen before that true freedom really exists only if the whole community benefits from the efforts of government and industry. The two spheres benefit the people if there is no element of self-interest in the form of corruption and self-enrichment. The reality at the moment is that corruption has taken centre stage even in the middle of a pandemic.

There are increasing cases of corruption heard when it comes to PPE tenders, bringing into question the integrity of the governments we have elected into power. There is an increasing trend of political governments that somehow seem to hold the notion that they are above the law and can therefore do whatever they wish because they will not face prosecution at the end of the day.

That the numbers of the poor will increase or that millions would struggle to survive economically is a sad latter-day reality of revelation proportions that is exposing modern leadership as only a tool of self-interest. It is only the powerful, the rich and the politically connected that seem to be making it these days. The possibility of an uprising by the masses of the people is increasing with each passing day. The only way the states will be able to deal with the general uprisings will be through the use of batons, teargas and bullets.

This raises the question of whether we are progressing as a human race or whether the final solution is being formulated that will see the state forcing the citizens into servitude through the use of brute force. Hungry people cannot listen, and the world leadership should well be aware that they should deal with the maladies of poverty before making any decisions to force people into submission when hunger and poverty are the more urgent problems.

There are now more people falling victim to crime as the levels of poverty increase and the viciousness with which they are executed leads one to wonder whether the real causes shall ever be addressed because the number of grievances increases with each passing day. There are increasing incidents of racial, political, and religious hatred that are fragmenting various countries in the world today and the real concerns that affect us all at the end of the day are being forgotten.

In retrospect, the situation one sees panning out these days is not that far from that future time described in the book of Zechariah when people will be “so confused and afraid that everyone will seize the man next to him and attack him.” In the lockdown, one has personally had their belongings stolen because the defence was that the pandemic and the lockdown had increased the levels of poverty.

Did lockdown mean that it is right to steal? No! But it is the mentality that is gaining momentum as the poverty and the hunger become realities in these harsh times. Such is the pattern of change in these times, and we can only live with the change without understanding it in full. Oftentimes, accepting reality without question seems to be the only sane way as the days get harder.

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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