The voice crying in the wilderness

The voice crying in the wilderness

Every individual has their favourite place to inspire the movement of a feeling, emotion, or deed. I have always found facing a given direction the most comfortable, it is an automatic occurrence, almost instinctive this feeling that facing a certain corner in a room actually feels more comfortable than facing another corner in the same room.
This is the movement of a man in a house with many or few rooms, it is predetermined by an almost romantic love for a certain corner or section of a room in a given house. Sometimes the movement is seasonal, and sometimes the location of one’s favourite spot is seasonal, being that it moves with the passage of the seasons.
Certain corners are loved because they are cool in summer, and others still are loved because they are warm in winter, or, just that they offer the best vantage point to the world that is passing outside the window.

The latter experience can only be done where there are no picket fences and walls, and the suburban world we live in is one of walls and picket fences. This means that the suburban writer is actually forced to get out there and see the world if they want to experience the world in its fullest.
I have always been aware of the favourable or unfavourable effects of one’s place in society, and on this continent, writers often occupy the lower rungs on the social ladder of equality. Africa does not honour writers, and that is why most of Africa’s history is forgotten, because good books are used as kindle for fires and the writers thereof are forgotten.
There is a lot of good writing that has been done in the early years of the last century when education became the norm in this here land.
The writers were local Basotho men and women who formed the first band of pioneers that bothered to venture into the land where letters bring what was previously unknown into the light, what was little understood into common knowledge, and sometimes what is considered fantastic was revealed as it is in truth.

The writer of early Lesotho had a lot of barren landscapes to look at, a landscape that was to a large extent the prime scene of the aftermath of the endless wars and varied battles for the last remaining piece of land that had somehow remained unconquered because of the wisdom of one king – Morena Moshoeshoe oa Pele. The land became the inspiration for those that had fortunately gone beyond mastering the basic skill of piecing letters together to form words.
These ones could somehow (through sheer will and hunger for new knowledge) progress beyond the use of words and form sentences that could turn into paragraphs that in turn became chapters to masterpieces.

Sadly, most of those classics have faded with the passage of time, and one is fortunate if they chance upon a moth-eaten volume, and can turn the page to savour the language of the early times; those days when language was still pure and untainted by the feigned wisdoms of an age that has forgotten its true origins: the modern age of pretentious wannabe celebrity writer that write in endless circles on clichéd topics.

A lot of things are taken into consideration when it comes to the writing of a good story, and my personal credo says, ‘shut out the audience’ when it comes to the penning of a story. One cannot hope to write a good story if the audience is the focus; the truth is the primary focus of the story, and it will reveal itself as such to the reader if the writer focuses on revealing it in its barest form.
It is quite easy to fall into the trap of writing stories that please the audience even before they reach the audience, and such stories are tepid before they reach such an audience because there were far too many invisible mental judges in the writer before the story reaches the publisher.
One cannot hope to write a story to the end if they spend a large part of their writing time assuming the opinions of those that shall get to read the story and presuming what their opinions on the story shall be.

The fallacy in this is that one does not focus on writing the story but on the interviews that shall come with the publication. The interviews on television, radio, and other forms of media should not be the point of writing and should not be considered the primary focus.
The Lesotho writers of early 1900’s had a simple truth and message to pass; we have to keep a record of the occurrences in our time for the benefit of those that will come later. This is the primary purpose of writing, nothing else is.

Those early writers in Lesotho did their part, but the following generations have proven to be somehow a bunch of throw-away dimwits impressed by the writings from other lands and themselves. Of the richness of the literature in Thomas Mofolo’s Moeti oa Bochabela Pitseng, Chaka and others, your regular Joe or Jill does not know of, they love Iyanla and Oprah more. I find it absurd to believe that I could claim to understand tales from lands I have never been to and most possibly will never go to better than narratives from a land whose earth gave birth to me and which I have walked and whose rivers’ and streams’ waters I have crossed and drunk from.
It is pretentious to think that the words of some impossibility actually make more sense than the experiences of a fellow compatriot in black and white. This is unless such a foreign voice is writing from intimate knowledge of the land of the audience.

The truth is that our experiences differ from place to place, and the best writing comes from what we have smelled, seen, tasted, felt, and heard in close proximity. Those names of far-away places that have been pumped into our psyches often lead us to forget the true beauty of names like Lekhaleng Pompong, Rope-sea-lahloa, Itšeche and others.
One is often criticised for the ‘hard’ English, and the reply has always been simple; buy a dictionary, make sure to put it by your side each time you open a page. What one writes for the audience in English is never going to ascend or descend in terms of its essence and quality.

The writing process in many true writers begins quite early in life that they are well seasoned by the time they are ‘discovered’.
The language in which we write is often whipped into the mind of the writer in this land. One would be punished if found speaking in the native Sesotho, in short, we were whipped into speaking English. To expect one to write in the English of the social media after they have suffered for long agonising years to learn an international language is sheer delusion.
It is quite hard descend to the level of the wannabe writer that wants to impress the audience even before they pen the first letter; that is not my kind of writing. Well written works are not pop-fiction that is relevant only in a certain era, their essence renders them timeless classics to be read by audiences over the years.
This is the writer of the school focused on passing the message on as is, the kind of writer whose basic intention is for the truth in the message to be as relevant to a child in the next century as it is to the adult in this era within which one is writing the message in a bottle to be stored in some time capsule.

Writing is not about writing a mayfly, that is, one does not write so that their words last five days in a single season and are thereafter forgotten.
We write as we speak, and the words which we use in our day-to-day conversation somehow find their way into the written sphere, their presence there should not be seen as invasive for they form the basis of that which the writer wants to discuss.
The fast pace of life in the present era means that certain issues may intentionally be dismissed as unimportant, or are not emergencies.
Unwittingly, some issues may be looked over when they should have been given more attention than the current ‘trending’ ones that are often given more credit than they deserve. Truly authentic writing demands that one should be unapologetic in the confrontation of issues (themes) to be explored.
There are issues that affect the masses and have some form of influence on the way the individual sees the world, and as much as one as a writer is tempted to explore some ‘trending’ issue, the reality of the craft demands that one should be careful in the discussion of topics.

One as a writer should be wary of fleeting issues posing as reality. It is the same feeling as one finds in the words of the prophet Isaiah as spoken by John (John 1: 23), “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness…” which is often the position of the writer that has to contend with the real issues of their contemporary time.
When Bantu Stephen Biko sat down to pen I Write What I Like, it was not because struggle and the quest for freedom were the trending issues of his times; oppression of the masses by the few was a reality that had carried on for far too long and necessitated the clipping thereof to have a normal society. The people had no voice, and this man had to be the voice that would emancipate a country from the clutches of racism, segregation, and oppression.

Sometimes, the writer is the only voice available to shout in the wilderness, he or she has to be the first of the wildebeest herd to jump into the crocodile-infested waters to make possible the migration of the herd into greener pastures.
Writers of the olden times were the first ones to make visible the signs of the times, from the advent of the wars that rattled the world on its axis, to the mass movements in political thought.
The writer has always been the only figure available to convey the message on to those that most need it. We cannot as humans live without information, for it is the basis of communication, which is in itself the root to the interconnectedness between individual human beings with their fellows and peers.
The good writer is one that understands that the information they transmit is not only for the benefit of a few but for the welfare of the world.
What those that are untaught in the craft think is that being able to put words into a corrigible sentence means that one is a writer. Being a celebrity is actually what these figures are focused on, of the message in the words, too little is given due consideration.

Exasperated for the better part of my history at these invasive usurpers to the throne calling themselves writers, I have always asked myself one question; why don’t these green penman cum popular writer invade other fields like say, medicine or law? This is because there are laws that prevent such invasions into these fields.
Why don’t writers get the same kinds of shields to prevent invasion into their spaces? The silence that follows the question can be cut with a knife.
That the writer is not paid is because someone is plagiarising their work for personal gain and benefit. There are illegal in-house factories that copy music from the day an album is released. Of the poor musician who penned the lyrics, African governments do not care.

The only time a musician or a writer will get to eat of the fruits of their toil is if they are affiliated to some politician willing to part with the crumbs from their sumptuous tables. We live in a shameless era where lies are the order of the day.
Endless and futile promises are made to make right the wrongs inflicted on the first generation of people that took the masses into the light of the knowledge. Make your own extensive search into the history of this continent and you shall find that writers were the first voices of emancipation.

They penned the speeches, they penned the slogans, and they drove (with their words) the ideologies of freedom and emancipation that saw this continent break free from the clutches of partial colonial rule that favoured the colonist minority. Why have they been forgotten (these writers)? One may never get to know.
Like the seasons change, the attitude of the current politician to deem the writer only a tool to drive personal and party propaganda should be done away with and the writers of the world should take their rightful place as custodians of the norms and the cultural ethos of the nation. And they should be rewarded for it in coins like others are paid for their efforts in their different pursuits.

Tšepiso S. Mothibi

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