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In search of one’s roots



MASERU – For someone so eager to reconnect with her Sesotho identity it is rather odd that the only way she can best articulate that zeal to embrace her heritage is through English, another people’s tongue not her own.

But it might not seem such a strange thing once you realise that the ‘she’ being talked about is none other than Kelello Tekateka, aka Ms Kelle.
One of Lesotho’s most talented upcoming singer/songwriters, Ms Kelle – who prefers being called by her Sesotho name, Kelello, – is a proud Mosotho of the Koena clan that is part of Lesotho’s ruling establishment.

However, circumstances would conspire to suppress for a while the raw Sesotho spirit in her, a factor well illustrated by her lack of proficiency in the language of her people.
Instead, upbringing and socialisation groomed Kelello into the typical citizen of the global village whom you can’t quite fit into the rigid binary categories of black or white. It is factor she herself readily admits and to which her music also bears testimony with its appeal to audiences across the racial divide or geographical location.
“I’m too white to be black and I’m too black to be white,” she told thepost, adding that her music is meant for audiences across all continents and from all races.
But this is to get too far ahead of the story. The narrative begins in the Germany city of Bonn where in (****year) baby Kelello was born to the family of Mokheseng Tekateka, a Lesotho diplomat who spent years in the European country on assignment from his government.
The diplomat would on occasion bring his family back to Lesotho.

But the holiday breaks were neither that long nor that frequent enough such that her critical formative and early adult years were spent almost exclusively in the German city, exposed to a multiplicity of races, cultures and languages.

But, of course, that was without much exposure to the Sesotho culture or language except when at home.
The result was that where the little girl could have learnt Sesotho, she instead mastered English, which she speaks with a good American accent.
She also grew up to be more familiar with the culture and mores of the Deutschland than that of the land of her forefathers.
It is hard to say what sort of effect this alienation from one’s people and culture would have had on someone who has such a yearning for her roots and heritage.
When it was pointed out to Kelello during the interview that her English is superb and yet she can hardly string together a sentence in Sesotho, she simply looked up, closed her eyes as if in contemplation before uttering this shortest of answers: “I attended English school.”

But something also happened while she was growing up in Germany. Something that by the look of it played no small part in shaping up the Kelello we know today.
At a very young age she joined the school choir and through that avenue Kelello was introduced to German folk music.
However, she is quick to point out that while they taught her folk music, she grew up liking and listening to jazz and pop music. It is something she puts down to her exposure to American music which she came into contact with at school.

“I enjoyed heavy metal music,” she says. “It is at school where I learnt to sing in harmony with others.”
But when did the urge to reclaim her Sesotho heritage start? At what point did the desire to rekindle her ties with her people and to rediscover her culture begin?
One might conclude that perhaps that bug bit her following the release of her debut album titled Brazen Souls or after success began to promise as she shared the stage with famous singers during tours of several European countries and South Africa.
But no, that’s not when it happened.

The idea that Germany was not home, that she belonged elsewhere was first planted in her head when she was still very young, way back in the 80s when the acclaimed Afro-jazz guru, Tšepo Tšola, visited Kelello’s family in Germany.

Tšola and his band, who must have been in Germany for some shows called on Kelello’s family because the jazz great and Kelello’s father were friends. They both hail from Teya-Teyaneng, about 60 kilometres north of Maseru.

“I was very young, but I still remember how touched I was,” Kelello says.
Of course, she would soon forget about Tšola and his band’s visit and she would revert to her normal existence among many races and cultures as would be found in a metropolitan such as Bonn.
But the seed that encounter had planted in her head remained stuck there ready to flourish one day.

However, in the meanwhile Kelello carried on with her schooling during which time she also continued to learn and get coaching from professional musicians in that great city.
“I love learning (because) learning is power,” she says. “I read so many books because I wanted to learn the business of music.”

“I’m still trying to learn more because I’m still a baby in the music industry,” adds Kelello, who bemoaned the lack of learning and training opportunities in the local music industry.
And as if to prove a point, the benefit from the skills and knowledge acquired in Germany is quite evident in how she has so far successfully navigated the music industry – which can be a dangerous jungle where only the fittest survive.

Under the name Ms Kelle, Kelello independently released the album ‘Brazen Soul’ which saw the single ‘Mr Mean’ listed on Kaya FM Top 40.
She also received radio playlisting on prominent radio stations in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland, while she has also successfully staged live shows in those countries.
Kelello has shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the music business such as Tšola, while she also collaborated with Lesotho-based jazz collective ‘Friends’ to open for Grammy nominated artist Nneenna Freelon at the 50th birthday celebration of King Letsie III.

But what brought her back to Africa, to Lesotho, her beloved home country which is, however, a much poorer music market compared to what she could get in Bonn or elsewhere in Europe?
She says the desire to touch lives and to reclaim her long-lost identity are the reasons she came back home. Or to put in her own words: “I want to realise my identity. I am a crocodile (totem of her Koena clan).”

According to Kelello, the journey back home started in 2009 when she was working with Gender Links, a non-governmental organisation that works to promote gender equality in the sub-Saharan Africa region.

Working with the organisation provided a window through which she was able to see what it means to be a woman in Africa where patriarchy remains firm and dominant in many societies.
She says she was touched by what she witnessed, and she felt that through her music she could do her bit to help restore the souls of Africa’s disadvantaged women.
On the other hand, as all this was happening memories of that encounter with Tšola those many moons ago when she was first reminded of where she comes from were quietly playing at the back of her mind.

And from then on it was a matter of time before she packed her bags for Africa for good, which she eventually did in 2015.
A non-practising Catholic, Kelello says she believes the kind of experience she had in living in Europe and Africa has equipped her to produce music she believes has the means to console troubled souls.

“I live to inspire, and I do that through music,” she says.
Without doubt there are many here in Lesotho and beyond that have had a taste of Kelello’s music who will nod in agreement to that statement.

Caswell Tlali

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Lesotho’s own brandy



ROMA-“Go, eat your food with rejoicing, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for already the true God has found pleasure in your works,” so says the Big Book.

Driven by that divine, Mohapi Pule has gone a step further – by coming up with a new type of brandy – to make you merry.
The brandy, Mountain Spels Brandy, will make the heart of the dying man rejoice.
“The healthy nutrients in fruits that make brandy, end up in you when you drink it,” he said.

Pule studied nutrition at the National University of Lesotho.
His brandy is made by fermenting fruits into wine. The wine is then distilled into a brandy. It carries the flavour and the aroma of the original fruits.

The story began when Pule was born in Quthing, Mphaki. He was born to a hardworking mother who brew traditional beer like no other.
“She brew beer well before I was born. She is still making it to this day,” he said.

His passion for brewing was probably “born” even before he was born. Mothers have a hidden way of passing not just their looks but their passions to their children.

As he grew up, he found that he was still intertwined with his mom’s brewing business in one way or another.
“Mostly, I am expected to fetch water for the brewing process. That, I still do to this day when I visit home,” he says.
Two decades later, Pule found himself in the Roma Valley, doing BSc in Nutrition.

“At some point, I found that I had lost purpose in life. There was not a thing that I could say, well, I was passionate about this thing or that thing.”
That situation, of course, threw him into some serious soul-searching.
It brought him back to his roots.

“During this period, I recalled that when I was younger, I used to imagine helping my mom do the packaging of the beer she was making and helping distribute it countrywide,” he said.

From a young age, the issue of subsistence business didn’t appeal to him. But that imagination came and passed. Now here he was, worried that he might not amount to anything in life.

Then, boom! An idea came!
What if he produced an alcoholic drink?

He could have thought about anything to do as a business but, lo and behold! He thought about his mother’s passion!

One of the things he loves about alcoholic beverages is that they are popular.

“I haven’t seen products as popular as alcoholic drinks,” he said.
He might be wrong or right but the reality is, the rest of the world has for generations found delight in alcoholic beverages – some to the extent of overdoing it to their injury!

“Mabele khunoana ralitlhaku thabisa lihoho. Mabele u tsoa kae e le khale re u batla re sa u thole? Ueeeena mabeeeele!” (Loosely translated beer brewed from sorghum make men happy. We’ve been looking for you from afar, you sorghum. In short, this is a praise poem for the Sesotho sorghum brew).
But then came the most difficult part. Which specific beverages should he focus on and how would he do it?

He decided that he would focus on ciders. He realised that not many people in Lesotho were making ciders.

He started experimenting at home and realized how difficult the process was. He just couldn’t get it right. To worsen matters, he also did not have the right equipment.

But like most successful innovators, he just knew that he had to start his business right away.

Pule says he then learnt about other forms of beverages: the spirits. Spirits are very high in alcohol content. Here we are talking the likes of whiskey, vodka and brandy.

He was particularly interested in vodka. He went into one NUL laboratory and, with necessary permission, began testing a number of spirits and doing a lot of research about them.

He began saving some of the money he earned from the National Manpower Development Secretariat in the form of student allowance so he could buy equipment. Saving was not easy. The subsistence money was already not that much. Having to share it with a business was asking a little too much.

But Pule was so determined that he did it, bought equipment that allowed him to develop what he thought was “vodka”.

However, after buying the equipment he immediately realised that the equipment was to make brandy not vodka.

“Now I was forced to get into brandy by chance,” he said.
It was a mistake that he has never regretted having realised that there are very few individuals who were making brandy in Lesotho.

Pule had to throw himself fully into experiments. He read books about brandy production. He even enrolled for an online course on distillation.
In the end, he began to see some light.

“I began to feel some difference in the taste of my produce,” he said. “When I shared my produce with my lecturers, they were over the moon!”
With that encouragement, Pule began packaging his brandy and is now selling it to family and friends.

“My small equipment means that I can’t produce much. However, If I were to get bigger equipment, things would be much better.”

Own Correspondent

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Ready-to-cook vegetables



ROMA – ’MATUMANE Matela, a National University of Lesotho (NUL)-trained nutritionist, is an example of how a nutritionist should think and act.
Matela makes and sells ready-to-cook vegetables out of produce from her own farm or produce she preferably buys from local farms.
“When I make a dish, as a nutritionist, I make choices that ensure a typical package is packed with nutrition,” Matela said.

Today, we examine an interesting story of the lady who is determined to ensure that you eat healthy despite your busy schedule.
It started with her experiences in life.
She describes herself as an extremely busy woman.
She likes getting things done.
As the busy amongst us will say, the busier you become, the less you watch your diet.
She couldn’t escape the trap!

“My busy schedule meant that I ended up eating junk and I was gaining weight,” she said.
With time, she came to her senses.
As a nutritionist, she recalled that the best way to preach was to preach by example.
So, was she preaching what she practised?
Clearly, she wasn’t.
She had to find an option to maintain the busy schedule and eat healthy at the same time.

The beautiful thing about nutrition is that the healthiest foods are the closest to us: fruits and vegetables.
Some scientists even claim that our bodies seem to be designed to thrive on fruits and vegetables.
“Have you ever wondered why looking at a ripe raw peach on a tree is mouth-watering but looking at a fat cow isn’t?” asked one scientist.
Well, whether we were designed for fruits and vegetables or not, the truth is that they are good for our bodies.
That’s what good science tells us.

And we somehow “know it” too if you have heard about anything called intuition.
So one day she found herself increasingly eating fruits and vegetables.
It’s easier to change a religion than a diet, they say.
So it is commendable that she changed her diet at all.
“The idea was to chop as much vegetables as possible and put them in a fridge so that in future, I will just pull them out and cook.”
She wasn’t proposing something new.
Who amongst us doesn’t enjoy the convenience of just pulling up chopped frozen vegetables and cooking?

Little did she know that what she was doing was putting her on a path to a brilliant business.
It took a post on a social media to achieve just that.
“I took a pic of the chopped and packaged vegetables and posted them on my social media account. The reaction was swift. I began getting questions like, “how much?””
It immediately dawned on her that she could be sitting on a great business idea, after all.

So she gave it a try and started selling.
To her surprise, people started buying.
In fact, “I get orders for my products almost on a daily basis.”
That is how interested people really are.
This to an extent that her business now gets up to four irregular employees, she included, when the demand is high.
She said her training in Agriculture, Home Economics and Nutrition has helped her to give a thought into what she was doing.

For instance, where possible, she grows her own crops and sells them as first preference.
She has grown spinach, butternut, green pepper, onion, herbs and beans.
She is also in the process of renting more fields to grow more vegetables.
Then she empowers Basotho producers by requesting them to supply.
Going for foreign produce is the last resort.
Look at her packages and you realise something.
The “7 colours” proverb comes alive.

Those seven colours (several colours actually) may have been designed to appeal to your eyes but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The colours of vegetables mean a lot in terms of nutrition.
Each colour gives you something different.
So, the more colours in one meal, the merrier.
To drive this home, let’s go a scientific route for a second.
Red, Blue and Purple: These vegetables contain substances that are good at reducing the risk of stroke, cancer and memory problems.
White: The likes of onion or garlic may help lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease.

Orange and Yellow: Carrots immediately come to mind.
These vegetables contain substances called carotenoids which may help improve your immune system and help to improve the health of your eyes.
Basotho, it would appear, have long known a thing or two about the relationship between carrots and eyes.
Hence the famous saying, “o jele lihoete” (they ate carrots), often applied to good sportsmen or women with symbolically “good eyesight”.

Green: Green is life. Green vegetables come packed with chlorophyll, a chemical that scientists believe can boost your immune system, eliminate fungus in your body, clean your blood, lead to healthy intestines and give you boundless energy.
As a bonus, her Home Economics background is such that she is armed with a host of recipes for each of the packages she sells.
She has great dreams for the future.
“I want to see my products decorating the shelves of big supermarkets,” she said.
It’s time!

Own Correspondent

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A new, co-operative chain store



ROMA – ’MAKUENA Lesiea is spearheading the creation of a cooperative chain store that will sell Lesotho products only.
The store is being developed under the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub and it will be incubated by the Hub.
“Have you seen it? Basotho are producing like never before,” Lesiea said.
“However, their products are hard to see in the markets. We want to change all that.”

The store, she said, will open branches in all districts of Lesotho, starting from Maseru.
Visit any supermarket in Lesotho and check the products on the shelves.
You will be shocked to realise that, in general, just one percent of them are made in Lesotho.
The other 99 percent comes from elsewhere.
Is it because Basotho are not producing or can’t produce at all?

“Having worked directly with the NUL Innovation Hub and the Tsa Mahlale TV programme under the Hub, I have travelled the depth and breadth of Lesotho and I was amazed at the amount of work Basotho are doing,” she said.
What is the problem?
Basotho products are not given sufficient platforms to prove themselves.
“Credit where it is due, some shops are beginning to accept and sell Basotho products,” she said.

“However, they are barely making a dent because Basotho products, being at their infancy, cannot receive full attention unless by a store that is designed to give them full attention.”
Such a store doesn’t exist.

She said the idea is not to compete with any of the existing stores because “we are getting into a new territory altogether, we are addressing a different market”.
So listen to Lesiea as she presents some features of the store that will surely persuade you to join the bandwagon:

  1. Customer and producer confidence: The store, she said, will achieve two things.
    First, when they see masses of Lesotho-made products in one place, Basotho customers will slowly grow confidence in them.
    The confidence will shoot to the roof when the customers experience that many of the products made in Lesotho are already way ahead of foreign competitors in terms of quality.
    Secondly, the store will give Basotho producers an assurance that their products have, at least, one store that is willing to take them, dark or blue.
    More production will come from such assurance.
  2. Selling “everything”: The store will sell everything from fruits and vegetables to processed foodstuffs to clothing and building materials (if Thabure car will be in production by then, it will be on the shelves too).
    “Suppose what we want to sell is not locally made, we will never cross the border, any border, to find its equivalence. We will encourage Basotho to produce it until they do.”
  3. We mean business: whereas Basotho are beginning to produce, their products are still all over the place.
    You bump across them in some few willing stores, in expos and trade shows, or as being sold by individual resellers. Those are good efforts, but they are not enough. In fact, many in Lesotho have come to see producing and selling as being more of an art, a hobby, a therapy or a hustling than a business, “so we are seriously moving away from such a casual approach, we mean business this time around.”
  4. Ownership: So when you enter this store, you could be purchasing a product made by you in a store owned by you. What a difference!
  5. Reasonable standards: the store will only demand reasonable standards. As a struggling Mosotho, try taking your products to some of the local shops and you are, at worst, turned away without reason or, at best, given a long list of standards you must meet before they can take your product.
    “In our case, as long as your products are reasonably of good quality, you are in. NUL Innovation Hub is already testing many Basotho products. We won’t ignore quality, but we won’t use it as a way to prevent Basotho products from growing either.”
  6. A cooperative chainstore: From contributing as little as M50 per month, members will use a continuous financing model to ensure that the store doesn’t just end in Maseru but reaches the ten districts of Lesotho.
    Each branch will start at a medium scale in order to grow along with Basotho products. We won’t ask for investors to come from anywhere, “we will be investors ourselves.”
  7. An export launch pad. “We are often told to export our produce. The obvious question is, if you haven’t convinced your own people to consume your own products, how can you convince people in other lands to do so? Why should they take you seriously?”
    However, the store is not meant to be a local store forever.
    It will be a means by which we export our products to other countries in the future.
    When we export the store to Soweto, we export it along with products from Lesotho.
    Don’t say no because we have seen Chinese shops and Indian shops and, of course, South African shops, filled to the brim with Chinese products and Indian products and South African products in many countries.
    “If they can do it,” Lesiea ended, “so can we.”
    “Because if it is there in some of us, it is there in all of us.”

Own Correspondent

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