Interview with Afurakan

Born a writer, Thabiso Mohare’s biggest challenge has always been words. Words create and words destroy. As a word-smith, he struggles to find the fine balance between what is and what is not. Born Thabiso Mohare in 1982, assuming the alias Afurakan provided not only meaning to his life but also identity. An African as the name translates. Through poetry Afurakan has found a way to deal with his demons, joy, trials and tribulations and the occasional creativity outburst. Below Sechaba Keketsi took a journey through his poetic house shortly after his first-ever performance in Lesotho.

Sechaba Keketsi (SK): one would have started with basic questions of who you are and how you met poetry, but for now the main question would be how you did find your first performance in Lesotho (that is crowd response and appreciation).
Thabiso Afurakan Mohare (TM): My experience in Lesotho was amazing. I really enjoyed my performance and the overall show. The energy in the room was amazing and I found the audience very appreciative and equally excited.
SK: secondly, still on the point of your performance in Lesotho, how would you say Lesotho poetry’s web or internet presence is, especially considering fact that your trip to Lesotho was planned via the internet?
TM: The internet and subsequent platforms such as social media have really changed and simplified the way the world communicates. It took a few short text chats and emails and the trip was organized. And this shows Lesotho’s growing presence and recognition in both physical and cyber space, as far as poetry is concerned.
SK: I have come to learn that you are an experienced performer, having performed at different festivals and with different prominent poets, but the question that takes center stage is, what made you want to perform in a country like Lesotho?
TM: I am a sucker for new territories and new ears. And to spread the word, one literally has to travel. I also have a nomadic spirit and grow restless if I am in one space for too long. Most importantly, I have a lifelong goal of traveling to every single country in our continent and Lesotho is on that list.
SK: being as slam poet, would you say Lesotho poetry sphere has slam poets? And if not do you believe there is a potential of having a good number of those? (Judging by the poets you heard at Valley Breeze poetry festival)
TM: I believe Lesotho has huge potential and already has a number of very good poets and performers. The challenge is developing that potential into world class talent. Both writing and performance techniques are essential tools for every writer and performer. Platforms such as the Valley Breeze poetry fest play a crucial role in encouraging young people to explore poetry and performance early in the lives through both showcase opportunities and interaction with local and international peers. If such projects are supported, in the very near future they could produce important ambassadors for Lesotho.
SK: would you kindly describe your first date with poetry.
TM: I have been scribbling since age 13, mostly poetry, rap and personal diaries. However, the day I considered myself a poet was after my first public performance. That was in 2003. I was so nervous I forgot half my poem. But after that I was in love and I have never looked back since.
SK: in your perspective, what is the role of poets and poetry in society?
TM: The role of poetry and poets is social commentary. Whether positive or negative, as long as the commentary is honest. Another role poetry plays is education and dissemination of information. It further encourages reading and writing which are essential in a free society. However, these should not be mistaken as a poet’s responsibility towards society. A poet’s only responsibility is their art.
SK: do you believe that poets need to learn poetry academically and have you had any academic training in poetry yourself?
TM: I have never had academic training for poetry, per say. However, I have been work shopped for many years on various skills of writing and performance. I have also put in years of self training through reading, watching other poets, research and trial and error. I believe it is important that a poet acquire additional skills or training to enhance their talents, the same way a naturally good soccer player would still need to train of they are going to reach their full potential. How a poet gets that training however is open to the individual. One can study language and drama or performing arts academically but I am yet to hear of a degree in poetry or slam poetry.
SK: Your favorite poets, locally and internationally?
TM: Lesego Rampolokeng, Tumi Molekane, Kojo Baffoe, Mak Manaka, Lebo Mashile, Saul Williams, Stacy Anne Chin, Beau Sia, Jonzy D, Don Mattera, just to name a few.
SK: how do you describe your writing?
TM: “A shot of lemon juice straight to the brain”…..My poetry is free and wild/ it follows no trends/ it has a mind of its own/ and lives inside of me and not around me/
SK: My writing is part real and part fiction. I am a very graphic writer. I believe in painting images because these last or make a strong impression in the mind. My subject matter is broad but generally focused around an African’s need for self determination and self reliance
SK: having released the Slamathology CD in 2004, are you planning making a follow up to that either through another disk or anthology?
TM: I have recorded a number of tracks over the years for various projects; however, nothing formal has been planned yet. I have been focusing more on live performance than recording. However, I have put together a band now called THE MISSINGAP so maybe you will be hearing a studio project before the year is done.
SK: please do share some of your current projects, (either as an individual or with the missing gap crew).
TM: My biggest occupation at the moment is my company HEADGEAR MEDIA. It is still a baby thus it requires lots of attention. Outside of that we host monthly show as THE MISSINGAP in Newtown Johannesburg called THE WORD N SOUND BASSLINE SERIES. These shows came out of a need for open mic and band platforms in the Jozi CBD and are contributing to the development of arts and culture in the city.
SK: your personal definition of poetry?
TM: The only tangible manner in which the soul can put its experiences into words….
SK: one writer once said, “There is no money in poetry and there is no poetry in money”. Please do share your views on the statement.
TM: God gave you a talent and not money. What you do with that talent will determine what that talent brings you. In my experience, whenever I perform my art with love and for art’s sake, the money always follows. But most importantly, beautiful experiences follow. An artist’s creativity can never be fueled by money but by experiences.


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