Keleketla! Library: Johannesburg, South Africa
Not your typical library, we believe a library is everything

Is dance another form of knowledge? Perhaps its time to head over to Revista Mesa: Publicness In Art to get a multi-sensory reflection on Keleketla! Library at the Drill Hall time-space.

Creating Spaces: Non-Formal art/s education and vocational training for artists in Africa between cultural policies and cultural funding

Keleketla co-founders Malose Malahlela and Rangoato Hlasane were invited as guest-authors to the Goethe-Institut Report by Nicola Lauré al-Samarai titled Creating Spaces: Non-Formal Art/s Education and Vocational Training for Artists in Africa between Cultural Policies and Cultural Funding.

302 pages in English (also in French and German)
Edited by Goethe-Institut South Africa, Katharina von Ruckteschell-Katte, Henrike Grohs
Nairobi 2014
ISBN 978–9966–071–00–2
Kenya: KSH 1000
Published by Nairobi’s Contact zones in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut South-Africa

Read more here.


Culture as development of voice and self-articulation: Keleketla! After School Programme

A matter-of-fact piece by Keleketla co-founder, Rangoato Hlasane. Download.


THE WRITE WAY at Keleketla! Library

Initiator and Facilitator: Vuyolwethu Seripe

Lebo and Vuyo review the draft of ‘Who is God? asks Rose’

These stories were developed as part of the Urban Areas Act project. Primary and high school learners took part in creative writing workshops with Vuyolwethu Seripe, a young artist and writer living and working in Johannesburg. We hope you enjoy these stories that explores teenage life, loyalty, ambition, religion, history and (dis)ability.


Bibi the Special Swimmer

By Phomolo Sebopa

My name is Bibi. I’m Fourteen years old. I love sports, especially swimming. I swam for the Midmar Mile recently. The Midmar Mile is a swimming competition for young children like me. It was nice. I practised for about two months. Well, swimming is very tiring but I love it. When I arrived at the Midmar Mile my legs were like jelly, they were shaking so much I just couldn’t believe it when I’d finished. The end seemed so far away when I started off. I couldn’t actually believe that I’d swum that far. It was really amazing. I was very proud of myself. I got a gold medal.

I was born deaf, my parents are both deaf and I use a hearing aid in one ear. I can hear a little when I turn it on. I mostly communicate using sign language. Signing is my language and other deaf peoples’ language and it’s the most important thing to us.

I grew up using sign language because my family communicates this way. I also learn more here, at ST Vincent School for the Deaf. Deafness is not an issue for me. I am really proud to be deaf because it is part of my life. I hate it when people say that I am deaf and dumb. Just because deaf people can’t talk doesn’t mean that we are dumb, we can use our brains and we can communicate with sign language, which is like any other language.

My brother in law always tells me what’s happening in movies, I wish there were subtitles in most movies. I also love hearing the vibrations from music and dancing to it.

‘Who Is God?’ Asks Rose

By Andile Lebohang Ashley Venfolo                                                     

Once there was a young girl called Rose who loved and enjoyed going to church. She used to go to church every Sunday. She used to be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. She prayed before she slept, ate and woke up.

Then one afternoon while she was chilling with her friends, one of her friends asked her: ‘Who is God?’ She replied saying: ‘God is our creator.’ Her friend asked again: ‘How do you know that?’ Then there was a silent moment between the friends.

The next Sunday morning, her mother woke her up early like she usually does, Rose didn’t respond to her mother calling. ‘What’s the matter, my child? Are you not feeling well?’ Rose told her mother that she simply did not want to go to church, ‘nothing is wrong with me… I’m just not sure who God is anymore…’ Her mother became devastated and wondered what was becoming of her daughter, ‘are you becoming a heathen! Oh Nkosi Yami! I am going to faint…’ ‘I just need time to think, mom… please give me some time.’

It had occurred to Rose that she has been worshiping someone she didn’t even know existed, someone whom she has never seen and she had believed in him all this time. And so, the question remains in Roses’ head…

Blood sisters

By Talia Ndlovu   

Antiono, Ashlee and Alicia were three beautiful sisters, who lived in a palace. Antiono and Ashlee were twins, they were 24 years old and Alicia was only 20 years old. Ashle and Alicia loved wearing pink dresses but Antiono preferred trousers to dresses. One day their mother, Queen Yvonne said to the girls, “My children, I am old now I might pass away soon. One of you must inherit the thrown so that the land remains with a queen.”

Because all three girls were equally smart, beautiful and full of life, their mother told them to go out and get a bunch of flowers. “Look for pure white flowers, with no stain. The first one to bring me these flowers will become a queen.”

Alicia was first one to come across flowers but they were pink and white. They were her favourite colours and they looked just like her dress. She picked them and ran home. Her mother told her to sit down and wait for her sisters. Antiono and Ashlee arrived with bright, white flowers as their queen mother had ordered. This made Queen Yvonne fill up with excitement but upon taking a closer look at the flowers, she noticed that Ashlee`s ones had been burnt by the sun and were more yellow than white but Antiono’s were pure white.

And so, Antiono was chosen as queen. Queen Yvonne organised a party for the new queen, Antiono. Her sisters became jealous and came up with a plan. After the party, Queen Antiono was so tired she slept a deep sleep. The two sisters went into her room and tied her up and carried her off to the bushes.

After three days, Queen Yvonne was sick with worry. “It’s been three days now! Where is my queen?”

“Maybe she doesn’t want to be queen anymore!” said Alicia.“But why would she just leave? Antiono would never do such thing. Something is wrong…”

So, the queen sent her servants to go out and look for Queen Antiono. Finally, they came across with her in the bushes. She had almost died without food and water, stranded in the middle of nowhere. She told the servants what had happened and they told the police. Alicia and Ashlee were sent to prison. Queen Antiono felt relieved to be home. She wore her prettiest clothes, ate nice food but she missed her sisters, dearly.

“Mother! I want my sisters to come back, I miss them.” Antiono said at breakfast.

“Have you forgiven them?”

“Yes, they made a mistake out of jealousy. I understand. Please call the police and ask them to bring my sisters home…”

Queen Yvonne was happy that her child was a forgiving person. This was a great quality to have as a queen. Ashlee and Alicia apologized to both their sister and their mother. They celebrated with a small party.

“What have we learnt from all this, my children?”

“Jealousy makes you nasty!” said Alicia.

“And forgiveness brings us closer,” said Ashlee.

“I love you, my dear sisters.” said Queen Antiono

They all hugged and lived happily ever…

Aphiwe & Lwando

By Yamkela Ntlangula

Aphiwe is surprised to see her long lost friend, Lwando at the Market in town. They were best friends in primary school until Lwando left for America with his family. “Hi Lwando. How are you? It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other!” Said Aphiwe. “My friend, I know! Things have been hectic for me. While I was in America my mother passed away and I had no one to comfort me but my father…”

“Oh my friend, I am so sorry!”

Lwando started telling her friend about her life in America and how hectic it was without his mother and his brother, they both died in a car accident.

“My father his everything to me.

“My friend, I’m sorry about everything and that I wasn’t there for you.”

Lwando’s cellphone rings.

“My father is calling!” Lwando informs Aphiwe. He speaks on the phone in nervous tone.

“My friend, I have to go. My father is calling me and my father is very strict and I don’t even want to waste time because he’ll shout at me.”

Once Lwando got home, his father was angry, as he thought.

“Daddy, what’s wrong?“

“Where are you coming from?“

“I was at the market. I’m sorry daddy…“

“Go to your room!” His dad shouted.

The next day Lwando went to see Aphiwe but he was disappointed because his friend didn’t seem interested being his friend any more.

“Hey Aphiwe my friend how are you today.” Said Lwando

“I’m good and you?“ Aphiwe responded.

“Hey, I’m sorry about yesterday… I really had to go.“ Lwando apologised.

“No need to apologise because you no longer my friend. I have a new friend now, Avuyile. Stay away from me…”

“How could you replace me, Aphiwe? I want you to know that you are my friend and you will always be my friend. If we were meant to be friends, at the end of the day you will end up being my friend.”

Aphiwe and Avuyile were friends but not for long… What broke their friendship was that they fought for something they both wanted. Avuyile got what Aphiwe wanted and that’s how they stopped being friends.

Aphiwe went back to her friend Lwando and apologised for the way she treated him.

“My friend, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.“ Aphiwe told her friend.

“It’s cool. Aphiwe. I knew we were meant to be friends and I knew you would come back to me. Give me a hug my friend.”

“Lwando, would you like to come with me to the park and have fun?”

“Yes of course that’s what friends are for…”

Lwando and Aphiwe stayed friends forever and ever there was nothing that separated them.

Zulu Warrior

By Calvin Mlalazi aka Skunk

In the 18th century, there was once a very brave soldier called Bongani. He was once a battle Rhodes’ man. He had a wife and a child. They were the poorest family in the village. One day he tried to complain to the chief about how he ruled the village. They laughed at him and he looked stupid and humiliated. He planned to move out but they were not allowed to, he thought of running away that very night. There was a kraal nearby the village surroundings. He made a way so that they can pass. Unfortunately they were caught packing.

He tried to stay until they forgot about what he tried to do but he went for a hearing at the tribal council. He got into the hardest trial in his life. To be told he was going to stay locked with the pigs later changed to the goats but he knew what was good for him. He never cried. His wife Ntobeko tired by all means to get Bongani out but it wouldn’t happen until she sacrificed herself so that he could get him out but it failed until a verdict was reached. He was then released.

After being released he thought of doing it in a smart way. He told his wife to move to a very secret place nearby the hills. They chose a cave full of wonders. Bongani stayed for another war against Anglo Boers during the 19th century, by the late 19th century, he was chosen as the commander and led the Zulus into the most disastrous war ever: The Battle of the Blood River.

He fought with them but he survived by being a coward ran away during the war. Off he went remembering his family and found them gone from the cave. He followed them by tracing footsteps day in day out, resting when it was dark but worried he kept on going, going, going until he thought of giving up but thinking of what he did and serving those trials was not a nice thing. He became brave moved through the dangerous environments until he met the most dangerous predator on earth, the leopard.

Bongani unarmed without a spear or a bow was hesitant to fight. He thought of fighting but it was no use because no one could kill a leopard with his bare hands. He ran away but could not abandon his mission to find his family. Going back was a serious case, he decided to keep going. He picked up a large branch armed himself with it and then he went head to head with leopard. He ran going towards it but it was not scared. He became a brave warrior fighting a predator saving his life they fought recklessly until he lost almost half of his blood in the body and could not fight anymore. Lying down there with the leopard busy pulling his neck he heard voices going through his mind, thinking of his family he withdrew his strength pushed the leopard away picking and using the stick. He hit the leopard only once on the head, it was a knock out and he stood there with courage.

He went after his family until he found them under a tree lying tirelessly. They were happy to see him at last.


Vuyolwethu Seripe’s The Write Way Project forms part of Urban Areas Act project. The final outcome is a publication of the same name, designed by Natalie Propa with the Keleketla Media Lab, consolidating audio, video, images and text from the project. The publication, set for release later in the year is a flag ship outcome of this year’s successful After School Programme that produced rich dialogue on heritage, the arts and education.


Infantilizing writing in African languages?

Dr. Pamela Nichols

I was at a reading of Phaswane Mpe’s Welcome To Our Hillbrow and K. Sello Duikers Thirteen Cents and The Quiet Violence of Dreams yesterday, as part of the Keleketla Library’s contribution to WALE, the Wits Arts and Literature Experience festival. The Keleketla investigation of the legacy of Mpe, Duiker and Moses Molelekwa is part of ‘Dislocating the Studio’, a residency programme in the Wits School of Arts. Siphiwo Mahala and I were re-reading these books of our friends and I think we all found that they still speak to obstacles to freedom, to limitations on our literary imagination.

Pamela Nichols articulating at Nonwane: Reading & Dialogue pic – Tolo Pule

For example did you know, as Welcome To Our Hillbrow tells us, that if you write a book in an African language, you are likely to be asked to tone it down for a young audience? That’s because supposedly, the only economically viable readership for a novel in an African language is schools; and therefore the book must be edited according to what educational publishers deem appropriate for children to read. Phaswane’s narrator comments that our whole system of reviewing and publishing confuses writers by making them believe that “euphemism equals good morals” and that “Calling shit and genitalia by their correct names in Sepedi was apparently regarded as vulgar by these reviewers, who had for a long time been reviewing works for educational publishers and who were determined to ensure that such works did not offend the systems that they served.”

We are still in the process of replacing those systems, and it seems as if we haven’t completely shifted this outrageous assumption that novels written in African languages have to be infantilized before they can be published. Siphiwo Mahala is one of the very few writers who ahs published his novel, When a Man Cries in English and in isiXhosa and had the latter reviewed in the English mainstream press. Yet, he said that he had to tone down the sexually explicit parts of the isiXhosa novel, as if “euphemism equal good morals.” How do we persuade the public and the publishers and the reviewers that there are readers for good, innovative new writing in African languages? How do we continue the libratory work of Phaswane Mpe and K Sello Duiker?

The WWC events at WALE include the launch of the play The Pump Room by Allan Kolski Horwitz on Wednesday May 11 at 18h30- 19h30, Graduate Seminar Room, South West Engineering building; People Power, readings of new writing from thementor protégé group sparked by recent events and an invitation to write, on  Thursday May 12, 16h30 -18h30, at the Wits Writing Centre; launch of the novel Ngiyolibala Ngifile (I will forget when I am dead) by Dumisani Sibiya on Friday May 14 at 17h30 -18h30 at the Graduate Seminar Room, South West Engineering building; and lastly launch of the poetry CD Roots and Branches, featuring performances from a treasury of Johannesburg poets, including Lionel Murcott, Ike Muila, Siphiwe Ka Ngwenya; Myesha Jenkins, Khanya Magubane, Yoliswa Mogale, Phillippa de Villiers, Lesley Perkes, Allan Kolski Horwitz, Mark Espin, James de Villiers, Chantal-Fleur Sandjon, and Mphutlane wa Bofelo.

Dr Pamela Nichols is the director of the Wits Writing Centre (WCC). Check out the WWC’s portal, Writing Works.


Niggas and Sushi

Kagiso Mnisi

fuckin’ ridiculous was a performance by Bogosi Sekhukhuni at Nigga Sports Bar on the corner of Bok and Claim Streets, Joubert Park, Johannesburg. It involved a blow up doll, a podium, sushi and loadsa men. Kagiso Mnisi deliberates on the relevance of Sekhukhuni’s questions and goes like this…

More than make stark the rampant evil that is inequality in South Africa, one whose girth swells with every fraudulent contract acquired and every livelihood that has never experienced a spike above R50 mark on the survival index, Bogosi Sekhukhuni’s performance art piece at the Nigga Sports Bar appealed for a focus on how these dire straits have fueled the moral deficit in black men.

The performance piece parodied the elaborate decadence of the Sushi King aka Kenny Kunene whose lavish parties bear a signature of clad-to-knickers models, spread on antique pedestals with sushi on their skeletal frames for discerning fingers to pick in between splurges of expensive bubbly. Sekhukhuni’s shindig was however reveled by a menace of a different temperament at the Nigga Sports Bar whose qualms with the system is that it did anything but live up to its ‘better life for all’ rhetoric.

This here gathering had a life sized blow up doll to demean rather than an air head from plush Sandton, the delicacy in question (sushi) from a super market whose overworked and underpaid stuff could give a flying toss about calibrating the freezer that this alien dish is kept in.

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Coupled with a podium lecture, the performance became more nuanced with patrons of the bar voicing everything from disgruntlement to lewd murmurs when in view of the nude latex figure. In engaging with the piece they alluded to the all too common feat setting tone in Joburg’s back alleys, brothels and strip joints; taunting the doll with the rear thought harbouring how taboo the whole procession was came close to being analytical of a South African black man.

A man who when in an elite circle has a need to over compensate by hogging the spotlight and his peculiarly acquired wealth, or a man whose missed opportunities in a crooked system has rendered him bitter that he has to wallow in despair…furthermore in a position to resort to misdemeanor. Both sides of the coin brand the subject one still not comfortable in his own skin and one who is having trouble mustering that choice is much more expansive than currently realised.

Reflective of a status quo that requires ample mending, art once again tempered with the machine’s alignment. The ‘sushi king’ parody in delivery does not mince words nor does its welcomed irony derail it from societal engagement and at large commentary. It is a means to an endless journey. One that will hopefully see niggas getting their act together.

Kagisi Mnisi is a writer living and working in Johannesburg. He graduated in Journalism from the Boston Media House.

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