Mashile studied Law and International Relations at Wits University and is an actress, poet, producer and performer. Her poetry collection, In A Ribbon of Rhythm won the NOMA Award for African Publishing in 2006. It was published in 2005 by Oshun Books.
I have a personal feel for this book. A friend gave it to me some time ago in exchange for a book gift I had given. I was not particularly expectant but Lebogang Mashile’s natural ability to thread words into the mind and inspire feelings of a most tenacious nostalgia pursued me. She has succeeded in bringing a silky and sweet quality in her first publication.
The easy going-ness of this collection is what makes it unique. Many poets(and perhaps writers) enjoy taking their ideas to paper in such a way that the reader is temporarily baffled at some point or even tempted to write the work off as a conundrum and put it away completely. This is not the case with Mashile’s work, and even though I did not know her prior to this, she has gained my respect and continual interest in whatever she does next.
My favorite poem is You and I, and here is an excerpt:
You and I
We are the keepers of dreams
We mould them into light beams
And weave them into life’s seams
Another poem worth mentioning is Tomorrow’s Daughters, which acknowledges young black girls that want to contribute to the changes that we all want to see around us, that take it upon themselves to “wear crowns of change.” Mashile’s work is positive in this particular poem. In other poems, her words are more mature, direct and rather loud. She is not afraid to delve into taboo topics that may make others cringe, and then suddenly write about her need to enjoy a pizza.
Mashile was born and partly raised in America to exiled South African parents. Therefore, it is only natural that the influence of the culture that surrounded her in her earlier years comes through in the manner in which she expresses herself. That being said her poetry is nothing but African, with no pretences or attempts to distance herself from her fellow Africans and “tomorrow’s daughters”.