Meet talented Mokwena praise-poet, Sesianyane

Staff Writer
Ke mosimane wa ga Sesianyane sa thotse ya nkatlane se selwa magoleng Se jewa ke pitse tsa ga Kgosi Sechele ntweng,Ke mosimane o o rra kgato ya kgomo oo rra kgatwane,Ke mosimane wa ga Motlokwa mapatlaganya ditlhobolo,Yo go tweng o maaka ga o patlaganye ditlhobolo o patlaganya basadi ba batho,Selo ke wena o boatla o nyalang bo kgaitsadio.

That is the self praise-poem of one of the most reputable young praise-poets in Botswana, Dipako Sesianyane of Molepolole's Ga Ranta ward. Like most artists, the 37-year-old poet says that poetry is a gift from God, an inborn talent.

"I realised that I had the potential to be an artist by chance when one day in 1983 a teacher by the name of Mma Nwako got into our class and asked us if one of us was a poet. I naughtily raised my hand because I thought I might as well be a poet since I had often heard my father recite praise poems of his cattle as he drove them," the poet told Arts & Culture in an interview.

Sesianyane went on to recite a poem at a 4B rally and qualified for the nationals in Thamaga where he emerged the winner and the rest, as they say, is history. Like most of the poets making up Basimane Ba Bakwena, namely Moroka Moreri, Rabojalwa Keetile and Kaone Mahuma, he was brought up in a typical Setswana home where the parents followed a traditional way of life.

His father was a farmer who loved his cattle and used to praise them unknowingly inspiring the young Sesianyane to be a poet in the process. "I grew up knowing that every school holiday, I had to go to the cattle post to look after cattle," he asserts.

His father, Mphela, was a disciplinarian who would not hesitate to flog him with a whip made of animal hide if he did not follow his (father's) instructions. However, the poet, who teaches at Botlhapatlou Primary School, is quick to add that Mphela was a loving person who bought him a radio set so that he could listen to his favourite Radio Botswana (RB) programme, Dipina le Maboko.

Apparently, the old man asked a relative working in the South African mines to buy the young boy the radio set and he paid him (the relative) with two goats. The poet says that every Sunday at 9 am, he would tune into RB and listen to Dipina le maboko, which is a programme that features traditional poets and singers.

Back then, the host of the programme was Billy Mokgosi and the man loved to feature famed local poet, the late Ponatshego Mokane who also happened to be Sesianyane's favourite traditional poet. Sesianyane comically tells Arts & Culture that he used to beg Mokgosi to repeat Mokane's poems not knowing that the host could not hear him and that in any case the programme was pre-recorded.

Having a radio set at his home however helped hone the young man's talent as a poet and according to him, he was invited to recite a poem during Botswana's 20th independence anniversary at the Molepolole Kgotla in 1986 and he won himself P300, which was considered a lot of money then. His talent also worked for him because when he did not pass his Junior Certificate (JC), the

late radio presenter, Godiramang Makhaya (who used to take him to Writers' Association of Botswana (WABO) meetings, took him to the then principal of Kgari Sechele Senior, a certain Williams, and begged him to take him in since he was a gifted artist and he (Williams) obliged. That was in 1992.

Sesianyane did not do well again at Cambridge and was forced to work for the Kweneng District Council (KDC) for a number of years. In 2001 he was invited for an interview at Serowe College of Education, which was to determine if he could be a student-teacher.

"Their greatest mistake was asking me to recite a poem and as I did so, silence fell upon the place that even those in the adjoining classrooms stopped to listen at me," he says with a hint of pride. The talented poet has had the opportunity to recite praise poems in honour of dignitaries like former presidents Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae and Dr Alfred Merriweather of the David Livingstone Hospital in Molepolole.

Mogae was impressed with the young man's oratory skills and he gave him a cow that he (Sesianyane) promptly named Ditswabareneng. The late Legaenyana Matlhabaphiri also gave him a cow after he recited a praise poem in honour of Dr Merriweather.

He got another beast after performing during his uncle, Mopako Matsila's ordination as a United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) pastor and he named the cow Modimooteng. Tonota South legislator and Deputy Speaker Pono Moatlhodi was also impressed with the poet's oratory skills that he promised him a cow that the poet is due to collect any time.

The artist says that he is happy with Ditswabareneng, which was the first gift that he ever received since he was able to pay part of his bogadi (bride-price) with the calves of the cow when he married his wife, Dijwalo. The two have been blessed with two children, daughter Kgalalelo, and Lobone, a son.  

The gifted Sesianyane takes pride in having co-founded Dipela tsa ga Kobokwe, who have won the phathisi category since the inception of the President's Day competitions. Last year, the group went to Japan where they performed. He has also published poetry books with a number of local publishing houses.

However, according to the artist, the downside of being a Christian who loves his tradition is that some people doubt his Christianity although he claims to be unperturbed by that. "I believe in God and like any other Christian I am awaiting the return of the Lord," he declares almost defensively.

Any individual, who would like the Sesianyane, who some say is the most powerful poet among the Basimane ba Bakwena to perform at an event, has to part with P1,200 while corporate companies and government departments are expected to pay P1,900. "I have decided to turn my talent into a business and I believe that I can make a living out of it," he says matter-of-factly as a parting shot.



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