Mandisa, the poet, loves words

Mandisa reciting a poem during a perfomance with the Contrabanditz
Mandisa reciting a poem during a perfomance with the Contrabanditz

Freedom fighters come in different forms such as guerillas, politicians and law enforcers but as for Mandisa Mabuthoe, she decided to be a wordsmith freedom fighter who uses metaphors and lyrics as a her ammunition.

The 33-year-old poet is one of the most celebrated spoken word artists in Botswana who has also staged performances at big stages such as Botswana Craft, Maun International Arts Festival (MIAF), HIFA and Shoko Festival.

Her performances on stage are always different as they come with new packages. If not careful her metaphors can twist your mind and leave you asking what she meant for the rest of your life. On a good day, her ballads can take you to an imaginary world where you get to see what she is reciting.

Growing up in Gaborone, Mabuthoe quickly fell in love with her parent’s music play list, which had the likes of Tina Turner, Cindy Crawford and Nina Simone.


“I fell in love with words through the music because it carried so much substance,” she said.

During her teen years, Mabuthoe started writing different pieces. “I developed characters for my pieces.” By the time she went to study in Cape Town she was a developed poet who debuted her spoken word at varsity where she kept developing her craft.

Due to the inspiration from music, she mixes her poems with music where she recites a verse or two then sings a few lines. A guitarist or a percussionist that aligns the poetry and the rhythm usually joins Mabuthoe on stage when she is performing.

She is even in a musical band, The Contrabanditz, where she juggles as a musician and a poet. Apart from music her inspirations also comes from reading a lot, life experiences and activities take places in the society.

She joined Exodus Live Poetry (ELP), one of the first poetry groups in town, which had monthly shows” ELP boasted of renowned poets such as TJ Dema, Tshireletso Motlogelwa and Phil Rotz.

Mabuthoe, who also trades as an art teacher, admits of learning a lot from ELP and gives credit to the other poets that helped her sharpen her skill. As a grown poet, Mabuthoe started getting bookings for her performances.

Her rhythm and poetry make it easy for one to relate to. She sounds like Lauren Hill back when the Fugees were at their peak.

She went on to stage solo performances such as ‘To Get Free’, which was hosted at Botswana craft The show still holds memories to a number of poet lovers.

She described the theme of the show saying it’s about encouraging people to discover their own freedom, but mostly to live their truths.

Positive developments kept coming her way as she released her debut EP I used to a Dragon Fly last year.  Mabuthoe recently performed at the just-ended Gaborone International Music and Culture week where she shared the stage with TJ Dema, Leshie Lovesong and other poets.

“If poetry is said in simple words it wont be nice at all it needs to be told in a creative and crafty manner,” she said.

As a poet, Mabuthoe says she views and analyses the world differently. That is how creative minds are. Poetry comes with energy, it demands sound, it comes with a message, its just energy.

Like all the poets, Mabutho has a her taste of fashion. She is usually rocking natural hair with a cultural element in her outfits.

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