The poet with a silver tongue

Baareng reciting one of her poems
Baareng reciting one of her poems

From the rocky valleys of the Kgosing hills in Molepolole, a piercing voice ruptures the deafening silence.

Suddenly people look around, struck by the beautiful words hallowing from the distance.

The trepidation breaks into ululations of approval from a contingent of  women in the gathered crowd at the Bakwena main kgotla as the little figure gradually approaches.

This Keabonye Bareeng, the female Tswana poet with a silver tongue. She recites motivational poems to couples during weddings, to royals and dignitaries during large gatherings as well as students during school functions.

Bareeng who goes by the stage name Mohumagadi wa Poko has a very good command of the Setswana language, which gives her the freedom to succinctly pass her message to the audience or to the subjects of her poems.

For a woman who initially did not like poetry a bit, Bareeng has a matured with age and is already showing signs of greatness.  Ironically the 30-year-old as child was forced to do poems from books by her primary school teachers.

“I think my teachers saw something in me that I could not recognise.  I was not interested at all, but I was often forced to rehearse poems from books to recite them during school gatherings,” she said.

It was more a question of destiny because when she complained to her mother about teachers pushing her to recite poems she was surprised to find that her mother was a big fan of the craft.

“She was excited to hear that and she encouraged me to take it seriously.  From that day my interest grew and poetry became very much part of me,” she told Arts & Culture.


From that time Bareeng started following many elderly poets in her village and never wanted to miss an opportunity to attend social gatherings where poetry formed part of the festivities.

One day when former president Festus Mogae visited the village a certain old man just stood up and recited a praise poem, which touched Bareeng.

“The way the old man spoke, using idioms and proverbs in his poems just got me hooked right away.  My love for Tswana poetry grew because he provided the inspiration to take my craft to another level,” she said.

Since that day, she has not looked back. Twice she has come in second in two different poetry competitions.  This gave her more confidence to take her male counterparts head on.

“During the early days, I was sort of intimidated when I had to compete with a male poet. I then decided that instead of envying them I should learn from their poems. I have beaten quite a few,” she said.

Originally Tswana poetry is not written down, a poet normally stands up and recites the words. However, Bareeng believes that writing down her poems for rehearsals can help perfect her art.

Though she might be a long way from matching the likes of Moroka Moreri, Bareeng is steadily climbing up the ladder and looks determined to engrave her name in the record books as one of the best traditional poets.

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