We're All From The Same Bloodline: Lerato Mokobe Performs A Poem On Xenophobia In South Africa

19-year-old South African slam poet Lerato Mokobe reflects on her 2014 poem about xenophobia.

Photo: Andiswa Mkosi

In February, Okayafrica contributor Sabelo Mkhabela spoke with South African slam poet Lerato Mokobe. The 19-year-old TED fellow had appeared on Mkhabela's weekly Headwarmaz show on Bush Radio in Cape Town to perform a poem about xenophobia. "In my country we have learned to lynch our own. Our brains are apartheid babies that have left us with xenophobic stretch marks," Mokobe says in the two-minute piece. Later she adds, "Our eyes have adjusted to only seeing our nationality. Even in the township there was a rumor you could smell the odor of a foreigner from five kilometers away."

Written in 2014, the poem precedes the latest wave of xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals in South Africa, which has left thousands displaced and up to five people reportedly killed in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. "I wrote the xenophobia poem before violence grew because I knew very well that a mentality can easily become an action. And we've seen that many a times in South Africa," Mokobe told us over email last week. "In my xenophobia poem I wanted to shed light on its inherent existence in our society and how wrong it is considering we are all from the same bloodline," she said. What we are doing to other Africans by killing and looting their livelihood is similar to cutting our limbs off. If we are ever in need, they will rightfully turn a blind eye to us."

Reflecting on her own experience with xenophobia, Mokobe told us, "I remember when xenophobia was in the rage in 2008, I used to get questioned about my nationality because I'm a bit on the darker side. So I had to always watch my accent around certain areas etc. I've also watched people loot stores and police not reprimand anyone. I was that one who stood to the side shouting at friends about how this was unethical. I'm no hero. But I condemn xenophobia as a whole. Those mentalities are rife in the taxi industry as well. I once saw a grown African man cry in a taxi because South Africans were harassing him about missing taxi money. Little kids were ridiculing him. What about his dignity and his manhood? It's tough out here."

Listen to Lerato Mokobo's poem on xenophobia, performed in January on Headwarmaz on Bush Radio. Special thanks to Sabelo Mkhabela.


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The streets speak gengetone: Kenya's gengetone sound is reverberating across East Africa and the world, get to know its main purveyors.

Sailors' "Wamlambez!"Wamlambez!" which roughly translates to "those who lick," is the cry the reverberated round the world, pushing the gengetone sound to the global stage. The response "wamnyonyez" roughly translates to "those who suck" and that should tell you all you need to know about the genre.

Known for its lewd lyrics and repetitive (often call and response) hooks, gengetone makes no apologies for belonging to the streets. First of all, most artists that create gengetone are grouped into bands with a few outliers like Zzero Sufuri riding solo. The songs themselves often feature a multiplicity of voices with screams and crowds coming through as ad libs, adding to this idea that this is definitely "outside" music.

Listening to Odi wa Muranga play with his vocal on the track "Thao" it's easy to think that this is the first, but gengetone fits snuggly in a history of sheng rap based on the kapuka style beat. Kapuka is onomatopoeically named, the beats have that repetitive drum-hat-drum skip that sounds like pu-ka-pu-ka-pu. Artists like Nonini were asking women to come over using this riff long before Ochungulo family told them to stay home if they aren't willing to give it up.

Here's seven gengetone groups worth listening to.

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