Lesego Rampolokeng, Vagabond Word-Man


This week MPHUTLANE WA BOFELO speaks to the prolific and irrepressible all-round writer, Lesego Rampolokeng, popularly known as Papa Ramps or Bavino Bachana.

Lesego Rampolokeng 1 [supplied]

MwB: Who is Lesego Rampolokeng? What is the relationship between him and the Bavino Bachana of Black Heart and White Heart as well as the Bavino Bachana on Facebook?

LR: Dabbling scribbler and I write, a lot. Of things, and ways. Forms, too. Straddling the line between poetry, prose and all that comes with. I put things on stage. Life’s theatre. And in the dust too. Street-corner and academic podium. No matter. I am a sentient being, derelict, no abode fixed in space. Romantically referred to as nomad. I was born in Orlando West. Bred thorough all across Soweto. Orlando East, White City, Chiawelo, Meadowlands, Diepkloof. I schooled in Jabavu, Moroka, Jabulani…i am that slave-labour camp called Soweto’s breed. Even though homeless, at home. Vagabond wordman. I’ll yap, write, recite; shoot, at times, anything to get The Word out. The word is paramount. At all times i walk this land. And talk it, too. ’it begins with sound’, always.

Jim comes to Joburg so Bavino goes to Marico. Man in the bush in quest of Bosman’s ghost. Finding AWB rabidity. Tranquillity so deep it kills. Hate-hounds. Beneath the surface quiet such racist rabidity. & children dying. Starvation abounds. Raw sewage in the water supply. Crap in the taps. Fate same as in the Free State. Skin matters. Ancient white beards sexing black tins, food exchange. The soul’s impoverishment. The starved get their humanity halved. And weekends of sex-tourism. Alcoholic stares everywhere … deep fear too. A man owns a farm; here … he was in on the Gaborone massacre.

About Bavino…if Zola-bound, i’d be Kau, elsewhere ntanga, or Bafoza, Magenge … my Orlando western street corner male endearment term. Hence the Bavino sermons, i was pitching at head-&-heart level. Of my dust. Hola Bavino, heit’ Bachana. & that’s the story’s end, when i get on the train at Phefeni station.
MwB: What are the personal and social experiences that brought you into literature, music and film; and what do you see as the essence of the literary, visual and performed arts?

At home boko was haram. A vicious, evil, aunt thought books bred rats, caused roaches. Put them out in the yard to be rained on, and powdered in the sun. My reading became guerrilla.

I grew up on Scope magazine. The same one SADF boys on the border worked themselves up off in order to better rape Namibian children. Yes, Scope, with its starred nipples and cockroach legs … the censor with one hand on the scissors, the other on his genitals … rubbing away and scrubbing out. Adolescent so it shaped my senses.Grensvegter. Tessa. Die Wit Tier. It was war in gloss, on the ‘uitlanders’…

My old man peddled marijuana to put me through varsity. Career criminal. Spent more years in jail than our much cosmeticized political veterans.

MwB: What influenced your decision to study law and not to follow a career in law? What do you see as the function of law in society and how do you relate to law now?

LR: Law is not Justice…check the difference? You want law you go to court. You seek justice; you take it to the street. So I hit the tarmac running. (I studied law but it ended up studying me, very deeply. I was a guest in dark places I had no wish for.’I have seen things’; the film says … States of emergency. The Varara-Zim Zim chasm. Zulu Dawn, Student Gang Rapists. What they called ‘The Belt’. Tiger balm. Thugs. Pangas, knives, axes in flesh. Bodies crumbling down. People hurt. Blood-wet. (I carry the smell of that blood in my nostrils, still. hits me when least expected) … Brains peeping out. Intestines gathering sand. I am not okay, man … guess that’s why i write. Burning looting bleeding batoned skulls bones broken.’uLeft uRight, nyamazane’… Lice & lies at police stations. Screech of keys in locks…then the skin-scratch. The stench of inhumanity in prison. Poison in veins, courses brutally … & bursts out, fierce.Bodes well for hell, this. Iyamemeza iAfrika! Amidst it all, My first son’s conception (tumult makes the hormones riot).

MwB: What is your outlook of life in general and what are your views on politics, economics, arts and culture? What role do you see yourself playing in these arenas?

LR: I came to literature via film. Eyethu Cinema, midnight show weekends. Visuals; image and word. Moving frame by celluloid frame to be embedded on the walls of my cranium. Granted it was not skull-crack intellectual fare. Way to the back on the progressive front. Swords-n-sandals, cowboys and karatekas. My mecca. Silver and golden foxes. But then, in the middle of it, they tossed in porn. the censorship hit against the rocks. Titanic crash. I hope to write cinematic … the poetry of film.
Later on Pasolini became godman … the ‘breaking it down’ of it. Theoretics. intellectualising it public. Civil. The sacred-profane. The heretical cinema-maker. Pushed it against the ones hiding behind marshmallow walls. The real Marxist must not be a good Marxist. His function is to put orthodoxy and codified certainties into crisis. His duty is to break the rules.

Lesego Rampolokeng 2 [supplied]

MwB: Your work makes several references to the works of visual artists and musicians like Vuyisile Mini, Fikile Magadlela; and Johhny Dyani, Mackay Davashe, Louis Moholo and to the composer Wagner. There are also allusions and dedications to and re-visitations of Fanon, Cesaire, and Biko; and Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka; and Don Materra, Keorapetse Kgositsile and Mongane Wally Serote., Seitlamo Motsapi, Mafika Gwala, James Mathews, Kabelo Mofokeng (I assume) and Hymphatic Thabs. What accounts for this; and how would you define your personal, literary, philosophical and ideological, relationship and engagement with these personalities and their work?

LR: Fikile Magadlela deep-earth and stratospheric surreal with that pain got my brains live-wired (stones or grenades; whichever way the cerebrum still gets splattered and splashed canvas-ward and off) … i took that and ran with it to where i fear and respect the word enough to want to shape it in my own image.

That Dyani bass shooks the rafters in this head and continues,still,to shake down to bones, my earth. Sony Labou-Tansi : ‘the revolution has been postponed’. That line used to be John Ledwaba’s declaration of war-time. He’d say it just before fists started flying. Ah, the lying then the dying. ‘to die is to dream a different dream’.

I am with the writers that stick it up the arse of the accepted/ expected/ deified/ celebrated/ canonised/ con-iced/ broken-winded. The ones who go ‘against’… not just for contrarian clap (as in the disease) -trap but in hope of establishing a world not built on shit-brainedness.

Damn! Tucker wanted a Prince song banned cos she caught her daughter masturbating to it.

I am with going against corporate appropriation of threatening artistic forms that then get vehicle mainstream. semen-cream. Is literature dead cos they connected all shades of grey’, bawling/rolling/balling in the hay, oooh aah bullshit. Nothing homogenous. I celebrate the minds fashioning us on more than just a couple of dimensions. Death to literary apartheid and art-ghettos. The commercialisation of lives that are really not that, ‘life’, that is. Socially granted existence, just. Ridiculous lines of demarcation that only serve THEIR slave-markets. I go for writing that is fucking gender, race, expectations of ‘bending-low-enough-to-get-driven.’ Not some kwela-kwela literary nursery. Criticism should not come bearing a craniometer on an anthropological expedition, shit-eater-grins of condescension, patronisation, a general talking down…

Suffice to say my first reading was my grandmother’s palms, they were lined, deep script. My first writing, i believe, was a uterine mural. blessed mom, amen! I got no teaching of reading or writing from that blasted crime against humanity called bantu education.
So, relevant to what? Fuckademic aesthetic is not mine. The one fore-grounding who wrote what, all before the actual text. Ok, mista genius, listen: it is not bad because it is foreign to you. It is not inferior just because you do not understand it. Nasty murderous things happen when arrogance powers ignorance, clover arses!

Celebration of mediocrity is turning minds to marshlands. As Seithlamo said; ‘les see what we can do to the mountain’… indeed, sin-deed, mountain of sterility.

This land’s greatest creative sensibilities, poets, storytellers, dramatists, have never been published. They are never to be smelled in the academy … and oh,l did not become a writer when my stuff was accepted by some publication. The fake, stupid idea that ‘if it is in The Book it is gospel.

Lesego Rampolokeng 3 [supplied]

& ‘getting off the ride’
Doing a Mafika-
(Gwala … name no description never coward)
Do it like I never listened to Rap music
Black Dada never spilled / was spit outta Baraka
Caribbean no versioned Muta – Booyaka!
Maskanda never brought the lyric
Segaba (what?) vehicled Ratsie Selthako
No ice to poke any coco-
Rico Rodriguez loco-
Locust swarm
Knife to vein-strum
Baton a head-drum
Bum-rush’s a rugby- scrum
(inverted value system)
Blood in the Rapist’s cum
Venereal to a condom-burst
Like brain is juice fermented
For a dread-beat Johnson
Blood on beats brain on tracks do this to where’s thought-train-wrecks
emotion-chains clank

(idiot precious golden loon it’s a belsen gas
the crown’s no brains but behind it…all the gains)

Under-class digestion system
Live-wire pulsation
Liquid-fired intestines
Innard-ward / inward- bound
Travelling poison
Freedom in a shoe-box
A Sobukwe re-tox
Liberation reverse
(In the Garden of Emdeni
A Revelation eclipse)
A human irrigation scheme
At the top is Fake Arse Stinkmeaner
Copy-cat cartoon character study
& rotten tongue-flips on a Papa San marathon
‘cos (Blood sunrise in Palestine
In the Beginning was The Dead
Slain by the starred sword of David
Thru the opening first came Amen
& Eternal oppression followed close behind

(kak-praat is integral part of my art. Please, be not upset i’m not ‘deep enough’ for you.
OR the bone you chew. Peace. Like…found buried in the earth. with The Rest. Tosh said it,
Van Goch ear that, religious crew…

The God-Man’s reflection is eternal ) … i’m subject-invert
The ‘life-gamble? Place your bet
Dry & heavy OR light-heart & blood-&-faeces wet
Dysentery-decent (call it choleric)
& re/hearse that corpse to collect

Fallen From the ‘conscious’ tip to the sex-cess-pit
Black skinny dip up
Willie/& Wally waddle mobile into crap
When) ‘gimme dap’ means fist-to-face no palm-slap
Seek direction to fame I draw you a faecal map
sick way to heaven The Doom-rap replaced hip hop
from mouth of veteran
baby-poo softness on a Usain Bolt lap
the fink the skank the stink-tank
President to parliament relation-corrupt
Blood River bank Body-Parts
Memory shank the selective amnesiac
In the pipe-rhyme…Crack-Rap
(the yap before the scrap // the WORD can leave you dead)

Fear beneath arrogance. Rape of conscience. Hate-grins & crocodile-clip-smiles.
(‘we are wise to wiles, some of us’ comes as system-shock. Electric. Generous feed of me off your dog-plate. What race’s disease? The ‘human-relegate’ for the fiddle-with-errant-genitals class. Obscene love not same as dare-not-speak-its-name, hypo-critic. Perverse when ‘reconcile’ is insult getting Black up for the canned-hunt.
After the fright, strife, con-&-distorted image-making & historical lies
‘Night(-mare) of the Long Knives’ should not surprise…
But) The Grand Rage Colossus Bang coming to the land will make the world lose its mind…
(mista/madam speaker, which are you, bass or horn / top or bottom…will you tweet or boom?)

I come Origin-
I’ll bet Einstein come second
Like) sex-pets cum after the fact
Like) fickle-down-Tikonomics
-from company execs to social grants
Commercial grunts got sick jokes
& killer-lines like narcotics
Cos) air-conditioned brow the boardroom never sweats
Never gets down to the dust
But…freedom chatter : ‘we share alike you take the prophets we keep the profits…& all is fair’

Previous articleThe mystery of Robert Mugabe’s succession grows murkier
Next articleConquering the fear factor in order to overcome Ebola
Mphutlane wa Bofelo
Mphutlane wa Bofelo is a South African poet and essayist; cultural worker and social critic who is influenced and inspired by Black Consciousness, Sufism and radical humanism\socialist humanism. As a poet, Bofelo has distinguished himself by evenly straddling the personal and political, and the mundane and mysterious. His poetry displays a fusing of the lyrical and satirical voice, and some of his poems can be described as having mystical brevity. At the moment, Bofelo is working with the Durban ace drummers and percussionists, Richard Ellis and Mike Mazzoni in an experimental project that celebrates the historical and aesthetic link between jazz and poetry and pays tribute to some of the finest voices in jazz and poetry.


  1. Please request the poet extraordinaire Lesego Rampolokeng to get his record company to re-release the cd of Lesego Rampolokeng & The Kalahari Surfers. Please, or if he could please email me on dwdonovan@gmail.com, I would be so appreciative.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here