Napo Masheane: A Book Still Being Written
by Thuli Mabaso
Varying factors determine who we ultimately become and how we make inroads to getting to our definitive life purposes. This could not be truer of poet, stage director and writer Napo Masheane. I recently had the opportunity to sit and speak to her about this career that seems to have chosen her long before she even knew of its existence. Raised by a teacher father, storyteller mother and holding aspirations of being the world’s first black female Ninja warrior, it could be said that the imagination contained within the then young Masheane living in Qwa Qwa’s dusty streets, reached far beyond her everyday surroundings. Surroundings that no doubt probably aided her on her path.
She started writing as a form of self expression, jotting down her feelings and the thoughts she felt could not be openly expressed. This gave rise to a love for words and stories that would see her live her life as one of the country’s seasoned poets and scriptwriters.
Napo is a staunch believer in the plight of women and when asked about the things that inspire her, be it in her writing or as she goes through her daily existence, her response is a quick one. She says: “I get inspired by any woman, girl, sister, daughter and mother’s story.” This is evidenced by her work and some of her poems, the contents of which proudly transmit the message of a modern day, liberated South African woman. They carry titles such as ‘For Fat Girls’ and ‘Phenomenal Woman’ and stage productions including ‘Mollo; The Fire Within’ and ‘My Bum is Genetic, Deal With It’ respectively.
It is therefore no wonder that some of her favourite writers are predominantly female. Of award-winning Johannesburg-born Yael Farber, creator of stage plays such as ‘A Woman In Waiting’, ‘Amajuba: Like Doves We Rise’ and ‘He Left Quietly’ she says: “Her testimonial plays from South Africa are mind blowing and I like that they spring from real life.”
She also identifies with Ntozake Shange, an American-born poet who also stakes claim to the proud feminist title. Shange is the Author of ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf’ which was adapted into the film “For Colored Girls” in 2010.
Guyanese poet Grace Nichols who penned ‘The Fat Black Woman’s Poems’ on which her stage play ‘The Fat Black Women Sing’ is loosely based is also listed as one of Napo’s most resounding writers.
Delving into the subject of the current state of writing in South Africa in comparison to writing internationally, Napo paints vividly a picture of a world spun together by a definitive love and ultimate faith in the prospect of writing by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“We know that the secret of the world is profound, but who or what shall be the interpreter, we know not.”
“There is someone somewhere out there who is writing that deep poem or who has just found that story.” Napo says, speaking to the idea of her preconceived notions about literature and future writers.
It feels almost benevolent the way she looks forward to receiving forthcoming literary works as she goes on to say: “No one knows who this person is, yet they are doing it and soon their names will be on our tongues every single day.” A pretty profound thought for one to hold in an era where anyone can attain notoriety by doodling a few witty sentences and phrases via various social networking platforms out there. Of this, she lists the pros, stating how ease of access to one’s work can be acquired by others, but in the same breath she cautions about the exploitation of an individual’s work and how social media has the ability to create non-thinking writers. “People don’t pay attention to the depth, drama, impact or plot of the storyline. They disregard grammar, spelling and the beauty of a language. They just write without appreciation for the genre, it makes me wonder...”
Napo holds aspirations of penning a genuinely African pantomime that will showcase one of the many folklores her mother recited to her when she was a little girl. This, in addition to having her plays published and working behind the scenes in television and film. As the conversation with the ever bubbly Napo Masheane draws to a close, she also adds: “I still want to live and dream and say yet another poem.”
Photograph by Flo Mokale