Prophet Seekers, and other poems

AUTHOR: Rethabile Masilo
PUBLICATION: September 2018

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RETHABILE MASILO

Rethabile Masilo is a Mosotho poet. He was born in 1961 in Lesotho and left his country with his parents and siblings to go into exile in 1981. He moved through the Republic of South Africa (a very short stay, on account of the weight of Apartheid), Kenya and the United States of America before settling in France in 1987. He lives with his wife and two children and works as a language teacher and translator. He is co-editor of the literary magazine Canopic Jar and blogs at Poéfrika. Things That Are Silent (Pindrop Press, 2012) was his first poetry collection. It was followed by Waslap (The Onslaught Press, 2015), Letter to country (Canopic Publishing, 2016) and Qoaling (The Onslaught Press, 2018).

Prophet Seekers, and other poems is a selection of previously published poems by Mosotho poet Rethabile Masilo. In Rethabile Masilo’s poetry, characters are evoked with a sense of nostalgia for the isolated beauty of Lesotho, and a longing for the retribution of its humanity. Landlocked and completely encircled within South Africa, the relative isolation of the tiny country no doubt contributes to what has proved to be a global silence on human rights atrocities committed by governments, police and military powers within Lesotho.

It is a common tale, that of poets, journalists, church-leaders, anyone with a barely audible opinion being “disappeared” from Lesotho—though with markedly less attention and furor for its martyrs from Western media and human rights organizations than for countries that hold more immediate economic cache. Cast by a continent upwards to the edges of the sky, a poet’s cry echoes who… who… who… has heard of the Koeeoko? In 1985, Amnesty International published the following statement:

In January an Amnesty International observer attended an inquest into the deaths of Edgar Motuba. The editor of a church newspaper and well-known critic of the government, and Lechesa Koeshe and Oriele Muhale, two friends who accompanied him when he was taken from his home by armed men in September 1981. All three were later found shot, allegedly by a pro-government “death squad” known as Koeeoko. The inquest tailed to attribute responsibility for the killings but it was disclosed that the three were shot with weapons of a type normally available only to police and military personnel and that there was only a cursory police investigation at the time. The presiding magistrate reportedly called for a more thorough investigation at the end of the inquest but no further action was known to have been taken. (view the full 1985 Amnesty report here.)

Masilo leads the reader through shifting images that waver between the manifesto, the confessional, and the obituary. The voice of a wanderer recalls Qoaling and Quthing, places resonant in the bitter cry of memory. The false true notes Masilo alludes to reveal Orphic questions, always accompanied by an unstated reply. The contradictory images of the call to arms, and the love that is the revolution, where one blurs into the other. As Masilo writes, There is magic in desiring peace (and obtaining it).