Musungu speaks to South Africa Multi-talented artist Donald Mokgale. A Multiple Slam Poetry Winner Mokgale believes artists should be more commercially minded and packaged or they will remain starving artists. The artist believes that Africa still has original crafts and if mined, the creative industry will usher in golden morsel never heard of before.
Musungu: How are you Neosapien?
Mokgale: I am very well thanks and yourself?
Musungu: I am Wonderful. How is South Africa?
Mokgale: It is full of corruption and lots of possibilities!!
Musungu: Now, tell us about your poetry that is how can you describe it?
Mokgale: My poetry is PUNchy! Very witty, tongue in cheek, hilarious and thought-provoking.
Musungu: When did you start performing?
Mokgale: I started performing at the age of 6 as an actor and I have been involved in the performance arts space in some way shape or form since, whether it be pantsula dance or straight up acting or poetry performance and music. I started entering slam poetry in 2009 though, started writing poems in 2003. Confusing right? The long and short of it is, I’ve been an artist all my life, I was born in THEATRE! Get it? Haha
Musungu: Hahahaa! How was your first experience like on stage?
Mokgale: It was home, exhilarating, fun, addictive!! I am told that I have a very commanding presence and I think it is because the stage is such a familiar space to me.
Musungu: So far apart from South Africa, Which other countries have you performed?
Mokgale: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. Oh and the Vaal haha!
Musungu: How was the experience like compared to your performance at home?
Mokgale: Extremely receptive, very warm and loving. They completely lapped it up, made me feel even more special.
Musungu: South Africa has a vibrant Slam Poetry. Have you participated in any of the Slam festivals? How have they shaped your craft as a performance poet?
Mokgale: Yes I was part of the wave of slammers in 2009 to about 2013 and I won a few slams and art competitions. It was extremely competitive with the best slammers SA could muster at the time people like The LazarusMan, Mutle, Ellipsis, KB Kilobyte, Mandi Vundla, Sbu Simelane, extremely talented writers and performers and this made me even sharper and better at the craft because of this.
Musungu: Who is Donald outside of poetry?
Mokgale: I am the head of a global advertising agency called Posterscope, I am a speaker and pan Africanist thinker, a Hibirist (I will be launching the manifesto of this philosophjy soon haha), I run a car club with other petrol heads and we do charity runs, I am a preacher and teacher about African History, I am a recording artist – a neosoul hip-hop artist. I am an entrepreneur and co-own Puns And Things and I am an MC at events and functions.
Musungu: Do you enjoy every other engagement outside your creative life?
Mokgale: Absolutely! I lead a life of passion and do nothing that I am not passionate about, I am very precious about my time too so I am very choosy about how I spend my time and of course with whom.
Musungu: Tell us about your childhood and how it has modeled your present.
Mokgale: I learned how to speak English through watching cartoon as a child so by the time I got to grade 1 at the age of 6 I could muster a sentence or two. I then became a lead actor in the school plays because the teachers identified a talent in me and been involved in art ever since. I loved knowledge and reasoning from a young age and this has been my foundation and I remain fundamentally that same person, just older, wiser and more focused.
Musungu: What is the state of performance poetry in South Africa?
Mokgale: Growing in leaps and bounds just missing that one TV show, that business side of it so that we can show HOW it can be a career for the upcoming ones, we have no shortage of talent, just a shortage of taking ourselves more seriously from the commercial side of it. We need to organize ourselves better structurally.
Musungu: What are some of the challenges artists go through in Azania?
Mokgale: Lack of structural support and financing of projects, corruption at the top in terms of who gets what funding, it’s all about who you know, not enough platforms who take themselves seriously enough to attract audiences outside of their spaces and overall lack of commercial thinking by artists.
Musungu: Where do you hang out with your friends?
Mokgale: At undisclosed surreptitious Hibirist meeting points, where we discuss very grave topics such as the hypocrisy of black radical feminism, misandry, poverty alleviation tactics, slay queen deflection strategies and the overall politics of being human. My favourite hangout spot is at home with my friends.
Musungu: Where would you take a first time visitor for a nice quiet dinner?
Musungu: What are some of your best cultural experiences?
Mokgale: Attending the Ehalakasa festival in Cape Coast Ghana, the Karura Forest market in Nairobi Kenya, the Jamestown festival in Accra Ghana, travelling, road trips, car shows, theatres and braais with friends.
Musungu: Any interesting cultural festivals that you have attended and you would recommend to anyone who visits Gauteng or even SA?
Mokgale: Joy of Jazz, Delicious Festival, Back to the city festival, Soweto street food festival, Festival of speed and Afro Punk.
Musungu: In matters entertainment, do you go clubbing, where is the best place to club?
Mokgale: My view of life is that I outsource such recommendations to masters of it, I have a close group of friends whom I consult whenever I feel (as a rarely as it happens) the spontaneous desire to go clubbing but thus far Braamfontein has been awesome.
Musungu: What are some of the peculiar things about you that people don’t know?
Mokgale: I am walking mindf*ck. I wear suits everyday purely because I love them, I tether between insane intellectual concepts like the psycho-analytic deconstruction of colonization and its effects on black bodies in 2018 to very humorous bafoonery with my friends and colleagues to some of my dancing videos going viral on social media. I am hard to box and anyone trying to do so, must acknowledge that they do it at their own peril.
Musungu: What do you think of South African music and its place on the African music map?
Mokgale: We have some amazing gems and are finally starting to imprint our music into the international landscape, besides the struggle heroes and heroines like the Miriam Makebas and Ladysmith Black Mambazos, we are now seeing your Nasty C’s penetrating the African continent in ways only Lucky Dube did which is amazing! I do however, think we need to create more original sounds and stop trying to be like everyone else as we have many under celebrated talents who never get the time of day because of music industry corruption and gate keepers. People like Luis The Don, Zuri Musiq, Maleh need to be more mainstream as their sounds are different, authentic and rich with musicality and content.
Musungu: Any parting words for your fans and fellow poets?
Mokgale: To the fans I say, thank you so much for your ongoing support and love, it has not been easy but you guys keep me going. Please continue to come to shows, to buy our music and to chat to me after shows, all the messages, hugs and handshakes impact me in incredible ways so thank you so much. To the poets I say Aluta continua, but you have to do things differently if you want different results, be more commercially minded and packaged or you will remain starving artists, be more innovative in your usage of art as a way to solve some business challenges not just entertain, there are a lot of untapped spaces that we need to fill, so stop competing for the same things and diversify.