Lesego Rampolokeng was born in Orlando West, Soweto, Johannesburg. He studied law at the University of the North, but did not complete his studies. Rampolokeng took an active part in the struggle against Apartheid, often at the risk of his life.
He has published two volumes of poetry: Horns for Hondo and Talking Rain, and a CD/MS, End Beginnings, on which he performs his own work.
1994 saw the end of South Africa’s white minority government, and of the repressive cultural climate it imposed. South Africa’s non-white poets had been unfree in more respects than one. As citizens they had been treated as inferior , as poets therefore, they were bound to lend their voice to the struggle for freedom. Lesego Rampolokeng’s work is best judged with this background in mind. His aversion from racial and neo-colonial repression speaks clearly in his poetry, and it partly explains its incisive, agressive tone.
Rampolokeng’s work reflects strong influences from Caribbean dub and the rap poetry, as well as elements from his native oral tradition. The rap influence shows in his frequent use of internal rhyme and end rhyme, the staccato phrasing and the free, improvisational form. The oral tradition echoes in the hypnotizing repetitions.
Hearing Rampolokeng perform is like getting in the line of a crackling, rattling verbal fire. He flogs his adience with the scourge of his country’s pain and violence. In ‘Habari gani Africa’ he speaks of ‘fleshpieces from crossed Xs/axes of man-made-wood hewers’ and of ‘bloodstains on morgue-sheet sweat of impotence’. The images flung onto the listener’s retina are often chilling, but one cannot but feel they are true.
[Lesego Rampolokeng took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2001. This text was written on that occasion.]