Lebogang Mashile

Lebogang Mashile



Lebogang  Mashile (b. in 1979) is a South african actress, poet and television personality. Lebo Mashile has won the 2006 Pan African book prize, the Noma Award, for her first published collection of poems.

Lebogang Mashile is the daughter of exiled South Africans, was born in the U.S. in 1979.

At the age of sixteen years she and her parents returned to their home country. It was while she was studying law and international relations at Wits University in Johannesburg that the desire to work as an artist took hold of her.

In her work as a life skills facilitator for adolescents – focusing on topics like gender issues, teamwork and sexuality – poetry has been her preferred medium.

Mashile began to achieve recognition as one of South Africa's most popular young artists in 2002 when she performed her hip-hop inspired poetry at the Urban Voices Spoken Word and Music Festival to a large audience.

In 2003 she co-founded the “Feel a Sistah!” Spoken Word Collective alongside Myesha Jenkins, Ntsiki Mazwai and Mapo Masheane, which rapidly gained wide-spread popularity. Just one year later Mashile made her acting début in the Oscar nominated film "Hotel Rwanda".

Her lyrical and gutsy poems in the collection "A Ribbon of Rhythm" (2005) also speak about life in the new South Africa. Issues such as the diversity and unity of the "Rainbow Nation", the status of women, violence and the fragility of individuals are all treated with a sense of urgency, humour and at times with melancholy and a certain rawness. Mashile’s self-produced album "Lebo Mashile Live!" combines her performance poetry with hip-hop, house and R&B.

Lebo Mashile, who has featured on numerous covers of South African entertainment and lifestyle magazines and was voted one of South Africa's Awesome Women of 2005 by “Cosmopolitan Magazine”.

In 2006 and 2007, she was named one of the Top 100 youth in South Africa by the Mail & Guardian. She has also appeared beyond South Africa, to date in Kenya, Austria, Germany, Cuba, Jamaica, Ireland, Zimbabwe, the United States, Britain, and Switzerland.

In 2006 she was awarded the prestigious Noma award. The Jury characterised her poetry as of “a distinct oral flavour, developing oral poetry and performance beyond the boundaries of the poetry of the era of resistance”. In 2007, she was the recipient of the City Press/ Rapport Woman of Prestige Award. Mashile lives in Johannesburg.


Poems by Lebogang Mashile



I see the wisdom of eternities
in ample thighs
belying their presence as adornments
to the temples of my sisters
old souls breath
in the comfort of chocolate thickness
that suffocates Africa’s angels
who dance to the rhythm of the universe’s womb
though they cannot feel its origins in their veins

Blessed am I to be love in the temple of my own skin
my nappy centre kisses the sun
in a harmony divine
devoid of the ugly that does not know this as God
but the sons of oppression
never gave sisters
loaves to feed the hungry fury in their bellies
nor did they teach them to fish for spirit

So I pray
to the voices that whisper in my soft curves
for the lionesses of my blood
to hear the songs of the cool reeds
to feel the green blood beat of cataclysm on their breasts
and to know the embrace of freedom
in nourishing silences
where their radiant ebony vessels
are reflections of their souls


When we were africans
when we were africans
we knew the price of life
was paid from birth
the stagnant air was cleared
when mind
met heart
met soul
met deed
met word
a divine standard of excellence
an expression of worth
if I am better than the next man
in my truest self I am worse
in a world stripped of material
all that is left is work
the footprint on the pavement
of possibility is work
the harnessing of the heaven
promised to me is work
even death is a seed to work
until grace is a tree deserved


For Helen Suzman

When you have crossed range of mountains
Do you crave the quiet of the valleys
Or the thrills of peaks
Is time your friend
A record of treasured possessions
Which ones do you throw away
Which ones do you keep
Do people know the depths mined
To reach the heights of your accolades
Do they know the heart of the night
Where the stories of the silent remain

In a country made of blinded mouths
What does it take to speak
To speak while others are shouting
To speak while others are dying
To speak while others are silenced
To speak while others are hiding
To speak while the world listens
To speak while the future watches

Its not how fast time moves
It’s the distance
It’s not the answers
It’s the questions
It’s not the sorrow
It’s the lessons
It’s not what is taken
It’s what has been given
It’s not how we die
It’s this life we are living
It’s not how we survive
It’s how we alter the space we live in
It’s not how long we deny
But the moment we give in
It’s not the realm of the wise
But the domain of the children
Which can be seen by the eye
That knows tomorrow before it is lived in

Mrs Suzman tell us what tomorrow looks like
Can you see it in the darkness of prisons
Is it in the look in the eye of a peaceful man
Who is killed in front of his two children
Is it somewhere beyond our own plane and time
Is it inside the walls that we live in
Is it the property of the privileged few
Or is it understanding that humanity is a privilege

January 19th, 2011

Última actualización: 28/06/2018