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In a Ribbon of Rhythm

By Lebogang Mashile

ISBN: 1-77007-045-1
Review by: Moira Richards


I’ve not yet had the opportunity to hear Lebogang Mashile perform her poetry and from what I’m told, I have missed a lot. Lebo is a South African spoken-word poet who grew up with her family in political exile in the United States of America. She returned as a teenager, to her home country soon after the demise of the apartheid regime and has only been back to the USA for an occasional visit in the dozen years since then. So this poet stands astride and is immersed in two very different worlds, and that diversity of culture permeates her very eclectic first book of poetry.

In the collection she celebrates her womanhood and her blackness. She explores the allures and also the racial injustices of both the RSA and of the USA in strong, confident tones. As in these lines that celebrate The most powerful (black) woman in the world who,

will be remembered as the one
Who gave us permission to climb
To the highest echelons of evil
And show that we are not the same

Lebogang’s chapbook is entitled In a Ribbon of Rhythm and the rhythms and cadences of anger, meditation and joie de vivre permeate these lines. The poems demand to be lifted from the pages of their book and even I, shy middle-aged white woman read them and find that I must stand up and speak them aloud - if only to my own ears. Could you resist the call of these Wild women warriors?

Wild women warriors
Work words into whirling worlds
Where writing is a rite of reason
Wisdom falls from their winds
Into my wings

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