By: Mathe Ntšekhe*
“Mofuta ha o nkhoe ka nko e se leqoba la koae”, is an old Sesotho idiom that anchored me during this past year in carrying out my duties as one of the four BLF editors. The idiom has multiple nuanced interpretations, which broadly converge to a single idea: one cannot (quickly) make pronouncements on people because, unlike snuff, one cannot discern the full ‘character’ or quality from taking a whiff at a mere pinch.
The idiom in many ways is like your Bordeaux and Pinot noirs: it takes experienced wine connoisseurs to fully describe.
But I have digressed. The point is, through the idiom I was largely able to remember that while I could agree or disagree with expressed opinions by authors, my duty was not to adjudicate. Rather, it was to strengthen articulation by immersing myself completely in the writing. So complete that I might connect at a spiritual level, as though I have taken a pinch of good snuff through the nose; ergo, I can float momentarily to a glorious world of peace and gently come back to reality through sensational sneezes that force involuntary declarations like “that’s the stuff”!
The above might not make sense to some, so please allow me a little indulgence to share a bit about my culture. In Lesotho, one may be expected to take snuff for ancestral thanksgiving ceremonies. The idea is to clear the mind in preparation for a spiritual connection with the ancestors, whose grace protects and helps to peacefully prosper. Brew from the produce of the land may also be taken as part of thanksgiving, but, of course, not before offering a libation or appeasement to the ancestors—for their merriment comes before ours.
Now back to the all important question for this article: did I manage to carry out my editing duties without the urge to adjudicate? Was I truly able to walk the proverbial mile in the shoes of the authors in, perhaps, their journey of a thousand miles?
For the most part, I wish I could provide a resounding “yes” as my answer, but I can’t. I sometimes lacked the ability to find the wisdom carried by the words “mofuta ha o nkhoe”. I forgot that those particular words, in the manner of their wording, were intended to emphasise the importance of kinship, tied at all times to self-introspection. As a result, I was sometimes thoughtless in my comments, when I had clearly failed to immerse and (re)orientate myself properly to see the author(s) arguments from their intended vantage point. For this, I profusely apologise; I am sorry–the intention was never to be hurtful or show disrespect for an opinion that possibly clashed with my own being and seeing of the world.
Despite my flawed efforts to walk a mile in the shoes of some of the authors, I end my duties having grown and learnt a few things about yours truly. As I engaged with the varied and passionate viewpoints, I learnt:
- My sense of humour, however senseless and warped I think it is, it is one of my strong asserts for connecting with others digitally. It is the cyber eyes to my soul.
- My tolerance levels for particular views can be as fickle as promises made by a politician who has jumped ship from one party to another before an election year. I am not going to express these views; the point here is about me not being as tolerant as I would like and needing to continue the work on fortifying my tolerance levels.
- Being a little upfront about why my seeing of the world might be a hindrance to my understanding is often not a bad idea; provided, of course, that I can craft my point sensitively with a touch of intelligence and possibly offer an instructive advice on how to (re)structure the message being relayed.
- If my life hung in the balance and I was faced with a ‘to be or not be an editor’ question, I would be even if that choice condemned me to some Shakespearean tragic death.
All in all, aside from my occasional failure to prevent the personal from entering the professional, I am thankful for the opportunity afforded to me—even though time-wise it was not always easy. I sometimes wondered why I committed myself, when clearly a 25 hour long day is yet to exist. But with each piece I read and edited, I remembered it was through sustained dialogue that we can build a society we want and deserve: tolerant, yet rich in its diversity to allow different goals to be achieved with a sense of appreciation of what it means to be human or connected to the universe and all within it.
Thank you BLF family. As we continue with our engagement to grow Africa, our beloved continent, I hope you support as best as you can the incoming editorial team. But most importantly, in the spaces we occupy, I hope we learn to suit our actions to our words.
*Mathe Ntšekhe (former Maema) is a regular Bokamoso Leadership Forum / BLF contributor. Read her short biography and previous articles here.