Mangaung poetry luminary Serame Icebound Makhele reflects on Flaxman Qoopane’s influence in his life.
I first encountered Moalosi Qoopane, affectionately known as Flaxman, in 1995 at my home where I grew up in Phase 2, Mangaung. I was 12, coming back from five-a-side soccer match that we used to frequently play with my pals in our street. My aim was just to drink water, get some food if there was any and go back to the road that we turned to a playing field.
I got in from the kitchen door, my brother Tiisetso Afrika Makhele, then known as Mzwakhe by his school mates and friends (he was a big fan of Mzwakhe Mbuli), was sitting with a man dressed in Tanzanian clothes. They were both speaking in English, Sesotho and saying some Kiswahili words.
I stole a moment to listen in to their conversation. My mother and some of my siblings were there too. He was talking to all of them as they pass. He sees me passing to the bedroom and he stops me, “your brother is a great writer, you must write too,” he laments and leaves me confused.
He introduced himself to me as Flaxman. I was perplexed. “Ntate o o jwang mare? Ha batle ho bitswa ntate.” I had never encountered a black man in my area speaking English. I heard them throwing names like Dambudzo Marechera, Chinua Achebe, Gilbert Modise and so forth. I was amazed. I loved him. I wanted to speak like him. But I was confused.
I went back to play with my buddies in the streets. All the time I was trying to pronounce was this man’s name. I failed. It took me some time to get his name right, Flaxman.
He frequented our home and became a family friend. My brother, Afrika, told me that Flaxman is from exile and that he is very educated. He also told me that Flaxman is a great poet, journalist and writer, terms I would be learning in depth as time went by.
After this encounter with Flaxman at my home, I began seeing a lot of books stacked in Afrika’s bedroom. From Shakespeare, TataMkhulu Afrika, Zakes Mda, Ben Okri and more. I suspected that it was Flaxman’s influence. These are the books that got me interested in literature. I read them in secret when my brother was not home.
My most memorable moment was when Flaxman came to visit my brother holding a magazine in hand called Seipone. It was 1996. My brother’s beautiful picture was in that magazine, with full page telling stories about his poetry and writing skills. It was confirmed, my brother is a poet. This made me the happiest amongst my peers. Again, I thought to myself: it’s Flaxman’s influence.
I became a lover of books and writers. I started writing too. Maybe and most probably, because of Flaxman’s influence.