ART STATE editor Ace Moloi reflects on the passing of Flaxman Qoopane, his life and legacy.
The South African Government dedicated 2017 to OR Tambo: a former ANC President and co-parent of our democracy who was known for, among others, his love and advocacy for the arts. How heartbreaking that in this year of OR Tambo, the Lord remembers one of his few remaining, authentic disciples: Flaxman Qoopane!
Flaxman Qoopane was a character nobody could fault, but with which everybody could connect.
He was our grandfather in the local literary family who, true to the status of an elder, never missed an opportunity to teach us things we’ll never find in any curriculum.
Personally, the most important thing I learnt from him is the importance of archiving: he noted details of every event in his life, and made sure there’s proper photography for the memory.
I will speculate that this he did in order to accomplish two crucial tasks.
First, he knew that it’s only him who had the innate responsibility to narrate his own story, which meant he had to be readily available to straighten any distortions and clarify his context.
The second (though not secondary) task is so that he could help the youth with historic moments in the evolution of our society, and in turn contribute towards an informed and attuned generation.
He took pictures with everyone, and took pictures of everyone. As the selfless man that he was, he would upload all photos on his Facebook, as if to turn every platform he has access to into a museum of sorts.
Though he was way ahead of me career-wise, he never even once made me (and everyone else) feel like an infant, except only as far as the order of birth is concerned.
In 2016 I shared the stage with him at Breakfast With Authors, and appreciated his patient teaching, relaxed reading, and sharp memory. We would later meet, a many times, and he still maintained his consistency as a walking library.
It’s amazing that, although we didn’t have a personal relationship, he was able to impart such knowledge on me, and I imagine his primary prayer was for an extended lifespan, so that he could do more for his people.
His was a high-impact lifetime, filled with acts of service, an absolute loyalty to the writing arts, a passion for community journalism and jealous guardianship of our history.
He lived his life with a humility only lambs can match.
His presence announced itself without him having to do any theatrics to be recognized.
In his death we have lost a genuine patron of the arts, a signal that linked us to the past, a protest artist whose work was internationally known, a giant of a million breasts from whom we suckled.
If there’s any debt we owe him, it is that we will never stop fighting for a reading and writing nation in our lifetime.
We’re indebted to him to support the local industry beyond social media, but go on to buy the ticket, pay the poet, the MC, the performer, etc.
We must clean up bookshops and independent authors’ storages as we purchase material by our own writers.
Ideally, in his memory, there should never be an empty theatre, and every poetry show must be filled up.
Artists themselves need to emulate him through an all-hands-on-deck mental framework, which will see them stage shows for themselves with or without such organized festivals as Macufe.
They should push content to local media institutions in order for their work to be published and publicized.
In addition, each artist will in exchange take their branding seriously, and respect every platform they’re put on.
Local journalists have a gold to mine from his journalistic aptitude and attitude. Chief among all is to write about our arts, for without coverage our city will remain on the periphery of national affairs.
I thank God for the life and times of Flaxman Qoopane, and hold his family and friends at the height of my prayers.
Ke a phetha ke re: ha moya wa Ntate Flaxman Qoopane o phomole ka kgotso le bolokolohi. Ho shwa batho!