Staffriding the Frontline – An Essay by Lesego Rampolokeng

May 2008

Down from a couple years beyond 30/30. it was the age of cerebral haemorrhage.

The oppression monster was thirsty. YET tabloids were in flight on slaughtered chicken-wings, darkest science witchcraft… Could only track rites of human sacrifice… caught between bullet & gullet, turn to what?

It came from that time when the mind was contraband…
Before we had the need to pretend different.

1994 Ravan Press ran rejection slips that said they did not publish ‘that type of thing anymore’. I battle still with what that meant. Coming down Rabasotho street, turn that. Away from the dumping ground, parallel the rail-line (was a time when you found babies on both (the trash or the tracks, that is… your choice, Sandile) & get to where Mthuthuzeli Matshoba passed for the back-cover photo of his one book, Mzimhlophe station, Orlando West.
Famed, Nobel laureates, wilful amnesiacs, first millionaires, years soweto’s only legit nightclub, the super-astral, the subterranean, original spot-runners, groaners & croakers, mass child-murderers, priests pimping for more than just Jesus, blades having dice & eyes vie for space in the dust between the intestines & the worms… boots squashing all… muddy beginnings, those… Call Me Not a Man, the searing bleeding cry of a book was titled… chopped & cut up bits first floated to surface in Staffrider.

None of it plastic… the flames saw to that.

Mandlenkosi Langa in the midst of ghouls that gloated over human passings… Ingoapele Madingoane… when slaughter reduced language to human waste, black rain took different definition… & seed was gone to the toxic wind:
khumbula my child, that’s where you were born… calling remembrance upon the seed.the genesis vision. Behold My Son called up the dawn of Afrika day… & then soon gone down.
Matsemela Manaka called out ‘Let us create & talk about life… That was before the slime-light glow of The Word as fashion-show. Let Art be Life… same expression today bought. auction blocked up. The slaves chain themselves to it. The business muse tilts the justice scales.

To staff-ride means taking or shaking the train, on the hoof… back-front-sideways.death-dance down the years wrapped in romance, here… mutilation, there… amputated limbs. Staffriders hip-hopped before the fact while their heads got lobbed off. Hormone-charged on top of the whistles of watchers, sometimes grannies & tannies claiming them for the girlies in the backyard. Proclaimed Abakhwenyana… sons-in-law, until they were maimed. Or worse, would never run again in reverse.or forward ever!
Those whistles were Mission Station Identification crackling thru past the clanging metal on shrieking skull… isiparapara… sound of takkies flapping across concrete. Slip, fall, get mashed up & watch the audience get tickled to cackling. And banana peels sought to turn the sick humour on. & keep the revolution green.

And then… speak to someone out the side of your mouth & you’ll be warned not to staffride. So there we go, sliding down this platform.

Form & content standing in contest?
Sometimes the message came in headless.
Or the messenger-tongue sick of aesthetic talk, took it to the street.

Think Regina Mundi… allah poets. Spirit us black in time.
Before political expediency metamorphosed little victims until smoking revolutionaries.

Nape Motana distilled pain.
Setuke’s marathon man was in bondage.
Eugene Skeef, Malopoets… .when blood on skin was mural.
Ignoramus splashed senses across the sheets, Tshilidzi!
(80s states of emergency saw versions of retrogression.
young lions drew their roars from antiquity… 90s and on bodies in the mine can’t compete against platinum concerns. irrelevance.)

young frustration was turning a line against the book-binding. Or the book-bound. Perception up from the Shakespearean., to hit the brain-boil-blood-bubble equilibrium in a three strike body-slam.
Most was ‘creating on the trot’.
The enraged freedom-beast lashing torn appendages against the cage… but… ah, it was just the page, man.

Night of the white termite’s no b-horror title but Shaka’s prophecy come again, yet again. this time in prose. it was years later the red-ants came. Under newer skies. But we had the blackjacks then, of whom ‘call me not a man’ spoke.

On the graphics-front…

It was surreal coming down, before the -isms.dark, in whatever sense. Magadlela, hassan, mogale, nhlabatsi. Bleeding pencil drawings, serrated woodcuts, it seemed. Dipped in life/death-fluids. The bravely informed call some naÔve. Put it all in cubes & the prism-shine.
Shebeen scene. Gunbeams refracted off glasses to light prison.
Ghetto dusks where the sun was bodies going down.
Brute police to the baton at Africa, the continent sprouting tentacles digging in & outward to touch the universe.
It was “I am an african’ before the coming (back) of the Renaissance-Man.
Or (as BC had it, then): wine in London was still blood to the Sowetan.
Confuse that road not with the way of the Christian.

out of Rondebosch came the god-statement : there are no black poets. Ok then, steeping up prose-front:

Joel Matlou, Careless Man Was a Useless Man the magic rendered closest enough to the ground for Tutuolaphiles to get orgasmic on, without being adult-toy approximation. Future gone past without passing -ism.
Plus it came with its own illustration just in case minds present couldn’t tune in without de pikichas.
No external force for any change…
& sticking it to legend’s depths, Bheki Maseko’s Mamlambo… the township gone astral rolled in The Word as Deep Space Music.

No editorial intervention except from within. As freestyle as origin.
(back-twisted hindsight would perhaps deem that bound-to-go-boom)
as it came so it was tossed into the commune.
Solo duo group creation.
(perhaps also programmed to shelf-destruct, it was not on the stock of any book-chain that had commercial respect)
thus also ran its distribution, sale-point were also the individual labs, contributor-distributors would have been it, except then was no BEE sneak-talk.
For its reach the mag hit the dust-patch.

Re-vision frelimo on a portuguese bum-rush.
& the great Zimbabwean was inspiration drawn, before jongwe became fried chicken. Lancelot Maseko came staffriding from Zim down south.
& now of course the rusted battle-axes are out, they wash them in blood, they are to lay claim.
& that juice doesn’t colour today’s ink.

Staffriding time we were tripping out on inverted weeping willows. Much like the stone-pillows resting on crushed skulls.
Gutterflies decked out in scatological colours.

Gears changed & Chris van Wyk, installed as editor, declared ‘africa… breast of mother’ imagery dried up. Saw malnourishment in that, called time-out for a re-fuel. the engine’s stalled, since.
Yes, how many drums can you beat before the palms split?
Tears falling/rolling upward.
Perverse romantic. Death of lyric?

The spot of ground we trod. Context. Time’s great dictation. Got it all locked down. Still, mediocrity knows no excuse. Apartheid created some. & when it played “dead & past” they went extinct. The others continue to ride our hell’s wagon.
well, those who swallowed the cross bleed vinegar, thus say the Black Scriptures
as quoted by Reverend Narcissus Nigger. Also, Lord of the Spies used to be lowest curse, but now is king of the high-rise. So it goes, travelling nowhere.
In this fiddle-verse era, baby-butt-soft song itching for hardcoreness going vibratobetween his vaseline lips, word-warrior worms on his own dong, self-bone-enthroned ‘raised himself from the bottom’ (they say who know left right & wrong)to make a diddle-arse career… .out of middle-class hysteria…
massa-man vibration, yeah ya… fi real.
So, is there a free-zone magazine on the horizon, furthest away from Pig Business, Literary -Politan & politician with fartistic ambition?

Cosaw & Andries Oliphant tried to put kindling to the latent & the dormant, to dead avail. the railway sleepers had been carried off. Up freedom hill… portend nothing, never be another, that is, without the cosmetic surgery/advertisement.

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