The Bard of Bloemfontein by Achal Prabhala

Writer’s Brief

In the Free State, local black literature is thriving as never before, with many popular writers emerging from the grassroots with startling regularity. Although the process started about ten years ago over fifty poplar books penned by local authors have been published with thousands of copies distributed in the many libraries that throng the Free State . The process has been referred to as the “renaissance of FS Black Writing” and has gained something of a cult following, with members of its comunity actively promoting its books and authors. Online any mention of FS Black Writing unleashes a storm of comments, reviews and lyrical praise singing.

An enigmatic but pivotal figure in this literature has been OMOSEYE BOLAJI who apart from publishing over fifteen popular books, has also helped to encourage, nurture, and discover other budding authors in the Province.

Bolaji’s novel Tebogo and the Haka was published in early 2008. It had been eagerly awaited in the Free State for years as the last adventure of (fictional) Free State investigator Tebogo came out in 2004 (Ask Tebogo). Other books in the Tebogo Mystery series are Tebogo Investigates (2000), Tebogo’s spot of bother (2001), Tebogo Fails (2003).

The latest adventure Tebogo and the Haka takes place in the eastern Free State town of Ladybrand, and is weaved around the fascinating Maori custom of the Haka dance.

View the readers comments, reviews and analysis of the book over at the Chronicle Newsroom’s historic research blog.

What is this literature? Who are its writers and readers? Who is Bolaji? What’s its history? The Chronicle sends a literary detective to the Free State to find out.

More info:

Novels
The Termagant (1988)
They Never Say When (1994)
Impossible Love (2000)
Tebogo Investigates (2000)
The ghostly Adversary (2001)
The Guillotine (2001)
Tebogo’s spot of bother (2001)
Tebogo Fails (2003)
People of the Townships (2003)
Ask Tebogo Eselby Jnr Publications (2004)
Tebogo and the Haka Eselby Jnr Publications (2008)
Tebogo and the Epithalamion Eselby Jnr Publications (2009)
Tebogo and the pantophagist Eselby Jnr Publications (2010)

Plays
The Subtle Transgressor (2006)

Poems
Snippets (1998)
Reverie (2006)

General works
Eagles at USA 94 (1994)
The story of Collins Mokhotho (2000)
Fillets of Plaice (2000)
Thoughts on Free State Writing (2002)
Molebogeng Alitta Mokhuoa (2004)
My Opinion (2005).
Poems from Mauritius (2007)
My life and literature. (2007)

About
Omoseye Bolaji:His writings/his role as a catalyst for FS Writing By Pule Lebuso (2001)
The growth of Free State Black Writing (a collection of essays on Bolaji, Qoopane, Lebuso, and Thaisi). By Bareng Mogorosi. Published by Bareng Book Enterprises (2002)
Free State Writers Talking. Edited by Molebogeng A Mokhuoa. Published by Qoopane Literary Services. (2002)
Omoseye Bolaji: Perspectives on his literary work By Flaxman Qoopane (2003)
Omoseye Bolaji: Channelling one’s thoughts onto paper. By Charmaine Kolwane (2005)
Four Free State Authors. By Pule Lechesa. Eclectic Writers Club. (2005)
Tebogo on the prowl: a study of Omoseye Bolaji’s series of books based on private sleuth, Tebogo Mokoena. By Petro Schonfeld (2006).
The Triumph (2007) written by Urbain Tila
Omoseye Bolaji…on awards, authors, literature. Edited by Pule Lechesa. Phoenix Press. (2007).
Omoseye Bolaji: Further perspectives (2009)
OMOSEYE BOLAJI (2010) by Hector Kunene.New Voices Publishing

Journals & Series
Free State Black Writing journal
The growth of Free State Black Writing (tel: 0735657783)

Websites & blogs
http://omoseyebolaji.blogspot.com/
http://freestatewriters.blogspot.com/
http://freestateinterviews.blogspot.com/
http://kaganof.com/kagablog/category/contributors/free-state-black-literature/
http://www.chimurenga.co.za/page-105.html

[Funny exchange between Bolaji and Aryan Kaganof:
http://kaganof.com/kagablog/2010/05/23/a-letter-from-aryan-kaganof-to-chief-omoseye-bolaji-2/
http://kaganof.com/kagablog/2010/05/23/a-letter-from-chief-omoseye-bolaji-to-aryan-kaganof/
http://kaganof.com/kagablog/2010/05/23/a-letter-from-aryan-kaganof-to-chief-omoseye-bolaji/
http://kaganof.com/kagablog/2010/05/22/omoseye-bolaji-how-do-we-separate-fact-from-fiction-in-kaganof%e2%80%99s-works/
http://kaganof.com/kagablog/2009/01/14/the-evil-ones-a-letter-from-omoseye-bolaji/]

Reading List

  • Bolaji, O 2000, Impossible Love, Drufoma
  • —. 2000, Tebogo Investigates, Drufoma
  • —. 2001, The Ghostly Adversary, Drufoma
  • —. 2001, Tebogo’s Spot of Bother, Drufoma
  • —.2003, Tebogo Fails, Drufoma
  • —. 2004, Ask Tebogo, Qoopane Literary Services
  • —.  2008, People of the Townships, Roids
  • —. 2008, Tebogo and the Haka, Eselby Jnr. Publications
  • —.  1994, They Never Say When, J. Ade Printers and Publishers
  • —. 2001, The Guillotine, Drufoma
  • —. 2002, You Never Know With Women, Drufoma
  • —. 2003, The Quack of Qwaqwa, Drufoma
  • —. 2000, The Story of Collins Mokhotho, Drufoma
  • —. 2001, Gilbert Modise: the Man and the Myth, Drufoma
  • Qopane, F 2000, A poet abroad, Drufoma
  • —. 2000, Memories of a cultural activist, Drufoma
  • —. 2001, Adventures in journalism, Drufoma
  • Qopane, F & Omoseye, B 2003, Omoseye Bolaji: perspectives on his literary work. Qoopane Literary Services
  • Tolkien, J R R 2001, The lord of the rings. Houghton Mifflin
  • Maphalla, K P D 1996, A Tale of Two Fathers. Kwela Books
  • Mokoena, H 2011, Magema Fuze: The Making of a Kholwa Intellectual. University of KwaZulu-Natal Press
  • Oliphant, A W & Vladislavić, I 1988, Ten years of Staffrider, 1978-1988. Ravan Press
  • Lechesa, P 2005, Four Free State Authors. Eclectic Writers’ Club
  • —. 2006, The Evolution of Free State Black Literature Phoenix Press
  • —. 2007, Omoseye Bolaji…on awards, Authors, Literature Phoenix Press
  • Ekwensi, C 1987, Jagua Nana . Heinemann
12 Responses to “The Bard of Bloemfontein by Achal Prabhala”
  1. Raselebeli Khotseng 28 January 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Very interesting. But let us note that there are many other Free State Black writers like Pule Lechesa, Hector Kunene, Jah Rose, Ntate Motheane etc…but thanks for the publicity!

  2. Raphael Mokoena 29 January 2011 at 9:11 am #

    It is true that Mr Omoseye Bolaji has contributed “phenomenally” to the growth of Free State (Black) literature, but he himself will be delighted that so many writers have emerged on the landscape of the Province in recent times. Very early this year, it was in fact reported that Bolaji was “retiring from literature” – whatever this means; and with due respect to his deteriorating, poor health over the last five years or so. But the wonderful thing is that like other great writers, Bolaji has already churned out a formidable body of work which makes it easy for reviewers, critics, scholars, etc around the world to continue to evaluate his literary corpus. On a personal note, a new article I wrote on Mr Bolaji will be published next week in a reputable American-based journal. Anyway, there has been talk that writers like Pule Lechesa and Hector Kunene might “take over” from Bolaji, which I consider to be absurd. I can not see such writers being able to write detective/mystery stories the way Bolaji has done, but I’ll love to be proved wrong

  3. Pule Lechesa 29 January 2011 at 9:24 am #

    I want it on record that I have never, will never, consider myself a “successor” to Mr Bolaji. I have always respected him greatly and have learnt extraordinary things from him (on literature) over the years. I was just a kid when his first international book was published; I feel very uncomfortable when some “fools” claim I might be his successor. I don’t believe in such things; as we all have different approaches to literature, anyway. I am more of an essayist – and I must confess that in the beginning Mr Bolaji was the one who discovered my penchant for essays and encouraged me to write and publish them! And yes, with quality writers like NMM Duman, the best is yet to come from the Free State

  4. Jerry 29 January 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Yes, Bolaji is a legend in his own way – and this is mainly because he has largely dedicated and sacrificed his life to this genre (of literature). He is not in writing for cheap fame and adulation, although greatness has come his way because his whole approach has been the correct one, and people around the world continue to appreciate what he has done. This unexpected Chimurenga tribute to him is a fantastic example. Those close to Bolaji – like Lechesa and Hector – will naturally continue to grow by leaps and bounds in literature, as a “finished, retired” Bolaji will still continue to do more for literature than anybody else among us

  5. Urbain Tila 29 January 2011 at 11:00 am #

    Jerry is right, because what pulls we black writers down is our pure selfishness, we think only of ourselves, and our cheap fame, instead of dedicating ourselves to the written word itself. This is the advantage Bolaji will always have – as long as he still breathes – as he spreads up to date knowledge of literature to scores of people via emails on a regular business.

  6. Paul Lothane 30 January 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    FS Black literature is very strong; and we must not forget other stalwarts like Flaxman Qoopane and Saint Vis. Mr Qoopane has published over ten books, most of them internationally respected. Saint George Vis has published many books too, including the important Indaba with Free State Writers (2009) which I believe should be profiled on Chimurenga…

  7. TM THIBA 30 January 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    I have to divulge that Mr Bolaji has done tremendous job in his career by wrote so plenty of various books, and helping other writers to emerge on top of the ground and i’m one of them.He continue to receive awards from different peoples and countries that we all know,we know that in every organization after a job done you have to reicieve what you deserve and he do so.Don’t twist my words i’m not praising the Mr Bolaji i appriciate his work and the next future generation will appriciate and read his bookstoo because he has build his legacy and other Important writers in this industry at Free State. I wanna dedicate my gratitude to Mr Bolaji for always keep me updated by valuable informations he continuing to send to me regularly and thank you to you all Free State writers,Literature Lovers and so Many Flamboyant writers.Free State Black Literature keeps me growing in writing all the time. ABRIGADO.

  8. Hector 31 January 2011 at 4:43 am #

    This is encouraging to see the bard Dr. Seye ( O. Bolaji ) continuing to be recognized is such a tremendous way,what matters for me here is to learn continuosly from Uncle Bolaji and be firm in my approach to literature,I am not going to shame Mr. Bolaji by entertaining foolish insinutions on Mr. Lechesa or myself “succeeding” the uncle,it is incredible to see that some think this way,Lechesa and myself sit and share jokes,newspapers,drinks and literature. Let us rather commit to appreciation where it is due than raising midsty ideas. I still have a long walk ahead, a lot to learn and OB with Mr. Flaxman Qoopane continues to prune my unwanted protruding roots!

  9. Gilbert 1 February 2011 at 6:52 am #

    Good to see Free State Black Writing recognised like this; the scope and range is actually much more than is suggested here. There are still other good writers like Thabo Mafike, Teboho Masakala, Thaisi, Thamsanqa Job Mzamo the poet…But that is for researchers to go through little by little…

  10. JahRose 1 February 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    when you are loyal t craft it shall be loyal to too…as long as its not witch craft…lol
    thanks and blessing be upon free state writers young and old, the more we close the gap…the better we shall all enjoy our Art.

  11. Ntone 1 February 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Guys – do you know where one can order any of the books listed above?

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