Review: Endings and Beginnings: A Story of Healing – Redi Tlhabi

Jacana Media

Redi Tlhabi’s Endings and Beginnings: A Story of Healing is an extraordinary account of the author’s life, focusing on her friendship with Mabegzo, the most notorious thug in Orlando East, Soweto. In the first part of her narrative, Tlhabi takes the reader on a fascinating trip down memory lane and introduces us to the charming Mabegzo. She lets the reader in on his acts of kindness, his quirks and his deepest emotional wounds. As the pair grows closer, we witness Redi’s struggle to reconcile Mabegzo’s two identities, that of the confidante and crook.

In the second part of the story, we follow Tlhabi back to Soweto, more than a decade after Mabegzo’s death to find answers to the questions that still haunt her. For Tlhabi, the process of uncovering who Mabegzo is a passage with no shortage of revelations. On her path to gaining closure, Tlhabi uncovers some unbearably ugly truths but perseveres to share the gift of healing with others.

As a seasoned journalist, working with words is the crux of Tlhabi’s profession, and from her writing it is clear that she is a natural. Her work is elegant and delivered with sincerity. Owing to Tlhabi’s nuanced treatment of Mabegzo’s life story – the captivating juxtaposition of the friend and the criminal – Endings and Beginnings speaks volumes about the complexity of being human. It is a more-than-worthy read, which will draw you in and appeal to the very heart of you.

[Published July 2013 for WeekendPost]

Sasa Klaas: breaking barriers

Sarona Isabella Motlhagodi, popularly known as Sasa Klaas, revolutionised Botswana’s rap scene by breaking into what was an all-boys club and refusing to leave. Recently, she got the opportunity of a lifetime when she performed at the Joe Thomas concert, an experience she says she really enjoyed. Klaas has been a hit since her collaboration with Scar on the track, ‘A ke mo khandeng’ and released a video for the single ‘H.A.D.S.A.N’ earlier this year.

With musical influences like Lauryn Hill, Biggie Smalls, 2pac and Eminem, it was only a matter of time before Sasa got lyrical. At the age of 11, she started writing poetry. “[Initially] rap just wasn’t what I had wanted to do”, she says. One day, her brother, Seabelo suggested that she put rhythm to her poetry.  Sasa took his advice and never looked back. She began rapping at the age of 14. One of her earliest rap battles was in high school against a girl who used to tease her. She describes the historical moment as ‘the rise of the underdog’. “I crushed her!” Sasa says.

Sasa has often been compared to Nicki Minaj and called a ‘feMCee’. “I don’t really want to be known as a ‘FeMcee’. I just want to be a rapper,” she says. Commenting on the Nicki Minaj comparisons, Sasa says, “I think what she’s doing right now is bigger than what any other female artists are doing right now but I just want to do my own thing.”  Asked whether she thinks hip-hop is negative, Klaas says “[If you think hip-hop is negative, you’re listening to the wrong hip hop”.

Sasa Klaas says her biggest supporters are her mother, her manager Onkabetse ‘Onkay’ Nchochi and her best friend of seven years, Nature Inger. The first time Sasa heard herself on radio was in 2011 on YaronaFm . At the time, she and Nature had released a song as the duo, ‘Natural Klaas’. According to Sasa, the two work well together because of their strong friendship. “We understand what we both want”, she says. Although they are no longer a duo, Sasa and Nature still work together on occasion and most recently, Nature contributed as a vocalist to Sasa’s uplifting single, ‘I did it’.  Nature describes Sasa as “beautiful, creative and complex” adding that Sasa is like a sister to her.

When asked about her work as a presenter on e-Botswana’s The Foundation: The Next Level, Sasa says, “It’s like a comfort zone. I love hip-hop”. Her co-presenter, Apollo Diablo says Sasa has made it cool for women to be part of local hip-hop. “She brought her crazy energy to the show,” he says, “and her understanding of hip-hop music is beyond what we all hear on radio.” Apollo says people would be most surprised by how well Sasa can beat-box.

A Motswana through and through, Sasa says her favourite food is serobe. Given the chance to have dinner with any famous figures, she says she would invite Jay-Z, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein and her celebrity crush, Kendrick Lamar. If there were anything she could change about the world, Sasa says would remove all of the discrimination. “I don’t like judgemental people. Love is such a beautiful thing”, she says. It’s easy to see why she’s been described as ambitious. Sasa says, “I’d still like to act, direct and write scripts”. In addition, she has aspirations to pursue a business marketing degree and explore her singing talent. Right now, Sasa Klaas is working on finalising her mixtape, which she plans to release alongside H.A.D.S.A.N merchandise later this year.

[Published in WeekendPost July 2013]