16 Jun Lebohang ‘Nova’ Masango: Seeking out safe spaces for a more inclusive generation
Lebohang ‘Nova’ Masango is a writer, poet, and activist. Currently studying towards a Masters in Anthropology at the University of Witswatersrand, putting out both written and spoken poetry, and forming part of local collective The Feminist Stokvel, she’s an incredibly busy woman. For Nova, the love for writing was born through a love for stories. In fact, it was set of children’s books with accompanying cassette tapes that first introduced her to the magic of the written word. She would then go on to pen her first short stories in her early school days, and now of course, Nova uses social media and blogging platforms as well as the occasional stage to platform her work− a mixture of poetry and personal writing that helps her and many others make sense of identity and every day politics in a young South Africa.
You’re currently finishing off a Masters in Anthropology. How, at all, do you find your writing and your studies influence each other?
I would say that my studies have had a profound impact on shaping who I am, as well as informing my work. Anthropology has become a critical lens through which I experience the world around me. I was really fortunate to be in Dr Nolwazi Mkhwanazi’s Ethnographic Writing class for my Honours year, where she imparted the values of writing from the self and the margins and the importance of bringing socio-political subjectivities into our academic writing. Although I have always allowed Anthropology to shape my creative work, she really inspired me to become more experimental and colour my academic work with poetry and prose. It’s wonderful because I am learning the many ways to create the intellectual spaces to be my whole self in a discipline that is historically rooted in being a nefarious instrument of whiteness.
You’re fairly active on Twitter. What do you think the power of micro blogging sites such as Twitter when it comes to empowering young voices?
Twitter is fantastic because you walk around with millions of smart people in your hands and engage with thought-provoking content from literally everywhere. Platforms such as Twitter amplify young voices by giving us a bigger audience to share our views with and an even bigger sounding board for the formation of our ideas and opinions.
You also form part of the Feminist Stokvel, a vital and intersectional collective in SA. What’s the importance of a collective like this for today’s youth, and how can more young women across the country work towards creating safe spaces like Feminist Stokvel’s events?
Feminist Stokvel is a sister circle of like-minded women who are grappling with what it means to be feminists in this country. For me, the lesson is that it is important to have people who love you, support your spirit and reflect the goodness that you want to see more of in the world. In this country that endangers our happiness and our safety every single day, I definitely encourage everyone to just get together and form solidarity around issues that they are passionate about that can also make this society a safer, kinder space to inhabit.
Are there enough young poets and writers in South Africa? What advice would you give aspirant writers looking to go into writing as a career?
There are never enough writers and poets. My advice to aspirant writers is to never go a day without reading so that they can see all the beautiful colours and shapes of literature in its different forms and to understand that although there is nothing new under the sun and every emotion has already been expressed, there are always new ways to say things.
In your opinion, what’s the most underrated or disregarded aspect of South Africa’s youth?
Our dynamism is overlooked so we’re finding more resonance with young, internet people elsewhere than the people who claim to represent us such as politicians. Our media doesn’t always reflect the abundance of creativity in our country. Through the narrow lens of LSM figures or whatever, stereotypes are reproduced, repackaged and sold back to us in tired boxes even though so many people are light years past all of that.
If there’s anything you could change about the current generation, be it in the realm of the arts or otherwise, what would it be?
I enjoy our generation but what I would change is the ignorance that allows violent masculinity, homophobim racism and other intolerances to thrive, even though we have so much information in our immediate reach to challenge our mindsets around these issues.
As this generation of artists and creative individuals pioneers their own brand of creative work and identity, are previous generations catching up or are they getting left behind?
I think the older generation is a wealth of brilliance so I don’t think it’s a matter of catching up or getting left behind – we are simply continuing the tradition of South Africa’s creative genius.
If this generation of creative individuals is remembered for one thing, what do you think it would be?
We’re upping the ante. We’re creating new ways of being and reimagining this country as one that can accommodate all of us in our different forms, flavours, sexualities and abilities.
And if you could be remembered for one thing?
I would love to be remembered for trying my damndest.
Photographs of Nova by Olivia Mortimer.
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