Weekend Workshop: Creative Writing

From October 10-11, 2020 The Hub hosted Leila Hall for a Weekend Workshop on Creative Writing. She led participants on writing exercises examining the various effects of Covid-19 on society in Lesotho.

On Day 2 participants developed their stories and poems around the theme of Covid-19 and its multiple effects on society and individual lives. They had the chance to share their pieces and give each other feedback. Many of the participants’ pieces were published in WordPower 2020!

We were joined at our weekend workshop by Alain Amstutz and Tšepang Mohloanyane, both medical professionals working with SolidarMed and Ministry of Health in Butha Buthe and Mokhotlong districts. On Sunday they gave the participants a chance to have a Q&A about Covid-19 in Lesotho. They busted some myths, talked about the importance of testing, vaccines in development, and told us about treating Covid-19 patients, helping to drive home the message about the reality of Covid-19 in Lesotho.

Big thanks to Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa for their support of weekend workshops at The Hub!

WordPower 2020: Locked down with my abuser

By Vuyani Tshabalala-Monyake

Hello, my name is Moratehi. I wish! No, seriously, my name is Lithonako: a curse handed over to me by my mother, by my narrow-minded grandmother. I was born while my migrant father was away, so my mother had to bear the brunt of being fertile enough to conceive a child so quickly after her marriage.

“Rona bana ba Koeneng, mona ba hlaha kamora lilemo ngoetsi e nyetsoe,” my aunts would mutter under their breath whenever my mother passed. I carried this legacy right through my family courtyard into the village playground. I could write a book about the full wrath of this name. The pain of being teased and ridiculed. I thought it would end, but now it’s rearing its ugly head into my happily ever after!  

As I lay in bed, the crack of the ceiling is glaring down at me and the breeze from the cracked window is slowly moving the peeling paint on the ceiling. The cracks, on the backdrop of the yellow painted walls, are glaring at me. Piles of yesterday’s clean laundry, now blood-soaked, are strewn on the floor. My lotion is splattered across the floor. This is no castle! This is not the fairytale I signed up for! The snoring beast by my side is definitely not the guy I want to spend the rest of my life with. Every breath he takes spews out fumes from his whiskey. The stillness of the night is broken only by the snoring snare of my would-have-been Prince Charming. I cannot help but think how different my life would have been if I had been given a different name: a more flamboyant, charismatic name – like Moratehi!

Had I been named Moratehi, would Mokoena have had the courage to come charging at me like a raving bull? Would he have thought twice about shoving me against the hard brick wall and banging my head against it? His snarling voice as he howled out my name still rings in my ears. His pathetic snarling voice as he boldly declared: “You cannot even think of running to your sister’s, we are under lock down.” Tears trickle down my cheeks as I relive my nightmare. So distant, yet so fresh in my mind. How can he just sleep like that, knowing full well that he hit me to a pulp just moments ago? How is this even possible?

In the other room, I can hear the shuffles as the kids wake up. Soon they will be in here with their smiles beaming and their eyes wide open. Ready to plan our lock down adventure! How can I tell them that we can’t cook potjie as promised? All because my left side is sore? How will I tell them that I am incapable of gathering the energy to get out of bed? Not only that, how will I tell them that the whiskey-fumes-spewing monster called their father took the last coins saved up for our weekly supplies? It is amazing how he, the self-appointed President of ‘Covid has crippled the economy’, still expects to buy whiskey at lock down prices. Bathong, it costs like 500 Maloti a bottle! We all don’t know where the next meal is coming from!

Enough with the pity party. I must wipe my tears and hide my blood-soaked nightshirt! Let me dash into the shower: the eucalyptus smell from the bath salts shall soak up the negative energy within the room. One day, I shall have the courage to walk away from it all. I do not want them to see me like this. Like I already told this beast that is their father: “My children are going through a pandemic. The last thing they need is to go through the breakup of their family unit!”

I am Lithonako: a mother. I am broken on the inside, all while trying to be strong for my children through a global pandemic! I hope you can hear my cries. Save me. Save my children from this nightmare!

WordPower 2020: Covid-19

The arrival of Covid-19 shifted everything for us here in Lesotho – as it did in countries around the world! At The Hub in Morija, we closed all indoor operations in March 2020. We transitioned into online activism, creating open-source, multimedia Covid-19 educational content in Sesotho, all available as free downloads from our website. We also began to hold outdoor educational sessions for children and adults. We’re looking forward to getting back to our regular programming as soon as it’s safe to do so!

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this special edition of our annual WordPower magazine, in which young writers from Lesotho have tackled the topic of Covid-19. The poems and short stories in this edition present multiple perspectives – that of a school teacher, a student, a taxi driver – and explore the many effects of Covid-19 on society and on individual lives. We’re also proud to feature the lyrics of ‘Nthoe Tjena’ – a song released by The Hub in 2020, featuring nine local artists expressing their opinions on Covid-19 in Lesotho, government corruption, youth unemployment, and access to education.

We would like to extend a special word of thanks to our core sponsor, the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA) for their support of this magazine.

If you would like more information on The Hub, we’d love to hear from you! Happy reading and thank you for your support!

Read and download WordPower 2020!

Skills & Soup

By Moleboheng Rampou

In March 2020, The Hub closed its doors to members as a precautionary measure against Covid-19. Since then, we have been working from home to produce a digital multimedia Covid-19 awareness campaign.

This campaign is reaching a large audience through platforms such as social media and radio, but we knew that many children were not being reached. We also felt concerned about Lesotho’s growing food insecurity crisis.

Skills & Soup was conceptualised as a response to these concerns. We envisioned a bi-weekly program that would host young members of The Hub and the Morija Arts Centre for fun educational activities, lessons, and a nutritious meal.

We partnered with Glasswaters Foundation and the Morija Arts Centre, then started preparing for the first session. Preparations included purchasing masks, protective gear, and a non-contact thermometer. We also constructed Tippy-Taps to ensure that the children would wash their hands before entering the premises.

The sessions are led by Thembekile Mokhosi, a professional counsellor, with the assistance of The Hub volunteers.

The children are divided into 2 groups, with 25 members in each group. In line with regulations, our sessions are held outdoors in the Morija Museum Amphitheatre.

Each Tuesday and Friday, the children have a hearty nutritious meal prepared by Cafe Mojo, and then sit in the warm sun to take part in educational sessions, while adhering to strict physical distancing protocols. So far, we have covered topics such as Covid-19 and its symptoms, misinformation about the virus, hygiene, and nutrition.

To ensure the sessions are vibrant, interesting and interactive, we have added other activities such as dance, led by Koko and a taekwondo demonstration led by Selebalo Molefe. We have also been recently joined by a local primary school teacher Thejane Malakane, who covers Maths, English, and Science with the children.

We have seen a positive response from the participants, which is evident in visible behavioural change such as wearing masks even around the village and their homes. Some have even constructed Tippy-Taps at their homes.

The children receive a take-home food parcel after every session, and have also received packets of seeds to plant vegetable gardens at home.

With the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Lesotho rising rapidly, we hope the lessons learned at these sessions will help the children protect themselves and those around them from the virus – and also help them to keep a bit up-to-date with their schooling.

Digital Skills Workshop with OSISA

From February 18th – 20th 2020 The Hub hosted a Digital Skills Workshop in Morija in partnership with Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). The workshop participants were OSISA grantees and partners from Angola, Botswana, DRC, Eswatini, Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

We had a wonderful time hosting this workshop and meeting colleagues doing similar work in other countries. We were able to network, exchange and learn from one another. The Hub would like to thank OSISA for entrusting us with this project and for giving us the opportunity to host this workshop.

Over the course of the three-day workshop we hosted a range of facilitators to run the following six sessions:

Online Fundraising

Daniela Gusman, Founder and Executive Director of Relationships Inspiring Social Enterprise (rise), led a session on strategies that organisations can use to effectively fundraise online.  These include: having a website with social media integration, being donor-ready with a “donate page”, distributing a newsletter and email campaigns and having a clear social media strategy. Gusman also spoke of the importance of having a targeted reach for effective results, as well as learning from larger organisations.

Feedback from a participant: “[I learned about] the importance of having a strong online presence to enhance credibility.”

Podcasts and Audio Recording

Khami Malie – an educator, voice-over artist and public speaker – led a session on podcasting and its many uses. Malie addressed the common fears that people have before starting a podcast, spoke of the advantages of having a podcast, and what is needed before starting a podcast. Malie also encouraged participants to consider language, the number of hosts and the equipment that would be necessary to start a podcast.

Feedback from a participant: “I was not very familiar with podcasts so being introduced to the concept as a whole was very useful to me. Also, seeing that we come from different communities with different norms, it was nice to discuss ways in which we can air out our messaging in a manner that is appropriate to our culture but at the same time getting the message across.”

GIF Animation

Lehlohonolo Tlhaole, an animator and graphic designer, led a session on the importance of making a GIF animation for social media, as well as on how to use free software such as Krita. Participants in this workshop also got the chance to create their own GIFs!

Feedback from a participant: “It was a new experience for me. And I enjoyed every moment of it!”

Photography and Videography

Napo Thahane, a photographer and videographer, led a session that taught the basics of photography and videography. This included talking about the rule of thirds, composition and maintaining equipment. Thahane also led a practical session, in which participants practiced taking photos in their immediate surroundings, bearing in mind what they had been taught.

Feedback from a participant: “The photography and video session was my personal favourite, as it was practical and it didn’t just talk about photography from cameras, but also phone photography which is accessible and used daily for a majority of us.”

Graphic Design and Visual Communication

Anna Cai, an artist, designer and educator, led a session on graphic design and visual communication. Cai spoke about the importance of communication design as something that is aesthetically pleasing, but also as a tool to stimulate, relate and inspire. Cai encouraged participants to think about communication and simplicity, while focusing on the visual element of their messages in constructing a narrative. Cai also shared how to build a toolkit using online platforms such as informationisbeautiful.net and freepik.com

Feedback from participants: “The visual communication module was interesting because it allowed us to experience collecting information from our audiences and putting it into a form of communication that is interesting and eye catching.” / “The session was helpful and the strategies provided were helpful for a campaign, keeping my reports simple and campaign simple.”

Online Presence / Websites / Social Media / Branding

Nvulane Nhlapho, founder of Selibeng.com, led a session on the importance of building a digital marketing strategy. Nhlapho showed participants how to use websites such as wordpress.com and wordpress.org, including how these can be used to build e-commerce sites with plugins. Nhlapho encouraged participants to strategise about their pages and websites, to plan their posts and to think about their key messages for followers. In terms of audience engagement, Nhlapho advised participants to learn more about their intended audience, to post during peak times, and to strategise carefully with regards to paid content.

Feedback from participant: “It was a realisation that a lot of us haven’t utilised our social media platforms to the max.”

As a whole, the feedback we received from participants about the overall three-day workshop was very positive:

I learnt a lot with this session and wish to keep cooperation with the Hub.”

“Share your works with other organizations so they can share with more people across countries because what you’re doing is inspiring.”

“I left Lesotho refreshed and inspired, an excellent way to kickstart 2020!”