Dipale. Stories. How and why do we tell them?

1 May 2023

I was travelling to Manguang when I heard pale (singular for stories) from Lesedi FM. I cannot remember the name of the story, but what piqued my interest were the words uttered by a frustrated and an angry mother “he a ko re jwetse ntho e ntjha yeo re sa e tsebeng (tell us something new that we do not already know)”. In this pale, the teacher was telling the parents about the behavior of their child, who was abusing drugs. And, in the process, they were subtly blaming the parents. I marveled at the mother’s wisdom because often there is a tendency to shy away from stories that may lead us somewhere. We rather choose to retell the ills and shortcomings of our society, as if media, social media and indeed others who know or do not know the facts, have not already told the story.

This Freedom month I chose to gravitate toward seeking stories that tell us something new. However hard this may feel, Maya Angelou would caution us that there is no greater agony than that of bearing an untold story. When I heard the stories of Dr Nandipha Sekeleni Magudumana and Maria Mabaso, in relation to the unfolding Thabo Bester saga, I contemplated about the impact of early experiences and how they may shape us.

In their book, What happened to you? Conversations on trauma, resilience and healing, Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey raise important points such as transgenerational trauma and the need to fully acknowledge the historical injustices of our time. They ask us to ask what happened, instead of asking what is wrong. These are difficult questions that require the courage to remember that as humanity, we are of the same cloth, and that historical events are a reflection of the collective.

As a theatre maker, I am aware that sometimes in choosing to tell stories, we may conflate morals and ethics, and yet confronting our worldviews and lenses/perspectives on life, will ensure that we become more ethical in our storytelling. How we tell a story and why we tell it will have a significant way of nudging us toward our desired future or leaving us celebrating the past or cursing the present.

Kapa he ha ke le jwetse ntho e ntjha? (Or am I not telling you anything new?).


– Lalu Mokuku is the Chairperson of ASSITEJ SA and Executive Committee Member of ASSITEJ International. She formed part of the team that pioneered an arts-responsive intervention toward mental health called KOKO. KNOCK KNOCK. NQONQO ! MENTAL Health and Wellness Project. #HealingOneStoryAtaTime. 

Photo credit: Limpho Mokuku


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