“[…] life, the magic that it presents, the unexplored facets of our humanity and the untold stories that need to see the light.”
This is how Tebogo Nong describes the inspiration behind her writing – her most recent venture being her second poetry anthology, Cycles, that was recently released.
Nong is a multifaceted writer, poet and filmmaker who hails from Mahikeng and is currently based in Cape Town. Dynamic and driven, this young artist’s creative journey testifies a fascination with the world, a fierce pursuit of knowledge and a passion for storytelling. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Motion Picture and an Honours degree in Film directing and Screenwriting. During her studies, Nong has been involved in numerous independent creative projects, including the curation of @BloompoetryZA, a multidisciplinary digital platform for African poets and writers, the self-publication of her debut poetry collection, The Truth Shall Bloom, as well as the writing and directing of her first short film.
Nong harbours an eclectic range of interests and channels these into her own artistic exploration. “The main thing that helped as a writer is writing and reading more, across all topics, themes and disciplines – be it spirituality, religion, health, politics, economics, entrepreneurship, film and stocks,” she explains. She draws inspiration from all aspects of life, and prefers not to limit herself in any way. When asked about her creative influences, she simply responds: “My creativity is influenced by everything. It’s not something I can limit through explanation, I’d be lying if I tried.” However, she singles out Moonlight, Girl Interrupted, Fight Club and the original Fiela se Kind as some of her favourite films; and the books Women who run with the wolves by Clarissa Pikola Estes, All About Love by Bell Hooks and The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo as works that have been pivotal in her outlook on life.
Nong strongly believes in the power of the written word, and its ability to alter our consciousness by sparking a process of learning, unlearning and re-learning. For her, writing is not only a medium that makes powerful storytelling possible, but also a tool that can be used to self-reflect, self-create and – most of all – to express. She explains, “Writing has always been a means I chose to express myself with when I couldn’t access the spoken word. I found that I could be vulnerable without judgement, unless it was from myself, so understanding that level of freedom inspired my want and need to write.”
And Cycles, an intensely personal collection of poems, is no exception. Nong explains that this anthology, written on different phases of the moon over a period of three years, expresses reflections on themes in her own life. “At the core, the themes in Cycles are about self-awareness […], the vastness of our human connections, growing pains, the light and darkness experienced through growth and the concept of purpose. It is a mature take on concepts I questioned and sought to understand but didn’t yet have the vocabulary and lived experience when writing my first book as a 19 year [old] young woman.” These themes are presented in four chapters, each symbolising a different phase of the moon: New Moon represents self-love, Solar Eclipse represents self-reflection, Lunar Eclipse represents connections and Full Moon represents purpose. Nong hopes that Cycles can serve as an inspiration for readers to live in a way that is true to themselves. “I hope readers get to see reflections of themselves, that they are not alone in reaching for meaning within themselves and the world, that the patterns and cycles they have experienced don’t define them and that they can go out and create a new song out of their lives that they resonate most with,” she says.
Despite the long task of editing and re-editing necessary for any piece of writing, what is most important for Nong is that the authenticity of the original text remains. “I’ve found that with poetry I’m not too cryptic when it comes to editing, because I want the voice that was used in that time, season or experience to come through as organic and as truthful as possible, even though it might be grammatically incorrect,” she remarks. Because Cycles is a self-published work, Nong was closely involved in every step that led to a complete anthology – conceptualisation, writing, editing and layout and cover design. For the latter, she collaborated with Keenan Oliver. “We worked until we found the perfect design that encapsulated the work […] Once we were happy, we received a complete poetry collection that stemmed from time and years of experience – and now readers can hold that full experience in their hand while drinking a hot chai latte,” Nong says.
Nong believes that she is still only at the beginning of her creative journey, and she has many exciting future projects in the pipeline. “I have always been interested in innovation and entrepreneurship because it’s business with a spark of creativity. I grew up wanting to invent things and solve problems, so I’ll be using this year and beyond to do exactly that,” Nong says. She plans to explore the field of digital film archiving, focusing on Artists and Auteurs (@artists.and.auteurs), her online business that aims to preserve African storytelling and contribute to archival research and education through the use of technology and social media. She also hopes to use her voice through the medium of YouTube, specifically on her channel Table of Contents, where she covers topics such as creative entrepreneurship, literature, film, and poetic expression, among others. She is furthermore interested to delve more into podcasting, and to start with intermediate classes in South African Sign Language.
For many, these diverse projects may seem like an overwhelming prospect. Not for Nong, for whom they rather represent a labour of love, as expressed in the advice she gives to young upcoming creatives: “Focus on yourself and what you love, everything else is a by-product of that focus and love.”
Feature image by Andrea Loupis