A vision born of lost sight
28 Sep 2020
By Mahlatse Mothiba
A 21-year-old author from Soshanguve, Pretoria has made it his life’s mission not only to inspire others, but to be the best blind author to come out of South Africa.
Calvin Mogajane was born with glaucoma, a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve. His twin brother, Edwin, was born with vision and has played a crucial role in his brother’s writing.
Mogajane started writing at 14. So far he has written three books, with the recent one being his proudest work so far, he says.
Strong Woman is a novel that delves into the challenges faced by women in polygamous relationships, such as patriarchy and misogyny. Mogajane says it is inspired by his mother who was born into a polygamous family. He clarifies though that while his mother inspired the book and the Bapedi culture practises polygamy, his immediate family is not negatively impacted by the practice.
Mariam Mogajane says she realised a long time ago that her son had a love for writing, “But when he came back home from school saying he wanted to write a book inspired by me, I knew he was really passionate,” she says proudly.
Strong Woman is Mogajane’s first English-language book and also the first one he has self-published. He was inspired to write in English to reach a bigger audience. Though this is his third book he says he did face some challenges as he “had to put in a lot of time to conduct research on the subject matter”.
Mogajane’s first two books, Sebatakgomo (a phrase used when shouting for help or attention) and Mpepumpepu (what a child says when begging to be carried on the back) are collections of Sepedi poetry, published under Tiego Creative Writers in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
They were written with his brother’s help. Calvin would first write his poetry in braille while at school and once home, would read out loud what he had written, while Edwin transferred it onto paper.
Edwin says as his brother’s scribe he had to jot down his brother’s poetry word for word because “Calvin has always been vocal. He would always stand up for the both of us when being bullied while we were younger, so his voice will always be important.”
Mogajane says his passion for writing was inspired by the work of the likes of writer and educationist Es’kia Mphahlele and Happiness Thomo Maake, a Thobela FM presenter whose words moved him from being an aspiring writer to actually starting to write.
“I do not want to be a burden, or feel limited,” Mogajane says about his disability, adding that not only is the sky not the limit, but one should be one’s biggest cheerleader and greatest supporter.