As you might expect from someone who works with words, the young author’s directions to his house are detailed and precise. It’s a scorching hot Monday afternoon in Pretoria as the Move! team make their way to the home of Kamogelo Calvin Mogajane (20).
“At the T-junction, turn left. You’ll see a car wash on your right, go past it. Turn right before the school,then count six streets until you see a blue salon on your left.” A few turns later he guides us into his street and ends the call, saying, “You’ll see me outside, wearing a pink shirt.”
We spot Kamogelo but he doesn’t see us. He’s blind.
Kamogelo, who’s a twin, was born blind. His brother, Edwin has full use of his vision. The recent high school graduate hasn’t let his disability stop him from living life to the fullest, he tells us. That was a decision he made at age 13 and so far he’s lived up to it – he’s written three books and a stage play and he’s also directed four plays.
“I always tell people that there’s a you in you that makes you be you. Your personality can’t be tainted just because you’re blind. As long as you can adopt a character of acceptance then you’ll be fine. Be the product of your decisions.”
PASSION FOR WRITING
Kamogelo is particularly proud of his latest book, Strong Woman, which he self-published. The book explores the hardships women face in polygamous relationships. It was inspired by his mother’s life.
“My mother was born into a polygamous marriage and married into one. There are certain challenges that she went through and they’re highlightedin the book,” he tells us.
His mother, Mariam, is pictured on the book’s cover. Kamogelo adds that while he grew up in a culture that practiced the custom, his family wasn’t negatively affected by it.
Strong Woman is his first English-language book, a decision he took in order to reach a wider audience. His passion for writing began in his teenage years when he discovered books like Es’kia Mphahlele’s memoir, Down Second Avenue.
“I attended a workshop on it and I just fell in love with writing.” He credits Thobela FM presenter Happiness Thomo Maake for his inspiring words which took him from being an aspiring writer to actually sitting down and writing.
“I’ve never met him but I wish to do so, someday.”
Kamogelo’s first book Sebatakgomo, a collection of short stories, was published in 2013. His second book, a poetry anthology, is titled Mpepumpepu and was published in 2014. Both are in Sepedi.
His newest book was written on a laptop with the help of special software. His previous books were written with his brother’s help.
“I’d write a rough draft in Braille while I was at school and at home he’d write it on paper for me,”Kamogelo says.
When he’s not writing he’s often tinkling on a different kind of keyboard– he’s also a keen pianist.
Despite his accomplishments, Kamogelo says people in his community still aren’t used to being around a blind person.
“People aren’t used to people who are blind. It’s surprising even here in my community. When I go out to buy bread I know everyone will be looking at me. I’ve gotten used to it,” he says.
“But I actually think my disability is advantageous because people see me writing books along with everything else I do,and they’re amazed that I’m able to do it.”
Growing up with a sighted twin brother wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t easy for Kamogelo’s brother Edwin either. Edwin used to question why his brother was blind and he wasn’t, he recalls.
“I got no answers but the older I got I realised that it was God’s doing and only He knows why.”
Kamogelo endured his share of being bullied, but he was often the one who’d stand up for both of them, Edwin says. Now, as a young adult, Kamogelo lives away from his family, who stay in Daveyton in the Ekurhuleni municipality of Gauteng.
“It’s hard for them that I’m not around, but family sometimes stagnates your growth,” the author says. “I also knew that moving to Pretoria was going to push me out of my comfort zone,” he explains.
Being blind has its advantages, he tells us.
“I don’t have to see the nonsense that everybody sees,” he says with a laugh.
Working as a blind writer and playwright isn’t cheap. Kamogelo’s government aid grant is barely enough to cover his needs as well as his publishing and stage production costs, such as his laptop.Undeterred, Kamogelo is propelled by his desire to constantly develop himself.
“I’ve actually realised that my disability is advantageous because whenever I do something people are always keen to be part of it. I don’t want to be a burden, nor do I want people to support me out of pity, but I want to show people that the sky’s not the limit.”
“My friends who are blind are afraid of approaching girls who aren’t blind, but I’ve moved on from that fear.” He steadfastly holds true to his mantra: “The true disability is a bad attitude.”