Mmakgosi Tau: Choose a cause that is closest to your heart

Mmakgosi Ophadile Anita Tau is a performing, recording and literary arts specialist who recently released her poetry single titled “Popcorns.” She recorded a Jazz ensemble album in Pretoria, South Africa with “It Has to be Jazz,” in 2016.

Mmakgosi is currently a scriptwriter for the ‘Colors’ Drama Series which is in production. Previously, she was the Head Scriptwriter for ‘Property 4U Television Show’.  Mmakgosi also co-founded  Sekei girls and MO Scripts which are both Arts activism organizations.

As a mental health awareness advocate, Mmakgosi fuses performing arts and film to sensitize people on mental health issues and social concerns. She also has an annual show, “Mmakgosi Live,” which raises awareness and funds for her initiatives.

Mmakgosi loves travelling, networking, experiencing different cultures and sharing her truth through film. Her passion has seen her perform across Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa. 

What led you to becoming a poet?

Destiny! My life is a composition of God’s gifts bundled up to serve humanity.


Poetry is a medium that has cultivated my oratory skills, boldness, creativity, confidence and mental agility. I perceive poetry as my springboard, a channel that has pieced together the fragments of my purpose in life.

My first poem was published at the age of ten and I have never put the pen down since. Art is the truth that enables me to live through words and create works that change lives.

In art, there is no oppression or grief. There is healing, power and although personal, art has a ripple effect of impacting other people’s lives. I survived and overcame bipolar and depression through writing. It is through writing that I have found my purpose in life.

Art has a ripple effect of impacting other people’s lives - Mmakgosi Tau Click To Tweet

Tell us about the social impact you’ve created through your work.

My art is a healing platform for every unspoken emotion that my fellow countrymen have been subjected to. It’s a collage of different art forms that enable artists to collaborate and generate income as a united front.

Being vocal about overcoming bipolar and depression has catapulted me to platforms that reach masses of people. People from all walks of life can relate to my experiences and draw inspiration to rise triumphantly in the midst of their trials.

This has allowed me to encourage and counsel those I speak to about mental health. It has also sparked conversations about patients, the mental health care system and policy refinement.

Have people been receptive to your art or work?

Yes, I find that the years I’ve spent writing, reciting and dreaming were all building my audience.

My storytelling comes in the form of various art mediums and which have pleased the souls they ministered to. My short films have received positive reviews, so has the “Words Unspoken,” album and my latest single “Popcorns.”

I cherish everyone who has granted me the opportunity to take them on a journey with my mind and words powered by the Holy Spirit.

What challenges have you faced in an industry that is not popular in regards to our context?

Firstly, as a professional poet, I found my art used to cost me more than it made me. Though people love poetry, not all of them consider the depth of its monetary, social and holistic intrinsic value.

As a tool for social advocacy, poetry is an art that attracts those waging wars on social ills. Despite not feeling the gender disparities in poetry, I realized that there were few women writers and directors in the film industry. I opted to study this course because I wanted to bridge the gap and influence more young women to pursue careers in filmmaking.

Thirdly, creating awareness for mental health issues is difficult when there are financial limitations. There are not many corporate social investment policies that fund mental health campaigns and tours.

What fears did you overcome to get into the business?

  • Taking risks, which I now do almost daily
  • Rigorous networking
  • Bearing my scars in their nakedness to the world
  • Not being able to spend time with my family

What were your biggest regrets and biggest achievements?

My biggest regret was not attending the five international invitations I received in 2017 to perform and facilities workshops. It moved me to realize that my work has captivated the hearts of art enthusiasts around the world.

Yet, I learned to accept the things I cannot change, and when I don’t have the strength to do that, it’s God I look to. I am a firm believer in my intentional God and know that my life is ordered by His authority.

My biggest achievement was my first ever live show held on 8th September 2017. For a long time, I organized shows for people, performed for various audiences yet never once held my own exclusive poetry show of this magnitude.

It is my greatest achievement because it signified my evolution from being a poet combating social ills. Botswana’s Minister of Health and Wellness, Honorable Dorcas Makgato, officially launched me as a mental health activist.

The show was a fusion of poetry, film, music, fine art and fashion. I collaborated with various artists of great repute. I also made powerful connections that relayed my intentions to the people I was born to serve.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to venture into creative arts as a business?

Recognize your value, gifts and potential before you expect the world to do that - Click To Tweet

Once you do, never sell yourself short for anything or anyone. Empower your mind, read and research about strategic tools that will position your brand purposively to your target audience.

Don’t ever think like an artist when you handle business deals. I struggled with that for a while, when I had merchandise it always wound up as someone’s gift. Creativity is impulse and spirit oriented. What you give freely with your art is not a trait you need in your business.

As a creative, choose a cause that is closest to your heart. Pour into it with your intellect, resources and as you grow, sow into it financially. Learn from other established creatives but also take the time to mentor those who are rising.

Finally, develop some self-discipline. Take care of yourself with the knowledge that you are the brand, however, do not splurge unnecessarily.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Hanna Ali: Through my short stories, I hope that Somalis will connect to feelings of uprootedness

Hanna Ali is a writer, poet, teaching fellow and so much more. She is the first contemporary author to publish her collection of short stories in Somali.

Through her book “Sheekadii noloshayada”(The Story of us), she never shies away from controversial topics, while she proves that where there is pain, there is beauty.

She explores the themes of home and (un)belonging in her creative works, and captures the unspoken tensions and hopes of displaced people, therefore, it’s only apt that her work is accessible to the entirety of the Somali diaspora and beyond. 

Having shared her insights on how to stay relevant as a creative writer during an SLA Facebook Live, Hanna talks extensively about her writing and her decision to publish in Somali instead of English language.

Why is it important for you to publish in Somali?

I think it’s powerful to say that I am a Somali author who has been translated to Somali. Buying my short stories is much bigger than myself and it’s about supporting this incredibly amazing movement of bringing modern stories in indigenous African languages.

Market FiftyFour has given me an incredible platform to publish in Somali and I was attracted to the notion that African stories in African languages matter. They matter because we exist, and we not only deserve but demand brand new, contemporary stories in the indigenous languages. 

Your work covers themes of displacement, fracture, uprootedness. Why are these important themes for you?

These are important themes for me because I was a child refugee, and the experiences that I have had of course affect my work.

I also think that a great deal of Africans and of course others in the West do feel a sense of displacement as part of the diaspora experience and the notion that you don’t quite fit in anywhere.

Through my short stories, I hope that people (Somalis in particular), will connect to feelings of uprootedness and to know that they’re not alone in their life experiences.


There is a poetic ring to your prose, and you consider yourself first and foremost a poet. What is it that draws you to poetry?

Poetry, for me, is very raw and it’s a genre that always sticks with me; poems have a way of hitting you hard in that pit in the bottom of your stomach and unearthing all the tense feelings that we carry.

My short stories were created out of my poetry and the intent is for my stories to read like poetry in the sense that I want it to be raw and vulnerable and full of meanings that hopefully anyone can relate to and draw from.

Do you have a routine to get into writing? What space do you get into for you to be creative?

I find that I write at the most random time, whether it’s convenient or not! Sometimes it’s waking up from a dream at 3 am and making notes on my phone, other times it’s whilst working on something else.

I wish that I could say that sitting down with a big cup of tea and soft music at home is the magic trick that wills my mind into writing but mostly you just take what you can get.

Having said that, most of my best writing has come from sitting outside on a warm day or night so maybe that’s my secret after all; fresh air and warmth.

Since storytelling is very important in Somali culture, how do you draw inspiration from your Somali roots in your stories?

I draw inspiration from my Somali roots simply because I am a Somali who was born in Somalia and who speaks Somali. 

I grew up in Europe and therefore my culture is all around me, I’d say it’s hard to not draw inspiration from it!

A lot of the topics you tackle are contentious, how important was it for you to veer away from conventional and safe topics?

Nothing about me has ever been “safe” or “conventional” and so, of course, my writings have no place being in that sort of category.

I wouldn’t necessarily claim that I went out of my way to write contentious topics, but I do think it’s important for any writer to speak their truth and to let their creative imagination take them to where it needs to go to organically by not having an agenda per se but an idea.

Also, safe and conventional just oozes out boredom and I hope that my writing is anything but boring.

How do you make sure that your writing skills improve?

I think that it’s very important for writers to be well-read and to take themselves outside of the bubble of writing by reading different genres and writing styles.

Sometimes when you’re in a writing phase, you tend to lose yourself inside of an imaginary world so reading lots and taking time out to focus solely on my doctoral studies helps me to then come back to my creative work with a new perspective.

I also find that there are always going to be bad first drafts and accepting that is an important way to improve.

What is your advice to young African female writers on getting published?


My advice is put yourself forward and apply to as many writing competitions as possible alongside online magazines and other creative platforms that are continually looking for submissions.

It’s important to know that rejection is an essential part of any creative work and that you should never let that steer you from your goal.

Ultimately, you must be the greatest believer in yourself and your work and eventually, the world will catch up as well. Just do it!