O itse mang kwa o yang teng, Rre Goitsemang?
O tsoga o roka mphatshane
Tsela e lebile kae?
Pela e tlhokile mogatla ka lona lebaka la go roma
E seng wena Goitsemang, Oh oh
O mogwebi ka eng?
O rwele kobo ya gouta mo magetleng

Mokgatla, Moitseanape wa tsele le tsele
Mojadiphiri tsa motse, Khupamarama
E le mohumi , mausausa a matlhale
Motsereganyi le dintweng tsa bana bampa
Se re swele setu, se hulare
Oh oh, Goitsemang

Ntekwane o ngwaga di kae, ruri go itse mang?
Basadi le bana ba tlhoname
Gatwe mpuru o faretswe
Mminakgabo o thintse noka
O reletse a leleka dikgogo
Tlhogoputswa Goitsemang, Oh oh
O se ome nko
O ngeba le fa ale mo maidi-iding


Who do you know where you are going, Mr Goitsemang?
You awake and sew your leather sandles
Where is the road leading to?
The Dassie has no tail because of sending others*1
But not you, Goitsemang
What do you trade in?
You’re wearing a robe of gold on your shoulders*2

A Mokgatla man, an expert in all manner of things*3
An eater of village secrets, keeping lips sealed
A wealthy man, rich in wisdom
An mediator even in feuds of children of the same womb*4
Do not be silent, do not desert us
Oh oh, Goitsemang

How old are you? Indeed, who knows?
Women and children are saddened
A calf is stuck in the birth canal during its mother’s labour*5
Mminakgabo has sprained his hip *6
He slipped chasing chickens
Gray-haired Goitsemang
May your nose not dry up*7
He smiles even when in delirium

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GOITSEMANG: A song inspired by an unforgettable, most charming elderly man who was one of my patients. He’d broken his hip from a fall sustained while chasing chickens from his kitchen. I’d forgotten his name and never got the chance to go back and find out. This gave birth to a story about an elder known and loved by everyone in a rural village. No one knows his age, not even he, but he seems to have outlived everyone. He’s just broken his hip after a fall and appears to be on his last leg (excuse the pun!), to the horror and shock of his community. Go itse mang? means “who knows” and is a popular name within the Batswana cultures.

*1 From a folk tale where the dassie never got a tail when God was giving them out because he asked others to bring him one instead of going himself. Our Goitsemang isn’t like that but carries out his own tasks.

*2 In Setswana the poor are said to be those wearing blankets so small/short they only cover their shoulders. Although Goitsemang is one such a man in terms of material wealth, his is one that is made of gold as he is rich in wisdom, kindness, love, stature and virtue.

*3 One of a clan within the Batswana tribe who have the Monkey (Kgabo) as their totem animal are referred to as Bakgatla.

*4 There is a saying that states one shouldn’t intervene in a feud between siblings. Goitsemang, however, has the special authority to do just that.

*5 This saying describes a dire, worrisome state of affairs

*6 One of a clan whose totem animal is monkey: he who “dances monkey”

*7 One’s nose is said to have dried when one is dead