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Mokeki’s road to stardom



MASERU – OFTEN, rookie actors feel anxious and sometimes even freeze at auditions early in their careers. But not Rantsatsi Mokeki. The 27-year old Roma-based ambitious actor says he aced it when he first appeared for auditions as a novice about five years ago.

“The problem was the actual acting,” he recalled. ” After my impressive tryouts, I was given roles that required me to flirt or to be intimate with beautiful women,” said Mokeki, himself a good looking young man.

“My heart rate would go up and I would start sweating and shaking to an extent that I would forget my instructions and lines on the script. A romantic role that involved dancing with a gorgeous woman almost made me want to call it quits,” Mokeki said.

This phenomenon is called caligynephobia or venustraphobia. It is the fear of beautiful women beyond the normal level of fear and an affected individual can have full-blown panic attacks or may embarrass themselves at the mere thought of meeting or talking to good-looking women.

Mokeki recalls a role to dance with Lineo Matlole, a model and an aspiring actress in a film titled “Thoughts” that was never released.

The dance required him to embrace the beautiful woman, chest to chest, and looking at each other closely in the eyes in a near kiss position.

Mokeki recalls being afraid to embrace Matlole during the dance.

“My hands were flying away from her body while she was confidently hugging me. I totally embarrassed myself on that day.”

“I was shaking and my knees were knocking against each other. I sweated profusely to an extent that my shirt had to be changed because I couldn’t use it for the next shoot. The shirt was dripping sweat,” Mokeki reminisced with a chuckle.

The director ended up giving him a lesser role because he could not cope with flirting with Matlole, the raving beauty of the cast.

However, Mokeki outgrew the fear of beautiful women with time and got roles in several other films locally and later had some stints with Rhythm City as an extra.

He is now directing a series running on Lesotho Television titled “Mali a Borena”.

Mokeki, a social worker by qualification from the National University of Lesotho (NUL), reckons he fell in love with acting at a very young age.

He said he started acting in small dramas at primary school and continued with the journey throughout his high school days.

After graduating from high school, he expressed his desire to pursue an acting career to his parents.

“They didn’t want to hear any of it. They viewed acting as an unstable job that would land me into poverty,” he recalled.

That was not a surprise given Mokeki’s upbringing. He grew up in a poor family where his parents could not afford to buy him new clothes and he had to rely on handouts from relatives and friends.

“Their fear that an acting career would keep the cycle of poverty marching unabated in the family, generation after generation, was justified. They wanted their son to go to university and find a job that would earn him a lot of money,” said Mokeki, who went on to study social work.

But the actor in him refused to die.

In his third year at university, Mokeki started sniffing for acting opportunities and he attended auditions for Our Times, a soap opera that ran on Lesotho Television for a short time but stopped because of lack of funds.
Mokeki did not succeed.

“But I knew that all I had to do was to audition a lot because doing one audition is not enough. I was only grateful that I got to experience what the auditions are.”

The next auditions, in which he impressed the directors were for Thoughts where he was to play a role of a boy from a wealthy family but had to switch roles because he could not cope with the role of flirting with beautiful young women.

“That was when I realised that an actor only celebrates when starting another new project not after shooting a first one.”

After graduating from university, Mokeki decided to give his all to the acting and film industry. “It has not been easy but I strived because I realised that I would’nt manage to balance formal work and doing film. So I chose not to look for any other job but to focus on film.”

It was at this time in 2020 when he went to South Africa to try his luck, and fortunately directors of Rhythm City spotted him and he was picked for minor roles.

Unfortunately Covid-19 struck and lockdowns were imposed, leaving him with no other means of survival.

Three months later he returned to Lesotho. Back home, Mokeki had to face another challenge.

A lot of people had seen him acting, albeit as an extra, in the Rhythm City soapie and they looked at him in high regard. They did not know that he was broke and had no idea of where or how to start to re-knit his life.

“I went to a rural village, hid there where people did not know me and could not associate me with anyone they saw on television,” he said.

He landed a job there looking after chickens.

“I knew I couldn’t hide forever, I had to face the challenges so I gave myself a timeline.”

A few months later when he went back to his home someone introduced him to Aubrey Silinyana, a South African film producer who spearheads the annual Moshoeshoe I Film Festival.

Silinyana gave him a job as a coordinator for the festival and a host for workshops about film making.

“This is when I revived my passion for film and acting.”

Silinyana took him to various places in South Africa, including an annual film festival in Rustenburg.

“I learned more about acting, directing, and cinematography,” he said of the experience.

It is during this time when he was still working with the Moshoeshoe Film Festival crew that he was approached by ’Mateboho Production to direct Season Two of Mali a Borena.
He is currently filming Season Three of the same project.
“The fact that I am working with people who are older than me was a bit of a challenge at first but I am happy that they respect me as their director,” he said.

“I am enjoying the process because at the end of the day we see progress.”

His film coordinating jobs, he says, exposed him to many things and gave him experience despite his young age.

He also worked on a project in eSwatini as a producer and has rubbed shoulders with industry gurus such as Jerry Mofokeng.

At the Eswatini Project, he also got a gig as a cast coordinator for the day-to-day filming.

“I learned so much from them because it was one of the biggest production companies around and I cherished the opportunity.”

With his recently founded Bert Films company, Mokeki believes he is now “in a position where I can start producing movies of my own”.

“I want something greater, that is why I am hoping that in the next few years my company will be up and running in collaboration with my fellow filmmakers,” he said.

He admits that acting comes with a fair share of challenges “but with dedication and support from others one can make it in the industry”.

“It requires patience and dedication,” he said.

Mokeki believes Lesotho’s topography is so good that given enough attention and investment “we can equal the Hollywood scenario”.

Mpolai Makhetha

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