Ba re e ne re is an organization which enriches the lives of the Basotho people in the southern African nation of Lesotho by promoting increased literacy, creative writing and artistic exchange between creatives in Lesotho, Basotho outside of Lesotho and creatives from other cultures. Translated from Sesotho language, the words “Ba re e ne re” mean “They say it was said that…” This phrase is a Basotho equivalent of “Once upon a time…” and is how many Sesotho folktales begin.
Ba re e ne re’s flagship project is the annual Ba re e ne re Literature Festival. This is a multi-day event that brings together hundreds of people from a variety of backgrounds and ages including writers, editors, publishers, poets, students, artists, educators and expatriates to engage about and share literary arts content. Activities include a keynote address, performances, panel discussions, bookmaking activities for children, a practice-oriented writing workshops.
To get young Basotho excited about their language, Ba re e ne re has demonstrated the descriptive power and innovative growth of Sesotho through the BA RE Dictionary Project. This project introduces and catalogs new Sesotho words with definitions and example sentences. Ba re e ne re’s audience is encouraged to share their own creative sentences with these new words and suggest their own words. The words are often influenced by slang, afro-futurism, new technology and complex emotions.
Ba re e ne re also engages in literacy research as a member of the Another Roadmap for Arts Education network. This is a community of arts educators and practitioners from around the world who share research and collaborate on projects with the aim of making arts education more inclusive and locally-oriented rather than replicating foreign frameworks and practices.
Ba re e ne re engages Basotho students through writing competitions and spelling bees hosted in schools. In the writing competitions, students are encouraged to think creatively about a topic and respond with a piece of original writing. For the spelling bee students spell both English and Sesotho words at the school level and the highest performers compete in a National Spelling Bee. Winners of the competitions are awarded prizes and honored publicly. Student writing competitions and bees are facilitated with the support of the US Peace Corps.