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Dema is making waves internationally

Publishing Date : 25 May, 2015

Author : ANGELA MDLALANI


Internationally published poet and arts administrator TJ Dema is off to yet another busy start off. Earlier this year, she opened the first in a series of the Goethe-Institute’s Literary Crossroads, a reading and discussion program in Johannesburg, she also read in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.


The globetrotting Dema is making waves internationally as always, if her current line up is anything to go by. She will go on to participate in more events in Germany, South Africa and Colombia.


She was recently in Zagreb, Croatia where she read alongside poets from China, Albani and Bosnia at the invitation of curator and translator Tomica Basjic on behalf of PEN Croatia from 6-12 May.


This week, she read at another event, as part of a contingent of select African poets at the opening night of a series of literary events in honour of Africa month, from the 20th to 22nd May.  She will then go on to grace the Deutschland from 28 May to 2 June, for another reading at the opening of the 16th Poetry on the road festival in Bremen. While in Germany, she will also read for 5 other events, including for high school students and for the University of Bayreuth’s festival opening night.


Dema is known for her contribution in working with youth. She mentored the all female national champions for the British Council’s Power in the voice initiative and has been a guest writer for Warwick University’s International Gateway for Gifted Youth.


In July, Dema will be in Colombia from the 11th to 19th where she will participate in one of the largest annual poetry festivals in the world. She has been recently translated into Spanish and the work will be made available for Colombian audiences.


Dema has read in and facilitated workshops in places including Washington, Iowa, Delhi, Berlin, Copenhagen, Pittsburgh, Dhaka, Stockholm, London, Paris, Rio as well as around the Southern African region. She works mainly with teenagers in schools, first year undergraduates, asylum and detention centres as well as after school programs with a literary focus.


TJ Dema is arguably not only Botswana’s leading contemporary poet but the most locally and internationally celebrated in the context of Botswana’s literary arts history. She is also a literary programmer, workshop facilitator and occasional editor, voice over artist and arts administrator.


She is founder of Sauti A&PM, an arts administration organisation, the first and only of its kind in Botswana. The organisation hosts literary activities, has recorded various Batswana poets on CD, and through the support of the African Poetry Book Fund donated hundreds of contemporary poetry books and journals by award winning writers to the Gaborone Public Library which led to the opening of a poetry reading room, and representing leading poets.


A number of emerging poets continue to earn their stripes under the Lancaster University alumna and honorary fellow of Iowa University’s informal tutelage and mentorship.  Locally, she has also chaired the University of Botswana Writers Association.


Dema remains a highly sought after speaker and trainer on deportment and etiquette, having trained some of Botswana’s leading international models and beauty queens on various elements ranging from modelling, stage presence and articulation. High profile names like Kaone Kario, Emma Wareus, Nature Inger and Tapiwa Preston have all gone through her hands.


Her latest book, Mandible (2014) was published by Slapering Hol Press in association with the African Poetry Book Fund, Prairie Schooner and The Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Monroe Institute Poets in the World Series.

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