Botlhodi jwa Nta ya Tlhogo (1985) is Tiroentle Bafana Pheto’s major debut Setswana novel. It is a remarkable literary offering which alludes to an important historical moment of British colonialism and its dire consequences in Botswana.
It is a fiction of resistance that teaches us that colonialism equally affected Botswana just like other countries elsewhere in Africa. It is set in Molepolole and it chronicles actual events that happened after the arrival of British missionaries and colonial administrators in Botswana. Clearly, religion was one of the major tools used to indoctrinate and control the people and traditional systems that the missionaries had found existing among the Bakwena.
The protagonist, Modiko experiences a challenging situation; he is caught between the likes of his converted father who believes traditional ways are sinful, he is also a pastor of the Motlhaoetla church which was formed by the villagers. On the contrary, Modiko also has to deal with his grandfather who believes in tradition. Another challenge that Modiko grapples with as a protagonist is that he experiences some illusions and nightmares that are clearly motivated by the teachings from his church and illustrations of hellfire.
Other characters in the novel that confront the protagonist include the chief and the missionary, also a medical doctor Dr. Lovelace. Placing our emphasis on the protagonist does not mean that other characters featured in the novel are not significant, the author uses them at times casually and through humor to develop some major themes of the novel. For example, we read about the interesting war stories about of the men who were conscripts as they carry their daily conversations.
The consistent use of humorous language in the novel is an important feature that gives this work its identity as a Setswana novel. It also uses rich Setswana expressions and descriptions that describe Molepolole at the time. The author further develops a very complex narrative and plot that does not align to the western conventions or mainstream literary aesthetics. In reading the novel closely, readers get to learn that one of the key characteristics of colonialism in Africa was that its institutions were not democratic.
They also learn that power can be abused by those who have it, but also such can be challenged. This can be seen through some events of the novel which highlight on the exploitation of Batswana and their resources for the benefit of Europe. For example, the novel talks about Batswana men who were conscripted to go and fight during the historic second world war. Some characters engage in conversations that question the whole idea of conscripting men to go and fight at a war that did not concern them, fighting for the people who were responsible for the unfortunate and painful experience of colonialism.
The whole notion of ‘civilization of Africans’ is questioned, especially if it comes from the idea that some civilizations and cultures are backward and lack sophistication. The novel further shows how religious assimilation was used to destabilize traditional institutions including as that of Bogosi, especially in situations where the traditional leaders such as the Kings had converted to this new religion. As depicted in the narrative, when the morafe of the Bakwena showed resistance by opening their own church, which they named Motlhaoetla, -which sort of blends their traditions with Christianity and rejecting the one led by oppressive British missionaries- the followers of Motlhaoetla are severely persecuted at the instruction of the chief and the influence of the missionary, Dr. Lovelace.
Pheto depicts scenes that suggest the extent of violence, corruption, oppression, and inhumanity. He also uses his characters to reject the western impositions. Through this literary work, as readers we are empowered to use characters such as Modiko and Rre Tlholego to juxtapose between tradition and modernity, and further, how in the disguise of witted characters such as Rre Tlholego the author forces us to see the need to locate modernity within tradition. To understand the way of life of Batswana. Characters such as Rre Tlholego are created to emphasize that it is abominable that a man must leave his own culture and follow foreign cultures and beliefs which intentionally pushes his being to the lowest binary.
Clearly, Pheto’s name is counted among the first writers who unapologetically provides literary responses to colonization. According to a postcolonial critic Anne Mcklintok, by definition, ‘colonialism involves direct territorial appropriation of another geo-political entity, combined with forthright exploitation of its resources and labor, and systematic interference in the capacity of the appropriated culture (itself not necessarily a homogenous entity) to organize its dispensations of power’.
The storyline of Botlhodi Jwa Nta ya Tlhogo succeeds at showing the operations of colonization in different settings of the novel, and how they end up creating confusion and division among the Bakwena. It also shows that Bakwena at the time, even though it was not all of them doing so harmoniously, had devised ways to confront and combat imperialism. This novel compares very well with the work done Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o in his A Grain of Wheat which will be reviewed in the future. Concepts like migration and imperialism are redefined critically in relation to a historical moment of colonization. However, Ngugi’s novel focuses in Kenya.
The novel also teaches us about the history of Molepolole and can therefore be viewed as one of the few existing historical fictionalized narratives based on actual events that took place in Botswana. It refers to the Bakwena clans and their interactions with other ethnic groups in Botswana. It also teaches readers about the significance of places like Legaga la Ga Kobokwe, which has been erroneously claimed and referred to by some people as Lingstone’s cave.
The novel also teaches us about boloi or whichcraft practices and beliefs and how they differed depending on an ethic group. In fact, at the end of the novel, witchcraft and modern technological advancements are used by pastors at the end of the novel when the local church is divided. There are many aspects of this novel that can be analyzed and this week’s review was meant to only give you an appreciation of Pheto’s critical commentary in the wake of colonialism.
For example the significance of the abstract artwork used in the cover page hints us a lot about the series of events discussed in the novel. This novel is thus far one of the outstanding novels in African literature written in Setswana. This novel is currently being translated from Setswana into English, under the working title “-The Abomination- A novel of Botswana’s anti-colonial Crisis.” There are plans to write a screenplay and adapt it to film in the future. I was privileged to meet and interview the author of the Botlhodi Jwa Nta ya Tlhogo in Molepolole.
KEITH PHETLHE pursues a Ph.D in Comparative African Literature with a minor in Film Studies from Ohio University, College of Fine Arts. He does research on Postcolonial Theory, Translation, African Languages & Literatures Language Education and Film. email@example.com
Atasaone Molemogi, who goes by the stage name of A.T.I, is yet again making headlines and trending on social media platforms.
The eccentric and somewhat lose cannon artist is under fire for the stunts he pulled early this year. A.T.I had gone over and above to enlighten and fight for Batswana’s rights against according to him, foreigners who have monopolised the country.
So much so Atasaone recorded a video ranting and hurling insults while in front of Satar Dada’s Motor Centre at Fairground Mall. That was one of his many episodes. However, the one that gave him the ‘struggle icon’ persona was when he was arrested for making a video in front of the State House, this landed the dear lad in the cells of Urban Police Station and later transferred to Central Police Station.
Batswana gathered at the Central Police to demonstrate and demand the maverick be released. A.T.I became the Mandela of Botswana, the voice of the voiceless, the Messiah Batswana needed. A.T.I could not become any bigger till another outspoken personality stepped on the stage, Duma Gideon Boko, lawyer and President of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The aberrant lawyer did not disappoint, especially when he flamboyantly swung his gown on like Superman in front of the press. This was the moment, Botswana’s two outspoken and nonconformists were wearing their capes to save the ordinary citizen from years of being subjected to mediocracy.
Molemogi had Batswana believe that indeed they were being treated unfairly in their own country and incited many to take up arms and fight for a better Botswana for Batswana. The people stood rock solid behind the maverick artist.
That is until A.T.I pulled the rug under their feet and went ahead and met Tumiso Rakgare, Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture. The very same Minister he vehemently declined to meet, hell-bent on only having an audience with the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi.
What transpired between Rakgare and A.T.I is not known, but any Tom, Dick and Harry can guess that A.T.I, one way or another, was enticed by something said or done by the Minister because the recluse was as silent as a lamb after the meet.
Now, this publication by no means implies that Rakgare offered Atasaone anything valuable but observing the cries of the masses it may be deducted to something along those lines.All this however happened mid this year and anyone would think that it would be old news and a closed chapter, not to be.
The public cannot for the life of them get over how A.T.I used them to push his agenda and then leave them hanging. A sin unforgiveable in the eyes of Batswana. And so the masses have to have their displeasure made known.
A.T.I has been awarded a new name, Judas Iscariot. The infamous follower of Jesus Christ who sold the latter to the Jews for 30 pieces of silver. Batswana made the reference having deducted that they and their dreams have been sold in the same way Christ was sold off. A.T.I has sabotaged and sold the struggle, for what or how much is still not known.
While people find it hard to understand why ATI threw in the towel, the controversial singer seems unbothered and does not regret anything. He however cited that he is not fond of the name ‘Judas Iscariot’. He further stated that people should understand that it is easy for him to get lost in the midst of everything.
A.T.I shared with this publication that he needed to start somewhere in order to meet the President. He further mentioned to this publication that they discussed how best they can assist the youth and he was telling the Minister about his clothing line, and asking for support from the minister. None of the things mentioned have materialized however.
In his defence he said, “We need to be able to save ourselves before we can be able to save others. People should stop laughing at people who supported me and they should stop calling me Judas Iscariot. The reason why I was going to war when the year began, was because I needed security and I needed our leaders to give me answers.
I was scared I wanted more communication. With time I noticed that I am losing myself. No one told me what to do but I did what I did and I did exactly how l felt it was best,” he said.“A lot of people felt I am their answer, no! I am not anybody’s answer that is why when I was still at it I noticed the saviour mentality. I felt I was back at it again.
I cannot try to save the world all the time. You cannot change the world that don’t see the need to change their mental state.
At the same time the people I am trying to do it for, are still stuck in 89. I did it for the people I needed to do it for and for the truest results to be visible.”
It was not long time ago when she got crowned as Queen, after a series of hard work to take over the crown.
For her it was a journey of learning and a wakeup call at the same time, to put hark work in her reign and to bring the best out of it.
Today, she gave a reflection on becoming Queen and reminisced on what it took for her to complete her reign. The Queen is expected to hang over the crown soon, and to who, we are yet to find out.
When reflecting back on her journey, Oweditse Phirinyane shared with WeekendLife that from the time she got crowned as Queen, there was a form of sisterhood that existed within the contestants.
To an extent whereby they were able to solve their issues amicably without holding grudges.“You know when there is a group of women in one place, people often expect drama. But ours was minimal.
It was more of a sisterhood and our fights were more of sisters. We just solved them and got over them,” she said.Forming part of the contestants meant she had to gird her loins and place herself in a better position to be able to take the crown and ascend the throne as Miss Botswana 2019/20.
“From Phikwe, when SPEDU was taking us on those trips every day. We got lessons, the mere fact that SPEDU was the main sponsor, and they would take us on these long drives, it then occurred to me that this is all for nothing. I had to pay attention to everything that was being said.
My gut said there would be a question on SPEDU. So when we came back, I was ready because I was paying attention and I took time to read the pamphlets that were given to us.”
“So when I took over as Queen, I had a short period to record beauty with a purpose. I had to meet all the Miss World deadlines, I had back to back meetings, interviews and at the same time I had to prepare my wardrobe so it was just crazy. There were no enough sponsors to rely on.
There was no time for delegation of issues. There was no money. I also managed because I had good relationships with designers, as a model and as an individual.”Even though the budget was not enough to cover up her expenses, she had to take care of herself because Miss Botswana did not have money.
Although they assisted where they could, they could not cover half of her wardrobe, not even a quarter. Due to different timelines, and different seasons, she struggled to buy winter clothes for London as it was summer this side, yet it was winter where she was going to compete.
“The shops did not have winter clothes, so it was stressful getting ready for Miss World. That was the most painful part of my reign. You end up settling for things you would not settle for. I then suggested for the next Queen to be crowned earlier.
I wanted to be there for them to form that part of sisterhood. Most of the Queens after their reign they leave because of conflicts. So I wanted to change that,” she said.“If they all meet then I will too because I know the tricks.
The tricks starts here, what is happening in our country and what you have been doing back home. Even if it is not a major thing. Companies, when we come to them and we say ‘support Miss Botswana’, it would not always be about money but making the Queen part of their projects and social responsibility projects.
She has to be there to build her portfolio and those who are watching can see that she is active. There are a lot of events in the country that a Queen can attend.”
Being at Miss World Part of her reign meant her being at Miss World to compete with Queens from all over the globe. Although she anticipating to give her all at Miss World, she was met with disappointment. However, she had a form of sisterhood with other countries to cushion the disappointments that befell her.
“When I left for Miss World I was so exhausted. My mum had to come the previous day to help me pack. I was so exhausted. My body was on shutdown mode. She came because I was just about to break down. I was overwhelmed because I was doing a lot of things. Her presence made me feel better,’’ said Phirinyane.
“I left for London alone and I had a lot of luggage with me at the time. London was my first long trip. So I was sleeping on the way because I did not want to stress about anything. I arrived in London and I saw people from the Embassy waiting for me. And I had to check in at the Tower Hotel.
I did not have a roommate for a week. My roommate was Miss Ethiopia. I grew close to Miss Barbados and Miss Antigua. When my roommate came, she was a headsets girl,”
“Her English was not good even when I needed to converse with her. Our conversation would be short. But what I loved about her was that she would tell me how amazing I was, without fail.”
Although she had initially perceived that she will be competing globally to bring the crown home, she was instead surprised to learn that the finalized where already chosen and they were there to do formalities.
“They already had their finalists based on social media, not the likes and not the followings but the reception and how you are treated back home. The other thing they look at was how valuable pageantry is in your country. That is if they crown you, what they will benefit from your country. It is business at the end of the day,’’ she said.
“Some people would be barely having two weeks and already they are in Top 40. Somehow it would crush me or destroy someone. I would raise my complaints to our team leader that it was not fair. I was in a group with huge countries.
Countries where pageantry is taken seriously. When I didn’t make it to the Top 40 I was shocked. But at the same time I was content and proud that I have done my best.” She stated that she had a lot of projects that she had to do back home, but she could not due to Covid-19 but there were initiatives she engaged in for the betterment of the society.
When she took over she admitted that she was hyped up and pumped up to implement her projects, which she said she will continue doing even after her reign.“I wish I could have done more but I am still proud of what I have done.
I am proud that I never gave up. I hope one day it gets to a point where people understand the beauty of pageantry and the entertainment industry,” said Phirinyane.
The contentious and contagious COVID-19 pandemic has caused many prominent beauty pageants around the world to be cancelled and postponed.
Among the most to be affected were the Miss Botswana 2020 and of course Little Miss Princess of the World, both the local and global events which were cancelled entirely.
A few of these beauty pageants have modified to remove a live audience or to be purely held over teleconference. One protuberant beauty pageant going on this year is the Miss South Africa that will be going down on the 24th October 2020.
Well, that is a story for another day. It is definitely a golden year and we can’t complain much because Botswana’s five Little Miss Princesses of the World have been recognized internationally and honoured among the Teen Top 100 Young Talented of the World 2020 by Fabuk Magazine.
Fabuk Magazine is a fashion and lifestyle publication which is distributed to many of the leading fashionably trendy destinations all over the world. The major countries for overseas distributions are UK, France, Turkey and USA amongst others.
The magazine is on-hand at most major events such as fashion and red carpet shows, international festivals for fashion and tourism shows.Undeniably the most artistic and dazzling, Katlo Ratau made the list of Botswana’s keen princesses to ever join the Miss Little Princess of the World pageant which was held in Bulgaria at the time of her reign.
A Form 4 student at Delta Waters International School in Maun, she participated in the pageant in 2016 and went home slightly thwarted after being crowned 1st runner up at an outstanding occasion held at the GICC.
Well coincidentally for her, she had a chance to travel to Europe with other Princesses and came to blows with similarly incredible girls from the entire world. She effortlessly sailed through to the finals and was crowned an ultimate winner through her ease composure and radiance.
Joining other Princesses of the World from Botswana was Anke Nkwe. At the age of 12 years, she is already setting bars to be recognized globally as a shining star. Perhaps Botswana will be doing the most at the Miss World in the near feature.
This little dynamite joined the pageant in 2017 and only made it to Top 8 and never hesitated to come back again the following year to claim what belonged to her. She was crowned Miss Congeniality and scooped the second place.
In beauty pageants, Miss Congeniality is usually determined by the votes of other contestants, as being that girl that whom they regard as the most pleasant or kind among other competitors. Nkwe is also a model for the Diamond Pageantry Academy.
With a sterling and authentic record of beauty pageantry, Koketso Gulubane has been selected among the Teen Top 100 Young Talented of the World 2020. She was once crowned Little Miss Independence and participated in the Little Miss Princess of the World twice, in 2015 and 2016 only to finish in Top 5.
At one point she joined Junior Miss Botswana and Miss Teen Botswana where she won numerous awards that include Miss Photogenic, Miss Congeniality.Little Miss Princesses of the World 2019 were not there to add numbers.
The reigning Queen Janet McIntosh and her second runner up Crystal Mokgaotsa were selected among the Top 100 Most Talented teens. At the age of 10 and earning her stripes already, Mokgaotsa was the winner of Best Talent at the pageant.
If these young girls could be nurtured and groomed from these ages, we can have a story to tell at the Miss World or Miss Universe pageants. We have been failing grimly because the girls go out to participate when they are never ready, something that is killing the reputation of the Miss Botswana organization softly.
The reining Little Miss Princess of the World Botswana, McIntosh, joined the pageant in 2016 where she failed to make it to Top 10. She made a huge comeback in 2019 and easily earned her crown. In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, founder of Miss Little Princess of the World Botswana, Tebogo Lebanna said when participating at the world stage, their main focus is the Botswana culture and tourism, which has proven to do wonders for them.
“This has been our secret ingredient. European and American countries are stunned by our culture and tourism and that is something we strive to promote on other platforms post this COVID-19 pandemic. Our culture is rich and as much as it is dynamic, the world loves to see that”
She added that they also outshine other countries in talent exhibition, saying that they have joined forces with Mophato Dance Theatre, a group that helps in teaching the girls traditional dance skills and dance presence.