Connect with us
Advertisement

Botlhodi Jwa Nta ya Tlhogo : A Novel of Botswanas anti-colonial Crisis

Book Review
Keith Phetlhe © 2018

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. kp406314@ohio.edu

Continue Reading

WeekendLife

Dr Lame Pusetso comes to writer’s rescue

20th March 2023

Multi award winning author of fifteen (15) books, Dr Lame Pusetso has put together a platform to empower local writers. Dr Pusetso is a President and Chairperson of the Executive Board of Kasapa Society.

She is also the Managing Director of Poeticblood Publishers and an owner of an online bookstore dubbed Mind and Soul Bookstores. Dr Pusetso has reiterated her commitment to helping upcoming authors, writers and poets in establishing their crafts and capitalizing on them.

In an exclusive interview this week, she said that she has put together a platform dubbed Botswana Literature Awards, which have fourteen categories.

When quizzed on what the awards stand for, Dr Pusetso said “writing as a form of art in Botswana is a skill that many have and have always been exploring. As a publisher, I have met different writers from all walks of life and some indicating that there isn’t enough motivation to keep going.”

In Botswana and according to the writer, there has been a limited representation of appreciation of authors. This is despite their efforts year in year out.

The whole intention of these awards really is to honor and recognize the hard work that local authors put in, when doing what they know best (writing).

“This is a way of appreciating their creativity and we will be doing this across all genres. The awards also act as a motivational tool to young writers who still have dreams of becoming best selling authors. Quite frankly, their works are of great importance and we cannot afford to let that slide like that.”

Dr Pusetso emphasized that all the winners will walk away with an award, a certificate and complimentary gifts to take home. “The two winners of Best Overall Author and Best Young Author will in addition receive book publication deals which includes book distribution and marketing for a year.

She gave a clearer picture of how authors can be a part of the literature awards.

“The awards are open to every author from the age of 7, must be a Motswana, and their book should have been published before or by 2022. For authors with more than one book, they are allowed to compete with only one book for one category, and different books for different categories.”

The young writer pinned hope on institutional collaborations, in order to stage the second edition of the awards next year, saying “We believe with these awards, the different institutions and stakeholders will show interest in helping nurture the literature scenario in Botswana.”

“It will also give authors hope and light to keep writing and penning down their stories for the benefit of all. We anticipate to host the next edition in 2024 with assistance from all interested parties.”

THE LITERATURE AWARDS CATEGORIES

Dr Pusetso stressed that there are fourteen (14) categories, and they are: Religious or Faith Based Book, Poetry Book, Children’s Book, Multi-lingual Writer, Best Collaboration, Setswana Novel, English Novel, Motivational Book, Best Young Author (7-13), Overall Best Author, Best Theory, Best Online Writer, Best Media Writer (Honor Award) and Honor Award (Long Serving Best Author).

EXPLAINING SPECIAL AWARDS

Best Media and Honor Award, Dr Pusetso said are not based on submissions but nomination by the committee. “For Honor Award, we want to appreciate the individual who has inspired the Botswana writing scenario over the years and even assisted numerous authors as both a writer and a community leader.”

The Best Media Writer award is meant to appreciate a journalist who is actively taking part in appreciating and helping authors in marketing, advertising and affording them a platform to showcase their works through their writing skills.

Meanwhile, the Botswana Literature Awards will be held on the 29th April and they are partially sponsored through the literacy grant. This is a grant under the Botswana National Library Services which falls under the Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sports and Culture.

Continue Reading

WeekendLife

Women’s Awards hit the ground running

20th March 2023

The second edition of the much-anticipated Women’s Awards Botswana will be going down on the 27th May 2023 in Gaborone at Travel Lodge. The organizers of the prestigious awards have announced finalists, with three nominees per category.

Women’s Awards Botswana is established to empower women and celebrate them from all walks of life and across sectors. The awards raise awareness for women to be granted equal participation, particularly in decision-making positions, as one way of breaking the gender bias.

They also seek to celebrate the outstanding achievements of women from diverse industries in Botswana. Taking a closer look at the categories, He for She award celebrates and shines a light on men who stand and support women.

These are men who advocate for inclusion of women, men who stand against GBV and men who promote any service that can better women life. Her Abilities award looks into women who have shown determination to keep moving and achieve any goal they have set for themselves, regardless of their disability.

Other awards are self-explanatory. They celebrate women in arts, culture and entertainment, agriculture, creativity, innovation and technology, tourism and hospitality, community impact as well as organization supporting women.

ORGANIZER SPEAKS ON CRITERIA USED

When speaking in an interview, Founder and Director of Women’s Awards Botswana, Bofelo Zebe, said in their first edition, they had fifteen categories, which was enough for a piloting project.

“But we left out many industries or lines of work. After the event, we received reviews and suggestions, and there was an intensive evaluation that led to us increasing the categories to eighteen for this second edition.”

He said the nominees were voted in by the public, adding that the finalists were judged by a panel with the support of votes from their supporters.

When shedding light on what winners take home, Zebe indicated that there is an award trophy, certificate and goodie bags for all categories but “we are working to have financial sponsors jump on board so that winners and nominees can receive monetary incentives. We are also busy at work trying to retain our previous sponsors.”

THE 2023 WOMEN’S AWARDS BOTSWANA NOMINEES

HE FOR SHE AWARD

Desmond Lunga, Tlhabo Kgosiemang and Christopher Seagateng

BEST WOMAN IN ARTS, CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT

Ditshupo Mosoboloko, Thanolo Keutlwile and Seneo Mabengano

HER ABILITIES AWARD

Koketso Seleke, Goabo Kgasa and Mumsie Odirile

SPORTS WOMAN OF THE YEAR

Naledi Marape, Ouname Mhotsha and Keamogetse Kenosi

WOMAN FASHION DESIGNER OF THE YEAR

Montle Rantatana, Lesedi Matlapeng and Trudy Bakwena

BEST WOMAN IN AGRICULTURE

Nomathemba Masuku, Basadi Molelekeng and Keolebogile Keabetswe

BEST WOMAN IN CREATIVITY, INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY

Marang Mbaakanyi, Didintle Moreki and Thandeka Palai

BEST WOMAN IN TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY

Masego Keleadile, Wapula Matshambane and Tshepo Phokoje

YOUNG WOMAN OF THE YEAR

Bridget Gothaang, Waone Makobo and Kimberly Matheakgomo

WOMAN OWNED SME BUSINESS OF THE YEAR

Suits Africa, Nomlu Nail Bar and Sunflower Desserts

BEST WOMAN OWNED BUSINESS

Prezlin Clothing and Dawn Bell Academy

FEMALE MUSIC ARTIST OF THE YEAR

Mpho Sebina, Dato Seiko and Priscilla K

BEST ORGANIZATION SUPPORTING WOMEN

Sekao Foundation, The Fighters Support Group and Single Mothers Living with HIV

BEST WOMAN WITH COMMUNITY IMPACT

Lebopo Bulayani, Nanzelela Chaitezvi and Kebadile Wasenda

MEDIA WOMAN OF THE YEAR

Poppy Sello, Keikantse Shumba and Kedi Lezozo

FAVOURITE PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR

Marang Selolwane, Palesa Molefe and Masi Sithole

BEST WOMAN IN LEADERSHIP

Naseem Lahri, Neo Bogatsu and Lily Rakorong

Continue Reading

WeekendLife

AMANDA BLACK RETURNS TO SELF WITH NEW SINGLE “NGUWE”

17th March 2023
Amanda Black New Single

“NGUWE” SETS THE TONE TO HER FORTH STUDIO ALBUM

Johannesburg, Friday, 17th March 2022- Amanda Black returns with her signature mix of Afro Pop, hip hop, R&B, and deeply-rooted Xhosa influences to deliver an inspirational message of returning to self and self-love  with her new single “Nguwe” .

Available all digital platforms.

The single comes as Amanda  Black gears up to release her forth studio album, featuring new songs with her signature sound infusing R&B Soul and tribal African melodies. As she grows and discovers herself as an individual, a spiritual being and a musician, Amanda is on a journey of self-discovery. The music reflects on the better and more hopeful space she has come to in this journey, the single “Nguwe”  sets the tone and follows the theme of the upcoming album. The music is about falling in love with self , honoring yourself by self-acceptance. The overall theme and message is spiritual reconnection and trusting herself with her music.

Surfacing in 2016, that album was certified platinum a scant three weeks after its release and went on to earn Black numerous nominations and awards – including three South Africa Music Awards, two Metro Awards and a BET International Artist Of The Year nomination.

Most importantly, Amazulu’s mix of Afro Pop, hip hop, R&B, and deeply-rooted Xhosa influences secured Black a devoted fanbase that stretched right across the country. These music lovers quickly embraced her gift for telling authentic coming-of-age African stories through songs that touched on the universal experiences of love and heartbreak, of finding and losing yourself, of having hopes and dealing with fears.

But, in the background, Black was discovering that the road to becoming a fulltime artist wasn’t easy – even one marked by commercial and critical success straight out of the gate.

Of course, when she began singing in church as a child growing up in the Eastern Cape, and even when she studied Music Education at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Black never imagined it would all be plain sailing. She knew there was no guarantee that, when she boarded a Greyhound bus headed for Johannesburg, she would return home with a story of success to tell. Too many talented musicians from her home town had made that same journey but had never returned – an experience captured with poignant insight on “Bayile”, one of Power’s standout tracks.

Still, Black never expected she’d have to expend so much energy standing up for her artistic rights after she’d become one of South Africa’s most popular and awarded artists. There was even a moment when she thought, “what am I doing this for?”.  “The music industry is not what it looks like from the outside,” the 25-year-old says, with just a flash of emotion. “Becoming a singer is not what you imagine. It’s a lot harder and a lot deeper. At that time, I asked myself, ‘do you even still love music’. I truly didn’t know if I could continue to keep fighting to be treated with respect and fairness. There was a part of me that thought maybe music should just be a hobby – that I should just return to that happy place where I play my music and sing, for myself, my family and my community and it feels good.”

But, in spite of feeling helpless and hopeless at times, deep down Black knew that she still adored this thing called music; that the dream she’s always had, of doing something that can change the world and heal people, remained intact. And so she went to the one place where she knew she could move through the dark and into the light and start writing music again: home.

“My family is like my compass,” Black says, her words laced with gratitude and love. “They are always there to support me, especially my mom. Whenever I go home, it’s to recharge. I can honestly say that being there is like getting my superpower back.”

Alongside allowing her to feel the energetic power of her roots and the love of her family, being home enabled Black to make sense of the journey she’d travelled so far. She’d learnt to play and write on the guitar at 16 and, as part of reclaiming the purity of her love for making music, she returned to the instrument within the safety of home. “The sound of the guitar soothes me, and it reminds of when I would write and play music with no conditions, with no expectations,” she says. Black also began working with the beats and melodies that she has on her phone, freestyling lyrics with no judgement or editing, letting her spirit feel its way forward through singing and playing and imagining.

With a renewed sense of her creative being propelling her, Black returned to Johannesburg. There she embarked on process of making Power and establishing her new label Afro Rockstar, in partnership with Sony Music. Power is a mix of autobiographical songs – a highlight is the light-hearted “Egoli” – and others, like first single “Thandwa Ndim”, that see Black giving impactful voice to the experiences of women in the current socio-political moment.  The album features several love songs including “Lemme Go” and “Love Again”, and includes the stunning “Hamba”, a song about being thirsty for life, love, hope and happiness that features a chorus sampled from Margaret Singana’s “Hamba Bhekile” off “Shaka Zulu”.

Power sees Black once more working with producer Christer Kobedi and the album also has a special collaboration with keyboardist and producer, Kenneth Crouch. In the end, it’s an album of inspiration, of motivation and of integrity. As the next musical calling card of a South African global artist in-the-making, it’s breath-taking and is poised to bring Black back to where she belongs: performing  beautiful music for music lovers everywhere

Continue Reading