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. firstname.lastname@example.org
A job, lucrative or not, is a job after all. Sometimes one has to compromise in order to make a living, few people get a job their dream jobs. But once in a while there is an emergence of people who listen to their inner calling to pursue their passion.
The founder and head designer of Butterfly Couture, Chawa July is one of those few people who left their job to pursue their passion. An inspiring fact about July is that she is a self-taught fashion designer, she used to copy patterns from her old clothes until she learnt how to draw them, and she also searched information from the internet to increase her knowledge and skills.
“It all started as a hobby from my love for beautiful dresses and I started adjusting and making clothes for myself. Gradually people around me started to take interest in my craft and the hobby slowly grew into a profitable business,” July said.
The 41 year fashion designer from Molepolole worked her way up in the Procurement space for over 10 years. She worked at Stanbic Bank, Kromberg & Schubert and Clover Dairy as a Procurement supervisor. Her last job before she entered the fashion industry was a Manager for Contacts & Sourcing at a Facilities Management Company.
She established her fashion house in October 2019 and it has become synonyms with elegant wedding gowns and exquisite evening wear. July said when designing she is inspired by various aspects such as the client’s personality, the mood of the event and the theme. She further mentioned that every opportunity is to show her craft so she always aims to please.
“Every Butterfly Couture piece must represent the elegance and the creativity the brand is about,” she said. Butterfly Couture has adorned beauty queens; Miss Botswana 2021/2022 Ambrociah Samboko at Miss Universe in South Korea and Miss Botswana 2019,Oweditse Fafah Phirinyane during her reign of which is the highlight of her career. They have also marked their presence in a few fashion events locally and in the neighbouring countries.”
They showcased at The Grand Palm Wedding Expo, Masa Fashion Show, Miss Botswana Fashion Show and Sacunda plus Size Fashion Show. The will also be showcasing at Gabs July Fashion Show on the 15th of July alongside the South African designer, popularly known as the King of glamour David Tlale.
July also identified that one of the challenges they face in the couture is that, it’s a seasonal business. “There are times in the year when the business is great and challenging. Winter in particular, is difficult time to stay afloat as there aren’t as many events that people are inspired to dress spectacularly for,” she said. She further said that her aim is to be a prime couturier of choice in Botswana.
“Craft like your life depends on it because every happy client is 10 more referrals” is what she said when asked to serve a word of wisdom to people hoping to make it in the fashion industry.
The Botswana Gospel Music Awards (BOGMA) and the Annual Gospel Awards (AGA) are said to be no longer in existence and a joint venture project has been put up that will carry out the awarding of gospel musicians.
The new entity has been established as Gospel Music Awards, which is a project at this moment is nearer to dishing out the first Gospel Awards under the leadership of the dissolved entities (BOGMA and AGA). “The difference is the same, it is just that the two projects were run by different minds which had differing objectives,” said the project coordinator, Letsweletse Moshabi when asked what the difference was between the two previous awards.
He added that at this junction their focus is on the future of the gospel musicians and they would like to direct their energies to the new project and forgo the past projects. “The Music market especially the gospel genre is too small and that basically means the very small market was experiencing the imbalance in the supply and demand forces. At that stage, supply was more than the demand so the reason for the joint forces is to allow the supply and demand forces to readjust and form equilibrium,” added Moshabi.
The mandate and objectives of the project are to recognize and award gospel music talent, to create awareness of the Botswana gospel music industry and to create a platform where fellow musicians may exchange ideas and network amongst themselves and approach international markets in cohesion.
The first of these joint awards will be held on the 27th August 2022 at Molapo Showcase under the theme ‘Cohesiveness to Build’ where about 18 categories will be up for grabs.
The Kumnandi Ekhaya musik festival will be held on the 30th September 2022 at Thamaga village. The event coincides with the release of famous host, Dj Ngwazi’s first album called ‘spring day’ on the 2nd of September 2022.
The Thamaga born and raised Lefika Lushen Kebatlege is a disc jockey and a music producer signed under WanitwaMos Entertainment in South Africa. Famously known as Dj Ngwazi and formally known as DJ superstar, he has really worked hard to become one of the finest export DJs the country has produced. Internationally, he is described as a DJ from South African because of his works with popular music artist Master KG.
Meanwhile, the music festival will feature South African artists, Makhazi, Master KG, Prince Benza and Mthunzi. They will also be joined by some of the big local artists, Franco, Vee Mampeezy, among others. “The tickets of the concert will be available at Spar stores, webticket and Kings bar. There will be three categories for VIP tickets, the one that goes for P1000, P1500 and P2200,” said the Kumnandi Ekhaya musik fest promoter Sadie Swartz of Saysay Entertainment.
“We have a new system to tackle the cry of promoters about security at the events. We will have a team of 100 security men, 10 horses and 15 dogs. We also agreed with the police to help with traffic control and no tickets will be sold at the gate to avoid circulation of money which can attract thieves,” said Kagiso Gaodumelwe from All Night Security.
“I started deejaying back in the days when I was still schooling at Kagiso Senior School and I never stopped working towards my career since then. I have a career in South Africa, since 2018 when Master KG took me in and his support as a brother has taken me to places,” said DJ Ngwazi describing his career journey.
“Kumnandi Ekhaya is Zulu language which means ‘go monate ko gae’ in Setswana. The name came about as a way of inviting my South African fans and supporters to my home village Thamaga to come experience the joy that comes with celebrating our freedom and independence. I used isiZulu because it’s the dominant language in South Africa,” explained Dj Ngwazi.
“The concert will be held in an open space which was used for agricultural purposes and we would like to call it ‘Ko Legoleng’. With this concert I want to redeem the dignity of our village because we once had the cases of youth who were terrorizing the community, beating up people in the streets and stealing and these was really a concern in our community because they were tarnishing the village name,” said Dj Ngwazi.
The purpose of this concert is to empower the community of Thamaga and local artist, more especially artist from Thamaga village like, Kgabo Sereto traditional group. There will be a litter picking campaign around the village before the launch of the concert .The sponsors which are already on board are Dladleng Entertainment and Kings bar and there are still more sponsors to be revealed.
”As the Kumnandi Ekhaya musik fest management, we are going to buy food combos and take them to Thamaga village Kgotla so they can be donated to the less privileged and orphans. Starting from October we will be donating pads to all Junior Schools in Thamaga,” said Dj Ngwazi. Dj Ngwazi’s motivational words to other artist and everyone else; work hard, be patient and be determined.