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A United Kingdom: A Critical Review

Keith Phetlhe ©

In today’s article, I focus on another film, A United Kingdom released in 2016 and maximising profits of about $13.8 million. Precisely, I want to contribute my viewpoints about this film especially in terms of how it is one fitting example of how filmmakers in the Western countries have depicted Botswana through film.

A United Kingdom is an adaptation of Michael Dutfield’s novel A Marriage of Inconvenience. It is based on a true historical account about Botswana’s first president and King of the Bangwato people, Seretse Khama, and his British wife, Ruth who comes from a working class family. Categorically, it is a documentary film written by an award winning British screenwriter Guy Hibbert, and directed by a noted British actress and director Amma Asante. This film cast David Oyelowo who plays Seretse Khama, and Rosamund Pike who plays Ruth Khama.

It is fitting to praise the film especially when it attempts to expose the atrocities of the British colonization in Botswana by advancing a narrative of how leaders such as Seretse showed resistance and contempt towards British imperialism in Serowe, Botswana at the time. However, this film still presents some serious problems if analyzed properly presenting inaccurate historical development and in the manner in which it pays attention to the narrative of colonialism.

Against this brief background, my aim is to problematize the film on the basis of the following: its lack of relevance to Botswana in representing the historical legacy of the country’s nation building amidst the reality of colonialism. Further, in the way it intentionally contorts and interprets cultural values of Batswana, it lacks sensitivity and attention to time Further, it reiterates a decontextualized account of how the Bangwato speak Setswana. In the film, the protagonist struggles to pronounce the word Kgotla the way Seretse as a royal would have pronounced it.

As one author from Botswana, Legodile Seganabeng put it, “I must however commend Vusi Kunene (Tshekedi Khama) and Terry Pheto (Naledi Khama) for pulling quite a stunning performance. I think they tried to save the film. I noticed that both Vusi and Terry pronounced the word Kgota quite properly, without the ‘l’, just as the Bangwato do. But our lead star who played Seretse kept on saying Kgotla and I highly doubt Seretse spoke that way.” This is interesting, I think, and my question lies on what could be the justification of the deliberate linguistic or dialectical appropriation on the speech of the protagonist.

The film does not use Setswana quite fairly and adequately nor have an option for the use of Setswana subtitles. Furthermore, A United Kingdom lacks cultural sensitivity to Botswana situation and experience in at least the following three ways: the film assumes any black male can assume the position of the protagonist as this is seen through the character of David Oyelowo. The film reiterates the inaccurate history that Botswana was not colonized but “protected” by the British.

The work that has been written by local historians from Botswana such as a Prof. Mgadla of the History department at the University of Botswana can be used to critique this historical misconception that is implicit in the film. Another incident I found unsettling derives a shot that depicts a young girl handing a letter to the commissioner in the Kgotla when the Bangwato were demanding to see their Kgosi. Given the time frame of the film (in the 40s), it would have been unlikely that children would be allowed to be present in that setting where elders discuss weighty societal issues. On the contrary, there is no such an occurrence in a British parliament and this accounts to the inconsistencies of representation.  

Could there be any reason other that the fact that the film although set in Botswana is clearly not necessarily designed to be consumed by the people of Botswana? This can explained by the fact that while there are many people from Botswana who could have easily played Seretse’s role better than David Oyelowo, those many unemployed youths who had turned up to audition as background actors, the film production team had already established their set and the desired market and ignored these masses. In other words, the historical set and narrative or story about Botswana is provided freely yet it makes a lot of money elsewhere in the western countries with absolutely no questions asked.

There is still a lot of policy work that must be done by Ministry of Arts and Culture in Botswana, specifically aimed at negotiating, monitoring and, determining the terms and conditions of film production companies with transparency. This is the only sure way of avoiding the continuation of global exploitation- if we ask the right questions and utilize our local expert opinion in Botswana; our culture which can be tangible and intangible, is equally subject to global exploitation- just like land, diamonds and other natural resources that have been getting stolen since colonialism.

Clearly, through this film, the important story about historic Botswana is presented in a decontextualized fashion for the consumption of its targeted western liberal audience and sales. In the process Botswana does not gain anything economically significant but a ‘stereotypical’ image across the western liberal audience who can only feel sorry but cannot do much to change or challenge the situation.

Given that we are now in the 21st century, there is an unparalleled need for us as a nation to make an earnest effort to present our images and refuse to be represented in a way that makes us passive consumers of the arts. This is important for Botswana and the rest of the African continent.

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

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WeekendLife

5 consideration for your Marketing strategy in 2022

12th January 2022

‘The world of marketing is getting confusing,’ this is the sentiment from many marketers who find themselves in the middle of rising digitization and online migration driven by increased connectivity and a pandemic that dictated reduced physical interactions.

According to the Harvard Business Review, customers’ increased discernment, demand for great service experience and the ability to raise ‘a storm’ of complaints online about brands, is reshaping the role of marketing.

In today’s world of brand management, the constant consideration should be agility. This means actually listening to customer sentiment, being flexible with your creative design, messaging, placements and budgets.

Here are a few more pointers to discuss in your 2022 marketing strategy sessions.

  1. Budgeting needs to change: Event based budgeting, allocations based on calendar activities rather strategic impact initiatives, is a thing of the past. If the pandemic taught us anything is that uncertainty for people gatherings is something we need to live with. Furthermore, a lot of this type of marketing is barely linked to specific value beyond brand awareness. It’s time to disrupt yourselves by really evaluating value. In a digitizing world, a marketing budget should be reflective of the overall business direction.
  2. Outdoor is not dead, it just needs creativity: As the world was locked downed due to covid-19, one key consequence was that we were forced to spend more time in doors. As such, many of the billboards had no eyes on them. However, as things

open up, it’s time for brands to challenge billboard companies to create experiential advertising. Like ‘the floating cat’ in Tokyo, a 3-D anamorphic outdoor ad, billboards can be engaging and exciting for those who cross paths with them. Outdoor advertising needs to be reimagined to drive brand ‘stickiness’ in a bold manner.

  1. Thought leadership needs to be genuine: The pressure for relevancy has driven many executives into taking up video and word based content to be seen as authorities and subject matter experts. Begs the question, is it genuine? Does the person you are putting in front of the camera genuinely care to be a source of knowledge and consistently share insights. Thought leaders have an intrinsic drive to share information. It is not just based on one’s position in an organisation. So for 2022, look deeply within for talent that have authentic perspectives they can contribute to public discourse for the benefit of your brand.
  2. Influencers, do you really need them?: This is a question many brand managers have to scratch their heads over every time they go-to-market. In an effort to be seen as a cool and relevant, many brands, large and small have jumped on the influencer bandwagon to drive awareness. The world over influencers have presented brands with a new platform for awareness by using their personalities to market to their followers. Think Kim Kardashian, Mihlali Ndamase, Mjamica, they all have legion of followers who engage with their content on their social media pages. As a brand manager, your job is to be discerning and ensure brand fit. In doing research, look beyond the numbers: audit their historic content type, look into the engagements, do their followers actually engage based on the content subject? Is their tone of engagement relevant to your brand? That is what will answer the question… does your brand need them.
  3. It’s time to take the ROI conversation seriously: This is more of a self-preservation tip. Measuring marketing activity and impact has for many brands been a half-baked approach. For greater impact in 2022, marketing teams need to introspect and fully embrace the technologies. Digital and social media platforms have presented us an opportunity to actually measure our efforts. So insights, listening and automation tools need to be added to your technology stack for you to better reports on your impact.  Get closer to sales and service teams, as your efforts often have a direct bearing on their output.

Lastly, remember that visibility needs to lead to action for your marketing to become a value centre.

 

Modiri Mogende is a Managing Director at Launch Comms, with over 10 years’ experience in media, PR and marketing, he holds a BA and a PgD in Digital Marketing.   

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WeekendLife

Coal still King

15th December 2021
Coal still King

More than 40 countries have committed to shift away from coal in pledges made at the COP26 climate summit. Botswana on the other hand has different plans.

Some 850 Kilometres South West of the capital city Gaborone, lies a winding sandy landscape with wind worn- formations on the horizon accompanied by the harsh sun. The Kalahari Desert is conspicuous in the area.  Here one finds BORAVAST a cluster of villages; Bokspits, Rappelspan, Vaalhoek and Struizendum.

Although the desert is expected to be barren and brown, green blobs occupy the landscape. These are Mesquite a Prosopis species locally referred to as Sexanana. An invasive tree species that has successfully colonised the area all thanks to its properties that enable it to release a toxin to suppress growth of nearby competing plants.

This has resulted in the replacement of most of the indigenous vegetation in the area, forming dense thorn bushes. Circumstantial evidence suggests that it may also be lowering important fresh-water aquifers and clogging boreholes with its extensive root system. This has seriously led to degraded rangelands and reduced biodiversity.

BORAVAST has found a loophole by clearing the species. The clearance is to generate income for the community whilst also ensuring rehabilitation of the landscape to increase continued flow of ecosystem goods and services, simultaneously promoting of livelihoods.

The BORAVAST community is on a mission to create a backbone for the national economy through the community project as they believe that they have the potential to scale up and produce opportunities for local businesses to participate in the value chain of the national economy.

According to BORAVAST Trust Vice Chairman Gideon Martin: “The project has been dormant since 2015, however during the 2019/20 financial year, the Trust resuscitated the projects operations under the sponsorship of the UNDP (Kgalagadi and Ghanzi Drylands Ecosystem Project).

Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) has also jumped into the band wagon by presenting machinery, office equipment and branding assets worth more than 1 million pula to the BORAVAST Trust. The Department of Forestry has also chipped in with P464 000.To date there are only two operational value chain business being charcoal and fodder production in BORAVAST. Our charcoal product has been tested and competes with coal from Morupule, our fodder is also of high nutritional quality.”

A member of the trust describes the charcoal making process: “Charcoal is made by heating wood from Sexanana to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. This is done with ancient technology of building a fire in a pit, then bury it in the ground. The result is that the wood partially combusts, removing water and impurities and leaving behind mostly pure carbon.

The tricky part is to maintain the heat at a temperature that is appropriate to avoid the wood turning into ash. It is a tedious and risky process as we also have to be on the look out to contain the fire to avoid wild fires. We sit by the pots hours on end to ensure all goes well on the other hand, Charcoal burning produces large amounts of Carbon Monoxide (CO) which is harmful to us when exposed to very high levels.”

In his blog Kobus Venter an activist states that, “these are signs that governments are trying to regulate the industry by introducing more efficient charcoal-making kilns and establishing plantations to ensure sustainability of the timber source. In Namibia, millions of hectares of encroachment bush is being converted to charcoal and sold to neighbouring South Africa as barbecue charcoal.

South Africa itself (according to the most recent South Africa Yearbook) is plagued with alien plant infestations, totalling more than 10 million hectares, about eight percent (8%) of the country’s land surface area. The rate of spread is alarming and their numbers are projected to double over the next 15 years.  More recently Vuthisa Technologies started to convert slashed invasives into charcoal and biochar using Emission Reducing Biochar kilns in a project known as the Vuthisa Biochar Initiative.”

However, charcoal is the primary energy source for urban Africa, but its production is widely informal and unregulated. Consequently, charcoal is entwined with violence against nature through rampant deforestation and violence against vulnerable rural communities, fuelling violent political economies of conflict and extraction.

As they are violently dispossessed of forests and land, communities living in production areas face destruction of their cultural heritage, embodied in nature, and the conditions for economic and political dignity. This undermines possibilities for sustainable peace.

Natural Resource Management in the Kgalagadi landscape is characterized by competition and conflict between conservation goals, economic development and the preservation of livelihoods.

Economic development inevitably leads to trade-offs between land uses, and requires choices to be made between the conversion of forests into anthropogenic land uses such as agriculture, on the one hand, and maintaining natural forests with their inherent ecosystem services.

Botswana to realize its national priorities in environmental management focusing on managing the trade-off between income generation and environmental sustainability. The trade-offs between development and environmental sustainability are becoming more evident in the form of threats to fauna and flora, air pollution and water pollution. Ensuring that sustainable resource extraction levels are within the capacity of the environment to assimilate and regenerate is a key concern.

Global Energy Monitor (GEM) that develops and shares information on energy projects in support of the worldwide movement for clean energy. Has revealed in their 2021 report titled “Deep Trouble; Tracking Global Coal Mine Proposals” that Botswana has 6 Coal Mine Development Projects.

It continues; “The Special Report on 1.5°C by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that CO2 emissions from coal use needs to fall 50 to 80% by 2030 to keep warming well below 2°C. If proposed new mines open as intended, the CO2 emissions from combustion will be equivalent to 4,639 Mt a year, a 14% increase over global CO2 emissions in 2020 (34,100 Mt), barring declines elsewhere.

In addition, the mines will leak an estimated 13.5 Mt of methane each year from broken coal seams and surrounding rock strata, based on coal mine depth and the gas content of the coal seam. Combined, the annual greenhouse gas emissions from proposed coal mines will be between 5,000 and 5,800 Mt of CO2-equivalent (CO2e) each year (for CO2e100 and CO2e20, respectively), comparable to the annual CO2 emissions of the United States (5,100 Mt). The build out of new mines, therefore, raises serious concerns about meeting the Paris climate agreement.”

Science continues to confirm the urgency of climate crisis. The main issue now is that the  ‘super powers’ are now realising their contribution to climate change and are devising means to halt the repercussions. Now enters the matter of climate justice; those who are least responsible for climate change suffer the ,most, Botswana has not fully utilised her coal reserves and coal production from wood yet the world is about to phase them out. What about the BORAVAST Trust trying to make a living?  The question of the day would be whether an energy transition will be possible in the near future considering that Botswana uses her physical wealth ( coal ) to grow her economy?

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WeekendLife

The King’s journal 

23rd November 2021
Kgafela Kgafela II

This book is a true-life story of an African King based in South Africa. The Last Frontier is a resistance stand by Bakgatla Ba Kgafela tribe and its line of Kings from 1885 against a dark force called ‘western democracy’ that is insidiously destroying lives, peoples, nations and threatens to wipe away whole civilizations in Africa.

The story flows through four important episodes of history, beginning in about 1885 when Bechuanaland Protectorate was formed. This section briefly reveals interactions between Kgosi Linchwe 1 and the British Colonial Government, leading to the establishment of Bakgatla Reserve by Proclamations of 1899 – 1904.

The second episode deals with Kgosi Molefi’s interaction with the British Colonial Government in the period of 1929-36. The third episode records Kgosi Linchwe II’s interactions with the British Colonial Government and black elites of Bechuanaland. It covers the period of 1964-66, leading to Botswana’s independence. Kgosi Linchwe ii resisted the unlawful expropriation of his country (Bakgatla Reserve) by Sir Seretse Kgama’s government of 1966 to no avail. He wrote letters of objection (December 1965) to Her Majesty the Queen of England, which are reproduced in this book.

The fourth episode covers the period between Kgafela Kgafela II’s crowning as King of Bakgatla in 2008 to 2021. It is a drama of the author’s resistance to the present-day Botswana Government, a continuation of Bakgatla Kings’ objection against losing Bakgatla country to the Kgama dynasty assisted by the British Government since 1885. The story is told with reference to authentic letters, documents, and Court records generated during the period of 1885-2019. There is plenty of education in history, law, and politics contained in The Last Frontier for everyone to learn something and enjoy.   

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