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Arts: Potential ignored!

Performing arts, if taken seriously can be a career and contribute to Botswana’s Gross Domestic Product as is in South Africa- South African actress, Sindi Dlathu has remarked. Dlathu revealed this at her Master Class last weekend at the University of Botswana.

Dlathu was seemingly impressed by the “potential talent” she witnessed during the intimate event. A cohort of young aspiring actors, choreographers and singers, attended the session; and according her, if incubated their talent can help improve the country’s economy. Dlathu is mostly known for her role as ‘Thandaza’ on popular Venda soap opera, Muvhango. She is one of the show’s founding actors in 1997. Dlathu was launched in the public eye at a tender age, having been amongst the Sarafina cast at only 14.

An all rounder, she is also a choreographer and singer and has worked alongside Michael Peters, the man behind Michael Jackson’s dance moves as an assistant choreographer. “In South Africa, the arts contribute enormously to the country’s GDP, it has grown and has now become a big industry and it is now contributing to the country’s economy. The Botswana government needs to seek sponsors and partnerships with other countries in order to draw investors from across. This can help further the career of arts individuals,” Dlathu advised.

Moreover, she advised that if the government can partner with Multichoice, a video entertainment and internet company with a strong presence in South Africa and across the African continent, this can attract investors from other countries.
She further called on to the youth to be proactive and show the government that they really want to do this. During an interview with the actress on the event’s sidelines, Dlathu revealed that the passion of the young performers had impressed her. “I am touched by the passion, I have never seen such passion, these people were ready to absorb and they are also very insightful. They knew what they wanted, they did not come to see me but because they are passionate and I will definitely come again if invited,” Dlathu said.

 “If I had a production house, I would take them all. There is a lot talent here!” she added. Meanwhile, theatre performer, Ralph Thato Dennison, who recently directed Kgosikgolo-The Musical and co-founded Sedibeng Choir alongside Andy Batshogile and others, in an interview with WeekendLife said he believes that the government is not doing enough to meet the needs of performing arts locally halfway. “I think government officials should do thorough research on the arts industry. The reason why they are not assisting enough is because they don't understand the magnitude, work and finance put on a production. In general our government is not doing enough to assist the arts industry. They put more focus on sports and the arts we are overlooked,” Dennison highlighted.

He further said that government personnel should undergo intense training and workshops to train them on the arts industry and what they go through to put up shows. “Most of the time we would for example propose a P200 000 budget looking at all the logistics and cost we are going to incur. Then they will in turn give us P70 000 and we will remain with debts after shows because of lack of resolute funding. On the other hand, when we request for funding and we include remuneration for performers we often get asked why we have to pay people to display their talents,” he lamented.

He also backed Dlathu’s sentiments about the arts industry in South Africa. “South Africans take arts seriously. They don't assist according to who they know. They have programs to assist mature groups. In South Africa people can make a living from performing arts because of consistency, here it is just measured as a hobby,” he highlighted. On the other hand, Co-Judge of Signed International, Tumelo Edward Chaba said that Botswana has great potential in the area of performing arts. “The potential is there and the market is ready to consume local content. The only challenge I see is we are still behind when it comes to investing in it, so artists can't do their best because of that,” said.

He further explained that acting in Botswana has improved in a major way. “Back in the days we didn't have local acting schools and now one can apply at Limkokwing or AFDA and get their skills upgraded and even gather more insights surrounding the acting profession in general. Furthermore some people are actually making a living out of acting,” he said. “The government is soon to launch BTV 2 youth Chanel and I think it is good news to both actors and producers so in a nutshell I think the industry is heading in the right direction,” he explained further.

Last year February, Minister of Basic Education, (then Education and Skills Development) Unity Dow was quoted at the launch of the Performing Arts programme as saying performing arts had the potential to diversify the country’s economy.
The project tagged Unleash Your Star Qualities, which was a partnership between the Ministry of Education and Limkokwing University; enrolled 100 candidates selected from auditions conducted around the country and were to be credited by the university.

The performers enrolled would go on to produce and perform Moratiwa a theatrical piece under the guidance of legendary jazz artist Socca Moruakgomo. Since the play, the group never produced any other offering. Neither did the ministry nor the University show any signs the Programme would continue. This month, marks one year since Moratiwa premiered. On the other hand, the University of Botswana only started offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in 2009. In 2013, the department of Music, Visual and Performing Arts was introduced.

From as early as 1982, the UB had a travelling theatre, dubbed the University of Botswana Travelling Theatre (UBTT). The theatre, having travelled most of the country gained prominence and was appreciated by the public. It was on that basis that the university designed some theatre courses to be offered as part of the English curriculum and simultaneously recruited staff qualified in theatre studies to teach the courses. The first cohort of the UB BFA graduated in October 2014.

Although there are a lot of productions companies in Botswana, DeeZone productions has been dominant in the arts industry offering better platforms for actors and artists to showcase their talent. The company has hired a limited number of more than 30 graduates who have played part in local television stories, like Ntwakgolo, Lethabile, and even introduced Btv’s first magazine show Pula Power and First Issues.

Most local soapies that have aired locally are momentary; currently the country does not have a solid drama. Thokolosi and Re Bina Mmogo are two notable television dramas aired on Btv. Botswana has exported most of its acting talent to South Africa, including some musicians and models. Connie Ferguson, Oneal, Ban-T, Thato Sikwane, Thabang Mmolotsi, Kgomotso Ratsie and Kaone Kario are among Batswana who are making significant strides in the South African arts industry.

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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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WeekendLife

Gospel concerts make a comeback

16th November 2021
Bishop Benjamin Dube

Hailed for being the prime gospel concert after the Covid-19 pandemic had put events to a halt, Golden Relic, in conjunction with Sweet Brands, recently unveiled the Arise and Worship Concert, Botswana. The show marks the return of worshippers and fans to enjoy music and worship together after what seemed like “cooler box” events were taking over the entertainment scene. 

The concert to be held on December 11th 2021, at the Molapo Showcase, has a packed lineup with the Headlining acts being Bishop Benjamin Dube, Lebo Sekgobela from South Africa and Botswana’s very own Obakeng Sengwaketse. More international acts from Nigeria and Ghana are also expected to grace the event. The show organizers have invested an effort in diversifying the lineup with live performances. 

The promoter of the Arise and Worship Concert, David “DVD” Abram revealed in an overview of the event that; “We have lost a lot of loved ones this year, and when that happens, one’s spirit goes down, and we need a light to ground us once more, to heal our souls. Therefore, the two main purposes of this event are to do the work of God and, secondly, to make sure that we nurture and develop talent in Botswana. With challenges that come up with events of such magnitude, the team and I have been committed to seeking guidance from God through having night prayers.” 

Abram added that as promoters, they usually have a bias towards already established artists, thus neglecting the upcoming ones and wanting to change that. “We approached the Melody Gospel TV Show since we aim at nurturing new talent and agreed on having one of the winners as a headliner for the event to allow them to share the stage with gospel giants so that they are exposed to the industry. This resulted in securing the Second Winner of the Melody Gospel TV show; Thabiso Mafoko as a local headlining act.”

The concert also aims at celebrating a Motswana. Multi-Award Winner; with the most recent title; BOMU Best Traditional Gospel under his belt, also best known for his soulful voice and heartfelt lyrics, Obakeng Sengwaketse enthusiastically said, “I want to thank the organizers of the Arise and Worship concert, it means a lot to me after recently winning two awards that are currently the highlight of my career.

I regard this as a great revival because the Covid-19 pandemic has muffled events such as this. I am looking forward to sharing the stage with the great Bishop Benjamin Dube, Lebo Sekgobela and more artists from Nigeria and Ghana. Sengwaketsi urged Batswana to come and witness the greatness of the Lord as their lives will never be the same.”

Tickets are selling like fat cakes with VVIP tickets having only five tickets remaining; the VVIP tickets include rounder access backstage to all the performing artists. The event will also comprise a seated Gold Circle Ticket, which accounts for 50% of revellers to allow for easier enforcement of COVID-19 protocols and avoid a potential stampede.

In a bid to entice merrymakers to buy tickets, the promoters have come up with a layby strategy and buying tickets on an instalment basis for the attendees to be able to buy their tickets since the COVID-19 Pandemic has left many Batswana in financial ruin but having the interest to attend the event.

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WeekendLife

Fame vs Mental health

9th November 2021
Lizibo

One can only imagine what is like being in the public eye. It is not a walk in the park; and not as easy as people might think it is because of the pressure from the public. Celebrities or influencers are perceived to be perfect, perfect bodies, perfect families, perfect parents, financially stable, healthy, and always smiling and patient with everyone – Is this for real?

However, when people’s expectations of celebrities are not met, the same celebrities are often victimized, body shamed, or blamed, fairly or unfairly. As a result of them not having a personal life, they are often scrutinized in all aspects of their lives; their lives are aired for the public to see and judge. Celebrities are often extra careful about everything that they do, they have to go an extra mile as compared to how ordinary people live their lives.

To understanding this experiences by public figures, this reporter made a case study of Mr Lizibo Gran Mabutho, the firstborn in his family with only one sibling, his younger brother. Lizibo describes himself as a simple Kalanga guy who was chosen by music and did not choose music.

He said being raised by his mother and grandmother, he grew up surrounded by music from birth. Lizibo said his grandmother was a religious person who held church services at their house in Zwenshambe, “for me singing was from Monday to Sunday. I was not like any ordinary child who only sang at church on Sundays or sometimes in school assembly, for me it was a daily thing. My mother was also a talented dancer in our village that is what I mean when I say I did not choose music, but music chose me.”

Lizibo said though he grew up surrounded by music, it was hard for his parents to accept the path he has chosen to be a musician. Lizibo said he had to prove to his parents that music was his passion and that it could pay the bills like any other profession. He said eventually they saw his passion for music and supported him.

Lizibo said being exposed to music from a tender age made him venture into the music career from a tender age. He said he was part of the Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete (KTM) choir, Lizibo said being in the public eye for the longest time has taught him that he is living for the people and that he does not have a life. He said the very society that is watching him has so much expectation for him and that means he has to conduct himself in a good manner because people are looking up to him.

Lizibo said he understands the saying that great power comes with great responsibility, “when people see me, they see a role model. I realize and understand that people are and have been modelling me even when I was not aware of it, I know of six mothers who have named their sons after me because they felt that I inspire them somehow.”

He said he has accepted his fate that he will never have a normal life because people are looking unto him. He said he is grateful to be in the public on a positive note by bringing hope to the people because he has always wanted to be part of people’s solutions and not their problems.

He said, “people should understand that our careers are our calling. One needs to be spiritually connected to their calling as an artist. The most rewarding part about being in the public for me is not about payment but about being the solution to someone’s problem.”

Lizibo said the greatest challenge that he has ever faced about being in the public eye has been the issue of trust, not able to know which friends are genuine and which ones are not. He said as a way of avoiding fake friends he has always kept his four close friends who have been there for him through thick and thin. Lizibo said being close to his family has also helped him as they have been his strength when things were not going well for him, “most of the time people say we change when we taste fame. That is not necessarily true because people are the ones who changed when we became famous. People always want something from us, nothing is ever genuine with people and that is why I chose to keep my circle very small.”

Lizibo said as much as he travels a lot because of the nature of his work because it is naturally demanding, he said he always ensures that he creates time for his family. He said that at home he is Lizibo who is sent to do errands, he is Lizibo the son, not a celebrity.

He said there is a lot of pressure that comes with being in the spotlight, “the public puts so much pressure on us mostly about the material lifestyle they portray us to have. We are often compared with South African celebrities, but people fail to understand that we are two different countries. Most people fell into the trap and are living above their means resulting in them living in debt. I often tell youngsters not to fall into that trap of being tempted to live life above their means.”

The advice Lizibo gave to upcoming celebrities was that they should know that being in the public is not about them, but it is about the people. He said, “one of my mentors once asked me if I make music about myself or the people. He said I need to make music for the people because it is my responsibility to feed them with what they need, he said they might not even be able to know that they have a need but that I need to identify that need and meet it. Our responsibility is to serve people what they need, our music is to feed people’s hunger. My music is about love, I feed people love.”

Lizibo said it is important for celebrities to seek counselling and take care of their mental health, he said he has been investing in his mental health for years because he understands the importance of mental health especially when one is in the public.

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