From Europe to America, Botswana’s only Afro-fusion contemporary Dance Group, Mophato Dance Theatre is indeed conquering the world. This past week, the group dazzled New York City’s Battery Dance Festival with their performance of Pula.
The group, founded by Andrew Letso Kola has in the space of less than 10 years- eight to be precise, attained international stardom and prominence, something one would not imagine from a group that started in the township of Old Naledi, or Zola as it is widely known. In Pula, the group was telling the story of rain not falling. A snippet of the play on their Facebook page is astounding to say the least, and deserving of the rave reviews by the Financial Times and the New York Times. 18 actors, of which some also are singers, tell the breathtaking story of a community’s journey, as it takes to prayer through song and dance for rain, with it finally descending.
“Indeed, whether in the fine pacing or the intricate music of feet and voice, backed offstage by drum and funky, clangorous xylophone, it is rhythm that holds Pula together”, writes the Financial Times of the play. The award winning group has earned itself repute for their unique story-telling through dance, accompanied by the beat of drums and live music. Currently, Mophato is one of the highly paid entertainment groups that has created 23 occupations and more opportunities for the at- risk youth through capacity building projects.
However with a different pitch altogether the breakthrough was not easy for the Zola outfit. They struggled to win the hearts of Batswana and Africa in general and thus they performed in different countries like Namibia, United Kingdom, performed at the Shanghai Expo in China, Nigeria, South Africa and Belgium and lately Germany to showcase their exceptional dance talent. Being invited to New York’s longest running public festival is perhaps the greatest feat for the talented group.
The group is the first from Africa to be invited to perform at the esteemed event. Each year, Battery Dance travels to countries unmerited by modern dance, finding the best groups they encounter during their tour to take back to New York for the festival, and Mophato, was among them this year. In addition, the group was the only to be honoured with a full day that was covered by the New York Times. The esteemed festival that attracts an audience of around 10 000, hosted more than 10 countries from across the world this year. The group shared the stage with some of the best Dance Theatres in the world such as Martha Graham and Battery Dance, which is a historic moment for them.
American choreographers such as Michelle Dorrance, Paul Taylor, Mary Anthony, Elizabeth Streb and Darrell Moultrie have all presented their works alongside pre- eminent companies from Asia, Europe, South America, Africa and the Caribbean. The Battery Dance Festival provides a unique opportunity for outstanding dancers and choreographers to present original works of high artistic merit in a free public forum. The festival was established to connect internationally acclaimed dance companies across the world and to create a cross cultural engagement and career opportunities for dance companies by; networking with investors, conducting workshops with esteemed producers from Broadway as well as 31 international and local dance companies.
When the group left the country for the festival, which they have been quoted as saying started as cultural exchange in September 2016, they were able to get sponsorship from Botswana Tourism Organisation, the US Embassy Gaborone as well as Brand Botswana. They themed the expedition: “I love my Botswana, Your Botswana, Our Botswana”, with the aim of increasing awareness, reducing negative dissonance, producing positive perception & generating interest in the country’s tourism, wildlife and arts industry. The theme was fashioned to create ownership of Botswana to potential tourists and Investors.
According to their website, established by Battery Dance in 1982 as the Downtown Dance Festival, today the Battery Dance Festival (BDF) is New York City’s longest-running free public dance festival. Audiences are traditionally drawn from the large downtown working population and residents, families, tourists, senior citizens and dance fans from the greater NYC metropolitan area. “With the help of a team of directors in music and drama, Mophato founder Andrew Letso Kola has created one of those rare works that transform age-old communal ritual into transfixing theatre without diminishing the fervour of the source.” -FT
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.