Billy Obonye graces our television screens every Mondays at 2030hrs, as gangster Lemphizzy on the popular BTV drama series Ntwakgolo.
The passionate actor is one of a few theatre actors whose transitioning from stage to the small screen has proved to be a worthy step, especially in Botswana where both industries are relatively small. Born in Selibe Phikwe in the early 80s, ‘Lemphizzy’ as he is popularly now called related to WeekendLife this week that acting for the Dee Zone productions’ drama series has literally changed his life.
“I was unfortunate to have ended my schooling with only a JC. Life was very hard then, the year I wrote my JC exams was the very same year we lost our mother, which I believe was the reason for my not doing well.” His aunt was their caretaker with his 3 other siblings, him being the second born. But his eldest sister soon passed away too, and he was left with only his younger brothers to fend for.
“In 2001, I had a son. Life became more complicated as pressure to find work to provide for all of them started to build up.” He has always had a passion for acting and wanted to follow his dream, but his aunt, who stayed with them constantly, reminded him to stop dreaming and get a job for provide for his son and younger brothers.
“All I really wanted to do was act. I wanted to attend all my Moitelasilo (drama group in Phikwe) rehearsals but I was constantly reminded that that would not put food on the table. And with only a Junior Certificate I could not even find a decent job. I would get contractual jobs at the mine for 6 or so months sometimes,” he said.
His acting talent was nurtured from primary school where he acted on school plays, continuing to junior secondary school where he was in the drama group. From there he started Moitelasilo with other fellow actors in Phikwe. “I moved to Phikwe Theatre, which was bigger than Moitelasilo after they spotted me during the president’s competitions in 2011. That is where I would audition for Ntwakgolo in 2014 when auditions were being held in Phikwe.”
Today, the talented actor says that he has no problems taking care of his own and has even added on to his skill. “When I first started acting, I didn’t just do my part and fold my arms. I was no Denzel Washington, so I would do other small jobs on set; like lighting, carrying equipment.”
In 2015, he had learnt so much that he started operating the camera on his own. “Thabiso Maretlwaneng gave me a chance, when Ntwakgolo wasn’t on air, he let me even shoot Pula Power. I would just go with the presenter(s) and just shoot. ” “I am now Assistant Director for Ntwakgolo, other than that, I did part of the casting for Season two and even trained some of the actors. This is a job done mostly by people who have degrees in TV and film production,” the passionate actor said.
More than anything, Obonye comes across as humble, kind and very loving, unlike the character he plays on TV. “ “I don’t believe that there are jobs that were made for certain people; they were made for all of us, it is upon each and every one of us to push and make things happen for ourselves,” he said.
Looking back, he has no regrets and says he would choose to disregard his aunt’s advice again. His aunt had wanted him to repeat his JC and eventually pursue his education and get a ‘proper job.’ “I didn’t think then that repeating or going back to school would bring any changes to my life. I wanted to pursue acting as a career, and now I am able to take care of my younger siblings. I am now a father of 3, my eldest son is doing form 3 and I am able to pay for his studies without a problem, and my other two daughters are being well taken care of.”
Ntwakgolo is a TV Drama series focusing on HIV and AIDS themed issues. The drama is a chronicle of the lives of people living in a community, how they intercept, relate and behave towards each other in regard towards the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Ntwakgolo broadcast 52 episodes weekly on BTV between 2014 and 2015 under NACA Funding and has become the most popular television drama nationwide.
In season two of Ntwakgolo, which was shot in Selibe Phikwe, Lemphizzy and Lingas have fled Gaborone to establish their bad business in Phikwe, but there is a twist of events when competition arrives in the form of former partner in crime, Sekhokho.
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.