One Word – Travesty
By Lame Bogatsu
The Thapong Artists of the year awards have come along. From hence when they started the awards have come to be known as some of the platforms that speak to the upliftment of the creative arts industry and more specifically recognise and promote good work. With that said, much can’t be said about this year’s TAYA which took place this past week at the visual arts centre. From the prizes awarded to the works submitted, the awards were rather disappointing.
About 78 artists from different parts of the country submitted works for this year’s awards and one would think with the highest number of entries would come a level of quality and competition but the latter surfaced. Works on display showed that artists still had a lot to learn. Realism, concept creation and presentation was still at an amateur level while other categories had very few entries. Speaking at the awards, lead judge Dan Sibanda also expressed that there were other categories which were left neglected amongst other issues.
He said, “The competition reflected a very exciting collection of works although there was a strong bias towards painting at the expense of other disciplines. Photography, graphic design and printmaking works were almost non-existent. As a panel we strive to recognise and appreciate entries in the not so popular categories so as to elicit increased participation in these disciplines in future and to encourage artists to venture into exploring other artistic media. The growth in terms of artistic creation should not only be seen in numerical terms but also in terms of the variety of works presented.”
He further went on to add, “In future, participating artists should reflect on their artistic ideas that help identify, establish, and unify their voice and artistic concept. The strength of any work depends on the concept behind its creation. Artists should challenge commonly held perspectives with innovative thinking and aim to raise awareness about social issues; art pushes controversial buttons and inspires creative ideas.
It is therefore important for artists to address issues relating to contemporary life in Botswana and beyond so as to make their work relevant in their own society and also globally.” For an award show that has gained recognition over the years, it is rather disturbing that the only prize ever given is usually in the form of money and rarely a scholarship to further perfect an art form.
When addressing this issue, Coordinator at Thapong, Reginald Bakwena said, “it is also our wish that our artists are awarded scholarships and not money because in essence what the awards are essentially trying to do is to develop talent. One of the problems that hinder us from realising this wish is that of lack of funding and sponsors.
Every year we try our best to appeal to the private sector to help us fund these awards so our artists can grow in their work, but we have been speaking with a few stakeholders and hope next year we will see this change. We hope for more workshops, mentorships and hopefully scholarships for our artists.”
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Lesbian women speak out
In 2021, the Court of Appeal ruled against criminalization of same-sex relationships in Botswana. The court’s decision to uphold this ruling was based on arguments that criminalizing homosexuality was unconstitutional.
The bench of five judges unanimously ruled that this was a violation of rights of LGBTIQ+ individuals to dignity, liberty, privacy and equality. However, it has emerged that ending violence against homosexuals, in particular, lesbian women, is far from over.
Lesbian women in Botswana are still subjected to all forms of abuse, violence and discrimination. They are sexually molested, raped, emotionally abused, harassed and constantly reminded that they are still “women” even if they can act like men.
These women endure violence from those that are close to them, be it family, schoolmates, workmates and the general public even. This was revealed this week in Gaborone at the commemoration of an International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBT) 2023.
The commemoration was held under the theme “Together always: united in diversity,” and it was organized by Success Capital in collaboration with European Union, SADC and UNAIDS. IDAHOBT 2023 was organized to show solidarity and join forces in the journey towards a meaningful, equitable, healthy and gender-just-Botswana.
Agreeing to speak to this publication on anonymity, a 20-year-old lesbian woman from Thamaga said she is a member of the LGBTIQ+ community and still in closet (her sexual orientation is unknown), but has suffered violence nonetheless.
“Homosexuals in Botswana are discriminated of their identity. We also face rejection daily in which we are excluded from interacting with other people. Their parents still think our identity is contagious and that it can be used to manipulate their children. This is something that I endured growing up.”
When quizzed on how her parents will react should she go public about her gender identity, the source said as for the mother, she would react positively. She has since opened up to her sister about her sexual orientation.
“My mother is a nice person generally. She won’t react in a way that will disappoint me but she will have to accept how I am because, technically, there is nothing she can do about it.”
Another lesbian woman, who identifies as Teddy, said she grew up in a setting full of male persons, something that led to her adopting male tendencies. She would dress like a boy, something that she felt comfortable doing.
“My mother has always known about this issue. My relatives gave me a hard time though. I realized that I am lesbian from a young age even though I didn’t understand why I was like that. I will jokingly dismiss a boy who would want to date me, referring to them as a brother.”
Teddy underlined that the community she grew up in did not tolerate her sexual orientation. “They will call me setabane and this is something that has lived in us. At church, I was forced to wear dresses or skirts, but I couldn’t.”
A lesbian woman who preferred being anonymous said at some point being a lesbian affected her mental health, as she couldn’t handle the pressure that came with it. She has since opened up to her parents about her sexual identity.
Meanwhile, when quizzed to speak on LGBTIQ+ rights in Botswana, High Commissioner and UK Special Representative to SADC Sian Price said there is a lot to be hopeful and positive about, adding that Botswana has an advantage of an active society that has respect for human rights.
“There are active support groups and respect of the rule of law, which made it possible for the country to be where it is now. This should make it possible for Botswana to go further. So, I am optimistic but I also think that there is need for all to have a greater ambition because there is so much more that could be done to promote LGBTIQ+ rights on Botswana. We also need to work together and advance those ends.”
In a statement, European Union (EU) says it is unacceptable that human rights continue to be violated and abused on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity.
The EU has called on all 67 state jurisdictions worldwide that still criminalize homosexuality, 11 of which impose the death penalty for consensual same-sex relationships, to immediately end this ‘discriminatory practice.”
“We are committed to working with all our partners to counter laws, policies and practices that discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity and tom eliminate all forms of violence.”
Author explains two award winning books
Just two weeks ago, the inaugural Botswana Literature Awards put on the spotlight the country’s top authors, celebrating and recognizing the contribution and hard work these book worms put on paper. These are individuals dedicated to improve literature landscape in Botswana.
Amongst the winners was Cole Motlogelwa, a Motswapong tribesman from Ratholo, who has published two award winning books: The English Man is Gone and The Cabal, which were published in 2019 and 2021 respectively.
Motlogelwa is a product of his environment. The toils, curiosities, trials and tribulations, accomplishments and hopes of his people are his source of inspiration to write. He says he uses writing to interpret and attempt to express all of these experiences he consumes from his surroundings. Writing for him is a tool for change, a voice that cracks the hollowness and mystery of the night.
When speaking in an interview this week, Motlogelwa said his first literature award was the AfriCAN Author award in 2020, where he was honored for his first book.
“The second one was an award I got from the Inaugural Botswana Literature Awards 2022/23. The Cabal was judged to be the Best English Novel in Botswana at the said awards.”
He stressed that a great writer is not so much an excellent command of the language of the book, but about whether one is willing to cut the piece of them and share it with the readers.
“Simply put, characters are just fictitious and devoid of form, until we breath life into them by projecting our emotions into them. We give them emotions that we understand. We give them scare we have. We clothe them with smiles we know we have. We can’t give them what we don’t possess. So, a good writer I sone who is willing and able to effectively express themselves through their characters.”
When shedding more light on his two award winning books, Motlogelwa said The Cabal (2021) is 221 pages futuristic political thrilling satire set in Botswana.
It follows a journey of Detective Moathodi on his quest to find the killer of the Permanent Secretary to the President of Botswana in the year 2029. His investigations were not warmly welcomed by the Gaborone North police department and the Apex Intelligence Unit.
His investigations together with the Vice President, Advocate Tholo, will lead to a dangerous web of deceit that exposes the unimaginable games, tricks and schemes in every political circle that continues to keep the innocent citizens in the dark about the monopoly that takes place behind closed doors at their expense.
“In this book, I went deep into the history of Botswana and I open the mind of the reader to the surrounding possibilities, as well as educate both readers with legal background and those who don’t with rich history that perhaps have many uncertain loopholes.”
The book also shows the length at which politicians would go to achieve political ambitions and the network of holy and unholy players in the game.
In summary, The Cabal is a magnetic and captivating story of political ideologies, games, endless and ugly gap between the have’s and the have not’s kidnapping and passion for change.
The English Man is Gone (2019) is a radical expose on the after-effect of colonization of Botswana. The book describes the author’s post colonization ‘utopia’ and delves deep into “our continued attachment to the western powerhouses. It screams change, and is solution-based wake-up call to the people of Botswana.
This is a book that was written for the youth and future of Botswana in mind by the author. Its six chapters provide in-depth opinion and understanding of the author on critical issues of colonialism, existing government practices from time immemorial couched in sophisticated language, the Constitution of Botswana, discriminatory practices amongst the people of Botswana, foreign policy and the economy of the country.
However, though he is a multi-award-winning author, he has a fair share of challenges. As authors in Botswana, Motlogelwa stressed that they lack accessible and sustainable literature development initiatives, saying “and books are still subject to imposition of tax. This is quite concerning because we are trying to build a knowledge-based economy.
“There is no domestic literature market protection, and local authors are forced to compete against influx of foreign materials. Even in pursuit of market liberalization, sight should not be lost that we need protection because our literature market is infant. We need community libraries that can buy and deal with our books.”
“Otherwise, publishing is an expensive process and many of us have financial challenges, so that goes without saying.”
Local music earns a spot on Mzansi’s Channel O
In its quest to empower the local creative industry, MultiChoice Botswana is once again cooking something for local music producers and artists. For so many years now, creative minds in Botswana have been struggling to promote their talent as there are no platforms to help in that context.
Without doubt, Botswana has many talented entertainment industry players. They are artists, music producers, actors, storytellers and fashion industry players. With more emphasis on the music industry, there are no significant platforms to come to their rescue.
The available platforms are not enough to export talent. In worst scenarios, the platforms do not offer monetary incentives, so they become less beneficial to artists. On lucky days, artists are engaged and paid monies to at least keep them alive for a minute.
In discovering these dares, MultiChoice Botswana says it has come to artist’s rescue, providing a brand-new music video countdown show featuring homegrown Botswana music videos.
When shedding more light on the new offering, MultiChoice Botswana Corporate Affairs Manager, Thembile Legwaila said the call-for-submission, launched this week, will run for a duration of ten weeks, with qualifying videos being part of Channel O’s newest music show, aptly titled Bots Top 5.
“With this being a fresh new music video countdown show celebrating local artists and their works, we want to ensure that the music videos airing on the show are fully representative of the talent available in Botswana. We have made the submission process as simple and as transparent as possible with the hopes that this will also unearth the undiscovered musical gems we have in our country,” she said.
With Channel O being available across all MultiChoice Africa markets, Legwaila said African exposure to local talent is a given with the new music video countdown show launching on 24th May 2023.
“Each week, the locally produced music video entertainment show will see its host introducing viewers to five of Botswana’s hottest music videos. The show will also feature interviews with artists behind the videos, everyday Batswana sharing their thoughts on the local creative industry and many different small business and landmarks of Botswana to intrigue and entice viewers.”
When expanding more on the show, Legwaila said Bots Top 5 is an incredibly exciting addition of content to the already booming content on DStv. MultiChoice Botswana Managing Director, Stephanie Pillay, said “More specifically because it speaks to our local content strategy and our screens. We are looking forward to the rest of Africa knowing what we already know, and that is that Botswana’s local creative industry may be still growing but it is definitely full of endless potential.”
When queried to share his option on this development, the country’s most celebrated artist, Han C, said this is a great opportunity that the creative industry has been waiting eagerly for. Han C says he has music already playing on Channel O.
“Most of our artists in Botswana do not have platforms to showcase their talent. I must applaud MultiChoice Botswana for finally providing light at the end of the tunnel. My fellow colleagues now have where to deposit their talent. This means more exposure for Botswana music and I content.”
For his part, award winning music producer, Fella, said this is a great development as it ensures ease of submission “so that everyone has a fair chance to get their visuals played because a lot of local artists did not have much easier and simple way to submit videos on the platform.”
He said this however, means upping standards and quality for “our music visuals taking them more serious than ever before. Channel O is a big, inter regional platform that for sure ensures quality control and values quality content,” Fella said in a quick interview.
Nonetheless, he expressed worry, questioning the length that the new project will take. “My only issue is how many times we would see this happening. My wish is to see this happen every month if indeed it is intended for locals.”