Before she began working on her new film A United Kingdom, Amma Asante had never heard of Seretse Khama. Now she's bringing his story to the big screen and hopes it will illuminate a seemingly forgotten part of British post-war history.
In 1947, Seretse Khama, an African prince training to be a lawyer in London, met and fell in love with Ruth Williams, an English bank clerk. But their interracial relationship and plans to wed and return to Seretse's native Bechuanaland (modern Botswana) was greeted by fierce family and political opposition.
"We absolutely admit that none of us knew about this story before it came to us in the form of this project," says the film's director Amma Asante.
"Ten years ago financiers were saying we don't make period projects about unknown people – they wanted Mozarts and Churchills and people that you knew about.
"But that's been changing over the last few years and film is being allowed to expose stories that people haven't heard of and audiences are proving that that interests them."
The project was brought to Asante by David Oyelowo, who plays Seretse in A United Kingdom opposite Rosamund Pike as Ruth.
Introducing the film to the audience at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it had its world premiere, Asante described Seretse and Ruth as "people who held onto life with both hands".
The film, she added, showed "the fall out that happened when they fell in love".
Asante expands on the subject when we meet in a Toronto bar the following day.
"Someone described Seretse and Ruth as the Burton and Taylor of their time," she laughs.
"She was this fashionable creature in these little black suits and he had this trilby hat. They were front page news."
Based on Susan Williams' book Colour Bar, A United Kingdom portrays how opposition to Seretse and Ruth's marriage went much wider than their immediate families.
The South African government – about to introduce apartheid – could not tolerate the idea of an interracial couple ruling a neighbouring country.
It pressured Britain to stop the union by threatening to cut off the supplies of the uranium and gold Britain needed for its nuclear programme and to rebuild its post-war economy.
Asante, who grew up in south London as the child of Ghanaian immigrants, welcomes the number of other films on this year's festival circuit – such as The Birth of a Nation and Loving – that examine racial prejudice from a historical perspective.
"We are in highly politicised times," she says.
"America is just coming out of a period where it had its first black president and it might be about to vote in its first woman president.
"Britain just voted itself out of Europe. Some people said it had nothing to do with xenophobia, some people say it did.
"In these highly politicised times you get polarisation. There is very little in the middle. At that time the job of the film-maker is to reflect society and the conversations that are going on.
"A really tangible way to explore politics is through race."
It was important to Asante that the African scenes were filmed in Botswana. She used some of the actual locations associated with Seretse and Ruth, such as the house where they first lived.
"We had to put the house back together, literally. It was a derelict shell," she recalls.
"We recreated the looks of the rooms through old photographs. The hospital in the scene where Ruth gives birth to their baby is the actual hospital where Seretse was born."
How well is the story known in Botswana?
"Not as well as I thought," says Asante. "But I'm going to get lashed on Twitter from people saying 'you didn't get this right, you didn't get that right'.
"But, in the way that [Asante's previous film] Belle is now taught in schools, I hope this will also make a difference too, across Africa."
Seretse died in 1980, having been Botswana's first president since 1966. Ruth, who had been the First Lady of Botswana until her husband's death, died in 2002.
As our interview comes to an end, Asante reveals that Seretse's grandson had attended the premiere the previous night.
Furthermore, Seretse's son, Ian Khama, is now the fourth elected president of Botswana.
"We were in conversation with the president while we were making the film as well as many family members," says Asante. "They certainly didn't tell us the kind of film to make."
She recalls how President Khama arrived in his helicopter while they were filming in a village.
"I remember him looking out of the corner of his eye at Rosamund and David and saying, 'It's really weird to see your parents coming back to life'."
A United Kingdom opens in the UK on 25 November and will open the London Film Festival on 5 October.
It opens with a fascinating and vivid film revolving around the colonial history of British government duplicity, South Africa’s power under President Malan’s regime and the enduring love and controversial marriage of the King of (the then British Protectorate) Bechuanaland, Seretse Khama and London secretary Ruth Williams.
In 1947, Seretse Khama, studying law in London, met Ruth at a Missionary Society ‘do’. Both felt liberated by the social upheaval that followed the Second World War but their proposed marriage was challenged not only by their respective families but also by the British and South African governments.
The latter had recently introduced the policy of apartheid and found the notion of a biracial couple ruling a neighbouring country intolerable. South Africa threatened the British: either thwart the couple or be denied access to South African uranium (vital for the British nuclear programme) and gold (vital to replenish reserves following the war) and face the risk of South Africa invading Botswana.
Despite the terrible pressures they faced, Seretse and Ruth fought for their love every step of the way, breaching centuries of old tradition and being pawns in the British game of colonial politics. The result is modern-day Botswana.
Starring David Oyelowo (who also produces) as Khama, Rosamund Pike as Ruth and directed by Amma Asante (Belle), this is a sumptuous film with breath-taking scenes of Africa and absorbing views of post-wartime London. It is shot in actual places in Botswana like the Khama’s house, Serowe and Palpaye and the strong cast includes Jack Davenport, Tsotsi’s Terry Pheto as Seretse’s sister, Vusi Kunene as Seretse’s uncle, the Regent Tshekedi Khama and Nicholas Lyndhurst (Only Fools and Horses).
Women love style, looking dolled up, looking graceful and elegant but it begs the question; is your personal image representing the true you?
It is important to wear the right outfit, colours, styles and attitude to achieve your best look and to be taken serious. In addition, it is essential to wear the right mind-set about your self-image because the way you see yourself will have a mirror effect on how others see you.
Mosadi is an image consultancy geared towards uplifting women socially by means of image consulting. It empowers women to look great, feel their best and increase self-confidence.
Image consulting is a professional field that aims to improve the image of a client personally or professionally through appearance, behaviour, and communication.
With proper grooming, wardrobe, accessories and body language, Mosadi will project your best image and unique personal style to create greater opportunities and improved relationships.
It will also assist you communicate your personal or professional goals successfully to project greater confidence in all situations. In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, Lemogang Sesupo, co-owner of Mosadi (currently employed as a teacher) said this is a business she started with her blood sister Boemo Sesupo (a records officer).
“I can confidently reveal that running this business has its ups and downs, but what better way to have those struggles than with family. She is more into the clothing line and I am more into the consultancy but together we make it work. The two departments give into each other which makes it easy for us to make it work,’’ said Sesupo.
She says passion, purpose and hobby is what makes the business flow with ease.“Looking good, feeling good and doing good makes the dream work. Mosadi wants to change the idea people have about women in the corporate world.
We are trying to break boundaries from people saying women sleep their way to the top or being trophy wives. This concept is all about redefining the woman.”
The duo believe that Mosadi can do it all by herself from her sweat and hard work without being dependent on men. This, they say, could be made possible if they look good and dwell much on improving their appearance.
“Many people perceive local employees as poor service providers by the way they look, so we believe it’s time that stops today. A woman should look womanly and be comfortable in her look. Looking decent has that effect where the way you walk with your head held high and the productivity level goes up,” says Sesupo.
Sesupo told WeekendLife that they provide make-over services, image consultancy, styling, and corporate clothing and MC services. Technically, Mosadi came at an appropriate time when the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, something that gave birth to the shattering Gender-Based Violence.
In Botswana, the numbers are taking a growing curve.It is only vital these women have their voices heard in fighting this crisis. This will not only help government, but will look good for their image especially now that they work with women at most times. Women do look pretty and elegant, but they carry much snags and worries, and only a shoulder to cry on can do marvels.
“Character is key. Mosadi wants to build character for women. A woman with character will know her worth, tap into her intuition and differentiate between what is right and wrong. With GBV, Mosadi is trying to let women to know their worth. We strive to educate them to make decisions for themselves and to be independent.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way the world moves, actually, it has it at a standstill.
The impacts of this deadly virus are massive, and the only way to curb it from spreading is through social distancing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The pandemic had gym rooms closed to avoid crowding by fitness enthusiasts. However, some have come up with alternative ways of keeping fitness rolling even in the midst of this plague.
Prominent fitness trainer and certified sports psychologist, Chyna Mokaila couldn’t be at a standstill from working out with clients, even in the middle of a deadly virus. He has since started an online training program dubbed CMFit Virtual fitness.
The program begun during the first lockdown implemented in March 2020, but because there was no revenue coming in, the young lad had to go back to the drawing board and come up with something tangible to earn him monies.
He told Weekendlife in an exclusive interview this week that; “I had to make a sustainable solid plan that would see me doing what I do best and continue my work with or without lockdown and COVID-19. This made me tap into other markets and countries throughout the world. Currently, I have clients as far as the US, Canada, Austria, Italy, and neighbouring South Africa and Zambia.”
Chyna says the online fitness training has proven to be less risky in exposing oneself to the virus, as they get to training at the comfort of their homes with less contact.
“COVID-19 has brought a lot of sadness, depression and unhealthy habits because of being restricted to lockdowns. It goes without saying that staying fit helps individuals with depression and offers a feel good atmosphere.
Health should be our number one priority at this current moment, and the only way it can be done is virtually. People have learnt to embrace technology so we might as well divert our services to such platforms.”
Virtual fitness is cost effective, according to Chyna. “Although you get the same feel and package which comprises of consultation, nutritional guidelines, assessments and the actual training program the only difference is that the trainer is not there physically with you but virtually.”
Nutrition plays a very critical role in blocking viruses that could alter how the body system works. The right amounts of nutrients reduce risks of non-communicable diseases, increases energy levels to perform better and fight infections. Scientists say COVID-19 critically affects those with underlying health conditions.
Chyna told Weekendlife that he envisions reaching out to the world market, indicating that he will be having his training programs online as he has seen an opportunity in the digital space.
“This will start with repackaging my brand so that it is at par with the best in the world, hence why I have moved from Chyna’s kata-Bo to CMFit which provides more detailed programs anyone can do on their own- following my virtual programs.”
In his rigorous efforts to help people realize the significance of an active and healthy lifestyle, Chyna has collaborated with the BTV Morning Fitness Show and Yarona FM’s Fatboy Challenge which saw him landing another health segment with the radio station.
The fitness enthusiast has also worked with the senior men’s and women’s national football team, as well as the karate team as the conditioning coach. Internationally, Chyna has collaborated with Essence Events from the United States.
His core duty was to travel Africa promoting active lifestyle and health.Chyna is currently a conditioning coach for Township Rollers, an engagement that sees him guide and work with the team, keeping them at pick in terms of their fitness levels.
This enables them to cope with the demands of the game without fail throughout the season.
The country’s biggest beauty pageant, Miss Botswana, has eroded over the years. Beside the fact that crowned Queens dismally fail at Miss World year-in-year-out, the pageantry itself has been losing its shine in terms of organization, implementation and just throwing a glamourous event like it used to do before producing little to no tangible results.
Of course it started in 2018 when Miss Botswana was just disorganized and boring. The event was held at Masa Square Hotel, when only three participants battled it out for the blue crown.
Moitshepi Elias was crowned the princess that Friday night. That was technically the last time we saw her smile because, even if she did at Miss World, her smile wasn’t convincing enough.
The judges felt she was not good enough, as she was not even close to Top 40. In the history of the pageant, Miss Botswana 2010; Emma Wareus and Miss Botswana 1997; Mpule Kwelagobe are the only queens to be remembered as those who made a great impact as they reached top positions at Miss World and Miss Universe. Wareus was crowned the first runner up, while Kwelagobe snatched the title to become Miss Universe 1999.
Miss Botswana 2020 could not be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, something that left beauty pageant analysts stunned. Some feel this is a huge setback for the organizers, Development Advance Institute (DAI). This organization took over in 2018 and came with a plan for Miss Botswana, in which they strive to give the pageant a facelift.
Prominent beauty pageant analyst, Morekolodi Smith, told Weekendlife that a gap year delayed the implementation of the plan. “DAI aimed at revamping the organization, bidding to host Miss World and it will be tough to reach those aspirations due to this year gap. It still has to work on the reputation of Miss Botswana which has been deteriorating for years.
DAI promised a new era for Miss Botswana, I had expectations that they will crown a well-rounded girl who can bring glory to this country. With everything on hold and zero communication on what to expect, I see failure. The silence and inactivity is almost eerie. I wouldn’t be surprised if DAI drops Miss Botswana and another organization takes over.”
Smith says part of Miss Botswana could be held virtually, to avoid the stillness and dropping in rankings. “Auditions, short-listings and preliminary interviews could be held virtually but not the actual final show. There is no need for the final show to be held virtually because traditionally Miss Botswana is never contested by more than 50 girls. The number is always narrowed to 12 and 16.”
He explained that the selection committee could go through all applications and select the Top 15, adding that the 15 would then be profiled in-depth followed by official photoshoots and glam shots. “They could then take part in multimedia campaigns and host webinars.
Pre-recording the swimsuit and evening gown preliminary competition as well as featuring contestant video profiling could add magic. This is the time to maximize on video content.”Smith says there could be talent segment where contestants showcase their talent to entertain, and it could be recorded and each contestant’s video can be uploaded on social media for online audience and the public gets to vote for their favourite, and the winner gets to perform during the final show.
“Then the final show can be streamed live on social media platforms. Miss Botswana could have all Top 15 contestants do an opening number, followed by self-introductions then their short video profiles played. It can feature live onstage swimsuit and evening gown competition.”
After the swimsuit and evening gown competition, Smith said the question and answer session could be held, leading to crowing of the next Miss Botswana. He however, said Miss Botswana’s performance is fuelled by many challenges that persisted for quite a stretch now.
“One major challenge is that the Miss Botswana pageant is held very late. Our queens have limited time to prepare. This leads to half cooked Beauty with a Purpose project. No one excels at Miss World without an impactful Beauty with a Purpose project.”
He suggested that Miss Botswana could be held at least eight months before Miss World festival so that the winner can work on her project, a project that needs to be documented and packaged well. “I realized that queens here don’t have physical input on their projects. They always look glamorous and do not actually do the work. They are always on VIP mode and only come to cut the ribbon.
It is time that stops today. Tiara should be put aside and sleeves should be rolled. Preparation and packaging is key.”“It is essential to have Miss Botswana every year so that she can reach out to communities and add value to those in need.
Being Miss Botswana is more like an ambassador, the winner gets to represent Botswana internationally, precisely at Miss World. I think Botswana requires that global positioning space, as this works well with country branding because Miss World is a premium event.”