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Yoko- Ono the first Motswana to ply her trade in Nollywood

Yoko-Ono Manowe

At 25 years Yoko-Ono Manowe, a graduate of the University of Witwatersrand is an acclaimed actress and qualified movie-maker (producer and director) based in Nollywood, a sobriquet that originally referred to the Nigerian film industry.

She was discovered at an early age of 13 as having an enormous talent while she was at Gaborone’s Maru a-Pula High School.

She recalls that Warren Nebe who was the school head, Aldo Brincate and Gao Lemmenyane both influenced her career, encouraging her to be onstage.   

Her first theatrical performance was Sarafina Comes to Town in 2007 where she played the lead actress in a full house Maitisong Theatre at a show where tickets were sold out. She was more than overwhelmed when the State-owned local newspaper Daily News put her on the front page and other private media went into raptures over the performance she displayed. At that particular juncture she was convinced her dream was going to be realised, she wanted to be a movie-star of great repute.

The name Yoko-Ono is Japanese, she was named after wife to the late John Lennon. Her mother was a die-hard fan of the Beetles, the rock British band from Liverpool that Lennon was a member of. She grew up watching a lot of Nollywood films, her exam performance, which was her last stage performance, was based on the two Nollywood “short boys” and acclaimed actors Osita Iheme and Chinedu Ikediedzi and the comedy piece was titled Tom Boys from Abuja and alongside her friend they played the characters.

Her performance at the Wits downstairs theatre earned her a standing ovation, and it was from then that she lived in character, as the play had penetrated theatre revellers that saw her show. Throughout the remainder of her university days, she spoke Nigerian pidgin because that was how now people identified her.

Her inroad to the Nollywood industry was a heavenly call. In her third year the Nollywood “short boys”, along with Ejike Asiegbu “The Godfather” Desmond Elliot and Patience Ozokwor “Mama G” came to Johannesburg and she was got a VIP invitation for a dinner, particularly to meet the “short boys”. That night she couldn’t eat, she literally went crazy.

She was later introduced to the movie- star Desmond Elliot who immediately sponsored her to go to Nollywood. In their conversation about the movie industry he was so impressed about her deep knowledge for movies that he carved out a role for her as an international employee named Betty in his award winning movie, Finding Mercy. This made her the first Motswana actress to breakthrough Nollywood.

Short in 2013, the film was released last year and it went on to win Best Drama in Golden Icon Academy awards hosted in Houston Texas. It is currently airing on Africa Magic channel 152.In the movie, she was acts alongside big Nollywood names like Rita Dominic, Uti Nwachukwu (Big Brother Africa 5 winner), Chioma Chukwukwa Akpotha, Blossom Chukwujweku, some of the stars she grew up watching and never thought she will one day meet in person. The following year she was called back to shoot “One last word” alongside Nollywood hunk Majid Michel.

Yoko came in just at the time Nollywood was introducing new Nigerian Cinema, the films are of higher quality from the traditional home videos and are now cinema standard shot with the latest RED Cameras. However, in the second film she speaks Setswana and represents her culture. The legendary Desmond Elliot wanted to showcase cross culture and the expansion of Nollywood and welcoming new Diasporas talent.  

During her stay in Nigeria working for Nollywoood more jobs were coming up and she started to be concerned about coming back home- being patriotic, she advocates for locality. Her talent raised more questions from the Nigerians who wanted to know more about the Botswana industry, thus urging her to complete her studies and come back home and first build her national identity.

That is what she is currently doing and Batswana can expect to see her more on local screens next year and she is now signed under Zen Promotions and managed by one of the few female promoters to have made it in Botswana, Zenzele Hirschfield. National ground breaking projects are underway under her 2016 movement titled “Local for Global”.

She hasn’t abandoned Nollywood and she will be returning to West Africa after being satisfied with the national identity.

“I just want to make sure this time ke tsamaya ka serite se ko godimo”, said Yoko- Ono talking to WeekendLife in Gaborone last week.

For now she wants Batswana to know that she is an artist and she owes her hand to the national flow of activities, the Local for Global projects will achieve and demonstrate exactly that.

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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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