Women who live through hurricanes

We are here again. 

She is swaying her bruised hips like the stones I placed on them are as light as July’s breeze. 

She is dragging out her cloudy breath like air can tie and knot broken bones until they become rain. 

She is terrified that she is turning into one of those disappearing things. 

Those things that easily leak through the windows of memory right into the centre of oblivion. 

Those kind of things spoken of in rare midnight whispers between broken women and lonely men. 

Those things that are ugly and tragic. 

She is still like silence can stop the smell of gun powder, blood and corpses. 

Like her smallness can stop me from pinning the screams of my old nightmares and inner treason into the map of her chapped lips. 

Like her grit can hold off the whirlwinds of a hurricane and an angry universe. 

She has been here before. 

The scars on her knees are inscribed with the echoes of that time I pointed an arrow at the outlines of her shadow. 

That time I feed her wildflowers, drunk kisses and lies for breakfast. 

That time I told her I am going to make her feel really good and turned and left her with a sad song and dying rainbows. 

That time I set her tears and prayer book with an inferno. 

Her fingers still trembling from their inability to house all the Sundays and tea parties I forgot to live with her in. 

She’s got wars, volcanoes and half of a beating heart.  

I have been here before. 

Last night I told her I need compliance, invisibility and royal dresses for play. 

That I like my woman with a thousand hands delicate enough to knit her desires and emotional landscape into feathery pillows. 

I tend to need something soft and ready when the crowd gets lost in other voices.

 Last night I gave her an axe so she can make herself a wooden doll from the excess sheath in her spine. 

Her heartstrings are tangled up with the dust from all the kisses and forgiveness lessons I forgot to give her. 

I am sorry, sometimes. 

And when I do feel fickle and a little vulnerable I want to tell her the truth.

I want to tell you the truth. 

You are a daughter of thunder and fire.

Things that are ancient and infinite. 

You are a passenger and someday you will disappear from this scrawly space where forgotten ghouls, hollow trees and frosty deserts weep. 

Someday your skin will stop sweeping in and out of time, only to make a new home someplace where dragon flies and ghosts dance.

Someday you will decide to strip apart the core of your darkness and pack the void within with silver-stars.

Someday you will simply gather yourself, your shattered heart, worn-out voice and poignant fantasies into the brim of your soul and you will become part of the earth. 

You will give birth to moons and stars. 

You will re-write yourself into new and better memories. 

Someday you will learn how to carry your shadow in the rift of your breast.

 Daughter, you will live through this hurricane. 

You will live through this hurricane.

 
 

 

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Silent Love

Once in an eternal winter we lived within a story of a love that is silent.

We tiptoed through an ancient path of colorless and dreamlike love.

The kind of love that need not to be seen or spoken or known.

The kind of love that finds its breath in clouded shadows, shared heartbreaks and transcending mis-identities.

In our mystical story, we only had to continue splitting hairs and picking old suitcases exactly where we last ended.

Like old times, we went back to the ruins with the very same old voices- only wiser and a little lighter.

Because by now, we have learnt the art of playing this kaleidoscopic game.

By now, we know how to wear the secrets of ourselves in our too excited tongues and too loud laughter.

Soul-mate, by now we know exactly how to exist within ourselves and still pay homage to each other.

 

The truth is, I don’t remember how we became my most intimate prayer.

Except in all that I have created- this, this thing we call our friendship is my best and favorite manifestation.

In you is a timeless river that easily – with no effort reflects my best version of this capsule-suit where my soul temporarily resides.

Somehow, in my most vicious memory loss of what the face of eternity looks like, I think of you.

With your alive thread of sharp quirky and wild laughter- such laughter!

And only then do I remember to dance to the songs of calmness.

Only then do I remember that the curtains of forgetfulness are up.

And that I better walk these dirty streets with a head held up because on the other side, I can always count on finding you there.

For if we do one thing really well- it is how we always whisper the melody of our love, even in silence.

 

My dear friend, you have always carried my weary heart to the plateau of healing and for that I am grateful.

With your unshakable loyalty, you have always chosen to see me: an opinionated, aggressive brush of an eternal dreamer.

And still you never fail to witness and love this thunder light personality of mine.

I love you. You, the guardian of my rainbow days and favorite memories.

I love you. You, the mirror that allows me to see myself without the dark embers of old hurts.

I love you. You, the closest thing resembling what life outside time and space might look like.

My dearest soul-mate, I love you.

Intensely, rivetedly and silently. In this eternal winter into another and another.

 

A History: The odyssey of Afro-Artvism

In art, the journey of an art-creation rarely starts from a singular thought or desire or perception. Most artworks are myriad journeys of a thousand folds of places, faces and voices simply collected together to build something—anything that comes close to describing the utterly, complex world of the human soul and its experience.  Most artworks are journeys to the center of the creator. A lucid spiral of the material and emotional world of the person and the space they exist in. I understand art– the very transcendental purpose of art to be an inner glimpse of the workings of the artist, his culture and his time-era. So many truths and mis-truths are held in paintings, poems and folktales of our times and of the old.

This is why as an Afro-optimist and aspiring African philosopher, I am particularly interested in capturing and celebrating how art created by Africans, shifts the way we define and understand the past, modern and future African human. I am passionate with the ideologies of African thought, experience and introspection. I find pieces of me in the thousands form of African introspection—that are mostly visible in African artistic creations.

In retrospect, perhaps the most vivid of the many  birth of my Afro-Artvism comes from my History of Philosophy class in college, wherein we had a dozen philosophers from Switzerland, America and Germany to study, but one or two African philosophers; of whom did not particularly hold concrete and holistic ideals that truly explained the African experience in its entirely. At the time,  Philosophy to me had to satisfy the countless philosophical  questions  passing in my brain.  What is African thought- and how does the African environment influence the evolution of African thought? – How does the African human internalize their experience? Why is it that there are similar psycho-social problems rampant in Africa? – But mostly, in transcendental ideals, what is the African’s theory of who we are? And can someone explain why we are here, in this particular realm of condition?

As expected, I was visible convinced that as usual the African human was failing even in the simplest task. The African human was failing to define him/herself.  But as times passed, I learnt to look with vigilant eyes. I started to understand that Philosophy is not only a way of thinking of and about life, that is also only allowed within the walls of a classroom. I learnt to realize that the African man has always told his story. That in paintings, poems and folktales, the African man has been introspecting on his experience for many years. I was moved and impressed and captivated by this way of viewing the introspection of the African experience.  I wanted to be part of this bigger cause. I wanted to capture this invisible philosophy that has been going on for eons. And so the odyssey of my Afro-Artvism; an incessant, intense desire, warm embrace and celebration of the poignant beauty of African heritage captured through art, was born.

This blog has gone through a metamorphosis from the moment of its conception. I have moved from exploring my own philosophy of my own African experience, to capturing and having some of the most thought-provoking and ground-breaking conversations with some of the most talented African artists of our time. My desire is  to journey further into the multidimensional aspects of Afro- Artvism. I have a strong intention to expand my exploration of African art, across all creative aspects and from all sides of this fluid, ever-changing and heart-breaking, shadowy beaut.  Please join me  in the odyssey of Afro-Artvism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Among Flowers

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I have been dreaming of a time and space

Where I live among flowers.

With impeccable silence threaded in my backbone

I will remember how to freeze infinity.

Standing there in the midst of simple oneness

I will be within the smell of perfection.

The kind that reminds you of the aftermath

Of raindrops hitting black soil.

Every vein path flowing in the landscape

of my wall petals will carry with it the most sacred force.

And I will see myself in your eyes and

Dear Lord, I am beautiful.

 

With my thick, hard roots and

wars with earth shadows and broken stones,

I exist in emptiness.

I sway back and forth into the wild caress of the wind.

I break all of my essence fragments until

I stand unimaginably small and naked.

Light, never too far, hits me in just the right amount

And I sparkle like a dozen picture perfect moonlight.

 

This is my destiny.

The answer to the love letter I wrote to the sky

When I was still young, still impressionable

Still knowing how to leave handprints on

Things I touch with my mind.

Still knowing how to build universes with my thoughts,

Still knowing how to witness the most incredible,

Tranquil, peace hovering all around me.

 

I think of all the words you will use to call me.

Exquisite, quite mystical and overwhelmingly magnificent.

It will not matter that sometimes spikes of thorns sprout in my stem

wall.

That sometimes I tend to shrivel when my soul become quenched

for too long.

And that sometimes darkness has a way of engulfing my beauty.

And that after all the admiration and standing ovations

I am exactly as extraordinary as the next flower.

Conversations With Boitshoko Jeremia

Boitshoko is one of the most inspiring and dedicated filmmakers in Botswana. With an international  award winning film under his belt, he talks to me about the pursuit of action in wildlife film making,  as well as publishing two books in one year. 

Gaamangwe: Boitshoko, you are currently making brilliant waves in the film industry. Take me to the start, how and why did you venture to film-making?

Boitshoko: For the love of it. Thirty years or so ago my father used to travel with a camera. He shot some remarkable pics that would stay in my mind for years. The photo I remember the most is of the vehicle they were using then to cross Third Bridge. I guess the first time I saw that picture  was twenty four years ago and it’s still in my mind. Later with the years he gave me a small video camera. With it, I shot a video across the border in Zambia of a church choir.Then my uncle, who is also my film partner, Presley Mbeha had a part to play in it. Five years ago I’d borrow his camera, those Panasonic VHS cameras, with it I’d go back to Zambia and still do another video for charity at Donaleo International School. We went professional three years back when the same uncle invited me to do wildlife filming with him. And you know I got to see Third Bridge in person this time around!

That’s amazing. Why are you particularly inclined to wildlife filming?

First of all, wildlife is in our backyard. It’s part of who we are, especially when you’re from Chobe, home to the largest elephant population on earth, where the ratio of people to elephants is 7:1. Secondly, how long will we sit and watch people coming  from Europe and America always shooting films of wildlife while we do nothing about it!! That’s a call to action right there, we owe it to ourselves and to posterity. Nature is one of the best stories we can tell in our area as we easily relate with them. I am not only into wildlife filming but into other kind of films as well, which almost all of them have a foothold here one way or another.

I couldn’t agree more. We should definitely start to tell our stories, only we can give them the authenticity they deserve. Tell me more about your recent wildlife film.

Well our recent wildlife film is called PREDATORS PARADISE. It’s a 24 minutes film we shot in Savuti, Chobe, Botswana last year. I did it with Presley Mbeha. Its about the unrest that is there in the wild when it comes to ownership of a meal. Prides of lions that have to battle it out with packs of hyenas over an elephant kill. Nobody is safe in the wild, including elephants. Greatness has no guarantees in that part of the world & it can be attained in various ways. Who can imagine that lions can be outdone by vultures in the competition! That’s basically what’s the film is about. It took lots of guts and bravery to make it. Sleepless nights, the longest I remember was twenty one hours at a sighting where a pride of nine lions had killed an eight year old  elephant.

Wow. What an incredible dedication to art. Why did you want to capture this reality?

You see with wildlife patience is of essence. You have to wait for as long as it takes for action to start taking place. At other times action can start happening around midnight. In this case the 21 hours was all action as that’s how long it took the lion pride to eat up the entire elephant. We didn’t want to miss a single moment. There was a time I guess about two hours after midnight when we fell asleep, we locked the car doors (you know when you’re sleeping you forget where you are), just to avoid a scenario where when one felt answering the call of nature would lead to answering it in the middle of death. It’s a dangerous undertaking believe me. One of the dangers is losing touch with danger, the moment when one gets to mistake the lions for tamed domestic dogs. I hope you get my point. It’s not like doing a fictional film where you can pull the actors in any direction according to the script. Sometimes when animals are just there without any action it’s a useless shot. If it means driving around for twenty to a hundred kilometers in a day looking for action then that’s what has to be done.

That’s amazing. You must really have so much love for wildlife. How was been the response to the film?

The world took interest of our work. We had 17 international film festival participation this year, with none being in Southern Africa. We’ve had invitations from Egypt, Nigeria, Mauritania, Italy, Peru, USA, India and Indonesia. More invites coming from Asian countries. Of the 16 nominations we got 11 come from Asia. Indonesia gave us 9 different awards from 9 different film festivals. We got Platinum, three Golds, three Awards of Merit, and an Honorable Mention from the nation of 17,500 Islands alone. Mumbai gave a Certificate of Excellence to our film. We still have other invitations to home from several countries which we have not yet honored. We didn’t expect such mass appreciation. Some countries in North Africa have been amazed at the film.. That’s inspiration right there.

That’s amazing. Is there anything specific in the film that you were honored for? Also what is it about your film that has called forth international attention and honor?

I guess it’s the way the film has been made. There are certain scenes that are a mark of bravery. Like the fight between nine lions and thirteen hyenas. And that of a pride of lions against vultures for the take over of a priced meal. It’s difficult to pin point what they exactly saw other than to use their own words ‘it is a brave film’. The awards have not been for any specific department but for the whole film in general.

Wow. Amazing. Just amazing. Do you have any filmmaker(s) or film (s) that inspire you? Perhaps, even inspired the production of your film?

The making of PREDATORS PARADISE wasn’t inspired by any other film. It was purely original. However I do like 3 IDIOTS a lot…the way that film was written is remarkable…I literally study that film each time I watch it.

Amazing. I can understand why your film was an original idea, you seem to be naturally inclined to nature especially wildlife. You have actually written The Perils of Tranquility and Footprints of the Almighty, literary work that highlight different aspects of nature, especially wildlife. Tell me more about your books?

Both my published books are short stories and I published both of them last year, within a space of three months. There’s no fiction in them. Perils Of Tranquility is mostly stories of how people in northern Botswana live. Most of the time we have tourists from all over the world come here to see the nature and animals, I bet they rarely stop in their tracks to ask themselves how the locals thrive in this part of the world. I wrote it to answer that question mostly. Some stories are sadly hilarious.

I wrote in an emotional state like how my mother survived an elephant attack. Some of them can make you laugh, considering the resilience of nature and stubbornness of some tourists. Chapter 10 is my favorite of an Army captain who was undressed by the waters of the Zambezi River for not following safety instructions he was given. I included stories from across the border in Namibia and Zimbabwe as our areas are almost the same.

On another hand Footprints of the Almighty is filled with inspirational stories that can strengthen one’s faith despite the different challenges we go through in life, regardless of background, culture, work etc. I covered a wider geographical area in the making of this one. There are stories from South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana, Kenya, Ethiopia and The Philippine Islands…The idea of covering over half a dozen countries was to show that as human beings our challenges are cross cultural. Yet in all of these the faith of those who went through them is strengthened. They include among other things battling with long held cultural spiritual beliefs for healing; like bathing in chicken blood for instance. Some of these stories including academic challenges, overcoming childhood rape and molestation. The stories are so diverse from one another, let me not forget someone who called God to a meeting to answer for His un-healthfulness.

Amazing. Quite inspiring too. How has been your experience with publishing? What has been the reception?

I don’t think I struggled to publish. The publisher and I struck a deal on my budget. Fortunately I had the offer of publishing two books within twelve months for what seemed like the price of ‘one’ book. As for my readers, I’ve done well with international travelers than locals. I’ve been blessed to sell in bulk at most instances. It’s more rewarding selling in bulk than single copies. The largest delivery I ever made was thirty copies at a go. I have donated copies to a library in Zambia. One of my customers really inspired me. She bought ten copies at a go, only to learn later that she donated them to a library in South Africa, that is being very supportive.

That’s very encouraging. Boitshoko, thank you so much for this. It was truly wonderful. Any last words?

You’ll meet with lots of discouragements especially from people you expected support from….you’ll meet with more disaster before triumph, whatever you go through don’t turn back, You owe it to yourself more than to anybody.

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Boitshoko Jeremia

 

 

Conversations with Boitshepo Motsamai

Boitshepo  Motsamai is a talented and passionate feature writer dedicated to changing negative internal and external perception of Africa. She talks to me about African Development and the importance of promoting Pan- Africanism.

Gaamangwe: So Boitshepo, you are an amazing feature writer for your super amazing blog, The Afrolutionist. How did the idea for your blog develop?

Boitshepo: Well this blog stems from the idea that we Africans always say that the west doesn’t know about our continent, but how much do we know about all 54 countries? How much positivity and development are we aware of? I have realized that we tend to carry the same stereotypical image that the west carries unto other areas of the continent. This is what brought on The Afrolutionist; a platform which not only celebrates sung and unsung heroes, but also gives news on African development in all regions of the continent.

 True. Amazing idea too. Other than African development, what other areas or themes do you explore in your blog?

 Well African development sums up what my blog is about  but we look into African’s economic, social,  health and arts and culture sector. We however emphasize the arts and culture sector on weekends as more contributors for the blog are highlighted.

Amazing. As someone who obviously spends a lot of time learning about recent African development, what trends are you finding? And in what way/direction do you think Africa can develop  as a continent? What should be the priority?

It is really difficult to say, but I do believe that the main wars we fight as Africans are very internal. Yet we do not find a solution with us. I believe for us to grow we need to invest more in ourselves, stop looking to the west for constant assistance and constant investments. When we have citizens here ready and willing to invest in Africa. If anything what hinders us from development is greed, our inability to unite. If we can focus on helping each other we can be in a  position to create a healthy economic climate for our continent as a whole.

 Most definitely. For you as an African, what do you think is necessary to actually get to  that positive position. How do we move theory/ideas to reality?

It starts through policy making and implementation, It trickles into our education- teaching youth about Pan-Africanism and unity. Its delivered onto our media: more positive stories. It will take many years to get there, possibly centuries, as we need to redress issues that have separated us for over a hundred years. We must be patient as well. For lack of a better word: we must be brainwashed into positive thinking, patriotic behavior and unison. But then again, my solution is a drop in the ocean. We also have to deal with political scars that still affect us now.

 Of course. But then again we have to start somewhere. Speaking of starts, when and how did you get interested in writing and African development?

I think my interest came about the time I was doing alot of voluntary work for the United Nations. They have a platform where people could use their online access to volunteer. Usually, I received a lot of work from organizations in Africa that wanted help in online social presence. So I did Facebook posts, tweets, blog posts for them. And my passion brewed a little from there. Also as I mentioned, our gap in what we believe is Africa fueled the fire.

 Great. Still on the topic of influence, which writer (s) has inspired and influenced you in your writing and thinking?

I think what’s fascinating is that I have been more inspired by broadcasts journalists and motivational speakers than writers. Possibly because I spoke first then wrote later. I am constantly inspired by Reginald Richardson, our local journalist. Also Christian Amanpour and her style of tackling news in an extremely fresh point of view. As far as motivational speakers go, Patricia Fripp, Malcolm Gladwell and Phillipe Starck assist in my manner of thinking. While African greats such as Kwame Nkrumah help me keep my content in line.

 Amazing. Now I wonder, what kind of brand do you want to create for yourself as well as The Afrolutionist?

I never really tell people this, but oh well…remember when I said that media needs to be involved in shaping our mindset and creating a unison in our continent? This is my way of creating the solution. For now, The Afrolutionist is a blog but in future it will stem into other media platforms. My aim is to ensure that the way we think about our land changes. So that we are able to build a better Africa.

I love it. I believe you will reach your aim Boitshepo. Thank you so much for this amazing conversation. Any last words?

Thank you so much for the opportunity Joy, and for the fruitful energy you’ve been throughout this conversation. All I have left to say is to anyone reading this, simply be the best version of yourself, focus on the positives and don’t be led by negativity.

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See Boitshepo’s work: https://afrolutionist.wordpress.com/

 

Conversations With Sibongile Tasila Phiri

Sibongile Tasila Phiri  is a versatile and multi-talented  writer  currently making waves in the Botswana writing landscape. She has a kind of stream of consciousness conversation with me on her love of poetry, the influence of Stanislavsky, and her future plans  in Peace Building and Conflict Resolution.

Gaamangwe: Sibongile you are an all-around amazing writer. How did your love for writing start and expand?

Sibongile: I dunno, I always loved English and Creative Writing when I was in Primary School. And then it developed into a love for Poetry in maybe somewhere around the 4th or 5th grade. From there I started writing a lot of poetry, but it was really more for myself and then in 2007 I think I was part of a programme called Power in The Voice (PIV). This is a British Council Initiative that works with youth in different schools mainly in the Southern African Region and in the UK. It encourages vocal expression through forms of performing arts. The group I was in comprised of Emma Wareus, Nature Inger, Valerie Ferguson and Diana Shiripinda AKA Mutsa- although Mutsa could no longer continue with the group- we were part of the winning team in Botswana and got to perform in an International Festival along with the winners from the respective countries…From then, both my writing and performance poetry began to grow.

Amazing. Which theme (s) do you gravitate towards in your writing?

I tend to gravitate towards everyday topical issues i.e. abuse, adultery, sexuality, alcoholism, love, hate etc. mainly societal ills and uncomfortable things that people are normally afraid to talk about openly. I love probing my audience and myself and then there are times I just love being fun and flirty. So it’s pretty much a mix and mesh of topics. However, if a gun was put to my head and you asked me to just get specific on what exactly I gravitate towards I’d definitely say darker issues…

Why do you think you gravitate towards darker issues? What is it about societal ills that inspire you to highlight them in your writing work?

I don’t know. I guess I’ve always really felt things. I feel deeply. A lot of people might be shocked by this because I tend to sometimes come off as very indifferent and hard at times, but I am a very sensitive person with a giant imagination, so I absorb what I hear, what I experience, what others experience and I pretty much expand it in my head and create from there. Darker issues because they stain more, they have a greater impact I think, that’s why the news exists, not report good news… I had a conversation with my man friend and he said to me that in the badness lies the flavor!! …something to that effect. LOL! But I think that’s why bad things are harder to get over, good things are easily forgotten. This is not to say I am a sad person or dark and emo, but it’s what I observe and what moves me. I guess that why.

I can understand that. There is so much that can be learnt in the darkness. Still on the topic of darkness and emotions, what is your most vulnerable work yet?

Oh dear… uhm two works come to mind…in 2011/12 I was going through a lot at home and I wrote this poem, of which now has gone missing but I remember crying while writing it. Around the same time I joined an artist collective called “Inside/Out: Tshedisa Artists and Residents and I got to perform it. It was my first performance with the group and it ended in me taking my clothes off to represent a cleansing of myself. I’m very self-conscious of my body and the poem alone was a personal matter to me, so combining the two made me super vulnerable, but it was a very therapeutic process.

And then!!! Sometime last year under the same collective, I wrote a piece called “Unseen Shenanigans” and I performed it. I was a prostitute, it was very vulgar and twisted but I did get to smoke with the character, which was fun!!! But after that performance I felt very exposed and threw on a hoodie and run away soon after the performance.

Wow. That’s amazing. Quite inspiring. I absolutely love performers who are unapologetic about their experiences and emotions. Those who cross the boundaries of what we call “morality”. Now that’s what I call art. I am interested in knowing your creative process? From the moment of conceptualization to performance.

Alright, well I don’t think I have one particular set format of how I do things. Sometimes, I can have one image of a particular theme in my mind, or read something i.e. a quote or see a picture and create from there, but this is mainly pertaining to my plays. I also strongly believe in a style of theater called  Workshop Theater, where performances are workshoped, regardless of whether I may have a skeleton of how I want the overall piece to turn out. I find it very rewarding when I get to incorporate the talents of the team I’m working with, there are so many more perspectives and so much more color that you get from collaborating…and then in terms of my poetry , it mainly starts with conversations I have with myself, I ramble to myself, sometimes words of stupidity, yes, but sometimes sense and I write from there…Not as much as before, it comes in tiny spurts of inspiration a lot less than before, but yeah…Sometimes I can write a full on poem in a matter of minutes, other times I take days and just go over it and write short paragraphs that I jumble and re-organize over time. Sometimes it’s from conversations or from watching people. I mainly use my life as my well; I draw constantly from it I guess.

Amazing. The best inspiration for everything is usually life experience. Let’s talk about your plays. How has been your experience with theater?

Well I was in my first big play in 2006 called Annie directed by Stuart White and from there I was hooked. I’d always loved performing and but it was always one of them “hobbies” you know… but I remember saying once to my older brother (Sunga) when I was working on Annie that I could do this forever, it’s the one thing I haven’t  really gotten bored of yet…So I found performance here and there, open mics here and there. And then I got to even study it and be part of the first ever Bachelor of Fine Arts (in Theater Arts) in Botswana, graduating from University of Botswana this year. University of Botswana is where I found my directing and play writing skills developed. In 2011, I directed, wrote and acted in my first play under the name Entrepreneurial and cultural Pride (ECP) Expo: Afro-Cultural Expression Night. The ECP Expo, was organised and founded by Thandi Phiri (my sister) and first held at Maitisong.

And from there I have directed and written 3 plays of my own. My latest work “A purposeless Life” was performed and held at Thapong Visual Arts Centre, here in Gaborone.  And that was a final year school project.

Wow. Just Wow. I am such a lover of theater, so this takes me back. Tell me more about your latest play. The premise and what you hoped the audience will get from it?

Okay,  “A purposeless Life” was originally a play I wrote for a play writing course I took at University of Botswana, and I literally forgot about it once I wrote it. It was really me pulling stuff out of my ass and trying to finish the course. Once I wrote it, I forgot about it. And then, a classmate of mine who was taking a directing course was advised by the lecturer to direct my play for the course, so she asked me about it. I was unsure about having someone direct my play, and whether they would do it justice but thankfully before I could even decline, she told me that it was actually okay ad she’d found something else. So that was when I decide to go back to it and read it and I realized “Hey, this is a frigging good play! Dammit!” So I decided to use it for the final project, I was apprehensive about it, because I didn’t quite know how work that was mine would be received. Sure I’d directed plays but they had very little dialogue which for me made it easier and they were more workshopped than something I’d written from start to end, with dialogue…

 

But anyways, I did go ahead with it. So the play, follows Claire who is a down in her luck woman, she is a recovering alcoholic and we find her at a point where she had just  been fired from her job, and she is now considering just throwing in the towel and just becoming  an alcoholic again. At this point her demons come back to haunt her, the main one being- Luci, who is personified and tempts her to just go ahead and drink. At this point, the play goes through a flashback of Claire’s life and how she came to where she is, we see how the death of her younger sister and her mother blaming her, led her into a life of destruction. She also gets pregnant and decides to abort the baby. However, through all of these experiences although bad, she learns that she is not that person, and demons are just demons, they are liars and they do not dictate your life, even though we let them at times. But she overcomes her demons and decided that there is purpose to her life.

There are conversations that she has with different people during the play that question life, and purpose and the different things that we struggle with in our day to day lives, they are tiny gems of wisdom that are presented in the most unlikely situations that she draws from and realizes that life has a way of teaching you, no matter how bad. And I think that is the ultimate premise of the play- that we have so much shit that may have happened to us, but it’s all for a greater purpose and if we can learn from that we are better for it.

However during the process of the play, the team added quite a bit of their own flair and moments that added to the final product and changed it a bit, which was really cool. There were moments where we even had to add certain scenes that came out during our improvisation time during rehearsals and two characters got to write poems that were added to the final script…It is to date, my best work. Also, it was performed in a professional staging manner, were the audience don’t just  sit and watch the play but the audience move from room to room, following the action as it takes place, and sometimes can even be part of the scene…it was fun, experimental and very rewarding. I loved the idea of the audience being active and being very much part of the play, they could smell the actors; they could even touch them, sometimes the actors would have to push through the audience members. I even remember one character- Claire- played by  TJ Moyo telling an audience member to move, which got a nice reaction from the audience. I’m strong believer in audiences being probed and provoked and engaged and sometimes even made uncomfortable, within reason of course.

Wow! Just wow. I love that. Just amazing. How I would love to see your plays Sibongile. It sounds quite different from what I have seen before. Which writer (s) has influenced you in your thinking and writing?

I must admit I’m not much of a reader; I am what a friend of mine once called an academic reader. But in terms of character development for my plays, I draw a lot from my reading of Stanislavsky and then in terms of play structure I like Bretch’s work in terms of breaking the 4th wall, where you break away from the conventional style of theater where there is an audience sort of looking in on people’s lives, instead the audience are and can be involved in the action sometimes…But in terms of my poetry. I have been greatly influenced by URSULA RUCKER, an American poet whose work I absolutely adore, I have a little groupie girl crush on her work, her voice and her!!!

But in my life I have been inspired a lot by my work with Inside/Out and also a local artist director called Moratiwa Molema, her work involves a lot of mixed media i.e. Film, Movement, Dance, Song and a little dialogue. I have had the opportunity to work with her and for her and it added a lot to my aesthetic as a director, writer and a performer… Also, there is this book I read and It is the first book for grown-ups that I have ever read in my adult life, from beginning to end, purely for pleasure. It’s by Eckhart Tolle called “A New Earth: Awakening You Life’s Purpose”. This book, to date, has informed a lot of my thinking and I used a lot of what I read in “A Purposeless Life”.

I can relate to what you said about Eckhart Tolle. He is a master at assisting one with radical change of thinking and perception. Where will Sibongile be ten years from now? With regards to your writing aspirations.

Okay, I’m applying to do my Masters. At various institutions, one based here and a few overseas. Right now, thanks to my scholarship applications. I do have a 5 year plan post masters that is. Following the completion  of my masters, I aim to go back to  Zambia and work, gaining as much experience and just basically forming a foundation there with a couple of NGO’S and/or Private sectors mainly  in the fields of Peace Building and Conflict  Resolution with elements of Diversity and Transformational Management. Then after two years of that (maximum) I would like to go out into Africa and work in post-conflict countries still doing peace building  and conflict resolutions. After a maximum of five years of working for “the man” I would like to start up my very own company (note, not an organization, as those are non-profit) in Zambia, working with performing artists and having after school performing arts programmes, the performances will be mainly experimental and workshopped in nature, dealing with societal issues i.e. Applied Drama/ community Theater. The company however, will have a social channel, providing pro-bono services to mainly women and youth, dealing with gender issues, peace building and conflict resolution. My aim is to add to the socio-economic status in Zambia.

Amazing. Just amazing. Sibongile, I wish you nothing but manifestation of your plans. This was an amazing conversation. Thank you. Do you have any last words?

Thank you so much. I think what you are doing is a great and brave thing. May your wishes and dreams come true also, if they are so willed. I will you ALL the best in your life. And “last words”. Those are for the dying.

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Sibongile Tasila Phiri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations With Maya Roze

 Maya Roze is one of the most multi-talented writer we have in Botswana. Renowned for her soulful poetry and singing, she talks to me about her upcoming manuscript “Life and Times of Flowa” as well as her thoughts on the current state of Botswana’s art industry.

 Gaamangwe: Maya, you are a versatile writer. I wonder, how did your passion for writing develop?

Maya: I’d say from a very young age. I just realized I have a passion for it when I got As for English literature and creative writing early in high school. I had a song from the age of seven. So writing lyrics became a thing for me. I started writing my own poems and songs when I was nine. There were silly but always about love. I also spoke to myself a lot especially when I was bathing. I’d pretend I’m in my own talk show and then start singing.

Interesting. What kind of themes come up a lot in your writing?

Romance, tolerance, pain, courage, strength, love, disappointment, lies and colors.

Why is it important for you to explore the aforementioned themes? Especially the dark themes of pain, lies and disappointment?

Mainly because I experience them now and then. Also to heal myself and maybe others who are going through pain and might be afraid, thinking they are misunderstood. I aspire to inspire and motivate people in life. Self-thoughts are poisonous and majority of people drown in them. I aim to let my writing soothe them into normalcy.

Amazing. It’s very important to motivate and inspire others. What is your favorite work, the one you feel you were most honest?

The song “waiting in vain”  remixed by Groove CarTell and my blog article for Mmegi. It was about my break up from my high school sweetheart and father of my first born daughter. It got me into a lot of trouble with him because I was honest and it made him seem like the bad guy. It was the most liberating piece of writing.

I can imagine. But it is always our life stories that make the most connecting and vulnerable works. That is very important. I love Maya Roze Dialogues, they give me an opportunity to reflect on the ideals you bring forth. How has been your experience with the dialogues? What do you hope will be the end result?

Wow. Thanks. It’s been challenging because I do not want to be monotonous you know. And also having to stay relevant and avoid tripping about the same things in our art industry. Its been quite from Mmegi side and will have to shift to an independent writing space. Maybe a different print publication. The initial plan was to start and provoke dialogues among artists and practitioners. I want to avoid WordPress. I am still too chicken to. I will commission the dialogues out to another publication soon.

As an art activist/ developer, what kind of dialogue do you feel must happen between artists and practitioners? What do you feel must happen in Botswana art industry, so as to arrive at a stage that is well conducive for both the artist and the audience?

Education. It is very important. I think learning about each others craft is vital to progression. Also accepting criticism. We are gifted and talented, blessed with intellect. We need to talk about eliminating mediocrity. I find it so silly that some artists are getting opportunities and complaining on social media. It is not practical. We need more institutions, workshops, training materials.  We need to raise our standards. If I write a bad piece, I need to know so I can improve my art.

Yes. Most definitely. And I know that you have been actually working in different platforms that aim to build artists in Botswana. You were a part of Exodus Live Poetry, the poetry movement. And you are also a regular performer at Poets’ Passport. How effective are these platforms in terms of growth, exposure and networking? What do you feel are the most vital aspects we need in the few platforms we currently have in the industry?

Feedback and ego boosts are the first things these platforms blessed me with. Networking as well. Collaborative works are fun and challenging. It unifies us. We find friendships, love, growth and education.

Financial maintenance management. Our government has grown and is trying by engaging other entities such as US Embassy, British Council, Maitisong, Botswana Tourism, Alliance Francaise. Now as receivers, we need to show we are capable of managing. There is an unsaid warfare between urban artists and traditional artists, and platforms like the Maun International Arts Festival and the likes allow for interaction of performers from different backgrounds. This produces great fruits.

Most definitely. We need to meet each other halfway for the growth of this industry. Speaking of growth, which African writer (s) has facilitated/influenced your growth?

Chinua Achebe, no doubt. I hate and live Okonkwo on his barren soul. Bessie Head, because I share the same insanity and weight. By weight I mean life struggles and not caring about the ignorant world. I think she wanted to save the world more than herself.

Wonderful. What will be Maya Roze’s greatest expression in terms of literature?

LIFE AND TIMES OF FLOWA, a book dedicated to my children and all young moms.  It’s an anthology of poems and short stories about my life seen through Flowa, a weird introspect of a girl who loves love but sees a lot of pain. Only to finally find joy and strength in God. My legacy to my daughters and unborn kids. To young women who have been lost and had to grow up fast. Also it is my premise to God when he saved me. I intend to collaborate with Ngozi Chukura for sketches and Mandisa Mabuthoe for short stories. Its about ten years in and two manuscripts have grown legs and gone swimming. So I’m on my third one and it will be complete in two years’ time.

 Wow, that’s amazing. I cannot wait for the final product.  Maya, Thank you so much for your wonderful presence. I enjoyed this. Any last words?

Wish me luck! It’s a lot of work. Its weird because I remember experiences I’d shut out. Thank you Joy. May God bless you and keep you in his favor always. I’d like to reach out to artists to aspire to learn more, be more and seek God. We tend to debate about Faith, but faith breeds discipline and routine. Developing one into progression and prosperity. Stay as true to yourself as you can. It is important. Very, very important.

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See more of Maya’s work here: https://www.facebook.com/MayaAsiyahRoze?ref=br_tf

Conversations With Onalethuso Petruss Buyile ‘Mambo’ Ntema

Onalethuso ‘Mambo’ Ntema is one of the most passionate poet of our time. With a poetry anthology “Soul Seeds” under his name, he is a force to reckon with. He talks to me about how he inter-weaved African social thought into his  Reality and Mental Inspiration poetry anthology.  

Gaamangwe: So Mambo, you are a very passionate poet. How did your love for writing happen?

Mambo: Thank you for this reasoning session. I was inspired during inter-school Debates, Literature and Traditional dance competitions since the age of 10.

What inspired you? And what still continues to inspires you now?

I developed a reading culture, especially African Social Thought, Literature of Liberation, Anthropology and History. As a Sociologist, I disseminate on social class (politics, poverty, minorities) and gender issues, emotions, nature and culture. I am inspired by circumstances of life and reality, my daughter’s (Deczybelle) and cultured mother (Ndaruka Ntema). My themes are love, dark poetry (pain, grief, death), motivation and inspiration, nature and wildlife, cultural transformation and vulnerable groups’ voice.

That’s amazing. You are inspired by some of the most important ideals in  the African human life. You have an amazing poetry anthology  “Soul Seeds”! Tell me about it.

Yes. SOUL SEEDS is a Reality and Mental inspirational poetry collection that seeks to explore emotions, thought and reality. It reflects scattered but gathered circumstances through a psycho-philosophical tone and imagery. It promotes nature and conservation, pan African-ism and renaissance, gender issues, spiritual freedom and love and motivation.

Wonderful. Why was it important for you to explore the aforementioned topics? And what do you hope the reader will get from reading the anthology?

Thanks for the question. I seek to inspire and comfort troubled souls for a better day tomorrow, and elevate African Social theorizing and a globalized culture of unity and collected-ness. I seek to raise awareness on relationship building and bonding, self worth, love and forgiveness, history and cultural transformation, spiritual freedom, social class and child neglect, hope and perseverance. The reader will hopefully become inspired, nurtured and surrounded by positive behavior on them and others too. I hope to seed such seeds on souls and beings through relative imagery and metaphors, in particular, the self.

That’s wonderful. How was your creative process writing the anthology? And how did your profession, Sociology influence the book?

It was based on imagination, personal life experience, and past work experience as an Advocate for minority groups (BaSarwa, women, youth, orphans/vulnerable children, disabled), and Social research. As well, peer discussions and networking on various aspects of life and reality. I got motivated and co-wrote some pieces through online dialogue with friends and creative thinkers. I was strengthened by writers and poets such as Pearl Sanelisiwe Ndlovu, Thabo Prince Katlholo, Charlotte Oageng, Nobert Mathumo, Lucky Bulayani, Maya Roze, Mpho Leteng, Juby Peacock, Moemedi Tebogo, Nametso Phonchi, Ponatshegelo Katlholo, Priscah Katlholo to name a few.

That’s interesting. We can only find inspiration from our experiences. How has the reader responded to your work, especially with regards to the poems about minority groups?

The response can’t be expressed; the poems heal the inner self and sense of existence. The reader is empowered, inspired and thoughtful. The anthology is available in 15000+ book retailers world wide including Amazon, eBay, Kalahari. It enjoys a warm reception.

That’s amazing. Congratulations. How was your experience publishing the anthology?

It was a learning curve of many miles of patience and understanding the business processes of self publishing, marketing and sales/distribution. Published in the UK by XLIBRIS PUBLISHING LLC, printed in the USA. It’s self-publishing via XLIBRIS.

Okay. That’s very interesting. how does that work?

The author pays for publication, marketing and distribution, and owns copyright. I also edited the manuscript.

Wonderful.  Mambo , it was amazing having this conversation with you. Any last words?

Thank you oneBlood. Mafoko tota Gaamangwe and you are such a joy. I’d urge Batswana and the world to support Creative artworks as ‘Soul Seeds’ to delight their eyes and minds to find joy and elevation. We sow seeds for a green tomorrow, today and the day before. Peace, Love and Harmony. oneBlood

 

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See more of Mambo’s work : www.soulseedsntema.com.

Conversations With Prince Katlholo

Prince Katlholo is one of the most incredibly talented novelist and spoken word poet in Botswana. One of the few authors who have self-published their works, he talks to me about the long journey that is publishing.

Gaamangwe: Prince, You are a recently published writer, Congratulations! I know for the most part how incredibly arduous that is. But ofcourse, First I want to know about your early times, how and when did the writing bug bite you?

Prince: I started real early – At primary school. I used to write compositions for other kids and embarrasingly I made them pay for it. Love letters too – even older boys came to me to help them write letters to girls they fancied. And thank you on the book props.

Nice. And now, how would you describe the kind of writer you are? (i.e. In terms of school of thought/philosophy/genre etc).

I believe both as a writer and a poet I trail the line between a sentimentalist and an anarchist. I’m a sentimentalist in the sense that most of my poetry is about love and its loss but as a novelist I write about the things society would rather not want written of (rape, prostitution, homosexuality etc) hence I say I’m partly an anarchist…

That’s interesting. Two different and extreme spectrums, although when you do think about it, not so different. Speaking of novels, what is the main premise as well as your personal motivation for your recent novel ‘The Mud Hut I Grew Upon’?

Although it is pure fiction, ‘The Mud Hut I Grew Upon’ has numerous backdrops of who I am and where I come from. The characters and scenes have characteristics of people I grew around, stories I grew up hearing and the ills that surrounded us when we came up. The title is very sentimental as it reflects where I come from but also merges well with the characters in the book. It simply implies – we are products of our environment.

Wonderful. Why and how were you drawn to immortalizing the ideology of ‘We are products of our environment’ in fiction? Why was that important to you?

In the prologue of the novel I diverted from traditional novel prologue format and gave a short stint of how I almost choked on the lemons life threw at me in a certain chapter of my life. The novel was inspired by the hardships I faced after I completed my degree and my fight for survival in Gaborone. Had I not gone through worse hardships in “the mud hut I grew upon”, I and the characters in my book wouldn’t survive the cruelty of the Kalahari’s Young Metropolis (Gaborone).

Interesting. So in a way, your early hardships prepared you for later cruelties. Fundamentally, what core topics/issues/themes is the book exploring?

The book’s primal focus is how family is not all that which is hyped out to be. We are relatives at the village and yet when we enter the city we all become strangers (every man and woman for him/herself). It explores difficulties young women and men face in the city: rape, homelessness, prostitution.

An interesting and important topic. In reality, how deep is the degree between family support in rural and urban areas? And what has caused the degree? – Also how different is ‘The Mud Hut I Grew Upon’ from your other work ‘ Beyond The Tropic of Capricorn’?

Its always on shaky grounds. How many times have you heard a friend who is still at school or on internship say their uncle/aunt/sibling doesn’t want them at the house any more. Its like at the end of the day the only family you can depend on really is your mother and father.

Basically the Mud Hut I Grew Upon is a fiction novel and Beyond the Tropic of Capricorn is a collection of select poems I have written over the years.

True. Yet, we cannot disregard the psychosocial, economic and political motivations for why family support is different at different stages and spaces. So, what kind of poems(themes and genre) will one find in Beyond the Tropic of Capricorn?

There are laments in there (one of my favorite poems is a eulogy for a miscarriage(d) baby), there are ballads and a few political and riotous poems too.

I thought the eulogy poem was heartbreakingly moving and sentimental. You have a way with words. How was your personal journey with publishing?

I won’t lie – Self Publishing is difficult. It requires you to learn everything and anything you can about marketing once you have printed or published online plus the quality control offered by booksellers such as Amazon is lacking because they can’t easily tell which books are good and which are not. So your book is stacked with millions of other books hence its all up to you to make sure its visible.

I can imagine. But then again, all great things are not easy. What pushed you to keep striving for publication? And what key factors facilitated in you managing to get two publications out in a year?

True. Patience, Passion and Perseverance. And quite simply put, I have a lot of time inside my own head because of my comfortability with solitude. I don’t drink, I don’t turn up, I just write!

Amazing. Prince, thank you for gracing me with your time. It was wonderful. Any last words?

What you are doing is amazing and I hope we do get a chance to have this conversation and much more face-to-face one day. Thank you.

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To see more of Prince’s work: http://princekatlholo.wix.com/prinzeville