Tag Archives: Botswana Writers

Women Who Live On The Margin of Society.: A Dialogue With Tshepo Jamillah Moyo

Tshepo Moyo (1)

Sometimes “The Joy” but always a Poet, Writer and Super Hero; Born 1994, Tshepo Jamillah Moyo (TJ) is an unapologetic black Pan African Inter-sectional Feminist performance artist. Her work centers on the exploration of black African womanhood.

At 18 years, she received her first publication in an online anthology with the University of Nebraska via their Prairie Schooner platform. Her poem “Battleship” was published alongside some of Botswana’s literary legends – namely TJ Dema, Barolong Seboni, Lesego Nchunga and Andreatta Chuma. This was only the beginning and she has since been published in Emergence; An artistic Journal of Women and Gender Non-Conforming People, and  Walking The Tight Rope: Poetry and Prose by LGBTQ Writers from Africa. She was profiled in WAVE WOMEN’s 50 Formidable Women coffee table book along with 49 other Batswana women including such household names as Sheila Tlou, Athalia Molokomme, Mmamasire-Mwamba, Linah Moholho, and Immelda Molokomme. Tshepo is currently working on her first book, a collection of poetry.

In her dedication to literature, Tshepo has experience as a journalist having written for The Tswana Times and multiple online platforms including The Afrolutionist. In 2016, The Echo Newspaper hosted her column 1thirdofawoman which follows her blog of the same title’s theme of engaging socio-economic political dialogue.

Miss Moyo is a regular theatre performer and has appeared in numerous productions aimed mostly at bringing awareness to the issues she holds dear. She spent majority of her teen years volunteering and contributing to life changing causes such as Peace is love, a yearly play to raise funds for organisations working against Gender Based Violence. In her spare time TJ offers mentorship and guidance to young women under her work with The African Women Leadership Academy. However, she also sits on the board of a national NGO Higher Heights for Girls in Botswana which she spearheaded forming at the age of 20. In her work with Higher Heights for Girls Tshepo works towards training adolescents in Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and Responsibilities and Gender Based Violence. She has had the opportunity to use this work with in-school adolescents to inform the 2036 Botswana Vision as she was called on to give her expertise in 2016. Miss Moyo is not only an avid activist, reader, facilitator and present member of society but also a colourful nourished writer and performance artist.

This conversation took place in the charming sweetspot of Fego Cafe in Gaborone, Botswana by person.

 
Gaamangwe:  Recently, a young woman was sexually harassed and assaulted by a group of men and women at the Bus Rank, here in Botswana. Supposedly, this assault was based on the belief that her dress was too short and inappropriate. On June 3rd, human rights and gender activists, and fellow women marched in the RIGHT TO WEAR WHAT I WANT walk, which aimed to highlight that no one has the right to violate another human being based on what they are wearing. Now post the march, an image of you, taken by Mathiam  Basha-Agha is circulating in the internet. There is an uproar of people who feel that what you wore (Black T-shirt, Unbuttoned shorts pants with a visible Victoria Secret underwear, and fishnet stockings) was inappropriate. Furthermore, there is a huge backlash towards the statement that you wrote in your body; Hoe is Life. How has this experience been like for you?

TJ:  The decision to go to the march was a very simple one for me. After the assault happened, I knew that I wanted to go march. It was my public duty to go. Before the march, I intentionally choose and planned my outfit. The intention was to shock. It was to disturb the idea that I needed somebody’s permission to wear what I was wearing. People are asking if my parents knew, if my father knew, but my parents don’t own my body, so it doesn’t matter if they did or didn’t know.

I am not shocked over this backlash. As Batswana, we have a very unhealthy culture with social media. We are very hurtful on social media. Nobody actually thinks about what they are saying and what the impact of what they are saying will have on other people.

I am tired because people think that, that photo happened to me or that day happened to me. The conversation should not really be about me or my body. It shouldn’t be about “Hoe is Life”. I understand why it is, I understand why it needs to happen but the truth of the matter is I feel everyone is deflecting from the issue that really matter.

Right now, everybody feels entitled to my body; they think they can give me their opinions about how I should dress it, what  I write on it and what message I should give,  because they think I owe them dignity, I owe their children dignity. It just goes to show you that we are a sick society and there is so much work that has to be done.

As I walked into the Bus Rank and all those people were so angry at us, even when I left the march, I knew the march was not enough. I knew that there is so much education, learning and unlearning, and work that needs to be done.  I have been doing activism work around issues like this for the longest time. So it should be clear that the march was not the beginning of my work around educating people around this. It’s definitely not the end.

Gaamangwe: I think that your image and the dialogue it has created is so powerful because we really discovered how people actually think. People still don’t understand that everyone has the right to choose what they wear, and no one has the right to persecute, violate, attack or harm them in anyway, under no circumstance or space. A lot of the narrative was about how that was not what a girl child is supposed to wear in public. The concept of dignity which claims that a woman is supposed to be a certain way in certain spaces.

TJ: Yes, and the woman who is not that way then deserves disrespect and violence, and doesn’t deserve the dignity of life.

During the march, I was very upset because there was a woman who was speaking over the mike who kept saying “Assault and rape are done by people who are not educated”, but we all know that is not the case. People who are educated and smart enough to understand the concept of autonomy, which is really a simple concept, also do assault and rape.  Assault and rape is not an uneducated woman or man’s problem. It’s something that cuts across race, gender and class. It’s everybody’s problem.

That is why we need intersectional feminism. Intersectional Feminism thinks about every single woman, and all the intersections of her life  where those oppressions comes  from. There are women who we believe because they are poor deserve to be raped. Some people say “this woman is someone’s sister, someone’s daughter” but what if I don’t have a family? What if I am an orphan? Then I deserve to be abused and raped because I don’t belong to anybody? The idea that there are certain people who deserve dignity and there are people who don’t, is exactly why I wrote “Hoe is Life” in my body. Because there are women who are considered hoes, and they are rejected from society, and treated as if they don’t deserve the right and dignity of life.

A lot of these discussions tend to be based on ideas that we claim are our cultures and ways of life as a society. But clearly we have a lot of learning and unlearning to do if we fail to understand the importance of autonomy, rights and dignity that every human being is entitled to. The question now is; as this is clearly not a degree or university issue, what kind of education do we need to implement here, and what kind of education are we talking about?

Gaamangwe. This is a very important question because people who are supposedly educated also seem to not get the very basic concept of human right and dignity of life for all humans. There are so many aspects at play here. We are dealing with interconnected systems of oppressions, and so we have to understand that we need to ensure accessibility to holistic education to all the various oppressive systems, their toxicity and how we maintain them as a society. What is clear is that more women seem to understand the toxicity of patriarchy while men really struggle to actually understand it.

TJ: Yes, that’s also another thing. But how are we expecting men to step out of their privilege?  This is the same way that we have some politician who are refusing to let go of their seats, because of the power they have. Patriarchy puts men in a position of power. And we can’t exactly expect them to easily say “Whoa! I think this might be too much power”. They like and enjoy it. They benefit from it. But I do have hope that there are men out there who realize that life is ten times easier for them than it is for any woman, because once you begin to see your privileges the less you step into the spaces of others.

Gaamangwe:  Yes. But a lot of men don’t actually understand the daily war zones women navigate on a daily basis.  How terrifying and uncomfortable it is for a woman to walk in the streets in broad daylight. Men fail to understand the daily undertones of potential violence layered in every single encounter with a male body.

TJ: And then you have the good men who say; I defend women, I don’t abuse and violate women.  I don’t treat women like that. But you don’t call out your brothers, male friends and fathers that treat women like that.

Gaamangwe: But can we also assess this idea of good men. Because I think a lot of men actually think that there are these wholesome all around good men. Just because a man has not done something violent towards the women in their lives, it doesn’t mean that they are not some women from all the people they have interacted with in their lifetime, who have not felt unsafe, violated and harassed in some way by the same man.

TJ: Whenever I say men are trash, the first question that I get is; is your dad trash? And I am like; not to me! My dad is amazing. My day has been showing up for me for the past 22 years. He is literally the most embarrassed man right now, and he could have gone on the internet and said I don’t know that girl, and he hasn’t done that. My dad has been affirming me and making sure that he plays a huge role in the feminist that I am today. But I will tell you something, I am sure there is some woman out there in the world who will say “Your dad once did something that really made me feel unsafe”.

And that’s the problem of respectability politics. You cannot pick which women you are going to be nice to, based on who they are related to, how much money they make and what they wear. It’s not going to cut it. Consistency or nothing. All women or no women.

I am sure there are men who are saying TJ did the right thing. I received a phone call from a rapper who told me he is so happy and proud of me, and that this is such an important conversation that I am making with the world. My first thought when he called was; what rubbish is he going to say? After he said that to me, the second thing that came to my mind was; why isn’t he saying this on a public platform? Because he can’t afford for his rapper friends and male friends to know that he supports what I am doing, and their behaviour is wrong. Because then he will then have to admit that him and his friends and the way they treat women is wrong. Men have this thing I call the Boy’s Club, which is the most toxic and disgusting thing ever. Basically, even when men are not friends, they will defend each other. You will be in the club with a man, and you will say to a man, you can’t ask me out because I have a man, and that man will respect the idea of you having a boyfriend, more than the idea of you saying no, I am not interested. He respects a man that he’s never ever met in his life more than he respects you the woman he likes.

Gaamangwe: True. There are so many dialogues on social media right now, particularly on your image and the statement “Hoe is Life”.  Clearly people don’t actually understand what it means, what it represents and what it stands for. Although, that is still not a reason to attack you.  What does this statement mean to you, and why was it important for you to write it in your body?

TJ: So first of all, let’s starts here and make this clear; Hoe is Life. This statement actually started as a hashtag on twitter (as all good things start on twitter). The idea behind this is about sexual liberation for women. When you claim your sexuality, and people calling your hoe for it, that is fine because that is your body and you are allowed to do with it whatever and however you please. But of course it’s advisable to always be safe.

Hoe is Life is important because when women claim themselves, even when you are not claiming your sexuality as a woman, but you are assertive, you own yourself, your body and your choices, you will be called names like a hoe or bitch, and most of the times these words are created to exclude women from womanhood.

The good women, don’t get called hoes. The women who don’t conform, the bad women, get called hoes. Those were the women that I was walking for. The women who live in the margin of womanhood. The women whobecause you have decided that you are going to take your brother to court for refusing to give a piece of the landare excluded in the family. Because you are approached by a man who is ridiculously rich and you told him, his money doesn’t matter you are now a bad woman. Because you are approached by a man and his money did matter (because they can’t make their minds up, about which one is bad and which is good; it’s you must get a rich husband so he can take care of you but if there is a man taking care of you, then you are a bad woman. Huh?).

The women who are lesbians, the women who are trans women, (because when we are asked, where were the trans women in the movement we say  we didn’t invite them because we didn’t want them to derail and talk about those things), the sex workers (women who live in the margins of darkness and have to spend their lives running because of criminalization of their jobs, and who can’t afford to come out and march because they can’t afford to because that’s time that could be making them money). Those are the women I was marching for. The women who nobody finds socially acceptable. The women nobody wants to identify with. Nobody wants to be friends with and wants to be known to support.

Because those are the women who are called hoes and bitches. They are constantly excluded from our society and I was simply saying these women matter. I will never be okay with the reality that I have access to certain rights and another woman doesn’t have access to the same rights. For example, in Botswana everyone has access to basic free health care, but a lot of the times, there are women who when they go to the hospital they don’t get that access. Trans women don’t get access to that. There is a little girl in Maitengwe who really doesn’t want to wear a skirt to school, and she keeps being forced to wear it. That was the girl I was walking for. The one who say; I am not allowed but I still exist.

Gaamangwe: And who often most of the time society is comfortable with not bearing witness to their violation.

TJ: Yes, for example the woman who was walking in the Bus Rank, people say she was drunk, so deserved it. Aren’t men sometimes drunk at the bus rank? Do they get abused and violated when that happens? Some people say she was insulting others. But when a child is insulting others, don’t we take them to kgotla? When did it become our culture to address people when they are misbehaving, ourselves?

Even our religious systems don’t support assaulting people. It’s not written anyway in any of the religious texts that you can assault people if they are not wearing what you deem right. Even if a woman is naked, you don’t assault her. In case of wrong doing, you hold a trial. I don’t understand how people can just decide that there are the court/ judge/police office/executioner and the person’s lawyer.  It is so uncivilized. Our culture has systems in place, most of which don’t work but to say violence is our culture? Is a blatant lie.

Gaamangwe: Actually it doesn’t matter what state she was in; whether she was drunk, whether she was insulting others, or whether she was mentally unstable. It doesn’t matter. No one had the right to violate her.

One other upsetting aspect of the assault at the Bus rank is that there were some women who sat through the abuse, and even participated in the abuse. And in your case, some women were at the forefront of attacking your photo.

TJ: Even at the march, there were women marching besides me, who were attacking me. They thought and felt like I was being inappropriate and I was derailing their movement. These women are gatekeepers of patriarchy, also known as Patriarchy Princesses.

But here is the thing: it’s all women or there is no movement.  Don’t ever in your life think you are safe for as long as another woman is not safe. Don’t make that mistake.

Women who attack other women are the same women who will go out with their male friends, watch them get other women drunk and take them home, knowing very well that’s rape, and still think it will never happen to them because their male friends care about them.

The Gender Ministry published a study, and it showed that 67% of women in Botswana have been sexually assaulted and admit to having experienced gender based violence. Almost half of those women say that they have experienced gender based violence at the hands of someone they knew. Meaning the men in their circle. The men some women are defending are the same people who are abusing women, as a matter of fact abusing them.

We also have the Pick me women. The “I am better than the other woman.” Women who think that society works like this, and it must work like this, and that they are safe because they fit in and work according to the rules. But the reality is that good women who keep by the rules and do everything right are still raped and assaulted by men. As long as you are a woman, you are not safe.

I understand the Pick me as people who want to be part of the Boy’s Club. But you are not. You will be with a man who you have known your whole life and you will walk up to him and say that man harassed me, and he will go to that man who harassed you and say “Ao my man, why did you touch her?” and he will say “Ao hardy my man”, and that will be the end of the conversation. Because of the Boy’s Club. Men will always pick men over women.

Gaamangwe: I do think that these women sometime choose a single view at that particular point in time, and neglect the other view at that same point. I refuse to believe that they are women who confidently feel safe when they have long dresses on. Every single woman who exists as a woman has felt unsafe at one point in their life. Every woman feels unsafe everyday of their life, regardless of whether they are well-mannered, have social appropriate clothing and live by the rules.

I asked a male relative; if you were put in a city and you were told some of the men here might rape you, would you leave your house? Of course, he said he wouldn’t leave the house at all. Yet that is our reality every single day.

TJ: The other day I was at the cinema with my mom, and I was texting on my phone, and these two little boys (they must have been fourteen) walked up to me. I was concentrating on my phone that I didn’t notice them until they were in front of me. My first instinct was to hide my phone in my chest, and these kids were so hurt because they were like we are not thieves. And I was like; I am so sorry boys, it has nothing to do with you. But it does have something to do with them. It is nothing individual but the collective meaning of the image of a man, which they are part of. Seeing and interacting with a man means possible danger. Even at fourteen years old, when I see two of them, I really don’t feel safe. I don’t know if I can actually manage to fight two boys.  Our reality, walking on the streets, is you are always assessing your environment, looking for things you can use to hit a man should he come out of the blue and attack you.

Gaamangwe:  Another dangerous belief is that men are naturally unable to control themselves. That you as a woman, you must do everything that you can, to make sure that men are not tempted to violate you.

This narrative says; “a woman must wear clothing that fully cover their body parts, so that a man doesn’t get excited, as we know men are easily excited, and can consequently fail to control themselves and will be forced to attack you. It is your responsibility  to ensure that you are not raped!”.

TJ: It’s confusing because we say men are trash and they get upset, yet here they clearly don’t believing in themselves. Who really cannot control their sexuality? If you want a burger and it is not yours, do you ever just eat the burger. No, you control your hunger. But, you can’t control your libido? Come on, just grow up. Men don’t even believe in themselves. They don’t believe in themselves and they want us to believe in them? No. Men need to believe in themselves, they need to hold themselves accountable, otherwise they will forever be trash.

Gaamangwe: So what  is the way forward?

TJ: Educating, changing the world’s view and behavioral change, is going to take a very, very long time.  When I first started my activism I started with blogging.  I wrote this blog-post about abuse and I remember a young woman inboxed me and told me that, that blog-post had been the reason that she got out of her abusive relationship. I shared that conversation with a friend of mine and I remember him saying; this is so important because this girl is going to have this conversation with five other girls, who are going to have it with five other girls and so on, and maybe out of all those girls at least three of the five will get out of their abusive relationships. Maybe they will start holding the men in their lives accountable because half of the time nobody holds men accountable. Mothers coddle a lot of the men, and the rest of society is left to deal with them.

So we need to start holding each other accountable. When you see your friend commenting on Facebook and being out of line, don’t just stand there. It’s your responsibility to comment because it affects you as the end of the day.

But it is not my responsibility to educate everyone. I am doing my fair to educate the people in my life that are around me and the people I have access to. There are also spaces that I go into that are not in my direct personal life. I have always been a supporter of the statement that the personal is political. So if you politically agree with me, you need to hold the people in your lives accountable. If your father is sitting there in the car and he is saying “whoa, this girl is such a problem”, you need to say “but that’s my friend”. I support her, I agree with her because of this and this.

You need to challenge patriarchy every day in your life. So that everybody in society can start growing, our cultures can evolve and we can move forward and beyond what is currently happening in our personal and collective spheres. The thing is once society starts shifting its mind-sets around one thing, then you make everybody else evolve, you make our activists jobs easy. We don’t get much resistance. So if we can start in our homes, schools, offices, churches and any other spaces we all access, then it will make a huge difference. There is a lot of work to be done, but we can do some much together.

My title has always been Poet, Writer and Superhero, which is very ironic because everyone is calling me a hero right now, but I have always identified as a Superhero because I think the work that I do as an activist saves lives.

Gaamangwe: Thank you TJ for your powerful work, and for joining me in this space.

Gaamangwe Joy Mogami is a writer, filmmaker and founder of Africa in Dialogue. She is the curator of Brunel International African Poetry Prize Interviews With Africa in Dialogue.

 

The History and Future of Literature in Botswana: A Dialogue with Barolong Seboni

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Barolong Seboni is a poet and writer from Botswana. His works include Images of the Sun, Screams and Pleas, Lovesongs, Windsongs of the Kgalagadi and Lighting the Fire, and several other publications that include a play; Sechele I , and Setswana Riddles Translated intoEnglish. He received his BA from the University of Botswana and his Master’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Botswana. He has completed a translation of Setswana idioms and proverbs into English. He is also co-founder of the University of Botswana Writers’ Workshop and the Writers’ Association of Botswana. He is also the founding chairperson of the Petlo Literary Arts Trust, and founding editor of Mahube literary journal of the Writers’ Association of Botswana. He has creative works in poetry, dramatic writing, newspaper column writing, translation and radio.

This dialogue was held in Gaborone with Gaamangwe Joy Mogami and Bame Mogami.

Gaamangwe: First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to be part of this dialogue. You are one of the pioneers of Botswana Literature. You have done a lot in terms of growing Literature in Botswana. You have seen the birth and rise of modern literature as we know it now. Botswana is celebrating her 50th year of independence and this naturally invites us to look at our journey, specifically our journey in literature. What are your reflections on the history of literature in Botswana?

Seboni: That’s an interesting question because we have a course here in the University called Botswana Literature, where we explore, investigate, interrogate and teach the literature of Botswana from the mid 70’s up to now. We start from that period because we believe that’s when there was a great flourish of literary activity in Botswana, especially in Gaborone. The establishment of the Writers’ Workshop in 1974/1975 is a marker for this as it became a central point in the discourse of literature in Botswana. Part of the activities of the Writers’ Workshop at the time was to organise and share poetry performances for the community, to organise conferences and workshops on Botswana and African Literature. The other reason for the literature flourishing and burgeoning was because of the establishment of a creative journal called Marang. We do acknowledge that there was Botswana literature even before that but an avalanche of great literary activities began in the mid 70’s. We had more writers writing poetry and short stories. A few writers were also publishing in journals and magazines in Botswana, South Africa and abroad. We had newspapers & magazine interviews and on the BBC and Voice of America. So there was a lot of great activity. And that is why it’s important that as a country we have such institutions. They not only inspire older and younger writers, but they also give them importance, inspiration and some sort of structure they can fall back on.

However, before then the most obvious example of written literature is the bible, which was written in English and translated into Setswana. So that inspired not only literacy but also writing as well. When we talk about Botswana Literature, although I am concentrating on the literature that was written in English, we must always know and acknowledge that the original foundation of literature was in Setswana. And before that it was spoken in Setswana, in our folktales and storytelling.

But for this course of contemporary literature we start from the 70’s. One of the influencing factors for literature flourishing at that time was of course the war of liberation that was going on all over Southern African countries surrounding Botswana. The direct consequence was the influx of political refugees and other exiles into Botswana. And some of these were notably writers, poets, journalists and artists, in their own right. The war of liberation created impetus for creativity because a lot of the themes at that time were predominantly from the struggle of independence. The language was very fiery and revolutionary, written by Batswana, observing what was going on around them.

Even though Botswana was democratic, poets and writers showed concern for liberation in their work, because there was the question of how we were living with refugees and political exiles. There was an exploration of love relationships between Batswana women and South African political exiles. The couple falling in love but having issues of the man being in exile and involved in the liberation struggle.

Gaamangwe: Funny you say this because that theme is back now. There is a theatre play called Born Around Here, produced by Gao Lemmenyane. The play is about the exact scenario you are talking about. The play has been touring in both Botswana and South Africa. And it’s really good. It was just in Cape Town and people are being receptive to it because I think the dialogue of Batswana helping or being part of apartheid is something that many South Africans are unaware of. Or even us Batswana, we are not really truly aware of our role in it. So yes, continue.

Barolong: So, the struggle for liberation ceased towards the mid and late 80’s. Many countries within Southern Africa became independent and black people were ruling themselves except for few civil wars. So what then did Batswana write about? Well, the mid 80’s became the period of introspection for Batswana writers. We then started writing about our immediate environment, within our borders, our communities and our homes. The theme became more domestic, intimate, and introspective but still political and social, especially regarding internal political and social issues.

For example, a poem by the late Albert Malikongwa, about a seemingly mundane thing like a train journey from Gaborone to Francistown in a fourth class carriage. And he talked about the deplorable conditions of the state of the carriage. He talked about spit on the walls, dirt everywhere and then he says “This is good for the black man, this is good for you and me”, sarcastically of course. Obviously poking fun at the time where the railways were owned by Rhodesian Railways under Ian Smith. So there were racial issues going on as well, that writers talked about within Botswana. I must admit it wasn’t all peaceful then. In 1985, there was a disruption where South Africa Defence Force marched into Botswana and bombed places in Gaborone. So writers wrote about that.

Then we move to the early 90’s, where the literature showed for the first time the social phenomenon of the homelessness of street kids. Children who did not go home at night. That phenomenon started manifesting itself or at least writers, poets and civic societies started noticing and talking about it. Some of the people who started talking about it fearlessly and relentlessly were the women’s organizations. Because they were mothers, of course. So they were saying ; let’s pay attention to this. The writers and journalists were also talking about it in their literature and their newspapers. And the name “Bo bashi” came about, popularized because “Bashi” is every other boy, and at the time street kids were predominantly boys. So writers got on board with exploring issues of juvenile delinquency and homelessness.

There was of course always the theme of love in both poetry and the short story. We had the rich boy and poor girl narratives. But we didn’t have a major novel until Andrew Sesinyi wrote “Love on the rocks ” in the late 70s, early 80’s. It did really well. It went into the schools and people talked about it. He then came with the theme of carjacking, which was a phenomenon at the time, in his novel “Carjack”.

After Andrew Sesinyi, we had Unity Dow, who introduced a whole new thing of the female hero in the novel. The girl child at the center of society and events, whose story we then followed.

Gaamangwe: I have so many questions. So maybe we can start with the Novel. Because for me as a young person, I have interacted with mostly poetry and short stories from Botswana. But like you said the novel has been there since the 80’s. Even though it’s not so out there. I want to know, where is it now? What is the status for the novel by Batswana writers now?

Barolong: Well the novel has firmly taken root in Botswana and we have Andrew Sesinyi, Unity Dow, Lauri Kubuitsile, Toro Mositi and many others to thank for that. If you look very carefully you will see that some of them dabbled in short stories before they went full time into the novel. In fact, there is a book entitled Novels of Botswana in English written by Dr Mary Lederer, where she discusses novels written from 1930 to 2006. We should of course also speak about the ones written before independence by non-Batswana. We can claim Sol Plaatjie who wrote Mhudi and other things. He was a Tswana speaking South African in the time before the borders between Botswana and South Africa were defined. So we can even claim him in that sense. He wrote at the turn of the century, the first English novel by a black person in this region.

We also have institutions and structures like the Bessie Head Heritage Trust which organizes the annual writing competition and Petlo Literary Arts Trust which has found a niche in publishing Batswana writers . The Writers’ Association of Botswana founded in 1980, which is also linked to members of the Writer’s Workshop, has a huge impact on writing. Some of the people working on the craft of writing are members of the Writers’ Association of Botswana. So organizations like this are important because they have a huge role that they have played historically in sharpening writers on their craft.

Gaamangwe: How about the novelist of now? Because honestly I haven’t seen a novel that has been released by a Motswana writer that is also read by Africa and the rest of the world. If we think of other countries, we can say a lot about NoViolet Bulawayo from Zimbabwe, Chimamanda Adichie from Nigeria, and Ngugi wa Thiongo from Kenya. Where is our Botswana novelist?

Barolong: Batswana are very busy writing novels and short stories. It’s just that a lot of people don’t know about it. Because our media doesn’t talk about it. All those foreign writers you talked about, you heard about them on TV or you saw reviews of their books in international newspapers. And you read them because they are available in the bookstore.

We have two issues here. The lack of exposure that our writers experience. The media is doing its best but it’s never enough. The absence of non-commercialized and non-multi-corporate educational publishers. The publishers we have here publish only for the school. If it’s not in the schools you will never hear about it. The other problem is the most successful bookstores are foreign owned. They are multinational franchises controlled in South Africa. And they don’t put anything on their shelves that Cape Town and Johannesburg have not approved. If they are not in the system then it’s so hard to get them into the shelves of this multinational franchises. CNA, it’s impossible to get your titles there as a Motswana. And yet they have shops here. Exclusive Books is a bit better but it’s still not enough. They will limit you to five copies, if you are lucky as a local writer. And there will even put it behind the shelf as the mainstream/ South African authors are right in your face.

We have Smiths-Books Botswana, but it’s exclusively an academic book store, where they cater exclusively for University market. They are very good because although they are focusing on the university, they have a lot of titles by Batswana. They support literary competitions and donate to small organizations that want to publish local writers. We have benefitted from the collaboration with them. So that needs to grow. Unfortunately, the only indigenous bookstore that was doing well and exposing Batswana writers was Botswana Book Centre but there are not doing as well as they used to, both in publishing Botswana local writers and selling their works. So these are the problems we are having.

So now to answer your question, where are the Botswana writers in the Novel? They are there. There is Lauri Kubuitsile who has recently published “The Scattering”, a novel set in Namibia, and she is also famous for Murder for Profit, the novel which came out in 2008. Although she was born in the United States, is a Motswana, who lives and works in Botswana.

There is a novel by Christian John Makgala which came out in 2010 which is called the Dixie Medicine Man. It was quite a thick book, I can’t remember how many pages. And then there is a guy called Nsununguli Mbo who publishes outside Botswana. He is a medical doctor, with published novels such as Wrong Turn, The Crisis of the Heart and others. He has about five or six, so that’s quite substantial. And then we have Phidson Mojokeri’s Curse of the Dream published locally. We have Cheryl Ntumy who did The Crossing. Khonani Ontebetse who did Born with a Husband which was done by Pentagon Publishers in 2008. Pentagon Publishers is also a local publishing company. We have Tshetsana Senau’s Travelling to the sun: the diary of Ruth, Gasebalwe Seretse’s The Pursuit of Xhai and Andrew Sesinyi’s Rose of Birth, which came out in 2010. Yeah, we do have them but they are not out there. And that’s because of the problems that I told you about. They are published by small publishers, trusts or organizations. Some are self-published. And we don’t have a good distribution network like the commercial publishers do. And of course if it’s not in the school lists, it doesn’t get really far. It doesn’t sell.

Bame: So that kind of forces most writers in Botswana to write academic works. So my question is what are the themes that writers are writing about? Because I do read books but I don’t read a lot of Botswana Books because I don’t see them. And if I do read them it’s in school and I don’t think that I like reading in school that much. So I don’t really read with an open heart like “I am really enjoying this book”. So, what are writers writing about?

Barolong: Well from the titles I just read out it looks like writers are writing about all sorts of things. We just need to get the books and read them. We need to encourage the few books that are already here. We need to buy our local books. And now remember, Botswana literature has taken a new twist, well that twist has always been there. There are the indigenous native Botswana writers writing about their experiences in Botswana. And then there are outside, foreign writers who write about Botswana like Alexander Macall Smith from the No 1 Ladies’ detective novels. So there is that divide. Which raises the question; what is Botswana Literature? Which is a whole other conversation.

Gaamangwe: Yes. You spoke about indigenous languages or indigenous literature. Can we explore Setswana language and how that is interacting with the literary world?

Bame: Because like you said, the most known work is the Bible, which was translated from English to Setswana. And some of the things you have done are academic translation, from Setswana to English. So one of the things that I think about is Lost in Translation. Because when you do read a book that’s written in Setswana, and you are fluent in Setswana, you do understand what it means and you do understand what this person is talking about because that’s you. You have grown up in Botswana and you speak Setswana fluently. So the problem now when we come to this time, most people my age speak English and we don’t actually converse in Setswana. But my thing is why can’t we take books from outside and translate them to Setswana. So that we may get a reading culture. Because we were talking about how the publishers are having a problem with distributing your works as writers. So I think again, it’s because Botswana or Batswana do not have a reading culture. If we do read, we only read in a classroom setting and you just want to read that book in the classroom and go home and not think about it. So we have gotten to a point where Setswana is not a language where somebody will want to read the book or a literary work in. Someone will rather read a book written in English. And there is nothing wrong with that. But we are sort of losing ourselves in the process. We are losing Setswana as Batswana, because we don’t get to appreciate it. It seems like Setswana becomes an inferior language to English. My sister is a writer but she cannot write in Setswana but she grew up speaking Setswana. Why can’t she write in Setswana? And many, many other writers. Yet, there is nothing wrong with Setswana. There is a translation project recently done by Jalada Africa, where they turned one of Ngugi wa Thiongo’s short story into over 30 languages of Africa. A short story that was written in English and translated into other indigenous African languages. This included Kiswahili and other indigenous languages in Kenya, Igbo, Hausa, IsiZulu, IsiNdebele, Afrikaans and other languages in Africa.

Gaamangwe: And they are still inviting more people to translate the work to their native languages. Because Bame is right, you have done a lot of translation work, which is really amazing. You translated Botswana proverbs to English. So I think what she is asking is, what do you think about the fact that our translation is usually from Setswana to English not English to Setswana, and how that could actually change a lot in terms of where the literary world is right now. What if all your short stories and anthologies were translated to Setswana? Would that somehow increase or include more people and ultimately improve the reading culture?

Barolong: Well I don’t think so because even the works that are there in Setswana are only read in the schools. When was the last time you went to buy a Setswana novel?

Bame: I don’t remember.

Barolong: Exactly.

Gaamangwe: Because it’s academic.

Bame: And no one likes to read academic novels.

Barolong: No, no. There is a play called Motswasele II. It’s not academic, it’s just a dramatic play about Kgosi Motswasele of Bakwena. There is another one called Diphosophoso, which actually is a translation from the English Shakespearean comedy “Comedy of Errors”. Rre Raditladi wrote in Setswana, Prof M O M Seboni my grand uncle, wrote in Setswana several works but you don’t see them outside the classroom. There are poems, short stories and novels in Setswana that are available. That’s why I believe that even if you were to translate something from English to Setswana it still wouldn’t sell. Unless it was put on the school syllabus.

Gaamangwe: But what if you were not thinking of the value in terms of only selling but in terms of what it can do to literature? Yes, we are not sure if it will sell, but readership?

Barolong: I still don’t think a lot of people will read them. The fact is there are more books in Setswana than there are in English because Setswana has been written over a longer period of time, but we don’t know about them. Why is that?

Bame: Why do you think that is?

Barolong: That’s the conversation I want you guys to get involved in. If you are interested in Botswana literature, why don’t you go to the Book Centre and buy a book written in Setswana?

Gaamangwe: I think we were talking about it. I think it’s also about the themes you would find in literary works in Botswana. Most of the works that you find here are usually social commentaries. We are always commenting on what’s going on, whether it’s about the war of liberation or “Bo Bashi”.

Bame: We are writing from the community’s perspective.

Gaamangwe: Yes, and I think currently young people are interested in the individual. We are looking for more introspective works. The intrapersonal rather than the outside. This is why we were thinking if we were to change our narratives especially looking at what is happening right now. When you go to poetry shows, there is a lot of “I” and what is happening to me. The issues that happen to an individual on a personal level. And people do connect with that. So I think there is that need to have stories that are more personal.

Barolong: Why is there that need?

Bame: Because times are changing. The youth are mostly interested in the self. We do know about community lives.

Barolong: Really? Young people don’t know their history, their grandfathers and how they lived. Young people are not interested in anything before 1966.

Gaamangwe: We are. It’s just how you tell the stories. Let’s take Things Fall Apart for example. It was about colonization in Nigeria, this was a book that was written in the late 50’s. With all the books that I have read I still remember Okonkwo because what Chinua Achebe did was take the history of Nigeria during colonization not as this big, bulky thing, but rather individualized everything to Okonkwo and we see colonization through one person’s eye, and you can truly learn about the history of this era and the particular discourse through the individual. So in terms of the books written in Botswana, are they also like that?

Barolong: Well we wrote a historical play called Sechele I. Nobody outside the university knows about it. And yet it’s there. It does exactly what you are saying. It takes the character of Sechele, who was the king of Bakwena, and his encounter with David Livingstone. How Livingstone converted him to Christianity and how he rebelled. It’s the story of Christianity in Botswana. It’s the story of how he unified Botswana. He is considered the first person to unite the Tswana groups into a modern nation, long before Independence, in the 1850’s. He died in 1892. But it’s also a story of how Christianity separated us. Tried to separate us from our culture. And it’s told through this one character. So yes, we do have that. But people don’t know about it. And I wonder why. Well, I know why. We are back to the same thing of distribution of books. It’s only available here in the university. When Book stores order it, they only order ten copies because it’s not in the school curriculum. But then we are back again to what I said before. Are young people interested? Your answer is yes. If they were, they would know about it. Cause it’s all over the media. It was covered in the newspapers when it came out. I talk about it all the time when I get an opportunity.

Gaamangwe: I think it’s also about… you see as the youth we are selfish, so it’s also about taking it to where we are, and that’s social media. When you say newspapers, the youth don’t particularly read print newspapers now, which is sad.

Bame: We are living in a global village. I am not always looking on what’s happening in Botswana only. I am looking on what’s happening in South Africa, UK and America.

Barolong: But shouldn’t you start in Botswana? Should you say, like Gaamangwe said, I want to know more about how we came here. I want to know more about how we became Christians. Surely there must be something that is written. Then you Google it.

Bame: You do Google, but you don’t find anything. I was recently doing research on Land and Minerals in Botswana, and it was one of the most difficult and hardest research ever, because when you research something, about five things come up. But when you research about something in another country about ten thousand things come up. A lot of people comment. It’s not only academic work but also personal, where someone is sitting at home and they say, let me comment on this. So I think one of the problems is where we are coming from. The fact that we do works for academic purposes only. For example, has anyone ever done critical reviews on the Sechele book?

Barolong: You are right. There’s not been a lot of reviews. It’s a drama, nobody has taken the challenge to say “let me show people this on stage”. Sechele is an interesting play as I said, it interrogates the history of Christianity in Botswana. It asks the question; “did Sechele sell out when he converted?”. Because Livingstone made him divorce three of his wives and remain with one. He said if he didn’t do it then he wouldn’t baptize him. He also neglected his duties as rain maker when the people needed him most.

Bame: That’s interesting. So yeah, that’s what we are trying to say. We don’t have many people doing reviews and interacting with such important plays. So here is the thing, barge me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram because that’s where I spend most of my time. And I am really, really sorry that, that’s where I spend most of my time but I cannot apologize for that again because I am part of society as much as I am an individual. And right now that’s where I get most of my news and where the community interacts most. I do follow pages that do inform me about books and novels and the literary world on a daily basis, but I do not have pages from Botswana that do inform me about books, book reviews, press conferences and book reading where the novelist comes and shares with us what they were thinking when they were writing their story. So I think that’s the problem, why we don’t have a reading culture. And so I do think that if we did all these things, try translating our works to our languages and engaging with more of the youth in social media then we can change the world. I am being optimistic here but I do think we need more people who elevate and not just people who elevate people who are already elevated. We need more stories that talk about us and our experiences.

Barolong: Do you think if we translated these novels and plays into Setswana, more people would read them in Botswana?

Bame: For me, I think it has to start with the fact that we are writing stories for academic works only. But if we are to translate these works into Setswana and we don’t introduce them as something that you have to read and pass the exam, but we just introduce them as something for leisure. It’s as simple as that.

Barolong: Then they won’t read them, will they?

Gaamangwe: We need to cultivate that culture anyways. I think so. We were talking earlier that our grandmother reads a lot of the bible because I think it’s one of the few texts that is in Setswana, and other than the fact that she is Christian, I do think that she is at an age where she is meditating about life and human existence and whatever her life has been and I think that if she had an opportunity to read your “Windsongs of the Kgalagadi” poetry in Setswana, I think she would be open to that. Right now she can’t because she can’t read English.

Barolong: But why don’t you buy Setswana Books at the Book Center ? The Setswana Books are cheap by the way. Maybe because they are there on the shells for a long time so they reduce the price, or because they are bought in bulk for schools.

Bame: That’s true. But also I think the change has to be big and so we also need to change the narrative. I really do like reading African stories but one book that I think is really good is Across the Bridge by Mwangi Gicheru. It wasn’t about the single story of Africa. You know the usual stories about sufferings, wars, colonization and all those really depressing parts of our realities. And it’s okay, those are part of who we are. We are not saying forget it. But it doesn’t always have to be about that.

Barolong: What was it about?

Bame: It was about a boy who was a criminal who fell in love with a girl. So he didn’t have money to support the girl so he went back to robbing banks because he wanted to impress the girl. At the end of the day it was so beautiful because Mwangi was like he is like “moth to flame”. He keeps going back to the bad things even though he know they are going to burn him. And the girl was his flame. And it was a love story in Africa. Not set in the old times like Lentswe la Baratani. It was just so modern. And they are people like that living in Africa who actually do steal because they want to impress a girl. It’s very well written. It was a simple story.

Gaamangwe: It was also not a social commentary. Also coming from the fact that the story was told from the criminal himself. It just brings a new thing here, because it’s no longer about “oh look at the criminal and what he is doing”. It’s about see the reality of this character, who typically will not be a hero but in this story they are a hero. In this way we get to learn about human existence and human realities. And understand other people. I think Literature is supposed to do that.

Barolong: Yes. It is meant to do that.

Gaamangwe: So bringing this to Botswana, how do we change the state of literature such that we have a lot of people reading our work, people writing novels that become well-received and read by Batswana and other Africans?

Bame: Say someone writes a book and it is so received by Batswana. Obviously one of the other factors is the population in Botswana. But if it is well received and it has great reviews, there is going to be a demand for it to be translated to other languages. Just like the Jalada Translation project. So maybe we need to change our narratives. I think it won’t be easy but it can be done.

Gaamangwe: Yes. Barolong, you have done so much in different platforms for literary works and also interacted with other creatives in different spaces. What have you learnt in this endeavour? What are the pros and cons for literature in Botswana?

Barolong: Yeah, as I have said we have a lot of challenges. Mostly structural and systemic. And they are outside our control. We can only write. Our duty is to write. The other aspects such as book selling, distribution, buying and the economy are beyond our control. All we can do in order to facilitate our writing and our books getting out there is to appeal to the superstructure. And say “what are you doing for the creative industry or let’s partner with you, superstructure”. And create a viable and creative industry. Let’s talk about the economic structure of the creative industry as an alternative to Diamonds and agriculture and other businesses. And also create less dependency on dominant industries by creating alternatives. We have identified that nurturing the creative industry and creating a viable industry is part of the solution to a vibrant economy.

Look at the chain of this industry; writer, publisher, printing, distribution, book selling and the reader. If government focused on developing it, by injecting some funds into all these different components, it then becomes a machine that replicates and duplicates itself. Then once the initial injection is done in the next generation it will run itself. I mean Hollywood is running America. That’s the creative industry.

Bame: The arts are very important. I mean even during Hitler’s time the arts were something he was interested in. He is not a great example but Germany in the 20’s and 30’s was great because of that. They believed in the arts and concentrated on that. So America took over after the fall of Germany. So that’s what we know about America, the arts. So we really have to focus.

Gaamangwe: Yes. Another point is that this systemic issue is not just a trend in Botswana. It’s almost all over Africa. You find that some of the writers considered successful have published outside Africa. This begs us to ask, to be successful as a writer do you need to leave Africa and go to America where the literary world is thriving and the system in place is established? Which is not a good thing because I do think that it’s important that we do things by ourselves here at home and try by all means to build this creative art form. But the way things are right now… Successful writers are either based outside Africa or they have been published outside Africa. And this doesn’t apply to established writers only. Upcoming authors are participating in competitions that are outside their own countries. Do you find that this trend is also common here in Botswana?

Barolong: Yes, this looks like a trend because African writers are finding that in order to really crack it big time they have to publish outside. Lauri Kubuitsile’s recent book is published by a multinational corporate, this means it will reach a wider readership. It was launched in Namibia, maybe because it’s set there. Also in Maun. Kubuitsile is one of our most consistent and widely published writers. Wame Molefhe is another, also published outside. So the way to grow this industry is by encouraging the small publishers. Let’s get local works into the syllabus because they are good. And also this will give writers that push.

Gaamangwe: That’s true. Like why it is that Sechele wasn’t studied in school?

Barolong: Who knows? But we did submit it.

Gaamangwe: I don’t know, are they still doing Goggle Eyes in high school? Because this is the other thing, why aren’t we changing our syllabus regularly with new works by Africans, by Batswana writers for our Batswana students to study? This is very important because this is part of our history.

Bame: I also really like your translation of Setswana riddles book. It reminds me so much of our childhood because we used to play this games as kids but I don’t remember any of them now.

Gaamangwe: We didn’t know what they meant as kids. And so it’s amazing when you read something and you get the meaning of what you were saying all along. This reminds me of Khutsie Kasale’s article about how Setswana is a spiritual language. She was saying ,for example, how we often think of the word Dumela as just hello, when essential it means To Believe. And so when you say Dumela to someone, you are saying I believe in you, I acknowledge you. That is really powerful. Setswana is more spiritual than we realize. And I only learnt this through this creative work. So I do think that meditating and translating our proverbs, riddles and idioms is vital. Also it expands your own understanding of our identity. Where we come from.

Barolong: I agree. We address these concerns through Sechele I. You see here, it is written in English but the English is such that an Englishman will say “what kind of English is this?”. It’s the type of English that is infused with Setswana thinking. The way the character speaks is not in the English of England. It is the English of Setswana. That’s what we are experimenting with. We want to come up with a language which on the surface can be called English but it’s much deeper than that. It is a language like what Chinua Achebe did in Things Fall Apart. It is a language that carries a lot of Setswana and its culture in it. Let me give you an example.

The backstory is this; Mosielele was the chief of Bahurutshe, those who settled in Manyana. And he was running from the Boers. In those days, there was no Botswana as you know it. It was the land of Sechele. The land of Kgama. The land of Bathoeng. There were actual countries. So the minute you cross the river by Ramotswa, you were entering Sechele’s country. Mosielele was afraid of the Boers so he crossed that river. Sechele then received him but the Boers were after him. So they approached him. So this is how the dialogue goes;

Boer Commander: Where is Mosielele? We want Mosielele, why won’t you give him to us?

Sechele: We have spoken words between us, me and Mosielele. I have swallowed his words, he has eaten mine. We are not like you white people who have no respect for words. You keep them in paper and capture them and imprison them in the walls of your pens. You drowned them in your ink and create the magic of meaning through papers and books but you have no respect for words. You trap words in trite and agreements and then you unleash them to grab tracks of lands and minerals and cattle that do not belong to you. You hide meaning in the forest of words, in pages of laws but you do not obey this words. You do not honor your own treaties and agreements and laws and, and how can I say this? … And policies. Recently, you have spoken secretly to the British and written an agreement that stops all black people from buying guns without even telling us. Mosielele has taken my words and I have swallowed his. He thrives on the words that I have fed him, in the cradle of my stomach, that is my policy, that is my trite, those are my words.

Boer Commander (agitated): Is it war you seek with us? Your actions are only leading to war. Surrender him because we know you have him.

Sechele (very slowly and raising his spear and pointing at the commander): Mosielele is in the belly of a cannon. A cannon, you are stoking, a cannon that will soon explode. I am that cannon. He is the sediments that lies at the bottom of the Kolobeng River and you seek to disturb the stillness of his waters. Mosielele is within me. I carry him in my womb like the cow that will give birth to bullocks …. and so on and so forth.

Gaamangwe: Wow. It’s amazing. Oh my God.

Bame: I do get it! Because this is how Batswana speak. So you did a sort of direct translation into how we actually speak.

Gaamangwe: This is amazing. You should also translate it to Setswana and have this play at the theatre because people should know about our history, especially right now. Botswana is going to a new era, the last part of the century. It’s important to know our identity. It’s important to know how this story has affected us, who we are right now. Because most of the time we do not know but our history does affect us right now. So this book is amazing.

Barolong: Yes. And it is based on actual events, although the words are twisted here and there.

Gaamangwe: I do think people will read if it was in Setswana. That question you asked earlier. I think they would. I think if this was in the academic syllabus in high school. I think people might get interested in Literature because this isn’t constrained to just moral education, it’s a very creative work about our history. This is what I was talking about with regards to Things Fall Apart. It’s the same to what Sechele can do. So it’s amazing and exciting that this work exists. And we don’t know about it. Now, let’s talk about Petlo Literary Arts trust, you founded this?

Barolong: Yes. Petlo Literary Arts Trust is a registered trust with government. Its objectives is to support and encourage creative arts in Botswana through workshops. To find a niche in the publishing world and publish creative works by Batswana, on a small scale. We are also liaising and collaborating with other writers in and outside Botswana. And lastly, we aim to acquire land in Botswana to establish a writer’s village. We have found a piece of land along the Okavango River, can you imagine? So we have the land, we just need sponsorship to build the writer’s retreat village.

Gaamangwe: That is so poetic. That is so amazing because many writers need space to do their creative work. So Okavango River, will just be perfect for this. What Petlo is doing is important because as we discussed we need establishment like this that will help in the process of writing. So you guys are doing a great work. Literature is so vital, for every community because it tells us of who we are. It tells us of where we have been and who we can become. Because you have to look at your past and make an informed decision. Literature can serve as that. Oral storytelling has always been in our culture, but now we also need to document our stories. In Print as well as online. And have Batswana and the rest of the world read our work. So now, tell me about Thinking Allowed?

Barolong: Thinking Allowed is a collection of articles I wrote for a column I had when I was writing for newspapers such as The Guardian, The Gazette and The Sun. It’s basically humor,using satire and sarcasm to comment on the social and political situations in Africa and particularly in Botswana. We published the collection after six years. First publication was in the 1990’s, second time was about 5 years ago, so now it sold out so we need a reprint. Thinking Allowed is a precursor to another column that became popular called Nitty Gritty with The Guardian and Mmegi. It’s also a social column based on an imaginary Shebeen that these characters go to everyday, and they discuss politics, life, religion, sex and relationships. It’s also satirical. We have been doing that for almost twenty years. So now we are planning on publishing it.

Gaamangwe: That’s sounds like important and exciting projects. So my last question. You have done everything, which is very impressive because to strive in this field in Botswana is a big deal. To keep writing in all formats and in all opportunities that you find. You have made sure you keep doing what you love, which is impressive and commendable. So what is your hope for the future? What do you hope for Botswana and for Botswana Literature?

Barolong: I hope that government, and the nation will realize the importance of literature. Literature is a way that we can have the whole world know about us in a truthful way. Literature is the opposite of everything that is propaganda, everything that is not good. Literature is the highest form of civilization. We measure a nation’s progress through its literature. You get to the deeper psyche of the society by reading its literature. Nobody is going to know us through our politics, because that’s temporary. Nobody is going to know us through our economy because that changes every day. The world will know us, who we really are, warts and all, through our literature. Because that’s long lasting, that’s eternal. We know about the ancient Greeks and ancient Rome through their literature and arts and architecture. We are not concerned about their politics and economics. That has fallen and risen and fallen. But their art, that has lived forever. It’s living through their literature.

Also, in order to have economic diversification, we need to focus and develop the creative industry. That needs an initial injection from Government. But after that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is a self-generating machine that will in the end put bread on the table of lots of Batswana. We talked about the USA and other nations where a major part of the economy comes from the creative industry. And for us Botswana, it is important at this point in time for us to find and explore alternatives to our economic diversity.

Gaamangwe: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so much for allowing us to hold this conversation on such a vital topic, also on the most important time of our history.

Bame: Thank you for allowing me to be here.

Gaamangwe Mogami is a poet, screenwriter, playwriter and founder of Africa in Dialogue. Bame Mogami is a law student at the University of Botswana, I AM AFRICA Fashion Initiator, and guest interviewer for this dialogue.