To empower youth, to use their artistic talents as a means to develop their livelihoods.
Laone MATLAPENG: 718 499 96
Sebastien MODAK : 756 922 27
Hanna ROCHETAING : 754 715 26
Arts for Change is an initiative by Batswana Youth in conjunction with Alliance Francaise de Gaborone, Botswana Society for Arts (BSA), France Volontaires [Hanna Rochetaing], Region Reunion, Botswana Council of Churches, French Ministry of Arts & Culture, Westwood International School, Botlhale International School,, European Union (E.U.), Dulux Botswana & Department of Reunion Island. The Initiative seeks to utilise art as a medium for spreading awareness about pressing social issues (AIDS/HIV, Gender Based Violence, Substance abuse etc.), while also empowering the youth of Old Naledi by imparting artistic skills through Music, Art and Literature workshops. At this stage, we’ve hosted one (Jace, from 26th March till 29th March 2013 alongside local artsits Khwezi, Okoth and Saone) out of 3 Street artists from the Reunion Islands [Jace,Kid Kreol& Boogie] painting up positive social change messages around community landmarks of Old Naledi – which is now one of the most neglected areas in Gabs.
The initiative has also been hosting a series of workshops on Creative Writing, Visual Art and Music, in that order, from 1st April 2013 to 10th April 2013, held at the Tsholofelong Project in Old Naledi, for children aged 12 – 16years. The workshops were facilitated by local professionals (Ms Mandisa Mabuthoe, Mr. Karabo Mosimanegape aka Poem The Ansa, Ms Ngozi Chukura, Mr Manu Manjeshlal, Mr Roy Nyathi, Mr Sebastian Modak) in their respective art forms.
The second in Kgogomodumo’s new season of recordings by Batswana poets introduces Mr.Drummer, and his poem I’m An Artist And That’s All I Know.
Introduction / Reading : I’m An Artist And That’s All I Know
My name is Laone Matlapeng. I organize platforms where the arts can begin to get organized in Botswana. We mainly focus on local artists, and at the moment my main focus has been poetry and contemporary music. My company is called South East Entertainment. One of these platforms is Rhythm Art & Poetry; we recently organized a graffiti workshop / hip hop event (at Alliance Francaise). We wanted to encourage respect for graffiti, as it’s viewed as “dirty artwork”. And to also create platforms for local hip hop artists and poets, because graffiti, hip hop and poetry are all linked. They stem from the same culture.
How did your interest in creating this kind of platform begin?
The first time I came back to Botswana after living in Australia, I went to the open mic sessions at Khwest. I was blown away. I wanted to capture the same feeling but at each other event I went to, they weren’t really delivering the same quality as the artists at Khwest. So that stirred my interest in trying to create platforms for local artists. I feel that people need to understand that we have an industry in waiting. We have to create our own structures. Then perhaps the government can take us seriously.
What was the reason for the gap in quality you were seeing?
Most of the artists at Khwest had been exposed to different arts environments. That exposure, you could say, encouraged them to try to bring it here. But because of the lack of structure, that either dies quickly or people become fed up because they can’t see any growth.
When you say structures – what exactly was / is missing?
Adequate venues, that can bring the right people together. Let me give you an example. When we began the Rhythm Art & Poetry platform last year, we got a huge response – local artists felt that it was a platform for their markets. It began at Cresta, then we came back this year at George’s (I was a former employee at Cresta, and some of the management weren’t so happy about me being there!) The event at George’s was gaining momentum; unfortunately the management had different views. Now we are at Talking Heads in Maru-a-Pula. Talking heads is a bit bigger, and has a similar atmosphere to George’s. The other thing was adequate marketing – most shows don’t target the man on the ground. Africans are people of poetry and music, we express ourselves through poetry and music, we pass on our stories through poetry and music. We are naturally artists. In Botswana, the man on the ground has lost touch with this – unless he goes to weddings and funerals, he’s not seeing art uplifting him personally. So we’re trying to rekindle that.
What are the individual expectations of the artists involved in your shows?
At the moment, they want exposure. And a lot of exposure. They understand that the industry is at this stage, and they can’t really expect to earn money out of it. They have been cheated; they want to continue what they are doing, but they want real expectations. At the moment it’s just focused on really trying to get them out there.
How do you structure these evenings, in terms of what’s expected of each poet / performer?
I try to encourage as much creativity as possible, and the artists to work together. I try to build a working relationship with them, and then we try to see how far we can take it from there. We’re planning on doing a DVD next year, just so we can create content online, and content that can maybe sell, so we can share any proceeds from that.
What are your thoughts on the ‘split’ between poetry on the page and spoken word poetry?
The artists can do anything, up to a point. The open mic sessions are really for screening purposes. You can discover someone taking their art seriously from what they deliver on stage. And that’s when I begin to engage with the ones that want to take it to the next level. So I don’t really try to restrict anybody when they go on the mic. But Rhythm Art & Poetry is not a collective of poets. It’s an arts platform. We want to incorporate visual arts and theatre at some point. This is why we did the graffiti event, which really worked. The interest in slam poetry and graffiti showed me the public want something new, engaging and inspiring.
If anyone reading this wants to work with you in some way, what do they need to do?
I’d have to seem them work, so I’d invite them to come to Talking Heads on a Monday night. And I’m working on a mini festival, every three months. Talking Heads is taking a Christmas break – December 17th is the last one until late January. My aim is to try as much as possible to grow the level interest in the arts in Botswana. I support eTV’s proposed ban of SABC / Philibao. They want to cancel the free to air broadcasts, because they believe they take away from local productions. I fully support that. SABC is contributing to the lack of support for our industry.
Why is there an expectation in Botswana that you should be able to make money from art, and why the expectation that the government should necessarily help you? Doesn’t great art come from a reaction against government?
A lot of artists have been exploited for too long. They’ve seen people making money through them, and feel they’ve been ripped off. So their expectation is focusing on money. But there are those that still believe in art as a way to express yourself. There is art that you can make money out of; if we won the case against SABC / Philibao, we could create greater interest in the arts. Artists could be using their creativity for advertising purposes, for example. If the government pulled up their socks with regards to BTV, it could create great economic platforms to generate money for artists.
But is it possible to have a thriving arts scene that isn’t subversive and confrontational?
Our media, our journalists are failing. So we have to change the whole mindset. Art is supposed to vocalize the opinions of society. But the newspapers here didn’t cover our Alliance Francaise event properly, despite being given incentives to come down. Only The Patriot newspaper really showed an interest. Even some of our media sponsors didn’t show up. But it’s not the companies – the journalists have to be more proactive here. Because they are our voices.
“Barolong Seboni is a Senior Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Botswana. He did part of his schooling in London, obtained his BA at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS), and has a Masters Degree in English Literature from Madison University, Wisconsin. In 1993, Seboni was the poet-in-residence at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh.
Apart from being a poet and academic, he is also a well regarded newspaper columnist, radio presenter and cultural activist, making a significant mark on Botswana’s arts for three decades. Seboni is a founder member of the Writers’ Association of Botswana, the Writers Association of the University of Botswana and its journal Mokwadi, and a patron of the Live Poets. He was also part of the delegations that established the Pan African and South African Writers’ Associations.”
The poet introduces and reads “Love Is” and “Love That”
A short history of poetry in modern Botswana: 1) Black Spirit
2) The Eighties
4) The Nineties – poetry in schools
5) The 00s
6) The Live Poets
The English / Setswana divide
The Black American influence
The Politics of Self
The poet introduces and reads “Black Dog”
“TJ Dema is a Botswana based poet. She runs an arts and performance management organization and is chairperson of The Writers Association of Botswana. She is a founding member (alumni) of the acclaimed Exoduslivepoetry! collective, who have coordinated Botswana’s sole annual poetry festival since 2004. She was a 2005/06 participant in the British Council’s Crossing Borders project and 2008/09 Power in the Voice mentor, and has shared the stage with leading international artists in the United Kingdom, India, France, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Her work has been featured on the BBC, SABC 2, SABC Africa, SA Fm, Btv, Gabz Fm, Yarona Fm, and RB 2, and translated into French and Chinese.”
The poet reads “Neon Poem”
About “Neon Poem”
The TJ brand
The birth of Exodus
The influence of Def Poetry Jam
On choosing the name
The need for creative discourse
The Exodus legacy
The Elder Poets
The power of folk tales
The poet reads and discusses “He Won’t Come Out”
Politics as inspiration
The poet introduces and reads “Tuareg Indigo”
Earlier this year, Kgogomodumo interviewed six Botswana poets: Tshireletso Motlogelwa, Mandisa Mabuthoe, Lesego Nchunga, TJ Dema, Andreattah Drea Chuma, and Barolong Seboni.
Their thoughts on Exodus Live Poetry, praise poetry, politics and inspiration are serialized here in audio recordings, concluding with Barolong Seboni.
*Many thanks to all the poets who agreed to take part, and to British Council Botswana for kindly lending office space for the recordings.
“Andreattah ‘Drea’ Chuma is a Gaborone-based poet and performance artist. A former member of Botswana’s renowned Exodus Live Poetry collective, she has shared her words on television, in narration for the Mosadi documentary, on radio, on a 13 city UK tour, in workshops, in a charity tribute anthology to Haiti and at commissioned corporate events. She has rocked unique stages including Botswana’s Mantlwaneng (Infinite Word Festival), Joburg’s Songwriters club, Stockholm City Theatre, Apples & Snakes 451, London’s Cochrane Theatre and the Glastonbury Festival. She independently released a poetry album named 1981 Was a Good Year (2010), under her company Drea’s Poetry Factory, which made her the first poet to release a poetry album in Botswana.”
The poet reads “Crayons”
Writing the personal
Choosing a language
Praise versus Def
On creating her album, “1981 Was a Good Year”
On the album track “Calling Them Home”
The poet reads “Word”
“I have performed poetry in Cape Town, South Africa at various local poetry sessions since February 2002. I visited Melbourne, Australia in 2006, and recited at open mic sessions, was a featured guest performer at Federation Square and was published in a local youth art magazine, Voiceworks. In Gaborone in 2007, I frequented the open mic poetry show on Yarona FM, which led to my membership with Exodus Live Poetry, until September 2009. I have performed at various corporate and arts events and participated in workshops. I currently teach art to children and I am writing a play, City of Joy, to be on stage soon.”
The poet reads from her play, “City of Joy”
Marley Joseph, the play’s protagonist
Storytelling & fantasy
The beauty in Catholicism
Setswana & Botswana
The road to Exodus
Making a living as an artist
The “microworlds” of her poetry
The poet reads “Colourful Wisdom”