Sunday, July 31, 2011


I am enroute to the airport to catch a flight to Johannesburg I've been invited to share words at the OSISA women's week.

Lat night the United States Embassy in Botswana was hosting Yewande Austin whos been in GC running workshops in and around the city especially with Stepping Stones International. I 'll blog more about them when I get back. It was an exciting educational show even for someone who is a super laymen with all things music such as myself. I'm still humming Amazing Grace.

Earlier in the day The No-1-Ladies-Opera-House  hosted their bimonthly Farmers and Crafts market - worth experiencing and do pass by my SAUTI Design stall if you do make it next time around.

Gadda go. Dont do anything I wouldn't do.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Word on the street - the internet actually, says poet and current artist in residence at the Southbank Centre, Simon Armitage is planning a super exciting poetry event billed for June 26 - July 2, 2012.

Parnassus is, so I've been told, a mountain in Greece where according to Greek mythology the Muses live and it is also the mythological home of poetry and music.

Back to the festival concept, basically 1 poet from each of the 205 countries will represent themselves and their country, over a week in London. There will be various readings, talks and performances. If you are a UK based translator or interpreter there is an opportunity for you to be involved with what promises to be a truly global event.

You have until July 22, 2011 to nominate the poet you want to represent your country or any other competing commonwealth country. Get voting !

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


A couple of months ago I was asked to adjudicate the annual Bessie Head Literature Awards poetry section. This is one of very few writing awards Botswana has and the short story and poetry section alternate annually. The winners have just been announced and the press release is below and contains information about the open prize giving ceremony.


The BESSIE HEAD HERITAGE TRUST, together with Pentagon Publishers, is pleased to announce the winners of the 2011 BESSIE HEAD LITERATURE AWARDS.

In the category of NOVEL, the winner is Ms. Tlotlo Pearl Tsamaase for her manuscript Unlettered Skies of the Sublime. The first runner-up is Mr. Service Motsamai Monyamane for Mma-Shirley’s Children, and the second runner-up is Mr Moreetsi Pius Gabang for Cryout. The winner will receive a cash prize of P2, 500.00, the first runner-up will receive P1 200.00, and the third runner up will receive P800.

In the SHORT STORY category, the winner is Mr Boikhutso Robert for a story entitled “The
Zambezi Crocodiles”. The first runner-up is Ms. Rebaone Kenanao Motsumi for her
story “Incestous Scandal ... saving Grace”; the second runner-up is Ms Jocasta Tshomarelo
Bobeng for “The War of Animals and Plants”. The prize for the short story winner is P1, 500.00; for the second runner-up it is P900.00; and for the third runner-up it is P600.00.

The POETRY winner is Mr. John Hutcheson for a set of poems (“The Massacre of
Innocents”, “The Man”, and “Curse”). The first runner-up is Ms Lisa Reed for a set of poems
(“Buffalo Sunrise”, “Campfire”, and “The Joy of Africa”). The second runner-up is Ms. Bernice
Tiny Letlhare also for a set of poems (“Wisdom”, “Allegory of a Strong Being”, “What is Life”
and “People in the Street”). The poetry prize for the winner is P1, 200.00; for the first runner-up it is P800. 00 and for the second runner up it is P500.00.

On 24 July 2011, Ms Penelope Moanakwena, President of the Botswana Reading Association, will award the above prizes in the National Museum in Gaborone, in a ceremony beginning at 2:30p.m. at the National Museum in Gaborone. The event will include readings by the winners and runners-up, a launch of the works of the 2010 winners in book form, and an open mike session.
Pentagon Publishers will promote the titles of their BESSIE HEAD SERIES of writing in English from Botswana.

24 July 2011
2:30 pm
National Museum
, Gaborone
Free Admission

Saturday, July 9, 2011

GO TELL THE SUN by Wame Molefhe

Recently at the No 1 ladies Opera House there was launch of a short story collection by a Motswana writer named Wame Molefhe. Wame started writing short stories a little over half a decade ago, in 2008 she left her job to write full time. She has since written television scripts, contributed to collections geared and accepted for the school syllabus, published a children's collection of stories Just Once in 2009 and this past Saturday she launched her first 'adult' collection "Go Tell the sun."

Go tell the sun was published by South African publisher Modjaji this year (2011). The blurb by South African poet and writer Rustum Kozain says, " Wame Molefhe's stories have a gentle yet intimate and captivating feel to them...And through them the author brings to bear a woman's perspective on the societal mores in which sexual abuse, homophobia and AIDS, among others flourish and spread..." This and more is true but I digress, my focus is the launch.

Rre Batho Molema a leading authority on Setswana folklore and music introduced the 'cast' - two vocalists, a percussionist, a guitarist(all members of Kabo Leburu and Ethno Jazz band) and Wame herself. Although I've known Wame for years, we first met as part of a British Council initiative called Crossing Borders and now serve on the same writers' board, I had never actually heard her read but I've seen traces of the performer in the way she expresses herself about everyday things in regular conversation. It was a wonderful evening, the 2 stories she choose to read were read to music with vocalists turning some of the words or dilaogue into a musical refrain.

Even though Wame writes primarily in English - she is writing through it not necessarily in it - her stories are peppered with Setswana references, proverbs and phrases occassionally actually written in Setswana, the simplicity of the language is almost a blatant refusal to pen any words with more than 3 syllables, all the magic lies in the meaning condensed into each line. As a Motswana I can proudly say this book feels familiar, not because I've heard or read the stories before, but because these are our stories told in a sophisticated but readable way. Yes we have dimo (folklore's giant ) and mainane (our folktales) that we were raised on but we need to tell our right-now stories as well before they are past and forgotten. And as Kozain rightly says Wame's voice leaps gracefully from issues on identity and immigration, family and infertility, sexual orientation and social expectations with admirable dexterity.

When asked if she intends to ever write a novel, she stated that it was more likely to be a string of short stories masquerading as a novel. She feels her strength lies within the realm of the short story but one could argue that "Go Tell the Sun" is a novella of sorts - it's disjointed sequencing allows you to look at the 'same characters' from multiple angles. You know, kind of like reality, always so many versions and only so many sides of a situation each person can or is willing to see.

At the end of the evening, cocooned in blankets and throws, and full of cake and coffee, we had a QnA with the author and it was clear from the comments and feedback that everyone had enjoyed themselves. We are hoping for a repeat performance and Wame tells me she's considering it, we'll keep you posted.

If you have read the No 1 ladies detective agency series but would like an inside out perspective by a Motswana, of all things beyond the daily drinking of rooibos/redbush tea - do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of 'Go Tell the Sun' it may very well be a literary investment you'll be passing on to your daughter or son in the future.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Dkson is a young Zimbabwean slam poet currently on tour in Europe alongside the acclaimed all woman collective WoCalling. I caught him between gigs to ask him to speak in his capacity as artistic director of the Sonic Slam Chorus ensemble (of which, in an attempt at diffussing any bias I should point out, I am a part)

TJ: What is Sonic Slam Chorus? How would you describe it?

Sonic Slam Chorus is a fusion of spoken word, jazz and electroacoustic soundscapes to put it as simply as possible. It is a dynamic ensemble of artists who are passionate about their art, regardless of the diverse artistic and other, backgrounds they come from.

TJ: How did it come about

In late 2010 I had the idea of collaborating with a certain TJ Dema after sharing a few spoken word events. From this basic idea a sprawling and eclectic group of artists was born. I mentioned to Cecilie Giskemo (composer and vocalist from Norway) that I wanted her to join the collaboration with myself and TJ. We then toyed with the idea of bringing a guitarist on board and she was adamant that it had to be her fellow countryman Asbjoern Lerheim. That is the trend that the ensemble followed, a snowball picking up talented artists as it grew ranging from the young Zimbabwean talent V Mukarati on sax to sound engineer and producer AER (UK).

TJ: Whats different about this 'collective' of artists

SSC is undoubtedly unique. The original and continuing notion of giving spoken word a powerful and moving platform is something that we hold dear as an ensemble. All the while the sound stands alone so powerfully it makes me truly honoured to be part of a cast of such skilled and dedicated musicians. The direction that the group is heading in is very exciting. With the inclusion of AER (UK) we will expand upon our current product and bring in live elements of dubstep, drum and bass and ambient electronic effects. Eclectic is the word!

TJ: Where have you performed together

We performed at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) this year for the first time and the press release the day after our first ever show describes the experience better than I could:

‘’In this sometimes pressurised city we live in, when the sordidness of the mundane everyday, strives to turn your mind to dust, Sonic Slam Chorus storms in full blast blowing away the cobwebs that threaten to settle. The best way to describe this talented ensemble is perhaps as, an intense romance.
The visual they present , from the stage set up, down to the wardrobe all works to sustain this image of the romantic, not to mention the words spoken, whose content and emotion run so deep, you are forced to evaluate yourself. A piece of your past comes into full display in your mind and you reflect on the days where innocence was second nature and not a daily sacrifice.’’ Natalie Kombe (HIFAlutin)

TJ: Who are the members that make up this collective

A really nice, kind-hearted slam poet called Dikson ;-), Cecilie Giskemo, composer and vocalist (Norway), Asbjoern Lerheim, guitar/vox (Norway), V Mukarati, sax/clarinet/vox (Norway), Prudence Katomene, vox (Zim), James Duff, bass (UK), Thom Durrant, drums (UK), AER, DJ (UK), and of course TJ Dema, spoken word (Bots)!!!

TJ: What plans do you have for the future

We are focussing on 2 projects. If all goes well and funding comes through then SSC will tour Southern Africa in Oct/Nov of this year. We are waiting on a few big replies so fingers crossed! If anyone wants to help out then visit We hope to hit Zim, Bots and SA. The next big plans are for next summer in Europe. We have begun applying for festivals and hope to do as much as possible in the region.

TJ: How practical is it to have a bicontinental, multi-country collective

Depending on how you look at it it can be both practical and impractical. For us it is no real hindrance. I might be idealistic but I want SSC to be as big as it deserves to be and I believe in it. With internet these days the musicians can be on the same page easily and then all we need is rehearsal time together to get into it. If we are looking to tour SA or Europe then having artists based in both places actually helps in terms of costs too. We don’t have to fly everyone over from 1 place. Sure we can’t do gigs on a regular which is a shame.

TJ: Do you feel that your different backgrounds add to the product or are you all children of the universe who just happen to be from different countries

I love it. Hehehe. A bit of both I suppose. We all get on really well and I am as bad as you are when it comes to the topic of music! From a poet’s (layman’s) perspective they all bring their influences and backgrounds into the mix. Cecilie, being the composer and musical visionary, is a great example of where the sound meets. She is from Norway, trained as a Jazz vocalist, plays the Mbira (Zim) and is all the while a lover of the words we write.

TJ: Where can one listen to SSC online

TJ: When can we expect an album

We have a 9 track promo album that has just been finished. However we will be adding in new elements and tracks. You can expect a tidy version over the next year!

Monday, July 4, 2011


I have on behalf of SAUTI Arts and Performance Management, been quietly working on a project to record 12 Batswana spoken word artists/poets on 1 CD and am hoping it will be released this August.

We don't want to give away too much but if you sign up to our facebook page : SAUTI Arts and Performance Management you'll certainly be the first to know the project details especially which poets we've put on and why and the distribution channels etc.

I did have a chat with the folks at Southern World Arts News recently and you can see that interview at their blog here.

Do come a-visiting soon.