Sunday, December 22, 2013

GOODBYE TO A GOOD YEAR

I'm watching Endeavour: Young Morse and in no state to write a lengthy entry, and so heres to 2013. Show me a picture and I'll gladly hand you a memory.

In Berlin with the boys - Kosal Khiev & Ise Lyfe

With my friend Stephanie Ye the short story writer, 5 minutes before I went on stage at Artistry

I had a quick cup of coffee with Fernando Pessoa in Lisbon

Amidst an embankment of poets in Maun

I organized a poetry exchange between Swedish and Batswana poets, this was funtastic 


I have lots to be thankful for, my nephew is a year older, happy and well adjusted, my siblings are off chasing their dreams, there are enough police procedurals on TV to keep me home on a friday night and I have grown infinitesimally taller - no really, first I thought folks were getting shorter or something but nope its all me. 
I have a few projects lined up for next year including a couple of months to be spent living in Europe but its almost Christmas now and so I'm off to see Mama. Its time to recharge the old battery and inevitably over eat which, at the very least, will give me something to put on a new year's resolution list.

Friday, December 13, 2013

PICTURE LOVE

On the 7th of December Fify Lowen photography hosted a HelpPortriat initiative. The aim - to give 100 deserving folks a portrait taken by a (professional) photographer. This was part of the world wide initiative founded by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart who saw this as a way for photographers to give back to their communities.  The official website says, "This is about GIVING the pictures, not taking them. These portraits are not for your portfolio, website, or for sale. Money isn't involved here".

In Gaborone, the volunteers included make up artists, photographers, a lady who made it her business to identify and transport individuals she knew would benefit from this opportunity, a local supermarket donated snacks and bottles of water (which made the little ones very happy), a church donated one of its halls to act as a base, some folks donated clothes so that those who came in without especially fancy clothing but who wanted to play dress up could, and they got to keep the clothes.

The photographic subjects came from all over the city - a local children's village, a few women who had survived abusive relationships as well other perfectly happy individuals and families who had just never had the spare cash to indulge on a photographic shoot.



I'm often on either side of the camera as an amateur photographer or as a subject but I've never thought about other people who just don't have the option of a phone with a  camera or better yet - because it is better, at least once - the opportunity of having someone who knows what they are doing say, say cheese. I like feeling useful but I'm also a bit of a control freak so I'm particularly proud of myself for taking instructions well and doing what was needed when it was needed :). Small steps towards letting go. I still remember a particular elderly gentleman, one of those innately regal people who's faces are a roadmap to story land, he had us all in stitches because when he got his photograph - my favorite of the day - he looked across at his neighbor and said, "Why is his in color? I want mine in color". Best Saturday morning I've had in a long while.

A few of the day's photographs are up on Fify Loewen's page.

Just incase you want to host a session in your neighborhood, you can do your own events at any time of course but, the global date has been set for December 6, 2014. Lots of time to dust off your camera or kabuki brush. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

ART IN BOTSWANA

The Minister of Education Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is quoted in the local papers as saying, “Creative industries, on the other hand, are increasingly gaining recognition as a sector with one of the highest potential to create jobs for the youth as well as to keep them occupied. Creative services, performing arts, cultural sites and new media, amongst others, have the potential to drive the economy and make Botswana a better place to live in.” Hallelujah. 

Not much detail beyond whats contained in this article on MMEGI, the gist of which is that the Minister aims to introduce arts scholarships for deserving Batswana by the time her term in office ends in 2014.

I have to say I take everything thats said in the lead up to an election year with a pinch of salt but that doesn't mean I can't simultaneously cross my fingers. I always assumed thats why we have two hands.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

WORD TO THE MOTHER

As I'd mentioned earlier and elsewhere on the blog, I've been looking forward to playing host to four Swedish poets for the last week. The main event happened last night and this is my week's recap.

All 8 participating poets recorded a couple of poems that we intend to share freely on the internet over the next couple of months

Lunch time at a local restaurant, I had mash and oxtail in a mini traditional cooking pot... yum

Laura Wilhborg performing for the students at Kgale High School

Students during a workshop and QnA session held at Maikano CJSS

Sam Kessel and Jorgen Gassilewski after a school workshop

A secret gig on the Friday where up to 40 local poets, show organizers and MCs were invited to share their work in a intimate session with venue details only being texted at the last minute. The local poets were each others entertainment and audience.

The Thapong Visual Arts Center has artist studios, this one houses various traditional instruments. The poets couldn't help but start a band

A visit to the botanical gardens yielded a few surprises including a plant named - in Setswana-  'a man does not wear clothes'

We took the poets on a tour of the city of Gaborone. This is the 3 Dikgosi monument in the Central Business District. That gold dome peeking from behind the diKgosi is the High Court of Botswana
Its a wrap!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

POETRY PASSPORT

I get to travel a bit as part of my 'job'. Its no secret that poets sometimes get to travel to different parts of their countries or indeed to other countries in order to share their work. Its been an amazing half decade for me, I've always wanted to see the world but it was never really something I could afford to do on my own. But now sometimes I wake up and realize that the street in my dream was one I walked in Copenhagen or that I recognize some building from my favorite crime drama because I sat lost on the stoep trying to read a map there once. I mostly love getting to meet some of my favorite poets in person and discovering ones whose books I may not have picked up in a bookstore who not only add to my list of favorites but who I instinctively quote in a recording studio on Buttmanstrasse (which has to be the coolest street name in the world). 
As you can tell I'm easily pleased and nothing makes me happier than being able to bring a little bit of the world back home with me. I share my collection of books (my return luggage is always overweight) with some of the young writers that I work with mainly because the cost of books locally is prohibitive and we don't have a strong second hand book market but I love when I can 'carry' back actual poets. And so to cut a long story short through a Swedish Arts Council funded initiative the arts organization I run took myself and 3 other Batswana to Sweden in October to do some readings and we are now happy to be hosting 4 Swedish poets in Gaborone between November 20th and 24th. They are visiting a number of government aided schools, participating in a secret gig open only to local poets as both readers and audience, giving a (free) talk at the University of Botswana on 22nd Nov as well as participating in the festival finale on Saturday the 23rd Nov at the Mantlwaneng (which means place of play) Theatre. The 4 poets are:

LAURA WIHLBORG is a poet and Poetry Slam champion.  Laura represented Sweden at Poetry Parnassus in London - an international poetry festival featuring poets from over 200 countries. She performed at the International Literature Festival in Berlin. And toured Europe with the poetry show Smoke and Mirrors. Laura has a degree in radio production and radio theatre from the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic arts.


Jörgen Gassilewski’s first collection of poems, Du (You) came out in 1987 and his tenth pärla barbie klistermärke Vi hade vi inte. Kommer inte att. Skulle komma att. Kunde inte tro att. Visste inte att (translated as - Pearl barbie sticker We had we not. Will not. Would. Couldn’t believe that. Didn’t know that) in 2012. His poetry is collected in a 3 volume box set – Hittills samlad poesi 1983-2009. He runs OEI, a magazine for experimental writing. In 2006 he published the documentary novel The Gothenburg events.  



HENRY BOWERS is one of Europe’s leading slam-poets. Known and acclaimed as one of Sweden’s best hip-hop acts Henry Bowers is also known as Kung Henry. Henry’s poetry reflects society and himself. It is intelligent, sharp and to the point. He breaks down the wall between high culture and mass culture taking influences from and referring to everything from horror films and children’s stories to classic masterpieces and great philosophers, everything combined with a dose of irony and humor.



SAM KESSEL is an actor and poet. Starting early in feature films and TV he now mainly acts on stage. This year he is starring in the theatre show “God is away on business” based on Tom Waits music. Sam won the Triathlon Swedish National Slam award 2009. His poetry is angry but also hopelessly romantic.




Thursday, November 7, 2013

THE WEEK THAT WAS: Maun International Poetry & Literary Festival

Dude…the weather, man but lets not go there. So I was in Maun, a bonafide tourist town yes but real people who have nothing to do with selling the idea that the Okavango Delta happens to be in their backyard also live there so…context.

I live an 8 hour drive or an hour and a half long flight away from Maun but because I know whats awaiting me when I get there I often look forward to the journey, or at the very least the getting there. Come on NASA we know you can beam us wherever we want to go, all those Scottys must have made a plan by now, anyway the Poetavango collective invited 20 odd poets over to participate in their annual, this was the third installment, festival. This year there was a lot more of a literary component with storytelling/reading sessions for children at the local library, a short story writing workshop, a brief history of Botswana poetry in English as well as a book exhibition and a visual arts and poetry collaboration which had artists interpreting poems into paintings/photography etc


We stayed in these lovely but/and rustic chalets for a week

This is NOT my view in the city, I can tell you that much

These two came to say hi at the hotel so I followed them out and then just kept walking

There is drought in Botswana and the cattle are not as robust as one would like

There is life beyond the hotels and performance venues so I went in search of it, then this guy turned up while I was buying ice pops (popsicles) from a derelict garden shop 

The man you can barely see on the stage is named Stiga Sola, a  musical autodidact he can make that guitar make sounds I don't think the manufacturer knows about

Kgosi (Chief) Letsholathebe who welcomed us to his Kgotla and village. By the way his name means shield-carrier which is kind of cool

Some girl in dodgy pants (aka me), Leshie Lovesong, Marcus Elliot, Mista T, Idle or Spoken (he's half of the collabo) & Anthony Stanco standing in a parking lot, pre or post a public jam session 

Anthony Stanco ensemble - mad talented and as flexible as …jazz when it comes to collaborating/jamming with local acts. 

Locally based publisher Nick Green with Poetavango PR Juby Peacock & senior lecturer Barolong Seboni

At some point we rehearsed and wrote and stuff

Yeah so we ate this, someone plucked it fresh out the bottom of the river and we peeled it and split it into chunks. Clearly I'm alive and well as I write this, a week later, so don't be shy if someone offers you water lily root - eat raw or cook with meat.

This is the Thamalakane River (its name means riddle) 


This gentleman has to herd his cattle back to the correct /home side of the river . They swim over  to graze.

Around 1045 on Saturday 02 Nov, we looked up and the sun had a halo so I took a picture. It happened again on Wed 7th round about the same time

We found these wild berries (Moretologa) growing along the river so we ate them


Three boat fools of poets later and we were safely back on shore.
For photographs of poets on stage please visit KALAHARI IMAGES on FB

Friday, October 25, 2013

WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE THE WORDS

So I did an interview with Bola Mosuro for a BBC Focus on Africa segment and the question was something along the lines of why Botswana doesn't have a thriving writing culture. Bola is great fun and entirely respectful of the bottom-up approach when it comes to local knowledge, in fact she lived in Botswana a number of years ago, before all the shopping malls popped up, and has quite a strong sense of this space. At any rate I had editor Emang Bokhutlho and writer Ngozi Chukura to help me attempt an answer.
map 'borrowed' from Botswana Tourism
We won't get into why I think the question is inherently problematic. Due to a technical hiccup there was little time to grapple with the limitations of defining writing strictly and specifically as published text, leaving no room to debate the admissibility of defining live literature, within a culture that is still deeply rooted in the oral, as, if not writing per se, legitimate literature. In Botswana does this then become a question of lack of (access to) publishing facilities rather than the absence of (production of) writing? Just in case you do live in or visit Botswana and have been wondering where you could hear some of Botswana's writing (and music) here is the beginning of a far from comprehensive list. For a city of 350 000 individuals theres a few poetry happenings.


IN GABORONE

Poetry & Soul Open Mic Nites, United Cafe Ext 10, Every last Tuesday of the month,

Poet's Passport @The National Museum, Every last Friday of the month

UB Writers Workshop, Every Wednesday (during semesters) @ University of Botswana

Poetry feature, Every Tuesday on Yarona FM



IN MAUN
Poetavango bi-monthly sessions @ the Nhabe Museum (This collective also hosts an annual festival every October/November)

Speaking of which their festival this year Oct 26 - Nov 2nd, 2013 has a book exhibition element and some of the writers whose books you might want to get are listed on this poster


PS If you host a (fairly) regular poetry night/platform anywhere in Botswana do let me know the when and where of it so I can grow this list.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

POEM

My poem Jaggery roof is this week's Poem of the week over at The Missing Slate. Feel free to stop by there for this and many, many other poems by...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

EVERYONE IS GOOD AT SOMETHING. SURELY?

Have you ever wondered how much it costs to set up a fixed broadband internet connection in Guinea or maybe how many days it takes to start a business in the Congo, no? Ok neither have I but just in case you are ever at a dinner party and someone wants to talk about the highest youth (15-24) literacy rates on the continent you can say Zimbabwe. Wouldn't have guessed? I know, sometimes its easier to recall only the gory bits but I assure you despite the trauma this continent continues to endure people still go in search of their one true love, they have children or not, they sing at weddings, they cry when their favorite football team loses, they sit with their children to work out the day's algebra homework, occasionally they eat and sometimes they sleep.

Now, where were we - ah yes the population of Nigeria you say? That would be telling, but if yours is a curious mind then wonder no more as the World Bank Africa Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Unit has done your homework for you. They produced a list of 50 things you probably didn't know about the continent's 55 (recognized) states and its billion plus inhabitants. Click here -> for 50 SHADES of anything but grey.

And now for a bit of fun, the folks at the doghousediaries have put together this little map supposedly showing what each of the world's countries leads in





Saturday, October 19, 2013

THE BENDING MOMENT: How to tick every box for the other

1.
Tonight the sand is something else entirely
a grey mat, no prettier shade to save these sheets of mist
My heart is the wrinkled nose of a poet
faced with dead air, muted
in the head
I have left

though my feet still here say something else entirely
marsh is marsh, mostly you cannot build here
The water tastes of wild sage and
naughty boys (how to drink from
these waterless springs ) pulling
pulling at the tight curl of hair
this midnight helix of otherness

We are born apart then begin becoming
till we are something else entirely
bumping against the space given to us
we repent or crash unwillingly into a dance
with some new god
till this lease of grace becomes the shore
we can no longer see

there are so many ways
so many places to die and
ink is another country
there are only so many roads
to each of our kingdoms
and still more places to dry
for there is sun here but out there
sea is sea, mostly they make bisque of all we are

are we not aspiring
barnacle attaching these shells to details
we like, crustacean, new skin each time
the softness on the inside fleshes out
some have found the devil where he is
far away from here
what form, when the body is but a shell
everything inside is at sea

lost - no open
sometimes places know us
even when we do not
know we have been found,
wanting, something more
or less than this furious latin, and so
who is the keeper and who the bee
the box must be watched over
obviously
you cannot leave it and keep it
not feral

you must choose

This is the part where the metaphor
sheds itself of your skin
standing separate from our effort
dons a black hood
and crawls along the wet tongue
of the poem's plank
beaming to its death

2.
There is always a road
sometimes under all that is soaked and far away

leading somewhere
its tarred tongue gleaming gold

how to ask the question
when there is olibanum in the air
when the wine is as myrrh upon your head
and your ink has fumbled for another country

how to grow without molting
when joy is joy
and freedom is something else entirely

Friday, October 18, 2013

WEREN'T YOU THE ONE WHO SAID

Its just shy of 37º centigrade. Its strange how what I'm told is my normal body temperature sits well on the inside, but out here I'm all sweat-and-wheres-the-shade. I'm watching the leaves outside my kitchen window the way I assume sniper's check them on the battlefield. I doubt someone runs around, pre-testerone measuring, placing wind flags at regular intervals. Where was I going with this half-baked *see what I did there? I promise I'll stop* analogy? Yes heat, no leaf movement. I'm taking a cheap vacation i.e. I'm going to pick up a book and read, seeing as the only thing my effort's good for right now is complaining that its too hot. As is my prerogative to hold two thoughts at once - the temperature dipped a couple of weeks ago and I actually heard myself grumbling about how wasn't it supposed to be summer nye nye who wants winter blah blah. Before I slink away to find some prose heres a little poetry from Tredinnick's Quartert For The End of Time. 


And then whatever we’re call- /ing the season goes and it /comes again in October /and then it’s gone till sometime /in late December, when we/ decide it deserves its name/ and let it stay. But this year/ summer’s prophet comes hotter  

Mark Tredinnick, I - Too much summer too close to home

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

COOL THINGS ABOUT BOTSWANA

1. The weather (which is anything but cool) but better summer than snow I say.  Well, I say that until its 40ºC plus for a week then I want anything but sun. The sky stays Botswana blue even in winter.

2. It's relatively safe. Your son can walk to school (as the majority of students do) unaccompanied and you don't have worry whether he'll make it home for supper or not.

3. Your daughter and sister can choose to become housewives or high court judges, CEOs or soldiers. In the last decade we had the first intake of women in the defence force and although I hear the attrition rate is quite high I'm glad the BDF continues to put out calls for more applicants and that some of those women are sticking to their guns - possibly literally - and staying in the program. Our courts have also ruled that women can now inherit land, this was previously not the case under Botswana's customary laws, you could buy property thereby owning land but you wouldn't get your daddy's farm if there was some seventh cousin fourty times removed who happened to be born with a Y chromosome.

4. The police officers don't carry weapons (though the way things are going...)

5. That there are women who are diKgosi (Chief is passable as a translation of that word)

6. The Kgotla (tribal/traditional administration center)

7. The handful of programs giving grants to Batswana to participate in certain industries - unfortunately for me I know nothing about goat rearing

8. The housing projects that build homes for destitute citizens

9. The religious tolerance, as far as I know, between the various religions represented within our borders

10. Yes, the safaris are cool too. The wildlife is diverse and plentiful and the landscapes are picturesque and we don't fence in the animals which I think is only fair since they were likely here first

11. Our various traditional dances

12. That our beef tastes so good.

13. That despite our total population being less than that of some countries' cities there are writers out there winning awards, journalists bagging Emmys, athletes getting gold, squash players in the top world rankings, beauty queens winning titles and here at home there are some really cool photographers and singers and animators and architects and doctors and Batswana working in fields that pre independence in 1966 those who were around couldn't have dreamt about

14. That google is available in Setswana (big deal for us, we have indigenous language issues) and that our President who reportedly couldn't really speak Setswana when he came in to office (long story) now addresses the people in Setswana which is only practical.

15. That Batswana are soooo funny I wish you could understand what they are saying; the taxi driver is a comedian, the teacher is a comedian, the siblings down the street are comedians and old people? oh they've been at it for years, they've got jokes for days.

16. That there isn't as much racial friction, certainly not overt discrimination, as I've sometimes been whacked over the head with when I find myself platonically or otherwise holding some pretty boy's hand in some countries

17. That, knock on wood, most Batswana have never heard a gun go off or seen one or been at either end of one.

18. That when we realised that we had a huge HIV/AIDS problem at a time when some countries were arguably fudging statistics we came out and said we have a problem and we need help, and we now have an established ARV program that provides free testing and therapeutic meds, we also have a robust and highly successful PMTCT program which gives our at risk new borns a fighting chance.

19. That despite there being, I'm told, 29 individual (all living) languages - 5 institutional, 10 developing, 11 vigorous and 3 in trouble according to the 17th languages of the world ethnologue edited by Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F Simons, and Charles D. Fennig - and only 2 state languages (Setswana and English) this has not led to conflict.  

20. That we were named the 9th coolest people on some list whose purpose and methodology I've forgotten ;)


I'm working on a 'Things to improve in Botswana' list, starting with the super slow and unreliable internet, but today I'm in a good mood and so is my ISP so I'm putting up my happy thoughts while the sun shines

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

THE DEAF MUSICIAN AND THE BLIND GARDENER

I have taken to walking in the (ehem some) mornings and yesterday came across a young man who said, I know you, you are the poet. I can deal but then when asked who he is reading, he says he doesn't really read poetry but would like to send me some of his work so I can take time out of my day to read his poetry. I really have a problem with this. I'm with the lovely poet and former Derbyshire Laureate River Wolton on this one "You must read (I will add, or listen to) contemporary poetry if you are writing it. There are no shortcuts. Imagine a musician who never went to a concert. A gardener who never looked at other people's gardens".

And so now I say to that young man consider Smart's cat Jeoffrey for though being only a cat to you, he is 'of the tribe Tiger' to Smart and therefore worthy of a story. Now tell me your story, tell me the one where you don't listen, just talk which perhaps is not a problem but now sell me the one where you don't listen, just get listened to. 


From fragment b2, jubilate
For I will consider my cat Jeoffrey
...
For first he looks upon his fore paws to see if they are clean
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there
...
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions
...
For he is tenacious of his point
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery
....
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself clearly
...
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity




You and I, my young friend are no Beethovens and so we must hear if we are in turn to say something worth listening to. And what of Jeoffrey? Nothing, I have been meaning to sneak him into a blog post and this seemed as arbitrary a possible entry as any, or is it? perhaps if you read the rest of the poem you will know...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

FOUR BATSWANA POETS IN STOCKHOLM & UPPSALA


 Between October 1st and 6th 2013, four Batswana poets Barolong Seboni, TJ Dema, Moroka Moreri and Drea will perform in Stockholm and Uppsala, Sweden. The project is a collaboration between my organization Sauti Arts and Performance Management and the Sweden based Uppsala Stadsbibliotek (Central Library) and is financed by the Swedish Arts Council. Past projects for Sauti A&PM include hosting the Botswana leg of the Poetry Africa 2012 tour and recording 12 Batswana poets in English, Setswana and iKalanga on 1 CD. The dates for this poetry exchange are:

1.    (1st October, 2013) In Stockholm the Batswana poets will read at a belated 47th Independence day celebration - Botswana celebrates gaining independence from her British Protectorate status on September 30, 1966- hosted by the Botswana Embassy in Sweden.

2.   Between October 2nd - 6th, 2013 the 4 poets will perform/read alongside their Swedish counterparts (Henry Bowers, Jorgen Gassilewski, Laura Wihlborg and Sam Kessel) as part of the Ordsprak Festival in Uppsala.

3.   Upon their return to Botswana the local poets will host their Swedish counterparts in Gaborone between 20-24th November 2013. They will participate in school workshops, public talks as well an evening of poetry. Further details will follow in the press closer to the event date.

Find poet’s biographies and photographs below.



Barolong Seboni was born in Kanye, Botswana in 1957. He did his MA in English Literature at University of Wisconsin, USA.  Seboni has published several works of poetry and has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Korean and Setswana. He has also published and edited multiple works as well as recited his poetry in Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, India, England, Scotland, Ireland, Colombia and the USA.
He is co-founder of the University of Botswana Writers’ Workshop and the Writers’ Association of Botswana. He was poet-in-residence at the Scottish Poetry Library in 1993, and Visiting Writer of the University of Iowa's International Writers’ Program in 2003. Seboni is a Senior Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Botswana.


Drea is a Botswana-born poet residing in Brussels, Belgium. A systems auditor by profession who describes her life as the juggling of the tangible and intangible worlds.  In 2006 she was invited together with Johannesburg-based poet Kojo Baffoe to represent Africa in the 13 cities UK Slam Tour organized by Hammer & Tongue (Oxford,UK). During the tour she became the slam champion in Nottingham and Cambridge. 
She returned to the UK in June 2009 and 2010, this time as part of a memorable line-up at Glastonbury Festival. In the same year she also shared her words at Ordsprak – International Poetry Festival at Regina Theatre (Uppsala) and Stockholm City Theatre, Sweden. She has since taken her words from Berlin to Harare. Her album 1981 Was a Good Year, released in 2010 made her the first Motswana to commercially
release poetry on audio. She is currently working on a book of poems and music.


Moroka Moreri is a renowned Setswana oral poet who has penned several poetry books such as Motlhaolosa, Tshokele, Khuduela, Mmamowe, Sehutswelo and Thotse. His masterpiece Motlhaolosa was prescribed for junior schools and used in Cambridge examinations.
He is a translator and his past projects include translating a mathematics textbook for primary schools. Moreri is also a renowned cultural activist whose poems have been extensively used by musicians on collaborative ventures. 



pic:Petra Rolinec
TJ Dema is former chairperson of the Writers Association of Botswana and an Honorary Fellow in Writing of the University of Iowa -IWP. She was Botswana's representative to the London 2012 cultural Olympiad event - Poetry Parnassus. In the same year she was a recipient of a Vermont Studio Centre writers residency fellowship. She was a founding member of the Exoduslivepoetry! Collective.
She has performed widely and facilitated youth writing workshops across Europe, the USA and Southern Africa. Dema participated in Lancaster University's Crossing Borders program, mentored Botswana’s all female team of national champions for the Power in the Voice program and has been guest writer for the University of Warwick's International Gateway for Gifted Youth. Selections of her work have been translated into Chinese, Spanish, Arabic and German.  She is part of the concept band Sonic Slam Chorus.


I've been traveling quite a bit over the last five years and wanting to work on projects that would allow me to handpick other Batswana poets and tailor make a kind of this-is-Botswana-bevy to present to an international audience, while introducing Batswana to other world voices. Only good can come of  word-lovers meeting each other and sharing space. 
Barolong is a kind of bridge between his generation of poets and the post 2000 generation of Batswana voices. He is widely published which is actually quite unusual in Botswana as ours is arguably not a big print culture though there is always an open mic/spoken word session happening in some place or other in the city. Enter Drea, before she moved to Brussels its fair to say she and I were two of a small group of the post 2000 poets whose work was becoming quite familiar across the country as it certainly already was within poetry circles in the city. Now based in a mainly French speaking country she continues to work on her craft within this new geographical context. On this trip Moroka is the only one to write and recite in Setswana. I was especially eager to include him because he presents a different and lesser heard/seen face of poetry coming out of Botswana. He is also just generally amazing at honouring the traditional form/s of Setswana poetry and this created an opportunity for me to get a sample of his work translated into English for the first time. 
To create some sort of makeshift concept I perhaps should have led with this - Botswana has no arts council and the corporate social responsibility programs are often prohibitive and mainly interested in other, though not less worthy, fields such as children's care, education and sports. Accessing funding for art is always problematic and keeps most productions frozen at the level of high school drama showcase. We do have a department of Arts and Culture in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture but anyone who lives here will tell you that nothing is cheap (Botswana is actually quite expensive unless you are earning your income in one of the top 3 foreign currencies) and the amounts offered by the DAC although welcome will hardly change the local arts landscape anytime soon. 
Botswana is by far one of the most economically and politically stable countries not just on the continent but I might argue further afield and being classified as a middle income country I think adds to the perception that art and culture is a bona fide priority locally. There is in my opinion a lot of investment emotionally, financially and infrastructurally not so much. Quite  a number of international funders either explicitly exclude Botswana (or limit applications to developing countries only) from their funding lists or at the very list prioritise other African countries that are of 'special interest' i.e. war torn, recovering from political turmoil etc. To find teh silver lining here its an opportunity to work free from outside string-pulling and influence but the reality is it can be tough out /in here and the end game for  a lot of rising artists is to move to South Africa or Europe. 
Bookings can be quite sparse and this is not only financially troubling it is more importantly problematic for performance poets for whom working that performance muscle is essential to finding an authentic voice. With a mainly blank entertainment calendar the alternative is often for one to diarise attendance to beauty pageants because at least there is bound to be one of those every other month with a proper stage and one slot for a poet or singer between outfit changes. I'm only half joking, their is a concern about the quality versus the quantity of events as well. Half-hearted rant aside, I love my home and hopefully it will always be a base from which I can draw inspiration. Back to the project at hand, I was absolutely delighted when the Swedish Arts Council announced their decision to back this exchange. 
We hope to see you at one of our three stops, come and say hi.