For the next month I will be posting interviews with published writers who are either Batswana or based in Botswana. Who also happen, by some genetic roll of the dice, to be women.
There is a saying in Setswana, Mmualebe o bua la gagwe which is a concept that assumes a state of full and total freedom of speech - that everyone is not only entitled to their opinion but has the right to voice it, whether it be wrong or ill-spoken.
The questions I have asked the writers are quite simple, not particularly exhaustive but I'm after creating a local baseline of a writer's experience of working and living in Botswana. I'm curious as to whether there are common themes, any preoccupations with a communal agenda, whether their literary politics is personal or nationalistic or both. And because we don't have Botswana based poetry or literary journals (except perhaps the fairly new and online Kalahari Review) most interviewers tend to ask us about ...everything really, except writing. We get asked to comment on happenings in the country, our travel, or how long we've been writing rather than what or how so I wanted to begin to steer the conversation towards the work of writing.
The bulk of my questions are general. There is lots I don't get into - cultural constraints, the lack of a creative writing program at the university, the absence of literary awards in the country(other than the Bessie Head Literature awards), writing in English versus any of the vernacular languages, markets as defined by locally based multi-nationals and independent publishers, the influence of the oral tradition of storytelling on contemporary literature, and regrettably I don't get to sink my teeth into their individual works which would no doubt give you a truer sense of these accomplished women.
These questions and their responses are really a meet and greet, an invitation to dialogue further with these totally cool women who are writing of all in things, in this country of ours.