Monday, December 14, 2015


To begin with, as any list not using an agreed upon metrics etc, this list is subjective . It is also heavily weighted in favour of those whose efforts I'm aware of. Botswana has no proper networks, no main centres of poetry, most people are still new to the internet or have unreliable access, there is little to no translation of work etc and therefore I am certain there are folks working hard, in languages I don't speak, or away from the cities, main towns and their presses and therefore they may not appear on this list. For these reasons and more, the list is ...incomplete and you can add names in the comments section with a few words on the individual you believe should appear on this list

The below appear in no particular order:

Lauri Kubuitsile (festival/event reviews, book review/s, columnist & blogger)
Legodile Seganabeng & Poetavango (poet, festival organiser & chair, Maun based activists)
Leshie Lovesong (poet, singer/songwriter who has extended her audience to outside our borders)
Drea Chuma (poet, initiator of Christian poetry festival)
Gofa Nfila (literary event logistics for SAUTI Arts)
Moroka Moreri (published and oral poet, Setswana columnist)
Mandisa Mabuthoe (poet, programming within the Maitisong festival & for SAUTI Arts)
One Rabantheng & Phondo Dikgomo (the now defunct "words" slot on GabzFM  every Wednesday)
Thato Ntshabele & the Poets Passport team (poets, hosts of a regularly staged show)
SAUTI Arts and Performance Management (as the boss I know how hard the team works to manage poets all year round, map out trajectories, set up a poetry reading room in the city's public library, mentorship and workshop facilitation, record poets and host live literature events)

Lists are only that. They in no way nullify the work of those working quietly away from the national spotlight but this list attempts to highlight the sweat of those working in this often unforgiving landscape of late or no funding, inconsistent or last minute ticket buyers, no infrastructure etc. 
Here's to you and yours, and here's to 2016.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


The art of losing isn’t hard to master; 
so many things seem filled with the intent 
to be lost that their loss is no disaster. 


I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, 
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent. 
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster. 

Elizabeth Bishop, One art

Friday, November 27, 2015


It is a strange thing to meet yourself in a place far away from what is familiar. I am sitting thirty four thousand feet above the air – maybe more, maybe less, let us agree that it is from an inadvisably considerable height – and for the first time ever my ears and eyes and belly cannot agree.
Too busy recovering from a cold, unpacking from one trip and hand washing a few personal items before repacking them for this one, I have not pre-selected seating. I do not get a window seat.
The flight is sixteen hours long, and the Pacific feels always a little different. Today I cannot be indifferent to its push and pull. I am up and then down, eventually the staff commandeers a bathroom for a sporty looking young South African lady and myself. We are wretched but polite with it, we say thank you when the steward offers ginger ale and reassure her when she gifts us sympathy.

It is days later. I feel somewhat better but it’s like a phantom limb – pain. It can stay with you even after it has left. You look at food with suspicion, you ask what is this? when the colour does not resemble anything you have seen in nature. You are like the adventurer who thought he would not return, you have had enough of it. For now.

You wake at 5am because though you are not jetlagged, at least not entirely, you did not sleep during the flight (too busy walking the path between seat and sink) instead you stayed awake, eyes open to orient your body’s barometer of a belly. So now you are that person who is awake, watching Zorro - with Spanish subtitles – from the twentieth floor of a Mexican hotel. 

Last night’s tacos from the Salon Corona are done with but it is too early for breakfast. Room service always seem such an indulgence for the daughter of government workers who came mostly from nothing.

It is a strange thing to feel yourself. To count the breaths you have taken for granted since birth, to wonder how your story will end. I am not one to contemplate my mortality, that die is cast, it will come to pass. But a steel cage floating above the clouds does not inspire nonchalant calm. You remember that you cannot fly, that the air you are breathing is some concoction designed to trick your system into believing that air is still air. You think of how Solnit’s polar bears are drowning in an unfamiliar landscape because we have made their ice come late and leave early. You think of how we like to change things and how a body falling from a great height might …change enough that a mother might be hard pressed reimagining its shape. You think of the magic that keeps the sea of you inside this fabric that takes decades to crease, that cannot stain, or nearly and at even some artist’s hand slowly spits out the tattoo’s ink. And suddenly faced with the breakfast you had hours ago you wonder if you have tried your fleshly limits, if this is its way of making the exigencies of the body’s economy felt.

You remember that clocks are a suggestion; someone else’s idea of time and the usual coincidence between them and your sense of each day has lapsed. You are awake on the plane and here because your body’s measure of light has shifted. It is always day somewhere. Courtney from New Zealand touches the malu (tribal tattoo) on her hand and says back home it is 6 hours before now, but tomorrow. Yesterday her body was in today and she has traveled back in time. It is 657am, my partner sends a message to say he is having desert for lunch in Johannesburg. Despite my morning, it is night time again and Zorro tells a story to his infant child, it has ended well, the girl has chosen him and together they have made a piece of themselves that will be here years after they are gone. Or so the story would have us believe.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


The mad king finds me everywhere. As a ten year old rifling through my father's 'collected works of Shakespeare'. In high school feeling as though learning English had been for nought - what is this thou I said to myself, who is yonder and what has he to do with light? And is this boy dead or dying for there
is a difference, or so I thought, how do the dead speak to say 'he has killed me father'. I trudged on till I met Lady Macbeth and thought to myself - the book may not carry her name but there's a story. A woman to question a king, to call him gutless to his face, to move him beyond the paralysis that often comes as introspection when one must choose the leafy shadow or the axe's shade.
How walking in Denmark on the coast I felt as though I'd seen Hamlet's very castle. And later standing in Shakespeare's small-doored kitchen in Stratford-upon-avon I was suddenly accosted by a fight between two actors, staged for my delight: a king and his lady in the midst of some familiar furor and how delighted I was to be able to say the words from memory. How at home I suddenly felt in literature. That other language no one had told me was a tongue within other tongues.
After much work and slightly more revelry (they do not tell you, but backstage, poets love to merrymake after they have hung all their dead and their skeletons upon some stage) he came for me again last night, that mad king with his question. 

Not will I be pretty or will I be rich but will I be.?
I think the answer has always been yes, how glad to finally know it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Not much to say except heads up. 

The book ‘Novels of Botswana in English 1930 to 2006’ by Mary Lederer (finally) exists and do read Lauri Kubuitsile’s blog for details on the book and launch. A necessary and important piece of work.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

THE CITY of DOORS: an exercise in restraint

We did with the city what we could. We fanned the fumes from its ruins and observed them carefully, eager to divine its secrets. It was not all smoke. Colonies stitched their way across the banks of the river, their vibrancy palpable. We stared out at them and nodded to ourselves, applauding our efforts...Fat men loitered in abandoned alleyways. They clasped their offspring to their chests like secrets. They cast telling eyes on us. Out in the distance, the begging cup still clanged. 
- Bernard Matambo 
Let us imagine the city of Dipati. That it is beautiful is not in question. Many have moved entire lives to see its closed shores. That it is a land of plenty is obvious not least to its neighbours who smell the cooking pots all day. Let us imagine her people are healthy and those who are not, have access to a healthy dose of recourse. It is a land filled with teachers - some roam the desert and memorise all they know passing it onto their young, others stand in classrooms and all who sit before them leave with their names on important pieces of paper. In theory. All is well. But there is little work left from the pot of jobs. It is magically depleted. And the teachers wear their duty as a heavy cloak cast upon them. The pot is near empty not unlike the pot of land which too is insufficient - though if you stand upon a certain hill with joggers walking past you imagine you allot each man piece of ground to make a home on. In theory. 
Legend has it this is a city so beautiful there is little worth in imagining living elsewhere. It is safe, if you do not rob the wrong house. It is quiet if you do not draw attention to yourself. It's playgrounds are filled with boys humming as Christian choirs while they hold the hands of girls with veils across all but their eyes. 
No question, this city is indeed a wondrous place. In theory. There are air tight policies to govern everything. In theory. In reality monitoring and evaluation are frowned upon. Each project begins but never ends. And no budget is final, it is agreed upon as per policy but need not be honored. The burden is upon the people to pay at least twice for each project. Everyone sees this. The youth say they do, but they must eat and dissent denies the belly its due.

Though there are cows in the north of the city the milk never reaches the south. Though there is firewood everywhere, it is rationed for only a few have the capacity to gather it. And everywhere there are gatekeepers. And it is not necessarily money they want. Their addiction is locking doors. A kind of OCD. The gatekeepers make habit of shutting doors in the faces on the non believers. The system is as religion. Dipati is a gracious city she tends the ones who cannot take care of themselves. But she does not reward initiative until it cannot be ignored. Then the men in their suits will call and the song makers summoned to the airport to welcome the champion whose crown is given in another land. Often the gatekeepers are not the ones to eat the fruits from Dipati's inner courtyard, they merely stand guard. Centuries at the city gates. Evil? Perhaps. If so theirs is not born of malice but tradition, whose hold is as the promise of gold. Not malice? No, only habit and belief. Faith need not be logical. It need only say 'these are ones to enter and these are not'. And think of it, if the young with their brave new world enter the inner courtyard and speak their new tongues of access as necessity not privilege, of apps they build (what is this?!) and of books they've read on what happens to the dispossessed and show the kings for what they do not know, what will become of tradition? And them?
Perhaps the keepers see themselves as protectors of all.
Time stands still in the inner courtyard and each time that door opens tradition's chain fractures. This is the duty of the keepers, not at all to keep the young out as to keep the old time in. When the young come with their new ideas and new ways the guards scuttle, they send forth the most stringent tongues amongst them. Often old and blind for to look upon the youth of Dipati is to change a man. Surely. They whip at the young in only the local dialect with its inbuilt hierarchy. and keep only the desperate who do not rage at this dying of light. Once inside, the kept-young are churned through a rigorous system of re-education. You will not know them within a year. They too sulk at the helpers'desk, they leave early, they frown at what challenges, they speak of the ones left behind as traitors to uniformity. They champion mediocrity. Defend its gates, now with their own lives. They change into gatekeepers. 
Nothing changes in Dipati. Except the young who grow into what they said they would not become.

In theory.

If this is us in a tunnel there is perhaps, toward some end, something resembling light.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


This is not a well thought out entry, it is only a way to say that Botswana is a landlocked country in the middle of the Southern African region. We count amongst our neighbours Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe and to our south South Africa. A number of Batswana work in or go to school in South Africa, not unexpectedly some have married into South African families and especially the boom of franchises in Botswana many locals regularly went shopping in Johannesburg. Our two countries enjoy a tenable relationship. I have heard many people say, though I wish there were no cause to even begin to think along these lines, that South Africans don’t seem to treat Batswana they way they do other citizens from the continent. They are “kinder to” them. The people talk and they say on the whole South African immigration officials treat most Botswana passport holders as though they were returning citizens or at the very least welcome guests.

Between us we share a language, our national language is spoken by millions more South Africans than there are citizens of Botswana. 
I’ve spoken to a few Batswana currently resident in South Africa, they appear concerned but seemingly not for their personal safety. They empathise with other/fellow ‘foreign nationals’ and are incensed (as are most South Africans who have nothing to do with these violent acts) but are not themselves worried they might come under attack.

Attacks have happened in townships. Most Batswana living in South Africa would probably count as middle income or at the very least upwardly mobile. Even Batswana students are often on government sponsorships or funded by well to do families. 

All of this is surface talk because of course nothing about murdering someone especially by setting them alight is logical. Therefore no one is safe. We have a saying in Setswana ntlo go sha mabapi ie if two houses are in proximity and one catches fire, they will both burn. I do not think the long gone elders who lived in thatched mud huts and coined this proverb knew what context it might suddenly embody (though in encouraging neighbourly empathy, we should perhaps recognize that the old are often wise beyond any wisdom we claim to possess).
And perhaps the first fire is not the one you and I see. A man on fire, albeit on the inside might well find it …plausible to set another on fire. But how do you choose your enemy? If he is indeed that, and not some twisted representation of yourself. Why burn the man in the mirror? But this is not an academic debate, and on some level I hope I never understand what might make a man do this to another human being. But it is reality, a few hundred kilometres from here there are unspeakable things happening. There are horrific reports and images all over the internet.

One image has a mother and father holding their young in their arms, clearly running away from a mob coming toward them.

There are others I cannot put into words.

In 2010 two years after the first xenophobic attacks that I heard about, then Phd candidate Suren Pillay, gave a talk titled Why is xenophobic violence not the scandal that mobilizes the middle classes and the suburbs into action?”

In it Pillay quotes Franz Fanon “The colonized man will first manifest this aggressiveness which has been deposited in his bones against his own people… the colonized man is an envious man’.  Without a meaningful decolonization of the society which benefits all, Fanon warned, this envy in the post-independence period turns on outsiders:  ‘From nationalism, we have passed to chauvinism, and finally to racism. These foreigners are called on to leave, their shops are burned, their street stalls wrecked…We observe a permanent seesaw between African unity, which fades quicker and quicker into the mists of oblivion…’ I am shamelessly quoting a small section of what is an essay worth reading in its entirety.

Reports that Malawi has sent buses to evacuate its citizens.

Locals, and now foreigners too, carrying weapons in the Durban CBD.

Looting of shops.

There have been reports of incendiary rhetoric by one leader in particular. Generally speaking the hashtags to follow are #xenophobicattacks #xenophobia #notoxenophobia #KwaDabeka

Xenophobia – intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries. Terms like afrophobia have since come up on social media

Necklacing – (chiefly in South Africa) a tyre doused or filled with petrol, placed around a victim's neck, and set on fire.
In the documentary “The bloody miracle” which focuses on the last few years before the first democratic elections in SA one participant states that the person might be forced to drink petrol before being set alight. I have no knowledge of the origin of this act and have ever only seen records of it being performed by black people on black people.

Immigrant – a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. Often used to refer to asylum seekers and/or black and/or poor people who move to another country

Expatriate – a person who lives outside their native country.
Often used to refer to white and/or wealthy or employed people who move to another country

Foreigner – a person born in or coming from a country other than one's own.

Racism- the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
• prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief.

60 dead and 16,000 displaced, the last time ‘this’ happened.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Lazy post. Heres the 15th annual human rights film festival hosted by Ditshwanelo at my alma mater Maru a pula, at the AV Centre. It runs from 7th to 16th April, 2015. Tonight's session was superb, Bert Haitsma & Meg Rickards 1994: The bloody miracle is a magnificent piece of work. A new vantage point for a story thats been told many a time. Find it, watch it. For the first time "three directors of the films on display will be available for the post screening discussions". Congratulations to Alice Mogwe and her team at Ditshwanelo for keeping this festival not only going but responsive to the community.

I would be remiss if I didn't encourage you to check out the poetry doccie on Sunday afternoon - program below:

TICKETS: P30 per session (afternoon session and evening session)

Tuesday 7 April 2015           FREE ENTRY! On this day.

                                6.30 – 7.00 p.m.     Snacks and Drinks
7.00 – 7.15 p.m.    Official Opening at Maitisong by Honourable  Minister Batshu, Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs
7.15 - 7.20 p.m.      Role of labour in the anti-apartheid struggle -Professor Mogalakwe, University of Botswana.
                               7.20 – 8.20 p.m.     Screening of: 1994: The Bloody Miracle             
                               8.20 – 9.30 p.m.     Discussion

Wednesday 8 April 2015 

7.00 p.m. – 9.00 p.m.
Theme: Governance and Accountability
Coming of Age. Judy Kibinge. Kenya. 2007. 12 minutes. Courtesy of Steps International. Co-hosted with UPR NGO Working Group.
Inside Kenya’s Death SquadsAl Jazeera. 2015. 48 minutes.

Thursday 9 April 2015 
7.00 p.m. – 9.00 p.m.
Theme: Governance and Accountability
 Are you Listening to our Stories? Park Bym-Jin. Korea. 32 minutes. 
Ghosts of RwandaGreg Barker and Darren Kemp. USA. 2004. Frontline (WGBH-TV). 30 minute extract for discussion purposes.

Friday 10 April 2015
7.00 p.m – 9.30 p.m.
Theme: Bullying and Social Exclusion – Freedom from Discrimination: Youth and Children
Bully. Lee Hirsch. USA. 90 minutes. 2011. Courtesy of Lee Hirsch. 

Saturday 11 April 2015
2.00 p.m – 4.30 p.m.
Theme: Bullying and Social Exclusion – Freedom from Discrimination: Youth and Children
Special FREE Screening for Youth and Schools!!
Bully. Lee Hirsch. USA. 90 minutes. 2011. Courtesy of Lee Hirsch

Saturday 11 April 2015
7.00 p.m. – 9.00 p.m.
Theme:  Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea. David Schmidt. Australia and Indonesia. 2012. 52 minutes.

Sunday 12 April 2015 
2.00 p.m – 4.00 p.m.
Theme: Freedom of Expression - Role of Poetry in Struggle 
Word Down The Line. Bobby RodwellSouth Africa. 75 minutes. 2014. 
7.00 p.m – 9.00 p.m.
Theme: Right to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity 
Gareth’s Story - Re tholetseng? Why are we silent?. Lesotho. 11 minutes. 
iNTERSExION.  New Zealand. 2012. 68 min. 

Monday 13 April 2015
7.00 p.m – 9.00 p.m.
Theme: Indigenous Peoples in Southern Africa
 Tracks Across Sand: Overture (30 minutes) and Aftermath (52 minutes). 

Tuesday 14 April 2015
7.00 p.m – 9.30 p.m..
Theme:  Freedom of Association
 Orania. Tobias Lindner. Germany. 2012. 94 minutes.  Co-hosted with Gaborone Film Society. (Free for GFS Members.)

 Wednesday 15 April 2015
7.00 p.m – 9.00 p.m.
Theme:  Freedom of Religion?
ISIS: "Islamic" Extremism?. Mojtaba Ali Masood. UK. 2014. 52 minutes.
Thursday 16 April 2015
7.00 p.m - 9.30 p.m.
Theme: Workers’ Rights
Miners Shot Down.  Rehad Desai. South Africa. 2014. 86min.