Tag Archives: Botswana

“Tales of Tenderness and Power”

From Kinna Reads a celebration of Bessie Head  – ..

Novels get all the love.  Among Bessie Head’s novels, A Question of Power certainly hogs most of the (deserving) attention. But Ms. Head also wrote shorts stories, twenty five of which are collected into the posthumously published Tales of Tenderness and Power.

I love the stories in this collection.  Most importantly, I’ve discovered this:  Bessie Head had a sense of humour!  I smiled a lot when reading this book, even when she looks unflinching at the African condition and writes profound stuff  like :

“Poverty has a home in Africa — like a quiet second skin.  It may be the only place on earth where it is worn with an unconscious dignity.  People do not look down at your shoes which are caked with years of mud and split so that the toes stick out.  They look straight and deeply into your eyes to see if you are friend or foe.  That is all that matters”

This excerpt is from ‘Village People’.  The story’s entire opening page is a gem really. Lines like “Poverty here has majority backing” won’t go down well with the ‘Africa-rising’ crowd!

These tales are so so tender even as Bessie looks at power in its different configurations. (Like the poet here, I’m having a issue with what to call Bessie Head: Bessie, Bessie Head, Ms. Head, oh well).  Her belief in an individual’s ability to express love and good towards his or her fellow human beings even when under extreme dehumanizing conditions gives me comfort.

See, it’s hard to escape the brutal reality and facts of Bessie Head’s life.  Indeed, she drew heavily from her pained life when she wrote three of her novels.  This pain is there for all to read in the powerfully haunting A Question of Power.

Craig Mackenzie, editor of Head’s collection of autobiographical writings, A Woman Alone, asserts:

“Whatever the uncertainties, the task of mapping the life of an author like Bessie Head undoubtedly becomes an investigation into the enigma of human prejudice. For in the process of unravelling the strands of her anguished life story one encounters instances of immense suffering and privation, crippling alienation, and perhaps most of all, personal confusion. It is this personal confusion . . . that is at the centre of Bessie Head’s troubled life…”

As Linda Susan Beard* points out, such analysis is ‘essentialized and reductive’.

No, I don’t mean to ignore Bessie’s struggles, her anguish or her pain.  But it gets to a point where one needs to know: was she happy somewhere, sometime?  Did she laugh out loud, often?  There is a picture of Bessie Head with her arms outstretched and she appears to be laughing with abandon.  Where these moments of openness frequent?

I think I found the answers in Tales of Tenderness and Power.  Quite presumptuous of me, but what is an adoring reader to do?

Continue reading on Book Review

More on Bessie Head here

SITHANDA NTUKA: A Paragon of Independence.


Sithanda Ntuka is a 25 year-old dynamic woman from Botswana. She has lived all over the world: Denmark, Canada and now she is a New Yorker fast climbing the corporate ladder. As an auditor for PriceWaterhouseCoopers, she is in the thick of the male-dominated corporate world. In my chat with Sithanda, we mostly discussed the desirability of a woman and its place in the workplace. But before we delved into that I asked her to give us insight into the gender relations in her native Botswana.

Donald Molosi: Hello Sithanda. Welcome to DESIRE: A Four Part Harmony where we will discuss the role of a woman’s desirability in the workplace. Happy Women’s Month.

Sithanda Ntuka: Thank you.

DM: You are a woman in the 21st century. What does that mean for you in the workplace?

SN: As a woman in the 21st century I have more social power than the women that came before me. I have more opportunities to choose from in the professional environment. But I still do not have the privileges afforded to males in either social or professional environment.

DM: We will return to those privileges because I think that is a good point. But first, tell me about growing up in Botswana as a girl child.

SN: The gender imbalance was enforced. Boys were always excused for being naughty, disrespectful or even experimental with things because they were “just being boys.” Girls on the other hand were expected to be limited and proper and demure. Society always reminded you in many ways that women are secondary to men.

DM: You strike me as a woman without that inferiority complex that you describe as being fed to young girls.

SN: I grew up in a household where those complexes were absent so when society tried to confine me, I was already armed. I already knew I could be as good and even better than a boy in the classroom.

DM: Did you encounter the same inequalities in Danish society, or in Canadian society?

SN: Yes. In Denmark there are active steps being taken to ensure equal numbers of either gender in workplaces but of course minds take a long time to change despite quotas. Actually some people are quick to dismiss a woman’s success in the workplace and attribute it to the woman being the token female for the quota rather than basing it on her capabilities. In the US, I feel gender equality in the workplace and not much socially.

DM: Tell me more about that inequality in the workplace in the US. How does it manifest itself?

SN: Statistically, there are lots of male partners in any firm and only a handful of women, for instance despite the fact that there are so many women to climb that ladder. Also, on average women partners get promoted much later in their careers than their male counterparts. Perhaps most disheartening is that women are made to choose between their job and starting a family. Executives fear promoting women because they fear she might slow things down if she ends up needing maternity leave.

DM: It must be daunting, surely. Can one win?

SN: In theory, we can all win. As a women in this field, if you do well professionally there is no room for family. If you start a family, there is apparently not enough room for work. If you have no family, society says you must be gay and so on.

DM:  So, society also takes cues from professional achievements on how to subvert the woman?

SN: Yes.

DM: Let us segue into image and desirability.  What image does a woman have to project in this industry to increase her chances of success?

SN: She has to give the impression that she is industrious and that she knows what she is doing. That is in order for her to win the trust of her colleagues both male and female.

DM: Does she have to appear desirable to the male gaze?

SN: Yes. She has to appear ‘beautiful’ but enough to not be ‘distracting.’ You can wear black nail polish if you work in a bank for example, but not red nail polish because it is supposed to be distracting.

DM: Are men ever told not to appear a certain way because that they may be ‘distracting?’

SN: No. It is always the woman’s fault.

DM: So, distraction is sexual as seen through the heterosexual male colleagues’ eyes.

SN: Exactly. I personally do not seek to appear sexy at work but I know people who do. And that helps them get ahead. Executives associate with them more and those professional associations lead to promotion and other good prospects.

DM: Could that desirability hurt one’s reputation?

SN: Potentially but usually it seems to help those women’s standing. I wouldn’t know, I don’t go for that desirability at work. I put my credentials and professionalism first.

DM: Do men have to appear desirable?

SN: They have to appear professional. They do not even need a good attitude. They just need to be able to do the work well. No one sits and analyzes them.

DM: Because the men are the one who are supposed to analyze, right?

SN: Exactly. They never have to exploit themselves.

DM: Double standards. What four things do you think should not be made the markers of desirability about women in society?

SN: Skinniness. Nakedness. Light skin. Big boobs.

DM: These are all physical. That is interesting. I would like to add that a woman having to dumb herself down should also not be the embodiment of desirability in general. Do you agree?

SN: Yes. You have no idea how many times I have argued with men about that. Why is patriarchy so easily threatened?

DM: What should be desired in women, by men and women?

SN: We must all desire to see power, outspokenness, confidence and natural beauty in women.

DM: Who embodies that for you?

SN: I am totally on the fence about Beyonce. She works hard and is successful but the more successful she becomes because of her hard work  the more she takes off her clothes and objectifies herself to the male gaze. I would say Mary Erdoes embodies those lovely qualities for me. She is the CEO of JP Morgan Asset Management. She has a family and has climbed the corporate ladder far up at the same time.

DM: Any last words?

SN: I am annoyed by women of my generation who are so quick to say that feminists annoy them unknowing that it took feminism for them to be enjoying the freedoms they enjoy today. So why not work even harder through a feminist mentality so that our daughters can have it even better?

DM: Sithanda, I thank you for having this chat with me. It truly has been too short and I hope that we find time in future to converse once more.

SN: It was my pleasure. I hope so! Happy Women’s month.

DM: Why, thank you.

Christina Mavuma

 

Christina Mavuma

 

Christina Mavuma: Why she kicks ass

  • She is a trans activist from Botswana who is apart of the Rainbow Identity Association (RIA),  and works with Health Lens; a program that provides services to primary care practices and gives independent physicians an opportunity to engage in meaningful change. It has been described as a movement of change, helping to reshape the role of primary care, and to sustain the cognitive art of medicine.
  • Her project is looking into transgender women and health care system. She was motivated by the fact that most trans women here cannot get formal jobs and therefore cannot afford private health care.
  • “So many trans women find it difficult to access health care from the state clinics or hospitals, as the doctors and nurses there are discriminatory and very judgemental, most painful thing is there are not knowledgeable to trans issues. Even though the services are available they are not user-friendly to the LGBTI community and matters worse for the transgender community as the medical cards are genderised blue card for boys and pink card for girls and this card is given to you after you produce identity card.”
  • The intended outcome of this project is to have doctors and nurses to treat all people with respect including trans or intersex people. It is meant to start dialogues between the doctors and the trans community.
  • She is also involved with The Exchange Program, which is a partnership between Gender DynamiX in South Africa and SIPD in Uganda. This program is aimed at capacitating emerging transgender activists in South Africa and the East African region. Participants get together twice annually to discuss relevant, burning issues on the agenda for the region.

From Crunk Feminist Collective 

The Way The Cookie Crumbles

Hello BlackLookers. I hope that the year is off to an auspicious, if busy, beginning. We wish Sokari well as she begins another chapter of her work in Haiti. Lately I have found myself ruminating on what it means to tell a story of Africa that acknowledges the humanity of the African even when we address the ills of corruption, war and the like that are part of the African experience. I thought I would share a paragraph from an untitled short story I am working on. Here it is below. All the best in the new year, Donald.

____________________________EXCERPT:

When “Vice President Sticks” had been alive, Segai lived like a regular Son Of a Diplomat: grandly. He flew to England too often, returning to Botswana with blurry pictures of him and his red-faced British friends “bladdered.” Just as often, Segai would go on holiday in the US and put up biting Facebook statuses about Black American’s loud and bitter blackness; their lack of his colonial refinement. Back home, Segai could be seen driving around Gaborone in shiny conspicuous cars, slowly enough for foolish girls on the roadside to squeakily swoon in pure materialism. After secondary school his father, “VP Sticks” even sent him all the way to the US to study something as impractical as art. Since his father’s death last year though, Segai’s home is literally thousands of miles from that fancy and imposing Gaborone lifestyle. His home is a fan-less single room in brutal Brooklyn. He is just another black face in the Big Apple: loud and bitter.

___________________________END.

Part 2 of 2: Hollywood star SEBATI MAFATE

Hello friends! Donald Molosi here. I linked up with Hollywood actor-writer SEBATI MAFATE again to do the second half of our conversation about his latest sensational book, “MEMORIES OF LOTSANE.” I have read the book myself and recommend it to lovers of literature as well as to people who just simply enjoy good writing. The book is available on amazon.com and other book-selling sites like Barnes and Nobles.

DM: Most, if not all, of your work tells an African story in some way. Do you, as an African writer, feel that it is your responsibility to tell African stories?

SM: Yes, for the simple reason that Africa is rich with stories and we should never deny the world the beauty of our cultures and our tales, not only do I as an African feel the responsibility to share those stories, I just enjoy doing it.

DM: You mention denying the world of African stories. Do you feel that a certain type of African story has been denied the world or that a certain type of story has been “overtold”?

SM: Not at all, what I mean is that there are many African storytellers out there whose voice is never heard for the simple reason that they have not come forward, and there are many reasons for that, but whatever the reason is it is time that they step out of the shadows and tell those stories. I am glad that the Nigerian film industry is doing just that, and the results speak for themselves in seeing the market they have created for themselves.

DM: Nollywood is a perfect example of Africans consuming what they produce. But let us get back to you. Having seen your work, I often wonder – how does your background as a martial artist define the work you do as a writer if at all?

SM:Part of the martial arts is meditation and other spiritual aspects of the art, it helps deal with the curve balls life throws at you, including ‘writer’s block’, and that is why my dedication to the art has helped me as a writer, it doesn’t mean that it solves all my problems, but it helps a great deal. In a way it also enriches my imagination, especially when I delve in a fictional project.

 DM: What do you want people to take from your latest book, Memories of Lotsane?

SM: Nostalgia, we have all been teenagers at some point, and we have all been in high school (at least that is what I hope), and I hope people will be taken back in time to their own experiences good or bad that made them what they are today. In short really I would like people to relate to the story whether they are in Africa or some province in China.

DM: Who is the one writer that has had an impact upon you and how?

SM: That has got to be the great Elechi Amadi (The Concubine, The Great Ponds, and The Slave to mention a few) I was first introduced to Mr. Amadi’s work when I was a student, and soon found out that he held a degree in Mathematics and Physics, a strange combination at the time since I was an Engineering student as well, but a writer at heart, so I could relate. His style of writing was simply magnificent and dealt with deep rooted African culture and lore; you are drawn to his work even though his novels end like a Greek tragedy, but you realize through his writings that even though we would like it to be, life can at times not be the fairy tale we wish it would be, case in point the novel ‘The Great Ponds’, it tells the story of two warring villages fighting over a pond rich with fish. The protagonists from both sides are determined to win at all costs that in the end both villages lose, and this done at a great loss of human life.

Motswana – [ Redefining Botswana]

[Redefining] Motswana – Donald Molosi’s second ‘one man play’ written, performed and directed by Donald.

Motswana simply means “citizen of Botswana.” The Republic of Botswana is one of Africa’s wealthiest countries. This intimate multilingual show satirically questions who exactly can confidently claim to be a Motswana? What unexpected revelations spring up once we acknowledge that African borders were drawn as a fiction fabricated to serve European greed? Is “Motswana” perhaps a misnomer given the migratory nature of African peoples before borders? Join Motswana acting star Donald Molosi in this eye-opening, eye-popping humorous African story barely heard before. Travel with Donald to Botswana through this piece and come back mesmerized, entertained, inspired and touched. (Best Performer, Dialogue ONE Festival 2008. Best Short Solo, United Solo 2011).

I WILL EAT WHAT I WANT

Driving from Phikwe, the mining town where we lived, to our home village of Mahalapye in Eastern Botswana, my face was always pressed against the back window. I was fond of watching greener-than-green mophane trees dotted with women’s brightly colored headscarves. The women in the trees were from nearby villages close to the big road and they were shaking mophane caterpillars off tree branches to the ground for harvest. Despite being an inquisitive child I could only squirm at the thought of eating these tough yellow and green caterpillars, and so eventually I would extract my face from the window.

Today I do not live in Botswana (and I am delighted to head there in a week to tour my production of BLUE,BLACK and WHITE about Sir Seretse Khama) and so I encounter many Western tourists who have explored Botswana and one way for them to lament my lack of exoticness is always to tell me, very seriously, that mophane caterpillars are a Botswana delicacy. And truth be told, I was willing to try mophane before but now that they are litmus for Tswana authenticity even to BaTswana themselves (thanks to poisonous Western travel literature) I have no desire to snack on the lovely caterpillar.

The African’s palate is always called only “cultural” and his taste understood as only “tribal” thereby leaving no room for the African’s individual taste. So, I write now of the truth that I am a proud MoTswana man but I will not force himself to eat mophane caterpillars. Simply because they have thorns growing from their body.

Telling Uneasy Stories: El Negro of Banyoles #2

I continue where we left off last week with the story of El Negro, a Motlhaping man who was eviscerated and stuffed like a trophy animal and exhibited in Spain for the entertainment of Europeans. To first recap, we established a freak as “a person or animal on exhibition as an example of a strange deviation from nature.”

El Negro was exhibited as a tactile example of the Other. Along the same vein, this Other was not introduced in an egalitarian fashion: a power dynamic was also determined between Spain and Africa. Spatially, El Negro was exhibited in the same room as tree-trunks and crocodile-skin. But while the crocodile skin had captions underneath them of how certain species crocodiles growled and some snapped when the naturalists attempted to capture them, El Negro’s caption simply said, “El Negro,”which
translates to “The Black Man.”

Effectively, the narrative his remains and manner of exhibition tell here is one devoid of agency, behavior and humanity. We can see here how the tone was established that the African is inferior to the European because his exhibition was not intended to be in conversation with the viewer. It was just to be seen without it being able to return the curious gaze not even in a simple caption denoting behavior. In actuality, thiscollective Other that El Negro represented by being called “The [Definitive] Black Man,” would have been just be as curious about the Verraux brothers when they settled in that dusty village between the Vaal and Molopo rivers in 1829. The Batlhaping would have spilled sorghum-beer on the ground to ask the ancestors for answers about these “albinos” who befriended the ailing king and spoke gibberish through their noses. But as the saying goes,until the lion can speak the tale will always glorify the hunter. That is the tone of inequality that was struck. Perhaps this is the sort of inequality that Dr. Kwame Nkrumah had in mind when exactly today in 1957 he declared that we need “a new African in the world” who “can fight his battles.” Permit me to digress here and wish the Republic of Ghana a happy 55th independence anniversary.

Back to El Negro, of course in the Banyoles context El Negro was the ultimate freak. Standing stark in the middle of a Banyoles museum with unnaturally dark skin (the Verraux brothers darkened it with chemicals for dramatic effect), clad in animal-skin loincloth and bearing a frozen stare through the glass marbles that were installed in place of his eyes, El Negro was the definitive black ethnographic freak. More interestingly, his high entertainment value as a freak derived
from his perceived hybrid nature: he was partly human and partly animal. Author Rachel Adams once wrote that, “It is an important historical lesson to recognize that freaks were not always understood as the flip side of normality; at one time, their bodies were read as figures of absolute difference who came from elsewhere…” It is this “elsewhere”(this Africa, incomprehensible continent of jungles and darkness) affirmed by his props that despite his physiologically human form, El Negro possessed the mystical animal quality in the fascinated European imagination.

Therefore, due to the white-supremacist 19th century definition of “human,”another long-lived narrative was constructed: the black African is a less evolved species of man that never entered human-ness. Or as President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said in Senegal in 2007, “The tragedy of Africa is that the African man has never really entered [human] history.The African peasant has known only the eternal renewal of time via the endless repetition of the same actions and the same words [like an animal]. In this mentality, where everything always starts over again, there is no place for human adventure nor for any idea of progress.”

I bring up President Sarkozy’s speech not because of his impressive imagination but rather to underscore the perdurability of the 19th century savage-African narrative as constructed by such storytelling tools as El Negro’s exhibition.

I look forward to next week, to further discuss the stories/narratives that El Negro was used to create. And indeed enforce. May we all continue to have the courage to excavate our painful histories and re-humanize ourselves. It is time for a “new African in the world.”

Telling Uneasy Stories: El Negro Of Banyoles #1

 

 

Over the next several weeks, I will be analyzing the phenomenon of human exhibition  that was the trend of the day in 19th century Europe. I will do this with specific interest in the exhibition of the African body, and even more specifically the body of a Motlhaping man who came to be known as El Negro. Here begins my story with this story. There was a mild drought in Botswana that year. I also remember that there was also a flood and Gaborone City had just suffered a minor earth tremor – and that all these unusual happenings were (according to the superstitious among my compatriots) clear signs that El Negro could not wait to come home and receive a proper burial. I recall October, 2000. I was a 15-year old high school student in Gaborone. The news reports on Botswana Television repeated themselves like commercials about a southern African man whose body had been stolen from a grave almost two hundred years earlier. Ostensibly, the man had been a king of his Batlhaping nation or as Western media like to condescend: “chief” of the Batlhaping “tribe.”

I also remember political pundits on Radio Botswana speaking in subdued tones about how after the said king’s traditional burial in 1830, his body had been exhumed and stuffed by two French taxidermists in exactly the same way that trophy animals were stuffed, and taken to Europe to entertain the public who had never seen a black African. He had become known as “El Negro.” Before 2000, Batswana themselves had not heard of “El Negro.” As history would have it though, the African Union – Botswana included – had decided that his remains be repatriated from Banyoles, Spain to Africa. What better place to re-territorialize his remains then than the internationally obscure Botswana in lieu of the rightful South Africa to circumvent international media? In consequence, on October 4, 200o El Negro’s remains touched down at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone and his physical reterritorialization slotted him into Botswana’s narrative. We even created myths around him to justify our climate.

In this series of weekly posts on Black Looks I will:

i)discuss the narrative about Africa that El Negro served during his exhibition in Banyoles, and

ii) examine the narrative about Banyoles and perhaps Spanish society that he told at the same

time.

Let me leave you with the idea of a “social freak” since that will be the first category I look at and the ways in which El Negro was made to be one and how that ripples across centuries to today in how the African body is consumed by spectators. A freak is defined as “a person or animal on exhibition as an example of a strange deviation from nature.”1That cool night when Jules Verraux, a French taxidermist, and his brother exhumed El Negro’s body their objective was to show Europe body deviant from the European norm. El Negro’s corpse would be consumed as entertainment; a freak would be created. For the Banyoles museum-goers who had never come across a hue this dark or hair this tightly-coiled, the startling exhibition of El Negro immediately established a more tactile notion of the African, the Other. Looking forward to discussing more with you all next week.

Setting the future in motion –

Wonderful to see these two inspiring young Africans engaging with each other on “the art of creating“.  With Emmanuel, Donald
and other artists like them, our future is set in motion

 

EMMANUEL IDUMA: Is there some sense in thinking that being an artist cannot mean being just one thing? That creativity transcends technique or form?

DONALD MOLOSI: Absolutely. When history’s legendary griots told stories they did not pause to ponder whether they were dancers, singers, actors or performance historians. They just put out the art, and that is what art is…an energy that you never know how it will manifest itself, how it will opt to be birthed. In that way, our obsession with categorization of talents is a loss of some sort.

IDUMA: It’s fascinating that your writing has a life of its own. It morphs across genres. Is this some form of textual justice — to work with a genre that is befitting for an idea? This is considering the fact that your writing ranges from short stories to meditative essays, mostly poems?

MOLOSI: You know, I can sit here and say that my writing is separate from my acting which is separate from my singing, and that is true on some level. But essentially these are all my instruments and as such play different tunes of my politics. The tune, the content always picks its genre, its instrument. I do not decide what will become a play or a poem or a short story. Essentially, I write and perform from a mostly unconscious place and that is perhaps the reason for that lack of predictable categorization for my work.

IDUMA: I think of superimposition in respect to Haiti Can Hold Me, maybe because Sokari Ekine is a wonderful Aunt-writer. Do you have strong Haiti sentiments?

MOLOSI: My politics as a person are global. I have strong sentiments about the world and Haiti is a part of the world. You will see in my writing and acting work that I jump from Haiti to Zimbabwe to England to Uganda…that has been my experience. I am not rooted. Sokari Ekine, a great writer and inspiration, was kind enough to publish my poem about Haiti on BlackLooks and that rippled to its being published in New Internationalist and so forth until it reached Haiti itself and I was absolutely humbled.

 

Transgender dreams

Via Gender Dynamix and Things I feel Strongly About

Transgender Dreams Via Gender Dynamix and Anengiyefa [Things I Feel Strongly About]

Transgender Dreams

Via Gender Dynamix and Anengiyefa [Things I Feel Strongly About]

The Beads Around Her Head

THE BEADS AROUND HER HEAD by Donald Molosi

what more could it have been
(rooted in role-play and obligation as it was)
but a sad longing undefined?
what good could it have done to have called it “idiotic” if institution eschews freedom,
and culture refuses to accuse tradition of demonizing spinsterhood?

that’s right -

once upon a time fond tears spilled out of her face. and she would
dangerously slip on them past the reality of her own strength and sanctity.
but to reality she now returns to march and question, seize her wasted armor
and realize that marriage implies a joy your bastille painfully lacked.
like a woman savagely vanquished or a shaman infatuated with prophecy,
she has already begun to speak answers to questions she never asked the God in her.
she has started to collect her tainted fragments so that she may reincarnate herself at the next sunrise.
she has already re-learnt how to smile, and soothe the beads around her head, for peace.

that’s right -

she is going to go out tonight, and feel nice tonight, and stay out all night like it’s 1992.
and because she is with me, the looming clouds of yesterday will part before her, dust will make way for
clarity and Love herself will fiercely hold us in her womb.
you may curse and disgrace her in the most colorful Tswana or the most abrasive English, but
she kisses me like this
because i simply love her;
because unlike you, i will never
splatter her worth against the walls of her loving heart -
a shivery heart now aimlessly loving, but still loving for new beginnings’ sake.

Donald Molosi © November 2010

Today Its Me – performed by Donald Molosi

My good friend and writer, poet, engerised optimist, Donald Molosi is performing his “one man” play in New York on the 20th November. Details below

TODAY IT’S ME Performed by Donald Molosi, BOTSWANA Sat, Nov 20 at 7:00pm Theatre ROW 410 West 42nd Street, New York City …This is the true story of the legendary Ugandan musician Philly Lutaaya, whose soulful AfroPop rhythms united a generation of Ugandans. Inspired by his continent and its people, Lutaaya kept faith in his beloved motherland in his music even while he was a struggling musician abroad in Sweden. This epic piece chronicles his transformation from being an entertainer to being a musical activist after he learnt about his own personal tragedy. Today It’s Me is an exploration of courage, passion and tragedy, featuring Philly Lutaaya’s exotic, riveting music. Part of United Solo Theatre Festival

Botswana makes positive moves towards LGBTI and Sexworkers

Amidst the awful news from Malawi a small light of positiveness from Botswana as the government makes an unprecedented move to meet with activists from the LGBTI movement and sexworkers which might lead to the “offical acceptance of the existence of these groups”

In a coup for NACA and the advocacy group that has been campaigning for these groups to come out from the cold, the Botswana Network Of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) will lead the Lesbians, Gay and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) and the Research Triangle Institute (TRI) to a meeting of the National Aids Council on June 4 to discuss research findings on these groups.

TRI represents the interests of sex workers.

The aim is to chart a way forward for addressing issues of HIV/AIDS and related illnesses as well as intervention measures for these marginalised groups. The National Coordinator of NACA, Richard Matlhare, has confirmed this meeting, saying these groups cannot be ignored because the HIV/AIDS pandemic affects everyone.

“We will take the research findings to the council to discuss intervention measures that will benefit these specific people,” Matlhare said. However, he could not provide any further details on the meeting.

The meeting is anticipated as a break with the past, when the government steadfastly refused to even acknowledge the existence of homosexuals. Last year, a lesbian working for BONELA, Prisca Mogapi, and a gay member of LEGABIBO, Caine Youngman, threatened to sue the government over Section 164 of the penal code which criminalises same sex relationships.

The two wanted the ‘offending’ section to be declared unconstitutional.

Proudly African & Transgender: Portraits by Gabrielle Le Roux in collaboration with trans & intersex activists

Portraits and narratives of ten transgendered Africans from seven countries in East and Southern Africa by Gabrielle Le Roux in partnership with IGLHRC exhibited for the first time by Amnesty International – Amsterdam.

Zimbabwe: Amanda

Uganda: Julius

South Africa: Bongi

Burundi: Flavia

Uganda: Victor Mukasa

Namibia: Madam Jholerina

Kenya: Nicole

Uganda: Salongo

Namibia: Silva

Botswana: Skipper Mogapi

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African responses to the War on Gaza

Pambazuka News has a list of protests across African against the War on Gaza though I have to say it is somewhat sickening to see Sudanese people amongst the protesters given the “crimes against humanity”committed by their own leaders – would have been far more meaningful if they had also protested against the genocide in Darfur. We cannot be selective about injustices. Tajudeen Abdul Raheem develops this idea in his article “Saying no to the Israeli massacre” referring to the global protests taking place since the beginning of the war and in particular the one in London last Saturday which I also took part in.

This is a massacre perpetrated by the mighty, merciless Israeli army, a force armed and actively supported by the US and NATO with the supine collaboration of Arab leaders, including the so-called moderate Palestinian leadership under the main Fatah organisation from its Bantustan enclaves in the West Bank.

There were initial fears that the cold would deter many from turning up for the march, but so deep is the outrage of many that they poured out in their thousands in all the major cities of Britain to call for an immediate ceasefire and end to the blockade.

Tajudeen goes on to explain the importance of these and other demonstrations against injustices are not necessarily that they will bring immediate change or end the war. Rather they need to be seen in their cumulative impact – for example protests against the South African apartheid regime AND as an expression of solidarity at the injustice taking place.

It is not enough for us to just look on and say to ourselves that what is going on is bad and simply change the channel. You can join the protest or organise one wherever you may be, write letters to newspapers and make use of feedback sessions in the media. You can also boycott Israeli goods in the shops like Jaffa oranges. Even if our governments, much like their Arab counterparts, are too compromised and cowardly to stand up to Israel, what about you and me?

There are many Africans who are confused about the Israel—Palestine conflict, believing it to be purely a case of Islam vs Judaism or Arab vs Jew. As a people who have known slavery, colonialism, and apartheid, how can we be so complacent about the right of others to a life of dignity and sovereignty over their own affairs?

Links:
Avi Shlaim – For some historical and recent context that is clearly forgotten or missing in most of the analysis on this war.

[There will be another protest march this Saturday 10th [starting in Hyde Park] Last week, there were between 20,000 and 30,000 drawn from a cross section of people from across the country. Also nightly protests outside the Israeli embassy which have included Jewish anti-Zionist groups and Rabbis from Neturei Karta

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