Sunday, July 3, 2022

A Setswana translation of Dear Upright African to be launched at Oxford

A Setswana version of Donald Molosi’s multi-award-winning manifesto called “Dear Upright African” will be launched this year starting with a reading at Oxford University this June (Africa Youth Month). For this Setswana version of the book, Molosi collaborated with South African Tuelo Gabonewe, translator and fellow writer.

Although other details about the upcoming book are yet to emerge such as the writers of the Setswana forewords, Molosi and his team confirm that its timing is not random. The Setswana manifesto called Tlhololo seeks to equip voters in the upcoming 2024 Botswana general elections. The goal, Molosi states, is to make sure that voters know what questions to ask all candidates of all parties when they show up in your kgotla to ask for your vote.

Dear Upright African was originally published in English in 2019 and it has since served as a manifesto for the Upright African Movement (UAM), a collective of young Africans who advocate for the decolonization of African curricula. In 2019 the book was awarded Best Narrative at the African Authors Awards held in South Africa that year. That 2019 English version of 2019 the book was adapted from Molosi’s own TED Talk from 2017 where he decried the lack of African history and languages in the African classroom.

Molosi, 36, says of the upcoming translation of his work: “It has always been a dream of mine to write a book in Setswana because Setswana is a language I speak, adore and study. It’s also a language that is dying and deserves my to be in books. The Botswana classroom remains unsafe and dangerous to a child’s imagination.”

“I want a Motswana to understand in Setswana what I am saying. I want a Setswana speaker to appreciate the injustice we do to children when we insist on colonial and unsafe learning environments. With a new added chapter in the Setswana version of the book, a Motswana will also understand the power of Botswana student protests. That power can free us from colonial curriculum that causes unemployment on purpose.”

Later this month, Molosi will give an uninterrupted reading of the whole manuscript at Oxford University. The reading will be, on purpose, for people who do not speak Setswana. “You can think of it as performance art but it is a real manuscript. I am standing upright speaking for hours at Oxford in Setswana on purpose as symbolism. You will tell me what it means,” says Molosi.

Previously, in 2019, Molosi launched the English version, Dear Upright African, by flying from Botswana to Berlin where he staged a screaming protest outside the building where Africa was cut up for European powers in 1884. Molosi screamed in the cold outside the building and was eventually joined by fellow African writers in a ritual to avenge the African ancestors who lost their land.

The upcoming Oxford reading of Dumela, MoAforika Yo O Tlhololo will be the first engagement on the Setswana manifesto that Molosi will do. The launch dates for DMYOT are yet to be announced.

Donald Molosi is author of “We Are All Blue” and “Dear Upright African”. He lives in Mahalapye.

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