Last year, as part of the weeklong event, organisers of Gaborone International Music and Culture Week (GIMC) added theatre to their list of performing arts. August 26 will mark the fourth instalment of the extravaganza. At theatre evening this year, the nation can look forward to being captivated by Botswana’s very own Tefo Paya alongside the well known South African actor Presley Chweneyagae as they perform Border Lines. The latter is famous for his role in the 2005 Academy Award winning film ‘Tsotsi’ in which he plays a gangster whose life is transformed by one robbery incident. Paya on the other hand is well known around theatre circles locally especially through his play ‘Morwa The Rising Son’. The play depicts the struggles of growing up in Botswana since 1966 and the challenges faced by African men in general.
In an interview with Lifestyle Paya gave a synopsis of Border Lines; how it came about and its relevance to the modern lives of Tswana tribes. “Two years ago I hosted Presley at Maitisong when he came to perform another play,” he says. “As we got talking we realised that Batswana in the North West of South Africa, particularly in Mafikeng where Presley lives and those in the Ramatlabama area of Botswana have a lot in common. We have similar traditions, culture and history. We also face similar challenges in life,” says Paya. He says Border Lines was born of a realisation that such Batswana stories should be told and what better medium to use than theatre.
He says the play is based on the fact that there was a border line that was built to divide Botswana from the then Bophuthatswana. “The border just divided the two countries but that does not take away the fact that we are one people and we are related on either side of the border,” Paya explains, adding “We decided to do a play that tells the relationship story of the tribes along the border but decided to focus on two young men who grew up without father.”
He says the play showcases many similar stories in that area where the drawing of border lines has contributed to dividing of families. “The play centres around two brothers, one grew up in Mafikeng (SA) and the other one grew up in Pitsane (Botswana).” The boys had the same father but with two different mothers. Though the father was physically present in the one household he was not living up to the role. He was a drunkard. To the other brother he was completely absent. Paya says the two characters went about life separated by the borders until their father died. “The old man made a request before he passed that he would like to be buried where his ancestors were laid to rest and this happened to be on no man’s land between the two borders. The one brother then gets arrested while trying to grant his father his last wish by Lobatse Police. Fate would have it that the brothers meet in a jail cell and through their acquaintance they discover their roots.”
For his part Chweneyagae says it is important for such stories to be told and the best people to tell the stories are the two affected nations. “Such stories raise awareness among Tswana tribes and showcase that indeed we are one. We go through the same challenges across our borders and it is high time we get together as the two nations to see how we can address issues that affect us.” He says going forward he has plans to team up with local actors to share more stories with the world.