Sunday, October 25, 2020

Maitisong Festival staged in Ghantsi

It looks like it will be some time before people get used to the fact that Stampore is a big international movie star. His spot on the evening bill befitted his stature but by the time that he walked up on stage, perched atop a stool, cradled what looked like a brand new acoustic guitar and began to sing into the microphone, the crowd around the stage was beginning to thin out, some crowding around the open-air cash bar.

That did not discourage the Molepolole-based guitarist, who recently made his acting debut in the MmaRamotswe movie. Watching Stampore play it is easy to tell why he got the part in the movie ÔÇô he is truly gifted and can ably affect all the theatrics necessary for stage performance. The venue was the Botswanacraft Marketing and he performed a set comprising of material he has been playing over the years.

By Stampore’s account, the songs are his own compositions but a few years ago, Kotaeshele, his elder brother, alleged that his younger brother was plagiarising him. The brothers ply their trade at the same places in Molepolole (bars and shebeens mostly) and Kotaeshele said that he no longer played new compositions when Stampore was around for fear of copyright infringement.

All along, Stampore has been singing in Setswana but reaching an international audience, while preaching peace and love to the local audience, seems to be a priority. He signed out with a song whose chorus is a corruption of “good night Batswana/Batswana come together.” Learning a new language in adulthood can be really challenging but with enough practice he should be able to make good progress beyond “voojoo night Batswana/Batswana charm chew getha.”

Stampore was in the United Kingdom recently for the premiere of MmaRamotswe movie ÔÇô that blue flat cap and those shiny black shoes had London written all over them. Not exactly Brooks Brothers but high-end apparel you wouldn’t get in Molepolole shops alright. It is real good to see that years of persistence seem to be finally paying off for a cultural icon of a dying breed.

Stampore was part of an event dubbed “Jewels of the Kalahari” that showcased art from the Gantsi district. The show, which was put together by Gantsi Craft, was part of the annual Maitisong Festival. The evening kicked off with 21 models (19 girls and two boys) bedecked with jewelry from the far, far west and swathed in black wrap-around clothes from a Gaborone clothier. One of the boys had Roy Sesana’s trademark horns on an animal-skin band strapped around his head. The other boy forgot to remove a glittering ear ring before going onstage and the oversight had the effect of spoiling the illusion he was trying to create. The models took turns sashaying down a makeshift catwalk to enthusiastic reception from the crowd. A couple of women in the audience ululated but someone was heard to make song and dance about whether the people whose jewelry was being modelled even did that.
They don’t, according to Kuela Kiema, a setinkane player-cum-opposition-politician who grew up in the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve and now wants to bring Johnnie Swartz’s parliamentary career to an abrupt end.

That the models were African, Asian and Caucasian was a fitting metaphor for the global appeal that San art has garnered. The place where the event was held sells some of that art. One supposes that there would have been a pretty good reason why not a single former resident of the CKGR was among the models prancing down the runway. At one level, however, this lack of representation devalued what was otherwise a good show.
How else do you create the illusion of life in the Kalahari? You build a fire in a low-walled mud enclosure despite the fact that with winter being weeks away, no San culture enthusiast would feel the need to warm him/herself. The other thing that you do is get a traditional dance troupe up on stage to perform two or three Setswana songs which are, however, complemented with San dance styles.

The Maitisong festival ends next Sunday with Gaborone Sun chefs preparing dishes live on stage.

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