Saturday, October 31, 2020

Maun artist protesting racial wealth gap of the Okavango Delta

In his performance, Goodie the Bad (real name Goodwill Tlokwe) doesn’t ask any ruling-party Asian financiers to “run!” but like A.T.I, makes a fervent call for racial economic justice.

“Give me my piece of paradise that side of the fence,” he demands in the verse of spoken-word poetry.

The paradise he is referring to is the Okavango Delta whose contiguous luxury safari camps collectively form what has been described by a London activist as a “white ethno-state.” The pictures that come up when you google “Okavango Delta camps” provide ample evidence why Goodie the Bad would call this exclusive part of Botswana a “paradise.” When very few, if any were paying attention, lobbying and arm-twisting begot an arrangement that is proving extremely difficult to undo. The western and western-aligned commercial interests that own concession areas in the Okavango Delta have made it extremely difficult for Batswana to get in the luxury tourism business. In one respect that is the result of a lease agreement that is heavily loaded in favour of westerners. That is what Good the Bad complains about in his poem. 

While he entranced and rallied the support of a mostly youthful fan base, musician A.T.I used reckless language and wasn’t able to communicate his un-nuanced message clearly. While more careful in his choice of words, Goodie the Bad is very blunt about the racial economic injustice that is rampant in the Delta. His choice of spoken-word over Shakespearean poetry helps him communicate his message very clearly. He talks about elephants that are “human friends that side of the fence but a nightmare this side of the fence”; about “game that lives that side of the fence” and “feeds on our crops this side of the fence”; about “foot and mouth from that side of the fence” depreciating “our cattle’s value this side of the fence”; about “a paradise that side of the fence” but “a nightmare this side of the fence”; about “five-star camps that side of the fence” and “makeshift homes this side of the fence”: about cake being eaten “that side of the fence and we only get crumbs this side of the fence”; and about “billions made that side of the fence but are they really well-taxed this side of the fence?”; about “a race that rules that side of the fence” and that “questioning their rule can be such an offence.” He also laments that “After 50 years of independence, our people can’t trade that side of the fence, let alone own that side of the fence” and about celebrities who “land that side of the fence” but “are never brought to us this side of the fence.”

To our knowledge, this marks the first time that discontent about the racial economic injustice of what is happening in the Okavango Delta has been rendered artistically and in the form of a protest poem. Interestingly, Good the Bad’s poem, whose video has been posted to the Poetavango Facebook page and seems to be getting more gaining more digital traction of late, predates A.T.I’s “Run!” threat. This protest poem adds to non-poetic protest that has been made over decades about how the Okavango Delta is benefitting people whose loyalties lie elsewhere – as evidenced by where they repatriate the billions they make that side of the fence. Goodie the Bad doesn’t ask anyone to “Run!” (as A.T.I did of the ruling party’s Asian financiers) but he makes clear the fact that at some point, he may be forced to “jump that fence” – which might force luxury safari camp operators to run.

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