Saturday, May 30, 2020

Now’s a good time to hold a Miss Botswana contest

If every cloud does indeed have a silver lining, is there any silver lining in COVID-19? There are a couple actually but we will mention just four.

With flights grounded and more than 70 percent of factories shut down, the ozone layer has not been subjected to the corrosive effect of copious amounts of carbon dioxide since 1760 when the Industrial Revolution began. For the first time in a really long time, people’s pockets are not being picked by either prosperity-gospel pastors or uncloseted thieves. Perhaps for the first time ever, more than 87.4 percent of people around the world and 90.2 percent across Botswana cover their coughs and sneezes.

The fourth silver lining deserves special treatment and it is not just because it has to do with the wearing of a silver crown. For the first time since the early 1970s, the Botswana Council of Women (BCW) has an opportunity to host an authentic national beauty pageant. Let’s ruminate on “authentic” awhile.

The Fourth and Former President of the Republic of Botswana and Bangwato Paramount Chief, Lieutenant General Kgosi Comrade Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, routinely expelled Asians during his time in presidential office. However, one part of those Asians still finds its way into Botswana as human hair that a good many Batswana women wear as wigs under non-lockdown circumstances. Similar hair comes into the country from Brazil where women in small, rural places are paid for growing and then donating strong, healthy hair. From China, Botswana gets eyelash extensions, which are made of synthetic fibres like nylon. In the same vein, let’s not forget imported make-up kits that have revolutionised the art of facial disguise among women – and a few modern men. All animals have natural height and body weight but some people have surrendered their right to such height and weight to westerners. They basically go on hunger strike to protest the meat on their bones and wear skyscraper shoes with the hope of seeing skyscrapers across the Atlantic Ocean.

For the next leg of this exercise, we insist that you self-administer a judicial oath (“I swear to tell the truth, nothing but the truth …”), then answer the following questions: Is a Miss Botswana contestant likelier to have natural hair or wear a Brazilian-hair wig? Why do the eyelashes of Miss Botswana appear unusually long? Why do most Miss Botswana contestants appear heart-stoppingly beautiful on stage and less so when you meet them in person at a tuckshop around the corner on a lazy Sunday morning? Based on how much they weigh, should Miss Botswana contestants get a prize of a queen-sized water bed or four boxes of frozen mutton? Would a Miss Botswana contestant pronounce “seriously?” as “seriously?” or as “serwiously?”

The examples of former cabinet minister, DJ Tips, and Shepherd Bushiri show that the lockdown doesn’t have to lock down entertainment. BCW can still host a digital audience-only beauty contest in which the contestants sashay around the sitting room or around the house. The no-boyfriend, no-parents, no-siblings, no-cousins, no-cellphone rules that the Council once allowed during a previous rotation of Miss Botswana would present an unusual challenge because there would be no one to livestream a contestant’s performance.

If what we are proposing is implemented, for the first time since the early 1970s and thanks to the lockdown, we would have an authentic national contest. With little else to do, would-be contestants have turned into couch potatoes and the only physical exercise they get is little more than walking to the refrigerator and reaching for the remote control – or the third packet of biscuits that day. It is unlikely that any locked down woman is walking around in high heels. Basically, height and body weight have been restored to their (African) factory settings. With beauty and hair salons closed, no one has been able to fake looking like a stunner in over 20 days and counting. And, if you see a profile picture of someone looking 730-pretty on a weekday, you can confidently conclude that that picture predates the lockdown. The most obvious, most natural hairstyle for this disguise-proof period is au naturel – no Brazilian wigs, no high heels and no make-up.

A fortnight ago, the United States evacuated its citizens from Botswana – which some interpret as a vote of no-confidence in how the Botswana government is handling the COVID-19 crisis. For the past couple of years, some speech mannerisms (especially accents) on the Miss Botswana stage strongly suggested that our national beauty pageant may have been infiltrated by black Americans. With all Americans in Botswana having been evacuated, no Miss Botswana COVID-19 Edition would be pronouncing Mahalapye, Palapye and Lobatse the way Americans do.

As a matter of fact, there would be no reason to use English at the contest but if it is, the questions should test local knowledge. For example:  Q1. Through a global pet-name convention that linguists call hypocorism, Setswana names are routinely abbreviated; what would be the full form of MmaBoi? A. MmaBoipuso B. MmaBoipelego C. MmaBoikhutso D. MmaBoipelego E. MmaBoiketlo F. MmaBoipelego; Q2. For how many weeks now have Block 5, Block 6 and Block 7 residents in Gaborone been waiting for the COVID relief package?; Q3. Do you think that bo-MmaBoi are aware that Block 5, Block 6 and Block 7 residents voted for the ruling party in overwhelmingly large numbers in the 2019 general election?; Q4. If the government had no intention of giving food supplies to the Block 5, Block 6 and Block 7 residents (who, by the way, voted for the ruling party in overwhelmingly large numbers in the 2019 general election) why did a government loudspeaker van spend the whole Sunday of April 11 creeping through every street of all those residential districts, announcing that people should stay at home the following day in order to place their food orders with bo-MmaBoi?; Q5. Generally, why is the government unconcerned about the nutritional upkeep of these residents because in 2016, the 7231 residents of Block 5 were given only P4125 (or P1.75 per resident) for the golden jubilee Independence Day celebrations? Q6. At this point in time, what is the most important thing in the world? A. Taking food orders of Block 5, Block 6 and Block 7 residents. B. Apologising to Block 5, Block 6 and Block 7 residents C. World peace D. Delivering food supplies to Block 5, Block 6 and Block 7 residents asap.  

Naturally, the most brilliant, most au naturel contestant who can answer all those questions right would get to wear a silver crown, proving beyond any shadow of doubt that every cloud has a silver lining. She wouldn’t be the only winner – Botswana would also have won. For the first time in a long time, a Miss Botswana would not be wearing Brazilian-hair wig, wouldn’t have false eyelashes and nails made in Wuhan, wouldn’t be unnaturally New York-skinny and wouldn’t be smeared with imported cosmetics and would be her natural height. Truth be told, the only things local about Miss Botswana at international beauty contests have been the national flag and name of the country.

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.