Batswana who feign pride in local productions have a catch-phrase: “Local is Leker.” Batswana, however never look locally for inspiration. They look across the border to South Africa. When a young footballer starts showing promise, he would be rechristened Jomo, Chippa or Zero after South African football heroes Jomo Sono, Chippa Moloi and Zero Johnson.
The country has an unabashed admiration for anything South African. The local music industry complete with music genres like Kwaito and artists who pride themselves in their ability to sing in Zulu or speak tsotsitaal is a caricature of the South Africa entertainment industry. If it is fashionable over there, it is fashionable over here. Even the phrase “local is leker” was stolen from South Africa.
For a longtime, Botswana’s culture has been trading off South Africa’s image, which is hardly surprising. Botswana is a net importer of South African culture, from magazines and newspapers to Television soap operas and music.
Botswana does not have a sense of its place in the world. The 4th Annual Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards held in Lagos Nigeria last Saturday singled out Botswana as the most invisible country in Africa when it comes to show business.
The only country in Southern Africa with a lively, vibrant film industry is South Africa and it churns most of the productions that are beamed on to millions of living rooms throughout Africa every day.
Multichoice, Africa’s foremost pay television network feels the Southern African region still has a long way to go and that the time is now to start feeding its voracious appetite for local content.
“I have become very optimistic on realizing that this implies we are sitting on an untapped market and therefore opportunities are incredibly endless. To the youth in Botswana this should really come as good news because it means job creation and growth to the arts industry. To have a giant like Multichoice say it craves content from the region especially from Botswana should motivate us to take advantage of this great opportunity to put this beautiful country on the map,” said Public Relations and Publicity Executive at Multichoice Botswana Thembile Legwaila. She said she would love to see Batswana come forth with original local content because her office is keen on growing Botswana’s film industry.
In an interview with Lifestyle famous Nigeria based actor who has had multiple roles in Nollywood movies, Van Vicker said there was a need for variety and DSTV needs to start being the home of stories from all over the continent and not just a few select countries. “There is a lot to learn from those who have showcased exemplary bravura filmmaking in Africa mostly made on almost nonexistent budgets but serving as excellent evidence that there are filmmakers eager to produce home grown content despite difficult odds,” said Vicker. He said there are Nollywood luminaries who started off selling sweets on street pavements to finance their productions after years of failing to find financing for their projects. “There is so much people can do in this continent, so many creative ways to raise funds. Investor’s love people who show commitment and this is how we finally got people with money to take us seriously. If we could do it in West Africa there is no reason why there should not be submissions from Botswana for next year,” said Vicker. He said Africa Magic is seen as a Nigerian television channel when in fact initially it was set up as a platform to serve the African film industry as a whole.
“African television has come of age, we need stories that are raw and real, set and filmed entirely in our countries, tackling some very hard hitting issues with gritty cinematic flair sparing no punches. It would be ideal to have them written, produced, directed, acted out you name it by locals because I know for a fact nobody can tell the stories better than they can,” said Vicker. He said the good thing about acting is that unlike most jobs there are roles in the industry for everyone. “As long as you are alive, have the potential and the passion you can be natured. The challenge normally that most countries face is creating an environment that affords the industry the much needed space to grow and everyone has a role to play from the media creating a buzz about the industry to the government and private sector investing in film productions. But most importantly film industry players in general need to take what they do seriously and believe in its potential to grow,” he said.