Saturday, September 23, 2023

The first Setswana poetry awards coming to Gaborone this weekend

On April 30, 2016 Gaborone will come to a standstill as multitudes throng Limkokwing University of Creative Technology Hall to be part of a most auspicious event of the first Setswana poetry awards. These awards are organised by the Single Man Act Poetry Event (SMAPE) led by the celebrated, highly gifted and well published poet, the extraordinary Moroka Moreri. The principal aim of the awards is to celebrate past and present poets who have contributed to the large body of Setswana and Botswana poetry in general. Moroka Moreri is simply a poet of our time ÔÇô a man to whom we can turn when we need the lyrical sophistication of Setswana. He has both the academic rigour to analyse and explain what Setswana poetry is all about as well as an arresting presence on stage. He possesses the rare skill of those great poets of old who have gone before him as well as the technical knowledge of a modern poet to tease out the lexical niceties of poetry. He has published four poetry books: Motlhaolosa, Tshokele, Thotse and Khuduela. He has also contributed poems to other publications such as Kutlwano, Mokgosi and Echo newspapers and many others. He has been involved in the development of young poets in schools and at SOS. This coming weekend Moroka Moreri will be in the company of international poets like Mzwakhi Mbuli from South Africa and a band of local ones. The event will be graced by His Honour the Vice President of Botswana, Mr. Mokgweetsi Masisi who will deliver a keynote address. Visitors from different parts of South Africa will be in attendance including Her Majesty the Queen Mother of the Bafokeng, Semane Molotlegi, the daughter of the Ngwato forward-thinking royal, Kgosi Tshekedi Khama (1905-1959). The former President of Botswana, the legendary Sir Quett Ketumile Masire will also be there.

In attendance will also be the great gospel artists Phempheretlhe and Mmereki Marakakgoro who will deliver their signatory pieces. I look forward to Dipela tsa ga Kobokwe – arguable Botswana’s finest traditional dance troupe. They are many. They take to the stage like a band of Sechele’s fearless warriors. Their dance is authentic and speaks to the Setswana soul. If there is an image that one can conjure of Sechele’s warriors, the closest picture is that of Dipela tsa ga Kobokwe. I have never seen a group that is as forceful and as precise in its performance as this one. Their performance belongs to the ages and the world. They should be performing the stages of Germany, USA and England bringing glory to this country. To keep them within the Botswana borders is to steal fresh air from God’s universe. This coming weekend they will tak to the stage and delight the world. Maikano Serenadas will also set the stage alight together with the incomparable Ndingo Jowa and the talented Lister Boleseng. Moroka Moreri will bring the force of Basimane ba Mokwena: Rabojalwa Keetile, Dipako Sesienyane and Kaone Mahuma. Of the three additional poets, I am familiar with two: Rabojalwa and Dipako. Rabojalwa Keetile ke monnamogolo. He is a celebrated poet who possesses the unparalleled oratory skills of the ilk of Sekokotla Kaboeamodimo and Ponatshego Mokane. He is a traditional poet; the kind that doesn’t stop reciting a poem until the audience has fully enjoyed his rendition. Keetile has recited his poetry in numerous occasions including the royal Bakwena Kgotla, weddings, and the unveiling of the statue of the three Dikgosi. He is an epitome of rich traditional vocabulary with captivating images from yesteryears’ environment and space. I saw him deliver his poetry in Kanye during the Sir Ketumile Masire’s Africa statesmanship award celebration. I first met Dipako Sesienyane during the recording of Mmereki Marakgoro’s album entitled Chigongoro. He recited a poem in one of the tracks: A teacher. Mosienyane subsequently joined the Serowe TTC to train as a teacher. He firmly believes that during his presentation, no one should ululate, strictly. His style has fusions of traditional dikoma. He is a renowned author of several books including controversial drama Sefefo and he prominently celebrates his poetry in an album entitled African taste. Of these four Bakwena poets, Rabojalwa and Moroka are my favourite. I particularly love Moroka’s distinct style which uses phathisi accompaniment and segoloduane signature. It seems that April 30th will be an important day for Setswana poetry and for lovers of poetry and Setswana culture would do better to head to Limkokwing Hall to support these great messengers of cultural renaissance and preservation.

We must remember that the awards are organised to honour Botswana’s poetry trailblazers. I am here talking of Motswakgakala Sealetsa, Sekokotla Kaboeamodimo, Ratsie Setlhako and Ponatshego Mokane many of whom during their life time were not rich nor highly influential. They are however some of the finest poets that this country has ever produced. Their poetic skill is above that of most. Money raised from this event will erect tombstones for the departed poets so that their resting places won’t be undignified. And for all this, we have Moroka Moreri to thank for his foresight in organising this event.


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