Sightlines – OFFICIAL OPENING: 22 April 2015

It’s always a pleasure to be given the opportunity to engage with art – be it theatre, dance, visual art, installations, jazz, folk music – you name it, I love it. It’s even better to be given the opportunity to sample many forms in Gaborone.

In the midst of load-shedding and surprise water cuts, the capital city is playing host to some world-class talent from Botswana and, indeed, across the globe.

In this first instalment of Sightlines [n. any of the lines of sight between the spectators and the stage.] we take a look at the official opening event.

OFFICIAL OPENING: 22 April 2015

I had been very excited and anxious to go to the opening event. Fresh from a marvellous working trip to Cape Town, I wasn’t sure I wanted to replace the taste of the internationally acclaimed Whitney Houston tribute concert with an uncertain meal plan. Needless to say, I chose to go and experience the elevation promised – akere ka Setswana gatwe, e e seyong ga e yo le meno a yone.

This dog went in with all her teeth glamorously clad in Gilded Sands couture by Aobakwe Molosiwa; I’d decided to go fully patriotic. I made the right decision. The ceremony was delectably international with a thunder-clap of Setswana celebration.

From the reception by the rhythms of Mogwana Traditional Song and Dance Group as guests entered, to the welcoming by Gabz FM’s One Rabantheng and Reginald Richardson, the night’s MCs, the evening got off to a good start.

The opening address was inspiringly delivered by Ms Ithabeleng Letsunyane, Chairperson of the Ditsala Tsa Maitisong. Letsunyane not only addressed the laborious efforts of past Maitisong Festival directors and continued efforts by current director, Gao Lemmenyane, in keeping the festival alive for 28 years, but she called to the community of Botswana to begin to envision itself as part of the festival’s journey to greater liveliness.

It was then over to the night’s multitalented, internationally composed ensemble cast to guide us through the night. Dasha Kelly, Milwaukee based American poet, sashayed onto the stage and began delivering a poem about the audience liberating themselves from the rigidity of growing up. “I see you squirming in your seat waiting for the teacher to finish talking and open up the floor for questions” said Kelly, and inhibitions were gently loosed. As the night progressed, the voices which struggled to ululate when Richardson called for mogolokwane were freed to holler as DJ La Timmy played live percussion alongside the marimba legend, Mike Sibanda.

Skit Kabomo and Kabo Leburu represented a younger generation of folk musicians in the band and each of them shone with their signature compacted dynamite performance styles. The lady in red, Tshenolo Batshogile – operatic soprano and wife to the ceremony’s musical director, Andy Batshogile – fluttered from high pitched vibrato mellow chest notes in her medley of Setswana folk songs bringing the audience to a roar.

A large portion of the performance fell to the dance corpse which comprised of dancers from Mophato Dance Theatre, Sky Blue Dance Hub and Mobini. The synergy within the group bore testament to the work done by choreographers Clayton Ndlovu and Andrew Letso Kola.

Highlights of the evening were Dasha Kelly’s collaboration with Kabo Leburu on a poem about love gained and love lost; Kabo Leburu’s Tshega – a cheeky song about a man wearing a loincloth; and DJ La Timmy’s performances with the band and the dancers.

Gao Lemmenyane also unveiled the new festival logo designed by Alastair Hagger, Head of Communications for Maru-a-Pula School and Maitisong. Lemmenyane drew the audience’s attention to the multiple interpretations of the design: “It could symbolise a circus tent, or an eye as you enter into light from darkness, or a group of people reaching up. These are all things we are trying to do with the Maitisong Festival” he said.

The audience was then led by dancers from the auditorium to a garden with minimal seating and I soon regretted wearing my heeled boots as I sank into the flower beds. The novelty of watching Moratiwa Molema’s sight specific work wore thin for many audience members who couldn’t see or just didn’t feel like standing behind bushes, peering over other people’s heads. Minds and legs began to wander – an abrasive lady even handed me her phone to take a photograph while the performance carried on behind her.

The act featured the company in matlalo worn for traditional Setswana dance. It spanned from singing in trees, to a suggestive three set duet to romantic piano accompaniment by Nalumino Mundia, to Molema reciting a poem about returning to nature – emerging from a frame of candles reminiscent of a Hindu spiritual drawing. This brought the official opening to a close and the audience was then released to cue for modest servings of refreshments.

The overall feeling was that the festival had been aptly opened with a display of diverse cultures, inspirations and art forms. I am happy to have had the opportunity to mingle with of the audience and hear their excitement about the arrival of this year’s festival. Here’s to more days to #elevate with #maiti15.

Katlego K Kol-Kes is an ARTivist, Writer, theatre producer and founder of the Queer Shorts Showcase Festival based in Gaborone. She loves motogo wa madila and has a weakness for Janet Jackson. Her writing spans lifestyle and human interest features, poetry, and music. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, her blog  and via her website.