Sightlines – DAY TWO: 24 April 2015

It’s our third instalment of Sightlines [n. any of the lines of sight between the spectators and the stage.] and we take a look at some of the acts from the second day.

Throughout my day I kept trying to figure out what made it different and the answer is: day two was about community. When Gao Lemmenyane, Director of the Maitisong Festival, unveiled the new festival logo he said “it could be people reaching up”. Today the festival worked towards achieving its goal to #elevate.

I started my day with a sit-down, informal interview with poet, author and academic, Dasha Kelly, at noon. Dasha had already started her day with a writing workshop in Old Naledi at Tshwaragano Primary School.

Through our conversation she unveiled herself to me and I got to meet the young girl who hated poetry who turned into a woman who proudly declares: “I can’t do anything else but write; it’s too late to leave it now.”

I skimmed over the programme and checked my watch and opted to run over to Maitisong to catch the dance workshops. I arrived on Maru-a-Pula Campus at half past two to find the Music Room empty. I sat and wondered if perhaps they were running late, the experience of last night still fresh in my memory, so I waited. I chatted with some of the youngsters who were preparing for their showcase later that afternoon, even managed to squeeze in some time to speak to Zeus.

“I think a lot of us, growing up, attended at least one performance here” said Zeus, “and it’s great to see my career come full circle.” Stepping up to the task of bringing contemporary music to the festival, Zeus remarked that he was proud to see that under the theme #elevate, young Batswana are taking back ownership of the festival which he believes has unintentionally become associated with the expatriate community in Gaborone more than it is with the people of the city.

On decolonising the colonised space as a contemporary artist, he said his collaboration with three producers – Favi, B Note and Grand Pa – on his live band performance was a marker that he is willing to take the extra steps toward bringing a different dynamic to live performance in Botswana’s hip hop scene.

I got absorbed in my conversation with Zeus until, while talking about how his album African Time addresses social issues such as xenophobia and African inequality, I realised the dance workshops still hadn’t started. The time was now 3 o’clock and there were children walking around with confused faces.

Upon asking around again, I was then told that the organisers had moved the workshops to a different venue. It seemed no one knew about the move – until I discovered hours later that there was still no official notice on the Maitisong Theatre Facebook page but my friend’s personal post popped up with the notification of the move. Needless to say I was unimpressed once again.

Seeing as I had some extra time on my hands, I decided to use it as a chance to speak to three of the participants of the BW Youth Hip-Hop culture event. In our conversation we interrogated what the idea of BW Hip-Hop really is, why it’s not being consumed as well as it could be, how subject matter actually matters to the progress of the art form and how to #elevate youth through word. Catch the podcast HERE.

As I was chatting with the students, the lively sounds of jazz music were blasting through a sound system fit for a rock concert. I walked out to the courtyard to find that Stream Jazz had finished their sound check and were in full swing. The jazz band is made up of the most unassuming men with some extraordinary talent. Mandla Mbothwe, Artistis Director of Artscape, and I sat a bench but couldn’t help but bob from side to side.

Mbothwe, already ecstatic that he’d happened upon Bra Hugh Masekela doing sound check at Botswanacraft, was thrilled by the music of Stream Jazz and they delivered covers of hits like Caiphus Semenya’s “Mme Matswale” and a song none knew the words to but kept singing “ka mo keta ka mo rwa rwa tote” as a breakdancer spun and somersaulted before the stage. This was something I’d never thought I’d see – breakdancing to jazz – but then again, it’s time to elevate.

Zeus’ show was sadly under attended – perhaps because Hugh Masekela was in town, but those who did attend enjoyed the offering.

The last event for my day was the 2nd Annual Maitisong Festival Slap Poetry event, hosted by Dasha Kelly and Maya Roze. The mother of the Maitisong Poetry Slam, Mandisa Mabuthoe, was also in town, from her current residence in Harare, to watch as the fruits of her labour continued to grow.

The upside of the poetry slam event is that they got a large number of people to register online days prior to the event. The down side of this was that very few of them turned up, so Dasha would call a name and the audience – following her instructions to “clap them to the stage”- would applaud like aquarium seals ‘woot-wooting’ at the tops of their voices only to have to stop and wait for another name to be called.

Luckily, for most of the audience, the American Ambassador to Botswana, Ambassador Earl Miller, had opted to stay on after watching Zeus and enjoy some slam poetry. I’d watched him being swamped by people wanting to take photos with him and thought to myself, he really is about the people, and his enthusiasm at the poetry cemented this opinion.

I took a chance on the stage, sporting a fascinator by UmaTjips (Tjipo Keaikitse) and I was humbled by how warm the audience really was to the artists. The line-up of poets included Rae Lyric, Boleng, Leungo, 5th Element, Kgotla, Kwasi and Bongi, but after all the punch lines and metaphors were lain on the stage, it was Kwasi who emerged victorious.

The highlights of day two definitely have to be watching Kwa Ga Ncinci owner, Ncinci Moitsadi, handing Ambassador Miller one of her sandwiches to enjoy; listening to the crown prince of Johannesburg’s underground slam poetry and slam champion, Afurakan, and hearing a young EmCee relay the story of how the Hip-Hop community made him believe that his disability wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, he was “chilling with the homies” and that was right where he belonged.

As unimpressive as the administration has been on some occasions, the acts featured in the 2015 Maitisong Festival are living up to the the #elevate theme. Mophato Dance Theatre’s Inyaya still holds the #FestFave trophy after two days of #maiti15 activities.

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.