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Youth Entrepreneurship, Perception of Creative Arts and Endorsement in Botswana

Youth in Botswana and beyond have a fire in them that is burning brighter than before. I can’t speak of a majority but the growing trend is the departure from the traditional mindset of the Regular 8 to 5 job. They don’t want job security, the BPOMAS retirement plan, the monthly car and health insurance premiums or the loans that end up putting a hole in their budgets. In fact as far out as it sounds, the youth don’t even want to live on a budget at all! 

In the past 10 to 20 years there has been greater assimilation of foreign [read American] lifestyles, culture and principles into that of locals. It is much more difficult not to be enchanted by the success stories of the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of the world; entrepreneurs who seemingly came from nothing, formulating solutions and founding companies with current profits running in the millions if not billions.

What youth see in Botswana as a country is an opportunity to go beyond replicating models that exist in other countries but to go further and apply what they know outside the classroom and be pioneers in their own right regardless of the industry they are in. This of course hasn’t been easy because of the many points of opposition.

The conservative traditionalist mindset of the older generations has always been a stumbling block for many generations. Parents have unwittingly become barriers to progress dissuading their kids from following their dreams. The refusal to extend the definition of intelligence to more than just mathematical and computational skills has been one of the major barriers. 

There IS such a thing as musical intelligence which throughout history through geniuses like Bach, Michael Jackson and prodigies like Mozart. These people have an incredible ear for music, contributing to composition and production. It is actually a celebrated talent everywhere else except in Botswana where academics are start all and end all.

The other is what psychologists have called Body-Kinesthetic Intelligence which is possessed by individuals gifted in sports, dance and activities involving body movements. There are many cases where someone who is not “book smart” shows talent in one or more of these fields but it is only after going through years of shaming in the classroom setting before they are set free if you will and allowed to be who they are destined to be.

In many conversations I’ve had in different spaces, there is the usual complaint of the lack of a fully formed and functioning extra-mural program in Botswana’s public school system particularly in music. This means children without academic brilliance but gifted in different fields end up losing their talents instead of being nurtured and polished in line with their innate gifts.

In a New York Times article it was articulated the following;

“For a generation digitally wired from childhood, and reared on apocalyptic videos and computer-generated movie epics, (sic) these events showed the real world to be as tightly networked, easily disrupted as the virtual one, even as the grown-ups in charge, the guardians of order, seemed overwhelmed and overmatched, always a step behind." This adds to an on-going conversation in many corners pleading for a new education system that takes into consideration the intense stimulation that the youth of this age are receiving from media which have rendered the traditional classroom setup and methods of tuition archaic.

The easy access to the internet through the many open university programmes has made a wealth of information on different subject matter freely available. I went to a seminar recently headlined by billionaire entrepreneur JT Foxx promising new ways of approaching business and growing your portfolio but what I realised a day into it is that everything he was preaching was nothing new;

  • The marketing and branding insights were information that I had read from fee e-books sourced from a publishing site.
  • The lectures on how to do business I had learnt from watching interviews with CEOs on finance and business channels.
  • The field work and how to negotiate, network etc were lessons I learned on the ground in various companies I worked with.

That is where I believe the future is; the ability to source knowledge from various channels because sitting through years of lectures creates knowledgeable workers but unwise citizens. The social entrepreneur is the new employee of the month that wins every month consecutively. The proactive and curious mind is the gift that keeps on giving.

The seminar however did provide a niche in the fact that it offered coaching which is something that is not common here in Botswana. I feel that there isn’t a culture of mentoring, shadowing and a disconnect, whether incidental or by design, between the struggling entrepreneur and the established mega-rich; one is the peasant in the muddy trudges rummaging for food daily and the other is the nobleman enjoying banquets of excess amongst similar ilk. Its said success is not a respecter of man but principle, its all about following the same principle and getting the equal result. I believe increased dialogue and sharing of these skills will obliterate the disparity between the two camps.

The uncertainty of success when branching off to start a business is a reality that the parent “inherits” from the entrepreneur child. So great is this reality that it manifests into an insurmountable fear turning the supportive parent into a bitter heckler and constant dream killer. In the music industry, an industry I am more familiar with, it is even more apparent. For as long as I can remember anyone who is a singer, rapper, actor, dancer, poet etc making money off their art without a regular job was labelled a misfit or the more familiar Setswana term raskanta for musicians. Botswana society has never found the creative arts as a respectable and “real” occupation worthy of recognition.

The creative arts has been something to pursue part time for applause and a generous toss of pocket change at the feet but the minute its pursued full time, the applause reduces and the confused stares multiply. In post-independence Botswana the steady reliance on a western education system with the intention of churning out the next generation of thinkers specifically bred to bring Africa up to speed, into a new world governed by economic prosperity, ushered in an age of both cultural and social reorganisation. This created a shift in priorities placing intellect and the development of cognitive skills over all.

The low regard for creative arts has shown itself through lack of structured legislature, though the Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS) is making strides, total disregard for ethics when it comes to dealing with artists, low wages for performers and shortage of venues to showcase talent among others. The government has stepped in to help where it can by promoting creativity and its products through Brand Botswana, Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture and the President’s Award. There is a lot that can still be done because some of these initiatives are marred with complaints of favouritism and lack of a clear-cut selection criterion. There is a general distrust of institutions with a call for transparency always echoing.

The corporate world itself only sees value in sponsoring events as a way of attaching their name to them in an effort to score “cool” points. On the other hand there haven’t been many big deal direct artist-brand endorsements that have stood the test of time or benefited the artist greatly. The few artists that have managed to cross-pollinate include producer/musician BK Proctor and Samsung who came together at the start of 2014. The partnership was a great move but the collaboration is failing to gain steam because, in my opinion, there is an unclear strategy and role set out for the artist.

Kwaito-kwassa-gospel (I’m equally confused) artist Vee, having developed a strong brand over the past 10years, took the unbeaten path by making his own branded products; MaVeeta mineral water launched arond 2010 and LaVee condoms not much later. Although failed projects that fizzled out and disappeared from the market after a year, they terminated paradigms and broke the ceiling in a way redefining and adding a new notch for other artists to aspire to.

What is common between these two artists is that combined, they have over 20 years in the industry and these opportunities come from a shared desire from the start of their careers to be full time musicians exploring their creative abilities. Although the journey came with many difficulties their parents, the other common thread, were constant sources of encouragement, believing in them and fanning their flame.

It is this same flame that burns through the different types of entrepreneurs in Botswana. In spite of months of zero income, a string of non-paying jobs, piling debt, unabated Hercules-strength hunger pangs they still manage to wake up every day to work on their dream. The question is; will the outside world be the torrential downpour that keeps putting them out or the easterly winds that fan the flames.

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G I N G E R.
She left like the cold mornings of July
Its September and I’m still at the window sill
echoes of her laughter blow in with the hot breeze
drawing me towards a familiar memory
like a siren’s song.
I’ve been gone since last November
Around 7 blocks running from you
Stupid. Pointless.
I bumped into a few bodies 
but trust me, I wont be long.
- K

G I N G E R.

She left like the cold mornings of July

Its September and I’m still at the window sill

echoes of her laughter blow in with the hot breeze

drawing me towards a familiar memory

like a siren’s song.

I’ve been gone since last November

Around 7 blocks running from you

Stupid. Pointless.

I bumped into a few bodies 

but trust me, I wont be long.

- K

(via lunabasquiat)

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Botswana Models For Zimbabwe Fashion Week [ @ZFW_official ]

There’s no limit to where good old fashion networking can get you. For Tumelo Nkwe who worked with Jen of Cape town’s Group of Creatives doing behind the curtains work last year, it was as simple as reaching out to Zim Fashion Week founder Priscilla Chigariro-Gessenin and cashing in on their prior interaction. The two had met at Africa Fashion Week and he managed to create an opportunity out of it for Batswana models by forwarding portfolios of a number of them for consideration for this year’s Zim Fashion Week. Fortunately Priscilla’s team was impressed, ultimately green lighting three names from the group.

model Lucille

Seasoned and easily recognizable faces Kaone Monamodi, Thabang Mmolotsi and Lucille Obetile were the three selected. They will be joining Tumelo for Zim Fashion Week which officially kicks off on Thursday 25th September in Harare’s Library City Hall.

model Kaone

model Thabang

I am personally rooting for them to do as well, or even better, than the delegation from Black Trash fashion house that showcased on the same platform last year. They’ve promised to come back and tell me, and you, about their experience there when they return on the 29th so I’m holding them to their word.

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REVIEW: Ammo Ski Mask [@AmmoMakeItSoft ] Ratchet Africa: Don’t Jealous Me

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When Wiz Khalifa’s We Dem Boyz came out, a lot of my fellow music writers were non plussed with it. We Dem Boyz was a track for a co-opted style he used for his newly found alter-ego Trap Wiz that subsequently became a force, single-handedly (no pun) building hype for his 4th studio album Blacc Hollywood. Rap critics beef with it was that it was a co-opt of the Migos/GBE/Future trap rap or what some brand as ratchet trap without the aggression characteristic of the sub-genre. 

The same sentiments came to mind when I first heard Ammo Ski Mask music. Talk of hitting licks, shopping in Milan and youngins squeezing Tommys coming from a young man living in a mostly peaceful country in the south of Africa had my spidey senses tingling. While Wiz preferred to keep it light-hearted and preferred not to speak on a lifestyle he wasn’t entirely conversant on, Ski Mask on the other hand went about it a different route;

Drake said it best, “rap game, crack game aint that different" and from that quote it is easier to comprehend how rappers take the similarities, where possible, between the drug peddler and the back pack rapper, incorporating it into their raps. The effect it has on their music is an addition of a rugged edge and an application of a veneer of toughness. For his supporters in Botswana it will be a something to watch to see if they can identify with the music.

In the same breath, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they welcome this newcomer due to the swift penetration of ratchet trap in mainstream music met with minimal resistance from the public and record companies who are always looking for new artists with a new sound.

So far has this music reached that even other cultures and races adopt this sub-genre easily. While some have seen this penetration as a modern day minstrel show; romanticism of everything wrong with American youth growing up in the ghettos and public housing. Others see it as nothing more than what music is meant to be; a depiction and reflection of a certain demographic and its “culture.”

The allure of a carefully moulded career based on the building blocks of rap that is “fake it till you make it" is something young artists fall moth-to-a-flame to. While the phrase would illicit an air of untrustworthiness of the integrity of the artist and conversely his/her authenticity, the puritanical restrictions set by a long gone old school era have been picked apart over time by acts who have created livelihoods from appreciated imagery and glamorised talk of the walk (think Officer Ricky). Ironically in this age of easily accessible information, the issue of authenticity is easily circumvented with carefully curated branding, intense power of suggestion and the more mystical sounding "speaking things into existence."

While Ammo Ski Mask joins the list of many artists who will have to contend with many questioning if he’s ‘bout that life,” it is the ambition, drive to succeed and commendable work ethic, laid bare in his music, which will vouch for him. Ratchet Africa: Don’t Jealous me as his second tape, is a good listen showcasing his multiple talent of crafting songs while simultaneously manning the boards on production and co-directing most of his flicks with equally talented videographer Gino Pryce.

Ammo Ski Mask's music is much like the operettas of the mid-to-late 1800s; a grand, engaging quicksand that swallows you into a world of high intensity, high energy festivalising. The writer Peter Gammond while reflecting on the music of the time, comparable to Ski Mask’s , stated that there was an underlying "strong romantic story, robust humour, and catchy and memorable songs." Amid the enthusiastic cantillation over grand compositions of twerk anthems and nae-nae-worthy sounds equally fit to mob to, lays a soul hell bent on providing for his team and reaching goals boldly articulated with the vigour of a modern day negro spiritual revival leader.

The Trap is the new plantation where the slaves sing not hymns, blues or negro spirituals but ratchet trap inspired by their daily experiences;

- The deceit at the hands of traitors [fuck boys/fuck niggas]

- Sour words from hecklers and traitors [ haters and sneak dissers]

- Unwavering allegiance to their place of residence [die for my block] and compadres he runs with [ride for the squad]

- Pleas for penance to an almighty power for vile acts committed

- Pleasures of young love [these hose can’t fuck with my main bitch]

- Distaste for unscrupulous women [fuck these thots]

- Lament for deceased çompadres and shows for solidarity with those incarcerated [free my nigga Mook]

Ratchet Africa: Don’t Jealous Me at the end of the day is a very pleasing project evoking a statement Mozart made of his own craft;

"There are passages from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction, but the less learned cannot, I believe, fail to be pleased even without knowing why."

Get it on Datpiff here 

Twitter || @kwakuusnotamused Email: kent.kwaku2@gmail.com Facebook || Kwaku Gyanteh

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The Burden & Boundaries of Truth: Whose Line Is It Anyway?

I went on a rant on Twitter recently [selfish plug: @kwakusnotamused ] about the current situation in Botswana and it wasn’t the first time. Truthfully it was only a few tweets not a rant. The word suggests a passionate tirade on a chosen topic but it was none of those adjectives but rather a short, almost resignful plea for the change in the state of affairs.

So many things have been happening right now, indulge me here if you’re in Botswana  and you know the details but just for context, let me briefly state it for anyone else who is not aware of the goings-on.

Firstly the leader of our chief spy agency Isaac Kgosi, has been found to be making questionable dealings with international companies an allegedly using people to front for these companies that have direct deals with said agency, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Agency. These shady dealings were somehow leaked to the press through a docket filed by the state prosecution.. It seemed someone was leaking the top corruption investigators, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime DCEC’s report before the case had been heard and that was where I became concerned. I am not a legal expert but my feeling is if you have evidence against a suspect being splashed across newspapers before it has been presented in court, this only serves to defeat the ends of justice.

Just like the Oscar Pistorius cases, a trial-by-media is already at play with every newspaper columnist not entirely versed in legal matters offering up their insight on how the case will end. A more helpful, if not, conclusive, column came from a certain writer who painted a picture of DCEC as a toothless dog tied to a tree, an arm too influenced by government officials and so, too inescapably bound by legal ties to effectively see its end and successfully bringing criminals to justice. It has been suggested, albeit proved, by WikiLeaks that the then Vice President and current leader of the republic, Seretse Khama Ian Khama had stepped in to interfere and stop corruption investigations into his twin brothers’ business at the time of his tenure a few years ago.

Charges of money laundering, having a standard of living disproportionate to his income, obtaining by false pretences by a public servant were brought against Kgosi. As the fates would have it, this time in the form of powers that be, took swift action to make sure the case would never see a day in court. As if the writer had seen the future in a crystal ball, deduced from previous evidence from cases of high-level production, no action has been taken so far to hold Mr Kgosi accountable. All these revelations were good and well for the public but for me, after weeks of seeing sensationalized headlines in various papers, it became slowly a noise that I wasn’t keen on listening to. That is where I feel the media fails; in a bid to awaken the wits of the general public who are “duped” in a way, it creates an adverse effect of pacifying the already meek Motswana giving the impression that this is normal procedure in government. Another issue is how this information is attained.

Media houses are within their “right” to give information to the public but when the circumstance of that information dissemination contravenes the set laws of the country then they too act in the same unscrupulous manner as the perpetrators of whichever crime that they are exposing. It is this same irony of clumsily riding the trapeze-esque line without a safety net that has media leaning more towards menace than hero. As is documented throughout history, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Our very own neighbors to the north, Zimbabwe, sought to empower the majority natives by redistributing land but that backfired resulting in international sanctions and embargoes that brought the economy to its knees. This snowball effect from a singular good natured intention ultimately plunged a nation, and its millions of citizens, into a bottomless pit of economic disparity.

Secondly the death of opposition member Gomolemo Motswaledi has had more drama around it than a single episode of a Telemundo telenovela. His death under suspicious circumstances just a few months before the general elections was a huge blow to his Union for Democratic Change (UDC), a splinter party of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) seemed to pick up steam. Coming at a time when his leader Duma Boko had revealed a hit list allegedly containing members of the opposition, it did more than raise the suspicion of ordinary citizens. Some branded Mr Boko and his compadres attention seekers at the suggestion of both government and the ruling party, seeing it as a desperate move by the UDC to woo voters and cause trouble, while others took it with the seriousness of an Ebola outbreak.

While it is up to the individual to make up his or her mind, it is the job of the media man to present the facts as is. Their job is to go further and analyze, interpret information and provide an accurate and logical summary of events that is fair, balanced and intelligible to the common man.

The problem also becomes more complex when said information is not provided freely to make these analyses. Is it not then the investigative journalist’s job to dig where he/she can to source such information?

Is it not then the employee’s job, an individual placed not only to serve the company but to be an extension of the public, to service the people and uphold the values of justice, fairness, honesty and productivity expressed in the constitution and said company’s mandate, to provide information covertly so, that would out corrupt practices in the workplace?

Is it not the right and responsibility of the ordinary citizen to be outraged and express this concern not only for the rot in the apparent democratic state but the lack of swift and rightful action by the representatives placed in parliament as well as the justice system?

Notwithstanding, a crusade, however righteous, should take care not to employ the same tactic of stepping over or even trampling the statutes of the law as it would set a bad precedent. It is imperative, especially in a democracy such as ours, to keep the powers-that-be in check by demanding accountability, however it should not be done in a manner that renders the law obsolete or compromises their operational structures.

These recent missteps by the media only gives the already irate government, dissatisfied with what it deemed as hypercritical journalism overstepping into its members’ boundaries, a reason to tighten the muzzle that is has or tries to place around the media. Politicians over the years have tried to pass bills that, if implemented, silence what they see as rabid terriers ready to tear them into pieces if left free. A regulated print media would mean every article will have to go through a government department for approval before printing and that is where we should draw the line.

While the issue of self-regulation is still a thorn on the government’s side, care should be taken by media houses to maintain some semblance of ethics that will lead to restoration of reporters’ status as tellers of truth as opposed to the warped view held by our representatives of reporters as perverse purveyors of words and phrases; peddling unproven facts and manipulating them how they see fit.

In Botswana filmmaker Moabi Mogorosi’s production Hot Chilli, a competition is set by the village chief to find a favorable suitor for his daughter. In that quest, men from far and wide are summoned challenging them to eat a bowl of hot chillie without gasping for air. The protagonist uses cunning to win the completion and in turn the princess hand in marriage. One by one they try and fail; some turning blue and fainting and some leaving before they even try. The “hero” wins with the power of words through a clever monologue narrating his attempt while taking breaths between each sip.

 Media’s autonomy should not be an excuse or fortress that they use to defer criticism while they misinform the public. The recent social media bill which was enacted to help in online harassment, stalking and defamation cases was not well received by the public. It too can turn into a tool that can be exploited and used for crunching down what any self-serving regulatory body will see as dissent, in turn, transforming the country into a police state like North Korea where political debates on blogs and social media are not encouraged to put it mildly.

If some of these bills are enacted, some of which are, then it begs the question; will journalists and the general public have to employ secret language and codes, much like the besieged intelligence agency, just to send messages and have debates about issues of national interest on public platforms? Will they, like the protagonist of Hot Chilli, have to acquire a skill of saying everything without saying anything just to get by?

It’s said that truth is like chocolate; a little gives pleasure, too much is lethal. Who has a right to speak their truth and what is the impact of that truth? Those are questions everyone should ask themselves whether its journalists, politicians or the ordinary citizen on social media.

The balance between national security and individual freedom is now at more risk than ever. The freedom to information may have overarching consequences on the judicial system though beneficial and also a basic civil liberty under the Human Rights Act. Over the past few weeks, I have heard impassionate pleas, in both dialogue and written form, arguing for both sides. As an ordinary citizen it is through and because of these liberties, afforded under a democratic system, that I am able to scrutinize the media and government without fear of favor and for this I am grateful. This is the system of government I want for my children.

It is through the guise and influential pedestal  of a position of power, be it a platform where opinion can be spread as far as God’s eye can see or an office where legislature can be rewritten, that the most harm can be done if intent not based on an impactful and just end is a source for all action. Therefore, it is up to us as citizens to judge, question and ascertain if whatever meal we are being served is nutritious and beneficial for our temples and beyond. As a majority we hold sway over what we regard as food for life.

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Righteous Riot [whores have better stories]

Manic magician hiding emotions as I go

A whore’s bed laid with roses (is) where I woke

Have you not seen how agile a demon’s legs will bend

To lure an angel to the fold?

There’s no rest for a righteous mind

Who is righteous if we all bleed?

I met a blind man by the wayside,

He said “I see pain in your heart and feel your sadness cutting deep

Bring me gold, bring me treasure:

My fee for the healing you seek

What is a gift I can’t exploit to eat?

He cured the sickness of the whores

And the penchant for the drink.

I stabbed and I robbed him of his life and his gold.

On a pillow I laid my head and slept like a babe

Days of the dark have disappeared

Days when I couldn’t sleep a wink.

Hallelujah! Praise the day.

        -Kwaku Gyanteh

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"When a woman says she loves you she’ll be all you need
When a woman says she loves you, it should be all you need
Been in the dark so long, its getting hard to see"

Seth Waler “In The Dark”

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A.T.I = Godly
photot credit unknown.

A.T.I = Godly

photot credit unknown.