Currently trending right now is news that a national project aptly tagged Botswana on Broadway led by the I Love Botswana ensemble is busy gearing up to perform on a Broadway stage in Times Square New York, USA this month (August 22 – 23). Co-created and produced by Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) as well as Mophato Dance Theatre under the direction of Andrew Letso Kola for the International Tourism Bourse (ITB) Berlin 2017 in Germany, and Botswana being the first sub-Saharan country to partner with ITB – the largest travel show in the world – the I Love Botswana ensemble is a collaborative assortment of 7 groups.
These are Nare Tsa Pina, Khudu Thamaga, Mophato Dance Theatre, Ntirelang Berman, Skit beat, Tsoga Africa and Bana ba Kwena. The vision of the group is to cultivate cultural tourism in Botswana as well as give artists international exposure thus offering young Batswana an equal advantage of opportunity to succeed through this platform.
The ensemble’s patron Thea Khama, married into Bamangwato royalty to Minister of Tourism, Tshekedi Khama plays an instrumental role in guiding the growth, sustainability and global positioning of the ensemble. “Be a part of our dream for a kinder world, for the dreamers are those who bring consciousness to light,” said Khama. The I Love Botswana ensemble Artistic Director, Andrew Letso Kola who was introduced to dance in the late 1990s aged 12 is as passionate about his craft as he is about Botswana, his Mother Land.
“My love and passion for contemporary dance was long cultivated as far back as the era of Mogwana Traditional Dance Group as well as the log workshops of Botswana Music Camp courtesy of David Slater. I’ve been blessed to receive training of contemporary dance from choreographers as far as France, South Africa, Zimbabwe, England and Senegal to mention a few. In 2012, I won an award for best choreographed dance piece at the Dance Umbrella festival in Johannesburg under the Stepping Stones program, which ultimately led to the peak of my career as a choreographer and Artistic Director,” an excited Kola said ahead of his Botswana on Broadway debut.
He could not hide his excitement this week when he shared that an ensemble he steers and directs is busy preparing to perform their new production, Pula on a Broadway stage in Times Square New York. Pula, or rain, is highly cherished in Botswana, a semi-arid country in Africa and this fictional play – anchored on the practical and mystical relationship that Batswana have with rain – traces how rain brings humans, plants and animals under one Botswana sky.
“Because of this close relationship with rain, Batswana have always had endless names for rain depending on whether the rain is creating or destroying, whether it is before or after the plating of crops. And so, when drought hits one tiny village in Botswana, the chief assembles his villagers to find a solution. One young woman, Mmapula is identified as the Rainmaker who must set forth in adventurous search of a specific type of life-giving rain for her people,” said Kola about his latest production earmarked to take Broadway by storm.
His said Pula, which is profoundly a spell-binding musical from Botswana chronicles a rainmaker’s quest to regain her powers as her physical and spiritual rite of passage takes her to the inland delta and savannas of their homeland whereupon she consults tribespeople, animal and plant communities for wisdom.
“In this community, where life is lived in communion with all living beings, the Rainmaker – through traditional song and dance – unites all creation toward the goal of bringing rain to her desert land. The result is an exhilarating celebration of all life, with a powerful, heart-warming twist.”
Just recently, Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), the co-creators of I Love Botswana ensemble embarked on an inspired nationwide tour aimed at sensitizing Batswana and citizens about the historic Botswana on Broadway debut tour. The tour which began in Maun before invading Kasane, Francistown and Palapye also gave locally-based traditional music groups the coveted platform to shine – a quest strongly upheld by BTO in furthering the diversification awareness of Botswana’s tourism product to complement the existing messaging of wildlife tourism.
Some of the groups that performed during the Botswana on Broadway national tour included Masalela-A-Bodimo in Maun, Meribo in Kasane, Bana-Ba-Bana-Ba-Ntongwa in Francistown amongst others. The I Love Botswana ensemble’s historic feature in the biggest theatrical circuit in the world comes after they staged two of their biggest breaks when they performed at the 2017 Battery Dance Festival in New York and the 2017 ITB Berlin in Germany – where Botswana was the Official Partner Country, and described by Messe Berlin as ’Africa’s best-kept secret’.
Together with their sponsor BTO, the 46 member troupe saw it fit to sensitize the public about Botswana on Broadway project and in the process encourage those who aspire to achieve their dreams that everything in the world is possible as long as one puts his heart and mind to it. Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) Public Relations Officer, Samuel Lephalo who was manning the nationwide Botswana on Broadway tour said as an organisation mandated to facilitate tourism business in the country they saw it fit to keep diversifying the tourism product to keep up with the changing times and also to lure more and new business prospects.
“The arts and culture sector represent an important role in Botswana as it contributes significantly to social development especially among the youth and sustainable development as far as diversifying the Botswana economy from its dependence on other sectors. The current stimulation of arts and culture activities by various communities in Botswana is a welcome development. It is for this reason that BTO becomes part of this drive, where our emphasis is to ensure we play a meaningful facilitative role,” he said.