The legendary story of Botswana’s Odysseus Kast
“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received — hatred. The great creators — the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors — stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won,” said Any Rand, in her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead; while Sir Winston Churchill circa 1939-1945, the Second World War uttered these profound words, “You will never get to the end of the journey if you stop to shy a stone at every dog that barks.”
See, all the above sentiments were expressed centuries ago, before many of us alive today were in existence but they best describe the arduous 1000km journey a young Motswana rapper by the name of Tshepiso ‘Kast’ Molapisi endured over 35 days from Maun to Gaborone in an effort to raise awareness for the local music industry, as well as drum up considerable support for his #TlatsaLebala initiative.
The 35-year-old married father of one, armed with nothing but his vision took it upon himself to brave all odds and embark on a 35-day journey of epic proportions. After a solid 35 days in the wild, away from the comfort of his home, wife, son and a hearty home-cooked meal, an illustrious Kast and his crew returned home this past Saturday, after withstanding a long journey, full of pain and adventures. Kast’s eyes would see all the strange albeit happy moments and would come home with more memories and experiences than any other person in Botswana.
Sitting an inch across the table from him, this Tuesday afternoon in between his hectic media interviews, looking deep into his piercing bloodshot eyes, all I could see was a genuine and stately figure who nobly did what he did, “not for the glare of publicity or media”, but somewhat for self-gratification.
“For me, this was never a PR (Public Relations) exercise. It was purely a show of strength and a true manifestation of what we can all do if we put our hearts and minds to all that we set out to do in life,” said a weary-looking Kast this Tuesday, two days after returning from his 1000km walk across the lengths and breadths of the vast country of Botswana.
But first, just how did this journey begin? The dream initiated last year, 2016, when Kast possibly inspired by South African rapper, Cassper Nyovest’s #FillUpTheStadium project brought the idea home, his wishes wanting to fill up the Botswana National stadium.
However, unlike Cassper Nyovest who managed to fill up the 20000 sitting capacity Johannesburg’s The Dome; as well as Orlando Stadium in Soweto with a whopping sitting capacity of 40000; for Kast the dream became somewhat of a difficult demand, as he failed to garner enough support from all stakeholders for his dream to materialize. Many people including even fellow musicians started casting aspersions and throwing heaps of shade towards Kast, the dreamer.
After a few loyal individuals had bought tickets to see Kast’s dream of filling up the national stadium coming alive, they were utterly disappointed when the organisers pulled the plug on the show during the day of the event, in what was blamed on bad weather though it later turned out that ticket sales had utterly been bad.
The struggle by Kast to raise awareness for local music saw his #TlatsaLebala initiative being postponed to a later date, with those that had already bought tickets promised a refund while others were advised to keep them until a suitable date was established.
Possibly not wanting to disappoint his fans and supporters alike, Kast did the unthinkable and announced on social media that he was going to go on a gruelling 1000km walk from Maun to Gaborone over a month in a quest to garner enough support for his dream to fill up the Botswana National stadium under the #TlatsaLebala banner.
Several putrid eggs were thrown in the face of the determined Mmadinare native, the first one emanating from fellow musicians who threw shade towards Kast’s one-man walk including the general social media trolls who went on a rampage wrecking unnecessary havoc over their social media accounts.
However, Kast armed with nothing but strong faith, the rapper with a career spanning over 15 years set out on a solo albeit consciousness-expanding journey which after a few days saw the general public rallying behind him until the corporate community followed suit. Just like vultures after spotting a rotten road kill, everyone started claiming to know and highly became associated with Kast. The level of hypocrisy intensified every week as the “Bantuka” hitmaker shortened his long walk to freeing Botswana music from the unyielding chains.
Quizzed about what he deems of people who were initially doubtful of him but later jumped on the profile-raising bandwagon, a calm and collected Kast said, “I’m not mad at anyone really. This journey was about showing people my true heart and the immeasurable love I have for Botswana music. What most people ignore is that haters are very little but they are very loud and passionate.”
In a typical walk a mile in my shoes fashion, Kast explained that every single step he took, day and night was well worth the pain.
“Doubt was never an issue for me and quitting was never an option. When the going got tougher, I took solace in the fact that it will all end soon. I walked throughout the pain and told myself, ‘just keep walking’. Initially, we would walk 35kms in 10 – 11 hours and ultimately we covered the same distance within a record six hours. At one point we even walked 40km in five hours,” noted Kast who admitted that the first 400km seemed to be the hardest due to the fact that he had to risk his life and that of his fellow hikers as they paced via the game reserve full of wild animals such as lions and elephants.
“I was never afraid. It was more spiritual than anything as each time we spotted a herd of elephants, we saw it more as a photo opportunity than anything else,” chuckled Kast adding that their day, together with his co-walker, Mokwena Marobela, popularly known as Young King (the tall lanky guy who was always seen with Kast in pictures) usually began at 0500hrs in the wee hours of the morning, and they’d walk most of the day until evenings, when they’d call it a day and set up a makeshift campsite.
“At this point, we’d be dog-tired! We survived on instant noodles or peanuts every day. At times we’d just drink water and hit the sack. It was really tough but we persevered. I had several muscle pulls and ankle pains. I changed my styles of walking several times. At times I’d just flounder, limp, lumber, lurch or stagger under great difficulty. You see, for me this was the hardest thing in my entire life and I don’t think I’d ever do it again,” said Kast his mind wandering back to the ambits of his 1000km experience.
His greatest surprise which ultimately turned into a surreal moment was meeting his family for the first time during the walk courtesy of a special arrangement by Botswana Fibre Networks (BoFiNet).
“It was unashamedly weird. I remember my wife saying to me I seemed strange. I couldn’t connect with them. You see, I was able to this brazen walk simply because I had locked my mind away from the realities of the world. I remember even after I had completed the walk I still have dreams of me walking. It’s actually bizarre.”
While a few continue to cast aspersions arguing that the rapper could not have walked the entire 1000km, an enthusiastic Kast said he would not want to waste his energies on the naysayers adding that he probably walked more than what he had bargained for.
“We actually walked more. You see, we did routes which were not on the initial 1000km course such as Selibe-Phikwe, Mmadinare and Tonota. This backbreaking journey had so many amazing moments; the strangers who joined us along the way, the random police escorts, the actions, words, the landscapes was all worth it. I vividly remember after Nata-Gweta where we saw water everywhere and at some point walking with some village chief in the rain.”
Despite the long audacious expedition, there were also fond memories for the #TlatsaLebala originator.
“I freshly remember the four women in Makalamabedi who overpoweringly prayed for me and my crew. An old lady in Tonota who grabbed my hand and squeezed a crumpled P10 note into my unsuspecting hand. There was also a young boy in Tonota who gave me a P1 coin. All these were fantastic blessings for me and shall forever remain etched in my mind as long I live.”
He said the journey amassed so much publicity for his #TlatsaLebala project as everywhere they walked, someone will stop them, take a picture and post it on social media.
“I simply walked the talk. I wore my heart on my sleeve and became a lone fighter for the Botswana music industry. I was simply trying to get Batswana to recognise that it’s all about ‘we’ instead of the popular ‘I’. I’m happy that during this walk I was able to reach out to people who never knew me or even my music but are now committed to supporting me further.”
So what’s next for the legendary Botswana trekker?
“The plan for May 6th is to have an all local line-up, simply the best of the best, as well as new acts. The aim is to do an out of this world type of world-class production featuring strictly local acts. Right now we are focused on keeping the fire ablaze as well as selling tickets in advance and doing all-inclusive activations prior to the main event on May 6th at the national stadium. This event is about Batswana recognising their strengths and that we are just as capable as other nations.”