Kgolo gets Hollywood-style, red carpet premiere at South African State Theatre

Kgolo (a Setswana word meaning “Growth”) – a light-hearted drama represented in the mould of satire and featuring Botswana’s leading folk musician and performer, Musical Director and Choreographer, Ntirelang Berman premiered recently (Friday 6th October) to a full house at the South African State Theatre in Pretoria, South Africa making a smiling producer and co-creator, Karabo Kgokong to express his gratitude for the reaction in South Africa to “Kgolo”.  

Botswana’s leading folk musician and performer, Ntirelang Berman is the Musical Director and Choreographer in KGOLO – Tlola Pitsa.

“It’s a really emotional and extremely profound outpouring of support and appreciation for Kgolo- Tlola Pitsa,” said producer and co-creator, Karabo Kgokong at the premiere for Kgolo at Arena Theatre, which is being praised in initial reviews for its searing intensity.

KGOLO, stares deep into the darkest taboos, theories, faith and conviction of the Batswana people that seeks to reduce the severity in which these views have been espoused.

Kgokong seemed moved as he tried to sum up his feelings. “I really just want to embrace every person in the Arena Theatre right now.”

A scene from KGOLO.

An estimated 500 people poured into the Arena Theatre when KGOLO premiered recently for an evening that rivalled any cinematic event Tshwane has seen for decades. And many left praising the drama’s powerful account of the Batswana people as it stares deep into the darkest taboos, theories, faith and conviction and seeks to reduce the severity in which these views have been espoused.

Ntirelang Berman leading the KGOLO cast.

Quite riveting about this musical play is the fact that the tradition and culture of one clan (Batswana) are played in the biting humorous way without undermining nor offending the other, while delicate issues are treated with so much breeziness.


Besides Kgokong, the starry guest list to the red carpet musical play included the drama’s  large ensemble cast , including Botswana’s leading folk musician and performer, Ntirelang Berman, who plays different instruments  like the guitar, segaba, setinkane, drums, percussions including the harmonica and Seputla Sebogodi as Kgosi – ‘Kgolo’ is the 66th stage production under his belt.

Ntirelang Berman

There’s also Peter Mashigo as Baruni – a versatile performer and product of township theatre under the tutelage of the late Gibson Kente, Ontiretse Manyetsa as Oganne, Gaolatlhe Mathenyane as Uncle Sups, Madge Kola as Makukama, Segomotso Modise as Mokwepa and Baswabile Ntaje – a drop-dead gorgeous beauty who played the role of Sengaparile, and truly shined throughout the entire production.

Peter Mashigo as Baruni and Madge Kola as Makukama.

Other dramatis personae include Bonolo Tlaletse as Lepang, Lunga Khuma as Thupa, Gaoimelwe Mokgakala as Elsie, Tshireletso Moreo, Nomhle Pambani, Thabang Maseng, Ntokozo Mlhaba, Zamile Ntsonda, Lebogang Mokaila and Kabelo Kamolane, who all excelled in the drama as chorus and dancers, while Kebafeletse Maotwanyane, Samuel Gape and Lemogang Moagi outperformed as the band and proudly Batswana too.

Baswabile Ntaje as Sengaparile is a talented young woman born and raised in Mahikeng.

It was a night to celebrate the Botswana culture and norms. But it was also a red-carpet opportunity to showcase the past and present Setswana cultural ideals.

According to ‘Kgolo’ co-creator, writer and director, Martin Koboekae, “It is such a great feeling to present a stage play in one of the so-called minor languages. It is a significant step towards debunking the myth that shows presented in vernacular languages are a waste of time. Setswana is one of the first indigenous languages to acquire written form and as such deserves to occupy centre stage in all platforms, be it culture, literature, dance, music etc.”

Tempers flared as Makukama and Elsie wanted to exchange blows after a misunderstanding.

As an acclaimed writer and director who has been writing for two decades, Koboekae straddles all writing lanes and has many feathers in his cap.

He’s a novelist and writes for stage, radio and TV and his stage work includes ‘The Musical Location 1973’, ‘BIKO: Where the Soul Resides’, ‘Cats and Dogs’, ‘Bush Tale’, ‘Third Coming’, ‘The Dream’, ‘Stockings and Stilettos’, ‘Horror Scope’, and ‘Things Men do’. Koboekae is also a creator and head writer for the award winning SABC 2 Setswana sitcom, ‘Ga Re Dumele’.

“Kgolo (Tlola Pitsa) is the first play to perform professionally for a full season in theatre way back in 2010, at the Windybrow Theatre, although some playhouses have pretended not to be aware of this. The South African State Theatre, although belated, is taking the battle forward by co-producing this Setswana musical with Lentswe Arts Projects and Utlwanang Theatre,” said Koboekae adding that over the years, it has been encouraging to see playwrights like Moagi Modise upping the ante by producing ground-breaking plays written in Setswana.

“However, more can be done to support such efforts .It just needs a progressive theatre manager who can avail resources, support and space to complement the efforts of playwrights  who  have not forsaken their language,” Koboekae said.

For his part, producer and co-creator of Kgolo (Tlola Pitsa) said the musical play is all about bringing the Setswana language and Batswana culture to the frontage. Kgokong, who is originally from Mahikeng in the North West Province of South Africa is the co-founder and director for Lentswe Arts Projects, having started out as an actor himself, and being associated with many award winning shows. Thus becoming a theatre producer with an eye for quality productions.

‘Kgolo’ (Tlola Pitsa) – a Setswana musical play opened on Friday 6th October at the Arena Theatre and will run until 29th October 2017 at the South African State Theatre, Pretoria in Association with Lentswe Arts Projects and Utlwanang Theatre.


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