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A dramatic change

Tshupo Matontshe
Connie Rapoo

Lecturer swaps English for theatre

Connie Rapoo was once an English lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB) but has since changed lanes to become the country’s first homegrown Associate Professor of Theatre Arts.

She is also the first female to assume the role.

Growing up as a bubbly child in Tlokweng, Rapoo developed a fondness for the arts and intuitively knew it was where she belonged.

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During her school days she performed dismally in Sciences and Mathematics but excelled at English.

“I started [at UB] as a Staff Development Fellow in August, 1997. I was in the English Department at that time. As an SDF, you teach one course at the university before you go for your Masters programme,” Rapoo revealed, adding she was engaged in the department’s Linguistics section.

The following year, Rapoo left for chillier climates, enrolling for a Masters in Language Studies at Lancaster University, United Kingdom. Her lectureship continued when she returned to Botswana, teaching in the English department from 1998 to 2003.

However, she felt ‘thoroughly misplaced’.

“I felt like ‘No, I’m not a linguist.’ I loved Pragmatics, I loved Discourse Analysis but it wasn’t me. So I applied for a sectional transfer to Theatre.

When I went to do my PhDat the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) it was in Theatre. I was able to get in because my transcripts had courses in Theatre and Drama.

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So at PhD level, that’s when I knew I was a Theatre person. That’s when I decided TO specialisE in Theatre: I love this, I want this, I’m getting this!”

And indeed she did.

Rapoo’s thesis was titled‘Figures of Sacrifice: Africa In Transnational Imaginary’ and took five years to complete, from 2003 to 2008.

To become an Associate Professor at UB, a prerequisite is to have 8 to 12 papers published in renowned journals in the continent.

“You need to have a spread of publications. I didn’t want to take any chance so when I got in, I had 13. You have to have a mixture of journal articles, book chapters, books and any other forms of writing,” Rapoo explained, noting on top of the articles she has five book chapters and two books.

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“More emphasis lies on the journal articles because they contain the latest discoveries in one’s field,” she added.

Rapoo admits that although it is rewarding, her profession is also demanding and at times lonely. “One has to carry work home and make regular trips abroadto international conferences alone.”

Despite this, the multi-talented woman has high hopes of rising even further up the career ladder.

“ I definitely want to get promoted.

So I have to be writing more papers so that I get promotion to become a full professor.

But I am not under as much pressure as I was before I reached the rank of Associate Professor.

I intend to look in this direction now of writing more plays because I am a playwright as well.”

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