They say experience is the best teacher. Tlhalefang Charles a renowned photographer and travel writer has been inspired by his love for travel to write a book about his experiences.
The 35-year-old Serowe born has traveled throughout Botswana and extensively through Africa.
He has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania up to the Uhuru Peak 5895m – the highest point in Africa.
Charles was also part of the National Geographic Expeditions in the Okavango and Angola exploring the headwaters of the Okavango river basin.
He decided to put all the pictures he captured while exploring Botswana into use.
On the 24th of this month he will be launching his new book titled Botswana’s Top 50 Ultimate Experiences.
Our Reporter Portia Ngwako Mlilo had a chat with Charles about his new book.
Q. Botswana’s top 50 ultimate experiences, does the title have anything to do with Bot 50?
A. Of course part of it is about Botswana’s 50 years of independence.
It is aimed at celebrating Botswana’s 50th year Independence anniversary, and leaves a lasting legacy of BOT50.
The book is a coffee-table guide for travelers.
It is meant to market tourist/travel experiences in Botswana, to promote local tourism industry.
A photographic exhibition of material I collected over a period of 10 years as a photographer.
Q. What inspired you to write the book?
A. We are the only people who can write stories about us as Batswana, not a foreign tourist who visits the country and stays for some days.
I think this is the first book where a travel guide is written by a local and has more experience about Botswana.
Journalists should write books when they have an opportunity to travel and access other areas because of their profession.
You will hear people saying they have been in the industry for like 30 years and they do not have any publication to show for it.
Q. You’ve embarked on an expedition in the Okavango River with the Okavango Wilderness project.
How useful was the trip for the book?
A. This year was the second crossing and it was themed on Botswana’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.
We traveled with musicians and poets trying to get them to experience the delta so that they can create artworks inspired by their travel.
All along it was photographed mostly by foreign tourists and they wrote articles about their experience.
So we wanted the locals to do the same.
It was one of my best highlights, I really cherished the moment.
Q. What is your target audience?
A. It is mostly people who like traveling and those who are in the tourism industry like hotels, game parks and culture.
This is Botswana’s ultimate bucket list.
The book is divided into four main sections namely, Sights, Activities, Food and Events.
It is for everyone who is interested on Botswana from her wildlife, arts & culture, natural wonders, man-made landmarks, beliefs and people’s way of life.
Q. What impact do you think the book will have?
A. It will make people see things differently and be motivated especially hose who are in the tourism industry and those aspiring to be.
It will also encourage Batswana to travel and explore their own country.
Photographers will also be encouraged to venture into travel and tourism market which is dominated by foreigners.
Q. Where was the book published?
A. The book is published by the Mmegi Publishing House.
It is all local, the book written and pictures taken by Motswana, designed by Motswana and printed in Botswana.
This is a product that is 100% local. I am very proud of the effort all these people have put in printing and it is of good quality.
It will be sold at P320.
Q. What advice can you give to aspiring writers?
A. I will advise them to buy books and read a lot.
Know what is happening around you and the world. That is how you get to improve your writing and be able to play around with words.
Q. From your travel experience, what makes Botswana different from other countries?
A. Our country is unique. There is only one Botswana.
People are thinking we are just a dry desert country but there is more about us.
That is why I wrote this book so that people can know my country better.
Q. You are known to be a professional photographer, when did you develop interest in writing.
A. When I joined Mmegi 10 years back I had Bachelor of Commerce Business Management but I wanted to experience the newsroom because it is my passion.
Growing up I have always wanted to be a journalist.
I was mostly on the commercial side of the paper and eventually got into editorial department, got stuck and decided to go into photography.
I started investing in my own equipment and I developed more interest and wanted to do more.
Q. You wrote a letter to the late Sir Seretse Khama. What was the motive behind it?
A. That was not new.
Former Mmegi editor Titus Mbuya used to write letters in every end of year edition.
It is like trying to update the nation but playing with words.
It is a reflection of developments from the Seretse days to the current Botswana.
Q. What are some of challenges you faced as a photographer?
A. What I find lacking in news photography is that people do not understand our job and they do not know that we are history makers.
Right now our president does not have an official photographer and it is not right.
In the United States of America every president comes with a official photographer who captures everything that the president is doing and records every moment and there will be a gallery for that.
Our president likes visiting rural areas and shaking people’s hands.
Imagine if there was someone capturing every hand shake, all those bonfires and blankets donations.
People will be cherishing those moments. Locally, we do not value photography as a profession.
Imagine getting a call being invited to a party and the organiser just says ‘bring your camera’.
You will be taking pictures only to be paid with a plate of food.
Q. What other interests do you have apart from travel, photography and writing?
A. I love arts, from poetry to performing arts. I am a guitarist. My favourate local artist is Stika Sola.
I also like gadgets; I wish I had money to buy them.
Q. Now, let’s get personal, you once posted a picture wearing a ring.
Are you engaged?
A. That picture had a story to tell. It was one of my favourite ‘Letter to Stags’ about my wedding ring.
I am not engaged. When you get home in Serowe every year during the festive holiday you will be asked ‘when are you getting married’ and I was tired of that question.
Nnywee nnywee o nyala leng, how about kids.
Q. Any woman in your life?
A. (laughing) there is a lot of women in my life, my mother and my sisters.
On a serious note I am currently single and I do not even think of marriage.
You need to have a proper relationship first before thinking of marriage.
May be someone will read this article and ask for my dials.
Q. Thank God it’s Friday. What are your plans for the weekend?
A. I will be preparing for the book launch, I will be just home.
There is going to be a lot of traveling when the book is out.