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The cultural ambassador

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The cultural ambassador
Charity Keobokile

Promoting botswana’s culture

Two years ago, Charity Keobokile was crowned Botswana’s Cultural Ambassador at the All Nationals Cultural Festival in London.

The 32-year-old’s fierce pride for her roots, combined with her burning desire to promote the country and preserve its culture make her the perfect candidate for the role.

The Mahalapye native is also a much-loved presenter on Botswana Television’s popular cultural programme, ‘Sedibeng’.

The proud Motswana, who describes herself as ‘the best example of Botswana culture’, recently adopted Masa Primary School as their cultural mentor.

Insisting on conversing in deep Setswana, Keobokile sat down with The Voice’s Onneile Setlalekgosi this week to shed some light on her role as the country’s cultural ambassador.

Q. As a cultural ambassador, what exactly do you do?

A. My main duty is to market Botswana’s culture and make sure the films and documentaries displaying part of our culture are viable enough to sell the country outside.

Q. What criteria do you use to ensure this?

A. The aim is to promote culture. Cultural relevancy and authenticity are critical variables.

Q. You wear many hats, including TV personality, cultural ambassador, lecturer, wife and mother. How do you balance your time?

A. I am a lecturer at Limkokwing University, in Faculty of Communication and Media Broadcasting, as well as Sedibeng presenter.

I do this from the heart. Being a cultural ambassador is not too difficult. I grew up in Mahalapye, in a traditional set up, so culture is who I am! It is very easy to balance my time.

Q. Your cultural exchange duties involve touring abroad, what exactly do you do during these trips?

A. Yes, I have visited many countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, England and Zambia.

Sometimes I go with traditional troupes to explain to audiences the dances and where they originate.

The trips began in 2008 to Japan, Tokyo to showcase Botswana culture.

Thereafter, I got crowned Botswana Cultural Ambassador in 2015 in London at the All Nationals Cultural Festival.

Q. What inspired you to represent Tswana culture and what do you intend to achieve?

A. Inspiration had always been there; from a young age I was a traditional dancer.

I grew up in a less fortunate family in Mahalapye – culture was our family’s way of life.

Q. What lessons can Batswana learn from some of the nations you have visited?

A. I have realised that all nations are proud of their culture.

It has been said before that a nation without culture is a lost nation.

One lesson that I can share with many is to try and be easily identified by your culture all the time.

I am certain that our culture as Batswana can put the country on the map, more than anything else.

My aim is to also invite people from outside to our cultural festivals, to come view our culture and learn our way of life.

Q. The First President, Sir Seretse Khama, emphasised that Batswana should write their own history books. Have you written any books yourself?

A. I have written two books. The first one is called ‘Matute a Lorato’, which relates more to relationship challenges; the other one is called ‘Fa dilwa di gata marole’.

The books target married people, sensitising them to be more cautious as their conflicts can affect children as well. Both books are written in Setswana.

Q. Do you plan to write for children?

A. I passionately believe that children should know our culture, especially the mother tongue language.

I am currently writing bedtime story books. The informative books carry rich cultural language.

My dream is to develop the stories into cartoons as time unfolds.

Q. Do you feel the government is doing enough to promote Botswana culture?

A. Yes, the government is doing enough. The main challenge I noticed is that the private sector is not supportive enough.

For Botswana culture to be displayed well, it has to be done in groups. Like the dances, they are performed in groups.

So normally, when groups are invited outside the country, the cost becomes high as the flight charges individuals per ticket.

So I urge the private sector to support in growing the local arts through sponsoring different groups.

Q. How is Botswana culture perceived abroad?

A. Other nationals adore our culture so much. We should preserve it. It is displayed in many forms, like through attire, dance and music.

During my trips outside the country, I have realised that our traditional artistes are unique. Outside we are perceived as a country rich in cultural tourism.

Q. What’s your favourite traditional meal?

A. Traditional food is very healthy. I like Bogobe jwa lerotse and pounded beef (Seswaa).

Q. Do you think Batswana are proud of their culture?

A. I will say yes, they are proud of their culture.

Every ethnic group these days hosts their own cultural festival and they are fully attended.

A while back, Batswana were not proud of their culture, as they were not willing to pay traditional artistes during events.

These days Batswana appreciate culture and are willing to pay.

In the past, we used to dance at weddings for free – today, people are no longer complaining but willing to pay.

Q. What initiatives do you have in place for the youth?

A. I have founded a traditional group called Phate ya Setso. It is comprised of 45 members.

Through Limkokwing University and the Ministry of Education, about 12 managed to further their studies while others have been sent to a leather tannery company to get more experience as they are passionate about agricultural work.

Q. What really keeps you going?

A. Passion and God. I am a motivational speaker.

I always ask strength from God in everything I do.

Q. Apart from culture, what are you passionate about?

A. I am very passionate about education issues. I have a company called Student Care Consultancy, a non-profit making organisation, which aims at motivating and empowering both learners and graduates.

I usually go through the senior school syllabus, identifying topics that can be difficult for students and volunteer to teach them.

The Ministry of Education has long endorsed this project.

Q. What advice do you have for the arts industry in Botswana?

A. Talent is something that one can grow and earn a living out of.

Artistes should read and carry out more research to grow their talents – they should grow to inspire.

Q. Who do you consider to be a cultural icon locally?

A. There are many, I will mention a few: Professor Thapelo Otlogetswe – he is a Setswana language expert.

Local singers, Gong Master and Botoka Hunter Motsumi – I consider them cultural Icons.

I feel they are doing much in promoting Batswana culture.

Q. Are you the first to be nominated as Botswana Cultural Ambassador?

A. Yes, I am the first Motswana to be awarded the title. I wish I could have competed for the title with many. The competitions were held in London for a week and were open for all nationals. I happen to be the only Motswana who took part in the competition!

Q. Thank God it’s Friday. Where will you be this weekend?

A. I will be attending a wedding in Mahalapye with family.