On September 30th, Botswana will be celebrating 50 years of independence with a show at the National Stadium in Gaborone. Open auditions have been held across the country and I went behind the scenes to talk to some of the talent on display.
Last Saturday, after touring Francistown, Maun, Kasane, Ghanzi, Serowe, Molepolole and Kanye, the talent scouts came to the centre of Gaborone. Tswana legend and DJ Dollar Mac was in charge of hosting the accompanying TV show along with local celeb Gaona.
Hip-hop dancers, traditional dancers, choirs, actors and more dancers had been queuing since early in the morning. I talked to them about why they were there and how they were going to wow the judges.
Gaona, TV host
What’s happening? This is a talent search for the the independence celebrations. There are eight destinations in total. It will be held at the National Stadium and will be on Botswana TV.
What have been the highlights? My favourite audition was probably the older women who wore skirts made from peacock feathers. It showed the variety and that older people were representing. One of them was about 8- years old. They moved just a little and their skirts flared.
And what about you? I’ve been working in TV for the last five years and in radio for nine years. You can catch me at GaonaLive on YouTube.
Tumie, stylist for the show
What’s your inspiration behind the styling? We tried to keep it as local as possible. So lots of blue for the Botswana national flag. But I also wanted to include some current trends. Olive is what’s happening right now so for Dollar Mac’s look we put him in an olive t-shirt with the sleeves turned up so you can see blue.
For Gaona’s look, I thought we’re in the capital city, let’s have her in a blue power suit and represent.
How are you feeling? It’s great to be here today. We are very happy to be here. We are very prepared. We’ve been practicing since Monday – about two hours a day.
What’s your talent and why are you here? I’ve been dancing for three years. I’m a student doing a BA in motion pictures. And I’m from Gabs. I heard about it on Facebook.
What are you going to dance to? I’m going to dance to Bitch Better Have my Money by Rihanna. I’m not nervous – I’ve done this kind of thing before.
What are you doing for Independence celebrations? It depends, invite family and friends over? It’s an important time for family and friends.
Wabo and Lesh
What are you going to do in the audition?
Lesh: I haven’t been practicing. I am going to do the performance I did at the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). I’m not sure if I’m going to do it in heels or not. Today it’s just to see if I have talent. I’m dancing to Kygo and FKA Twigs.
I’m doing a little bit of contemporary dance and hip-hop. I call it message dancing.
Wabo: I’m doing a little bit of contemporary dance and hip-hop. I call it message dancing.
What’s your message?
Wabo: You can’t come with a shadow. You have to come with light.
How are you feeling today?
Lesh: It doesn’t happen often getting jobs like this – you can see the line. I want to be a professional dancer.
What’s the dance scene like?
Lesh: They prefer traditional dance – stuff that’s for sale, tourist stuff, rather than anything that requires training.
Wabo: They are afraid of anything new. They will invest in training catering staff rather than dancers.
Lesh: If you don’t have traditional dance in your piece, they won’t allow it. They don’t sponsor ballet, hip hop or contemporary dance. We do dancing outside of Botswana. In South Africa you can get sponsors.
Wabo: But the best thing would be to stay in Botswana and do the kind of dancing we want to do. And train people. We’re going to end up being 50 years old and watching young people dance and say that we participated in the struggle.
Thuso, 22, actor, DJ and camera man
Why are you here? I’m 22 years old and I’m an actor, DJ and camera man. I’m gong to act in the audition.
What are you going to act? It’s so emotional what I’m going to do. It involves anger.
What are you angry about? I’ll be addressing a situation which makes me angry. My family. My brother has been admitted to hospital on life support. My mother is dating another guy who has kidney failure. She switched off the life support to give the kidney to her boyfriend. My aunt told me the truth. I tell my mother that I want my brother back otherwise I am going to kill them both.
I do lots of acting. I fit anywhere. I do comedy. I am signed by an agency who manage me. The industry in Botswana isn’t that interesting. You have to chase to get paid.
Godiraone, 20, model
What are you doing here? I am 20 and I am a model. I am acting.
What are you going to act? I go from happiness to sadness in two minutes. I call my friend and I go from happiness to sadness. She has told me that our other friend is late.
Her friend Aobakwe is here for moral support: I saw her talent when she was in a beauty pageant. I always encourage her to build a career.
Ethel, 22, actor and fashion designer
What are you doing? I’m going to do a five minute monologue. Someone owes me money and then I shoot them. The person went on vacation instead of paying me! I am angry, persistent and agitated. There’s a point when I laugh. Are you serious that you don’t have my money?!
What do you do when you’re not at auditions? I am an actress. I am going to be in a series called The Will. We’re still shooting. It’s about a rich man who passes away and his family fight for his money. He has remarried and the children are against her. I am Nancy, the girlfriend of his second son.
I’m also a fashion designer and I design dresses and suits.
What do you think about today? It’s a great initiative and it showcases Botswana’s talent.
Natasha, 19, zumba instructor
What are you going to do? I am going to dance and pretend I am alone in my room and dance like I always do when I’m in front of the mirror.
What are you dancing to? I am dancing to Soca which is from Trinidad and Tobago.
What’s the dance scene like in Botswana? In Botswana we have a variety of dance. It makes us unique… hip hop, traditional, kwaito. Not everyone confines themselves to traditional dance.
Larona, 21, IT student and member of the Psycho Freakers Dance Crew
What are you guys performing? We’ve been preparing choreography to hip hop and r’n’b and pop and rock.
We’ll be dancing to Nasty C (he’s an up and coming artist from South Africa), Chris Brown and Firestone by Kygo.
Who are the Psycho Freakers Dance Crew? There are seven dancers in the Psycho Freakers Crew. We have two learners. When numbers increase, opportunities decrease. So we have learners rather than members. We’re students, and we rehearse on Saturdays and days when we’re let off school.
We are based in Mlepone. We have won prizes. The Drop Hip Hop Dance League – we won a trophy, certificates, and some money. Last year we performed at an international arts event at the US embassy. It wasn’t even a hip hop event, it was jazz but they were still interested in our art.
I was in the room when Psycho Freakers got picked to go through. Auditions finished late into the night. Now rehearsals begin.
‘Everyone that goes through will have a vigorous training and perform at our independence celebrations at the National Stadium,’ said Dollar Mac. ‘I’m looking forward to the magic that’s going to happen on September 30.’
Keep up to date at fb.com/bot50