In the midst of one of the world’s most turbulent years, it comes as no surprise that, more than ever, we are witnessing youth creatives reinvent the wheel and fight to implement change . Looking to the past and curating their futures, a new age of inspiring innovators are playing a central role in creating lasting change in their communities.
2020 marked the rise and reinvention of the Motswana artivist, with many young creatives using their platforms to speak out against and challenge some of the country’s more problematic and harmful narratives. Traditionally, Botswana is a modest nation with much of the population reluctant to ever go against the grain, but last year seemed to spark a new youth movement spearheaded by musicians, bloggers, skaters and models.
Young people coming together in joint action have served as a major engine of social transformation throughout history, and the present day is no exception. At key moments, younger generations have repeatedly acted to overthrow and dismantle systems of oppression, subordination and injustice.
Today, youth-led collectives in Botswana are proving decisive in shifting old paradigms and fostering a bold, free- spirited thinking mindset. From fighting against the country’s concerning rape statistics, to protecting and expanding the rights of the LGBTQI+ community, to demanding justice, young Batswana are finally at the forefront of their nation’s possibilities for change.
Nature Inger, model, activist and founder of the #everythreehours movement, is vocal in her conviction that to truly dismantle Botswana’s disturbing rape culture, we need to look at ourselves as a community. “There is almost no true feminism in Botswana,”said Inger, “Most, if not all of us are elitist without realising it, and every organisation or group that deals with issues of girl and woman empowerment is targeted toward raising and creating a very specific type of girl. And so, it completely leaves out another type of girl and not only that, it encourages people, and especially men to only give respect to a certain type of woman.”
Living as a womxn in Botswana unfortunately also means living under the constant threat of sexual violence and the most pronounced silence against these heinous acts is from the biggest perpetrators: men. Nature took to her social media to ignite conversation and encourage Batswana to confront the shocking national crisis, bringing to light the alarming statistics: that in Botswana a woman was raped every three hours in December 2019, with police recording a disturbing 133 rape cases as compared to 110 cases registered the same period the year before.
Brilliant Kodie refuses to be categorised as a one-dimensional creative and continues to defy the industry’s many -isms by digitising a queer perspective of Botswana through storytelling and photography. Two years ago he launched Setabane, an online portal aimed at disseminating and archiving the stories of Botswana’s LGBTQI+ youth community. ‘Setabane’, which is a derogatory word used to describe a queer person in Setswana (one of the native languages in Botswana), has sparked many conversations around the everyday experiences of sexuality in Botswana and the personal performative strategies of resistance by young people.
The internet remains the most iconic and forward-thinking invention ever. One of those creations so fundamental it’s hard to imagine life without it. “Because of Social Media, the world is now fully aware of the homophobia that lives in West Africa”, said Kodie.” Something I am happy to see happening. This has enabled us to raise awareness easily, something we were never really assured of from traditional media. With social media too, we are able to hold traditional media accountable, something I see happening on Twitter frequently.”
At a time when everyone seems to be reaching for their 15 minutes of fame, social media is not just a fascinating loophole in the laws of fame. It also provides a strange sort of reassurance – that young voices can make themselves heard – and there they are, right there in front of you. Throughout his career, beloved musician ATI has spoken publicly about the lack of youth representation and support from the government. In 2020 he took to social media pages to speak up against the economic disparity and racism faced by native Batswana and even faced jail time.
Though the Knucklehds skate collective is not as vocal about their style of activism, they continue to champion free speech and promote an alternative sport culture in Botswana through sport, fashion and music. The collective is currently working towards building a skating rink in the city and has challenged the government to show its support to the skate fraternity. As the world finally warms up to skateboarding being recognized as an Olympic sport, The Knucklehds wish to dismantle the notion that skating in Botswana is a western hobby reserved for bored upper class teens. Knucklehds Founder, Mosako Chakalisa said, “The Botswana skate scene has been under the radar for almost 10 years now and through the Knuckleheads we set out to create visibility for the alternative sport through photography and video. Content featuring Batswana skateboarders such as Kagiso Leburu, Kaone Ntshole and Brandon Majaha has garnered the local skate scene recognition from brands such as Vans. Our next step is to erect the first concrete skate park in Gaborone and hopefully inspire more kids throughout the nation to pursue their passion for skateboarding.”
“I believe it is important for artists to use their reach and works to shed light on prevalent social matters when possible. There’s a level of vulnerability between artists and their consumers that makes getting messages across easier, more authentic and because of this people tend to adopt that mission as their own,” shared Gioia. “I can’t speak to how artists choose to execute this, but I can say that if you have the chance to cause a positive change in your community, do so. We’re fortunate to be in the era where African creatives are taking charge across several fields and this seems to me to be the best time for us to take charge of the narratives we need and want the world to see about us.”
Zinedine’s story has revealed how Botswana institutions fail victims of sexual violence, of which she said,”it’s evident how our justice systems are and have been failing us, which further drives the importance of taking matters of social justice into our own hands. As John Butler so rightfully said. ‘Art changes people, people change the world”
Creative Direction, Styling & Words Tanlume
Photography by Mosako Chalashika
Make Up by Ole
Editorial for Nataal Media