Another look at Domboshaba Cultural Festival and Bakalanga heritage (Part II)

Updated: September 27, 2013

by Bawumbe wa Chiwidi, Sunday Standard

This article provides further discussion on the Domboshaba Cultural Festival and Bakalanga heritage. Admittedly, this discussion appears to have angered some people, particularly those who do not subscribe to open dialogue, criticism and alternative views on how we need to organize, manage and develop the diverse heritage of Bukalanga.

I have read the rebuttal article authored by one Kangangwani Phatshwane in which he tried to address pertinent issues regarding Domboshaba festival covered in the article I put forward about 3 weeks ago. The views expressed by his rejoinder article on Domboshaba Cultural Trust’s (DCT) poor event, organisation and management skills evident in the last festival are not convincing at all. To set the record straight, the views expressed in the article entitled ‘Another look at Domboshaba Festival and Bakalanga Heritage’ are consistent with those forwarded by many youth in various Bakalanga social network groups that discuss and share Bakalanga history, culture, language and other issues.

Lamentations and utter disappointment among some youth expressed in these social networks and concerns of the majority of Bakalanga elders (as mentioned in the introductory article) provides motivation to continue this discussion. As an optimistic and patriotic Nkalanga, I am not going to fold my arms and wish for the best from Domboshaba Cultural Trust or any organisation that shows signs of derailment in the holistic pursuit to promote, develop and preserve our cultural heritage. Like the majority of the youth who are unshaken in their conviction that the Trust is not doing certain things right, I remain untainted by Kangangwani Phatshwane’s sarcastic personal response. I consider his views personal as his rejoinder article fails or omits any relationship he has with Domboshaba Cultural Trust. I hope that such omission is intentional and does not reflect personalization of the Trust to such an extent that he no longer sees the difference between himself and the DCT. As such, I will continue to critique and condemn, where necessary, unpopular decisions and approaches consistent in the organisation and management of Domboshaba festival. Alternative views regarding how Bakalanga heritage should be managed need to be taken seriously.

My substitute views of Domboshaba festival should not be regarded as a total dismissal of those who are organizing the event only. Instead, it reflects that I recognize the invaluable input made by all those who have been instrumental in the development of the Domboshaba festival from its infantry to where it stands today. I have no doubt that it is by far one of the largest cultural festivals conducted in Botswana. I appreciate that this festival stands out to show the need to promote and pride ourselves with our unique cultural heritage as different ethnic groups making up this nation.

If this festival was not at this advanced stage of development, I would not waste my precious time providing insights and advice on what needs to be done to achieve better results. Kangangwani Phatshwane and all those who found part 1 of these articles too negative and inconsiderate should subscribe to the views offered by Kabajan Sam Kaunda’s article titled Criticism and Opposition : critical premises for progress – Part 1, which was published in the Sunday Standard newspaper of August 18 -24, 2013.

Kaunda’s article stands out to support my view that the diversity of the Bakalanga heritage (as opined in my last article) warrants an opportunity for alternative ways of doing things. I am duty bound to remind those who shudder at the slightest mention of their inadequacies that questioning, dismissal or providing dissident opinion should not allow them to believe that such criticism is aimed at destroying them. Members of Domboshaba Cultural Trust should open up to all sorts of criticism, irrespective of whether it is constructive, destructive or instructive in nature. As leaders in the organisation of a cultural festival in which Bakalanga wish to showcase and appreciate their cultural heritage, they should learn to develop a thick skin that tolerates criticism. By eliminating their obvious phobia of being criticized openly and being emotional about how much effort they put in volunteering for the festival, they can certainly register progress and yield better results.

In the last article, I raised concern over lack of development at the Domboshaba cultural grounds and mentioned that there is little progress in terms of development at the site apart from few Ikalanga traditional huts and the wooden fence or bhakasa as it is locally known. By raising this issue, I was not suggesting misappropriation of funds as Phatshwane seems to believe. I was purely making an open and obvious statement that DCT needs to think outside the box. They obviously need to find alternative ways of raising funds for developing the cultural village. They also need to come up with other progressive initiatives that can help Bakalanga realize tangible benefits from sustainable development and management of their cultural heritage. The current physical outlook of the Domboshaba cultural festival location demeans the importance of the otherwise rich and diverse cultural and natural heritage of Bukalanga.

DCT needs to realize that Domboshaba festival is not identical to Bakalanga cultural heritage. In my mentioning of the 1000-year-old development of this culture, I wanted to highlight that the 13-year-old Domboshaba festival is certainly not the first cultural ceremony held by Bakalanga. Its existence today is simply a platform aimed at perpetuating certain aspects of Bakalanga heritage that were begun by our ancestors in Bukalanga as far back in time as 1000 years ago.

One cannot help but wonder why I should not be worried when the festival has now turned into a commercial centre where stalls that should be focusing on promoting Ikalanga culture are reserved for government organisations, NGOs and few individuals? Is it sensible for instance to chase away a small scale Nkalanga craftsman selling wooden spoons, bowls, pestles and mortars who needs to sell his craft inside the Domboshaba yard and invite Phafana beer company just because they can pay amounts that are required for putting up a stall? How many craft producers do we support at the annual Domboshaba festival?

If DCT and any other Bakalanga pride ourselves with our delele, thopi, mashonja, bhobola, tjimoni, swaye, dhobi and zembgwe, why does DCT prefer established companies like Curry Pot to continue to serve modernized versions of these dishes at the festival when we can support a group of Bakalanga women to produce original menus and sell at the festival? This is certainly a better way of ensuring tangible benefits to a wider group of Bakalanga than a situation where one individual is favoured at the expense of the majority. Does DCT have an answer as to why it has to engage Curry Pot catering company which is owned by the area’s Member of Parliament and fail to develop means of empowering ordinary Bakalanga women and even youth?

Kangangwani Phatshwane and DCT need to own up to the demands and aspirations of the modern day Bakalanga. Modern day cultural activists do not pride themselves on organising well attended festivals only. They go beyond that and find means through which they can develop, promote and sustainably utilise cultural heritage for the benefit of their communities. In the last article, I asked several rhetorical questions which were intended to help DCT and its committee to look at Bakalanga heritage beyond ndazula, woso, iperu, poetry and singing the National Anthem in Ikalanga. These are of course necessary, but should no longer be worried about their survival now. We need to focus on helping ordinary Bakalanga benefit from their cultural heritage.

We are tired of seeing a parade of University of Botswana (UB) academics at Domboshaba festival. The irony of this display is that while a majority of them spend a considerable amount of their careers in high and influential positions in this country, they do pretty little or nothing at all during those careers to drive the course of promoting critical matters such as the need to teach Ikalanga language in Bukalanga schools and development of Bukalanga at large.

Is it not ironical that it is only now that a group of retired Bakalanga are waking up to the fact that despite the high positions of influence they held for so long in the country, they failed to help develop Bukalanga? The UB scholars should be reminded as early as now that Domboshaba festival is not an academic gathering like a graduation ceremony where they are expected to be at the helm.
The festival is about promoting (not teaching) Ikalanga culture. My advice to them is to avoid falling in the trap of the ‘elders’ who recently petitioned the Office of the President to complain about a lack of certain developments that they clearly failed to facilitate during their prime time when they were still at the helm.

The academics should consider forgetting about their lust to be Masters of Ceremonies at the festival and organize academically oriented conferences on Ikalanga language, culture, history and other life challenges affecting Bakalanga. The last conference of this kind was held in October 14 and 15 1989 at the Civic Centre in Francistown. Since Bakalanga children born on this date have graduated from some of the courses they teach at the UB, they too need to graduate from their MC roles at Domboshaba and concern themselves with providing relevant answers to the development and management of culture of Bakalanga.

* Bawumbe wa Chiwidi is a pseudonym for a concerned Nkalanga

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