All roads lead to Ntsweng, the historical Bakwena royal burial site on the outskirts of Molepolole, on Saturday for the 11th edition of the annual Dithubaruba Cultural festival. Nestled between the beautiful hills of Dithubaruba; a combination of amazing landscape and colour, where Bakwena settled during the reign of Kgosi Sechele I; Ntsweng will play host to culture enthusiasts, merry makers and tourists who will flock to the popular ga-Mmakgosi for festivities, which have become entrenched as a hit for fun lovers. The Kgosi Sechele I museum managed event, with tickets selling for up to P250 per person, comes just a week after senior Mokwena tribesman David Magang added to voices criticising such initiatives held under the auspices of cultural revival as mere platforms for financial gain. "Most of these spectacular assertions of cultural renaissance are driven in the main by ulterior economic motives: they are packaged for sale, to either the tourist or the ordinary reveller, and geared toward sheer entertainment," said Magang. He added: "Instead of focusing on entrenching our history on the psyche of our people, they are tainted with commercial overtones, with the result that what is ultimately put on parade is cultural caricature rather than authentic historicity that reach back to our very genesis as merafe or polities." But organisers of Dithubaruba promise to feed Magang and other detractors a humble pie come September 2 – delivering an information packed programme that is both educational and cultural. The programme kicked off with a symposium at University of Botswana on Thursday evening and ends on Sunday morning after overnight setapa festivities. Dithubaruba spokesperson Tlamelo Petleke Letlole agrees and differs with Magang's assertion. He argues that although the economic aspect of the cultural festival is important for sustainability because they do not enjoy support from any sponsors, it is not their core mandate. In any case, Letlole says they (organisers) are audited by the Department of Museums.
According to him, Dithubaruba focuses on cultural revival through educational material fused with entertainment to create excitement, while insisting on originality. To buttress the point, he gives the example of the 2017 programme which has developed over the years from a one-day event in the form of a festival at inception to a four-day programme that includes a symposium, a visit to the original Dithejwane hills (now commonly known as Dithubaruba) on the western side of Molepolole, inclusion of some Bakwena cultural rituals, input from Bakwena in neighbouring countries and participation by other tribes that impact the development of the tribe. "The inclusion of elders knowledgeable in our culture safeguards performance authenticity. We will from this year produce a video which we will later share with schools and the general public as reference material to spread knowledge about Bakwena culture, history and developments over the years. This way, we will be contributing to cultural awareness and revival," Letlole explains. In fact, Letlole points to other initiatives which contribute to the demise of some peculiar components of cultural authenticity of a tribe, particularly in traditional choirs/music. For example, the use of a score card that emphasises and promotes infusion of musical instruments and other enhancements (for one to win competitions) to traditional choirs erode originality of compositions and kills revival of culture, he posits. A similar score card is used by judges/ adjudicators in the annual President's Day Competitions, which enjoy a huge following throughout the country. "In order to win, most performers nowadays sing Sekgatla choirs, using whistles (diphala)," he observes.
Symposium for public debate at UB block CCE, under the theme Maruping goa boela. Kgosi Mosadi Seboko, Kgosi Puso Gaborone and Kgosi Kgosikwena Sebele were scheduled to speak on the life of Sechele 1 and the concept of nation building. Sechele I is credited with uniting different tribes to defeat marauding Boers in the historic Battle for Dimawe of 1852-1853, and later allocated the tribes roles to defend borders. Other revere him as the great BaKwena King who once was de facto Emperor of greater Botswana – incorporating today’s Botswana and Tswana lands that now form part of South Africa. Academic Professors who have done research on the role played by Kgosi Sechele I and his Bakwena tribe towards the defence of Botswana and their influence on the development of a sovereign state are lined to speak authoritatively on the subject at the symposium. They include Professors Brian Mokopakgosi, Fred Morton and Christian Makgala. Professor Seratwa Ntloedibe-Kuswane will present on the spiritual aspect of the life of Sechele I, the first King to befriend white missionaries and convert to Christianity. The latter would later become handy in enabling Sechele I to acquire ammunition, which he used to defeat enemies, especially the Boers. Sechele I's conversion to Christianity presented challenges as it clashed with African beliefs of his tribe. For example, influenced by his new found religion, Sechele I divorced some of the wives when he converted to Christianity, which created a conflict within his tribesmen. Magang decries the blind modernisation, saying: "Our own spirituality which was based on the invocation of badimo has long been side-lined and forgotten: we’re now Christians or Muslims because some missionary who came with the Bible or Koran in one hand and the gun in the other convinced us that our religion was “barbaric” and “primitive” and we had to convert to a new faith that was progressive and spiritually unsullied. What this new religion did fundamentally was to turn us into a docile lot eager to offer the other cheek when the white man viciously bludgeoned the other. Even our age-old cultural practices such as bogwera were condemned as primitive and potentially harmful to our wellbeing when in fact it had advantages that disposed men to warding off sexually transmitted diseases as it has now come to light in recent times".
On Friday, as a build up to the main event, there will be a walk from Kgosi Sechele I Museum to Dithejwane hills (now known as Dithubaruba) to visit marope and artefacts on the site and old graves and wells used in the olden days, and other land marks where oral historians will explain how Bakwena settled there before relocating to the modern day Molepolole. In the evening, Bakwena history will be shared at the main kgotla with tribesmen from different countries including Lesotho, Phokeng, Namibia, and South Africa (Bakwena ba ga Mogopa).
On Saturday morning Dithubaruba will start with dikgafela in the morning. Women from Mokgalo, Maunatlala and Tshosa wards of the Masiloana linealogy -three of the four main wards in Molepolole - will be accompanied by a headman (kgosana) and a praise poet to deliver dikgafela at the prepared main Kgotla, before they are transferred to the Queen mother's homestead for safe keeping in silos (currently at the main kgotla).
Ground breaking ceremony
President Ian Khama will later in the day give a key note address and perform a ground breaking ceremony to mark the ground for the construction of a Cultural Village at Ntsweng site (GaMmakgosi), which will house a Museum, performance arena and a garden for different occasions. The project has been funded through the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) for an estimated P6 million. A contract for fencing the site has already been awarded, while tenders will soon be flighted inviting bids for the main project. Special dishes will be served in the late afternoon when exclusively men gather at the main kgotla to feast on pounded meat (mokoto), a tradition influenced by interactions with Bangwato and Bangwaketse tribes. Led by the Queen mother, Ruth Sechele, women will congregate in the homestead (ka ha lapaneng) to enjoy their special dish of selected meats known as mohubu.
Entertainment will be provided by different groups and individuals for poetry (poko), phathisi, traditional games, setapa, dikatara, polka, contemporary artists (Dr Vom, Shirley Mokoka, Culture Spears). Guest groups performing setapa saga Ngwaketse, Morogo wa Ngwana from Ramotswa, Tsutsube from D'Kar, Seperu dancers from Gumare will take part in a cultural exchange programme sponsored by Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture. Throughout the rest of the night revellers will enjoy setapa sa sekwena (broadcast live on Radio Botswana) performed by Dintsu tsa Malwelwe, dancers from Ditshukudu, motshitshi wa Suping and others from Ramakgatlenyane
HOW IT STARTED
Started by Kgosi Sechele I Museum at their small premises in the centre of the village in 2006, Dithubaruba has grown in leaps and bounds which has raised questions why it continues to be organised and managed by a Government department. It remains a mystery why a cultural event of a magnitude of Dithubaruba has up to date not been handed to its rightful custodians, the tribe, despite the existence of a fully functioning Kgosi Sechele I Trust, whose 'settler' is Bakwena paramount chief Kgosikgolo Kgari III. Dithubaruba started off as an initiative by volunteers from Kgosi Sechele I Museum in partnership with the District Commissioner's office and bogosi from the core Ntloedibe, Maunatlala, Mokgalo, Tshosa main wards (diphatsa). Dikgosi have also been involved making pledges to the event. Last year Kgosi Basiamang Garebakwena, Chairman Kgosi Sechele I Museum board of trustees informed The Patriot on Sunday that Bakwena were ready to take over the management of Dithubaruba to explore cultural and economic opportunities it creates. Sources close to the Trust and Dithubaruba Organising Committee -largely made up of the so-called Friends of the Museum- allege that there has been a major fallout between the parties. The Chairman of the Trust Charles Keikotlhae.