A 27 year old transsexual local artist is on a mission to use perfoming arts to change the conventional way of handling Lesbian Gays Bisexuals and Transgender (LGTB) and sexuality issues in Botswana.
Katlego Kesupile who goes by the name Kat Kai Kol-Kes explained how after graduating with an honors degree in Dramatic Arts from Wits University in South Africa he immediately made it a point that he make use of his academic qualifications and artistic prowess to get people talking about what has for a long time been considered a taboo and to some extent an infringement of the country’s penal code.
Living and breathing art, Kat Kai Kol-Kes says in his four years spent at the wits university perfoming in school plays and musical theatres and working for a local church as a singer and as a publicist for the Wits theatre he knew exactly that his destiny was in perfoming arts and being a game changer in queer matters.
After graduating in 2010, he taught briefly at Wits university after which he decide to come back home to Botswana whereupon he again secured a teaching job at Maruapula International School as a partime drama teacher. It is here that he says he managed to position himself as one of Botswana’s contemporary performing artists.
He would then stage his first play titled ‘Moribo’ at the annual Maitisong Festival. The play he says tackled issues of sexuality and how human bodies affect one another. After the play proved to be a success, he says he never looked backed and knew he had to continue using art to be the voice of the voiceless and to start conversations that would have otherwise been swept under the carpet.
In 2014 Kat Kai Kol-Kes acquired the rights to host the first ever commemorations of the international Day against homophobia and transphobia after submitting work for Botswana for the queer shorts showcase festival. He staged five plays whose intent was expose how young people are bullied into thinking that being an LGTB was a disease of some sort that one needs to be cleansed of. According to him the plays humanized the person behind the label and created a platform for dialogue.
The purpose of these commemorations he says is to give Batswana context to start discussing sexuality and homosexuality as well as to motivate local artists to start producing queer literature. “The intent is to ignite conversations and get people to open up about sexuality,” he said. According to the artist it is very disheartening that Batswana are still silent on matters that have since taken centre stage in international arenas including within the arts. “Local play writers and scriptwriters are not yet ready to put their names on queer literature,” he said.
Kol-Kes hosted yet again hosted commemorations of ‘The International day against homophobia and transphobia’ in Gaborone yesterday. The festival showcased five plays, four which were written and directed by him, while one was written and directed by Mogoshi Mogwera, a renowned South African performing arts director who will also be the guest of honor. All the plays features Batswana actors.
The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, held on May 17 every year, is a rallying event offering an opportunity for people to get together and reach out to one another. It is celebrated in different countries around the world. Botswana is according to Kat Kai Kol-Kes the first country in Africa to host these commemorations.
Is he not worried that maybe his activism may rub the authorities in the wrong way? Kat Kai Kol-Kes says as an intellectual his training enables him to present controversial issues in a that they are not obviously offensive to those how might take offence. “Even if homosexuality was considered a crime in Botswana, Iam simply conveying a message of what is already happening, Iam not inciting or encouraging anyone to do anything that they do not want, “ he said.
Katlego is one of the few Batswana men to disclose their sexuality as transgendered men and has been openly out since 2014.