Mmegi Online :: Driven By Otse Roots
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Last Updated
Friday 07 December 2018, 14:23 pm.
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Driven By Otse Roots

It is one job that could have interested any organisation burdened with the responsibility of marketing and promoting Botswana's heritage.
By Staff Writer Sun 09 Dec 2018, 22:37 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Driven By Otse Roots








But for Philip Mhlanga undertaking the mission of producing a film about the Otse Hill, Lentswe La Baratani, has been like spiritual cleansing. It has been one of those spiritually fulfilling tasks, as if he were shooting it for the ancient gods believed to reside in the feared and mysterious hill that lies on the western side of Otse village.

Mhlanga is a Botswana Defense Force (BDF) soldier raised in Otse. He recently forked out tens of thousands of Pula to produce the documentary promoting the hill, undoubtedly one of the natural wonders of Botswana.

Growing up in Otse, home to the mysterious hill of the gods feared by the residents as possessing magical powers, the youthful army man felt like he owed the ancestral spirits something. The feeling of awe about the hills and the powers that dominate it runs endlessly throughout the documentary such that at the end the viewer shakes and trembles at the mentioning of the dreaded Otse hill.

Mhlanga grew up in the village hearing countless heroic tales about the hill, which has caused many who tried to defy its magical powers to have a tragic ending.

While he was used to hearing those magical stories from the village elders, Mhlanga says he experienced the hill's magical powers first hand in 1981 when one of the village boys disappeared forever after scaling the mountain. 

This experience must have tortured the young man for years, or made him to revere the hills forever. Almost 30 years after the 1981 disappearance of a youngster, called Motsamai Tsetse, Mhlanga has composed a song in remembrance of the incident. In the song he comes across as a startled, bewildered man dazzled by the mysterious powers of the famous Otse Hill as he sings about its gods, and recalls the day Tsetse went up the hill never to return.

It is not just through the song that Mhlanga has chosen to pay tribute to the famous Lentswe la Baratani. He forked out money to sponsor a film in which village elders, including dikgosi, and traditional doctors give their expert opinions on the gods of the Otse hills.

In the documentary a traditional healer in the

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village, Linda Mhlanga, who happens to be his mother, shares her terrifying tales about the hills. She says she would not dare go up there. In fact she says many years ago, a Ndebele traditional healer fell mysteriously sick and died instantly after he went up the hill and saw horrible stuff.

"He was sick for some days. He narrated that he saw calabashes filled with traditional brew, and then an old woman emerged from nowhere and warned the traditional healer that he was disturbing the elders...the next moment the Ndebele healer found himself wondering far away from the Hill of the gods...he could not explain how he got where he was...we knew he had seen things he was not supposed to see."

The film is rich with close-ups of the hill and its wonderful surroundings such as streams and gorges.

"I was inspired by the majesty of the hill as a child from Otse, I just desire that the world can know about the magical powers of the hlls. In fact I am working on the English version of this documentary so that it can be marketed abroad."

" I'm also keen to do a follow-up documentary about one of the other Otse hills, just close to Lentswe la Baratani. I read in geography books that it is actually the highest point in Botswana, but it surprises me that the hills are not well known in Botswana," he says. In the meantime he still has to promote his passion to influential institutions such as the Botswana Tourism Board (BTB), the Museum, Department of Culture, as well as Botswana Television (Btv).

"Btv tell me that they do not have money to buy the documentary. They say perhaps they can buy it next year.  I need to recoup the funds I invested in the project. I am planning to sell it. I'm also courting other stakeholders, but I spent P150 worth of phone calls today trying to get them to come and watch the film, there has been no answers,' says a seemingly despondent Mlanga immediately after unveiling the Otse Hill documentary to a team of journalists at Club Zoo last Thursday.

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