Pondering what else, other than Notes and Records, might have survived unchanged since Boipuso, I could only come up with the paraffin lamp! The notion may seem absurd because it is only the last few years that this oldie has had to be resurrected. But what other candidates might there be?
The kgotla perhaps – but this has been as profoundly affected by change as almost everything else, including language and botho. So, what else is left? Seemingly not much other than, perhaps, the winter balaclava! But you can do your own thinking about this lesser conundrum because I wish to welcome the arrival of the internet version of BNR 45 with the editor, Professor John Makgala, promising us that the hard copy version will soon be available. It may only be an impression but with this new volume the balances between articles and notes seems to be changing with eight of the former now appearing and 10 of the latter.
On the other hand, the new BNR is not the sort of publication that any of us can pick up and read from cover to cover. There is some fairly dense material here which will probably appeal to only the specialist few. On the other hand, there is also an extraordinary range of subject matter which gives us every opportunity to pick and chose. In terms of seniority, a start needs to be made, of course, with Bob Hitchock and Saginoli’s magisterial, invaluable and depressing third chronology of the CKGR 2002-2012. Politics and Government, as ever, gets its due with contributions from Maundeni, Seabo, Botlhale and Lotswao and the privatisation issue is explored by Malema and Kaelo.
Vanderpost, Ringrose and Murray-Hudson suggest how biodiversity can be estimated in remote areas whilst the needs and activities of the young are described by Rapoo and Malinga-Musamba. The former’s description of the citified folk art of Gaborone’s youth struck me as being a refreshing, new topic which proved to be well worth exploring. Malinga-Musamba’s concern for the young was a touch pedestrian and with an unbalanced weighting given to bogwera and bojale.
It needs to be remembered that in the last say, 20 years, only a tiny fraction of the population has had experience of either of those rites. Generalised comment cited in support is of little value when the two major proponents of the practice in that period have been small and ethnically very different. Burrett and Quick were on safer ground when dealing with more routine concerns in trying to settle once and for all who is and who is not buried in the cemetery at Mocloutsie. I had a fearful struggle convincing the internet
But what about Mike Main’s Moving Tropic of Capricorn, wherever it has gone, the Leshongwane archaeological site near Phikwe or a publisher’s view of a published book – the Luke Jantjie biography. And then there is the important book review section, which, with the departure of Sheldon Weeks, is likely to be very much reduced in future. But at this point , I wish to return to the beginning and salute Pierre Landell-Mills who initiated Notes and Records which first appeared in 1968, within touching distance of Boipuso, and pre-dating the Botswana Society itself. Together with the paraffin lamp and the balaclava it has therefore been one of those very few elements which has survived all the vicissitudes of change. But unlike them it can claim to have been a genuine Botswana made product. How is it possible then that the Botswana Society, backed in turn by all four Presidents, routinely struggles to achieve the financial backing that it needs to get BNR published? In contrast, the publishers of Zimbabwe’s annual journal, Heritage, seem to enjoy support which, amazingly, is not so easily obtainable here.
This is ridiculous. But perhaps there may be something to be gained, as is so often the case, for going back to the beginning, and reminding ourselves why the initiators believed that it was so important to establish a journal such as BNR. In turn, Seretse Khama and Quett Masire and then J.R. Crawford and Pierre and Joslin Landell-Mills spelt out the need to catch up with other countries by producing an annual journal for contributors who for the first time would have an outlet to describe their specialist and non-specialist interests.
BNR, therefore, was to be a generalised journal for both the specialist and the non-professional. Markedly, the trend in recent years, however, has seen BNR become a university, specialist product. Is the Botswana Society, for the 50th anniversary, capable of yanking it back so that it becomes again, the main stream publication its initiators envisaged?