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Poetavango’s storytelling project for students

The arts collective in Maun, Poetavango, in conjunction with the American Embassy, are in the middle of an ambitious storytelling project around the country.

The project called My Botswana Storytelling Project 2017 started on the February 6 and will finish on the March 17. As part of the project, workshops were held in three venues: Maun, Ghanzi, and Gaborone. The project is divided into three parts called Operation Pen and Paper (Maun), Operation Voice and Microphone  (Ghanzi) and Literary TechShop (Gaborone) with participants from primary schools in Ghanzi, and secondary schools in Maun  and Gaborone. In all instances, the collective looked for students with interest in writing and storytelling and some level of excellence. They also made sure that the workshops did not conflict with their daily school schedules.

In Maun, Operation Pen and Paper, involved 20 students and their teachers from Maun Senior Secondary School, Tshwaragano Junior Secondary School, Sedie Junior Secondary School, Moeti Junior Secondary School, Tsodilo Junior Secondary School and Maitlamo Junior Secondary School. They attended three full day workshops at Maun Lodge where they were taught various aspects of writing stories.

In Ghanzi, 15 primary school students participated in Operation Voice and Microphone with a focus on oral storytelling.  The group’s press release says: “The participants are taken through a weeklong workshop of oral stories covering both poetry and storytelling. The organisers invited to the workshop community elders who will teach learners the traditional methods of telling stories through mainane and dithamalakane. The Poetavango collective complements the lessons with modern ways of telling stories – and helps participants to become creative and innovative in their telling of stories.

“Learners plan and tell stories on the My Botswana theme. The stories can be in English, Setswana or any other local languages. The entire oral storytelling process will be filmed and documented as a short documentary film”.

In Gaborone the focus was on using technology to enhance storytelling in

the event dubbed TechShop. Fifteen students with aptitude in writing were chosen from Bokamoso Junior Secondary School, Marang Junior Secondary School and Gaborone Senior Secondary School. These students were taught how they could use technology including the internet to enhance and market their writing. The entire project is funded by the US Embassy.

At the time of writing this column (Feb 24) I interviewed the chairperson of Poetavango, Legodile Seganabeng, about the project. It had already started and I asked him how it was going. He said, “So far it’s been wonderful. The students are having great fun and very responsive. In Maun, we’ve already conducted three workshops and a series of school visits every week for one-on-one consultations with participants. Another team has just arrived from Ghanzi where oral storytelling sessions with primary school learners were conducted, as well as the filming of their presentations. The Literary TechShop in Gaborone is also ongoing”.

Seganabeng also said that they had no intention of running the project and forgetting about the young writers. “We hope that with this project, participants will be motivated to take creative writing seriously and continue writing even after their term in secondary school ends. We hope to build out of them professional writers who will help develop our literary landscapes. As we do the project, we’re also planning programs that we will put in place to monitor their progress after the project - and to help keep them inspired.”   

When this phase of the project is over they hope to publish an anthology of the best writing from the students as well as produce a film of the oral storytellers. This is a welcome development in our country which even now has no formal training for writers and storytellers.

Its all I write



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