Cartoonist TEBOGO MOTSWETLA pays tribute to his uncle that inspired the Mabijo cartoon character
Motshegetsi Shono Baruti, Mabijo or 'Bijos' as he was affectionately known, hails from Tshipana ward in Serowe. Born January 31, 1959, Motshegetsi was the last born to Mr Pelotshweu and Mrs Poloko Baruti.
Motshegetsi aka ‘Mabijo’ attended primary school at Khama Memorial in Serowe. After completing Standard 7, he went to Lobatse Youth Training Centre where he did carpentry.
Uncle ‘Bijos’ was close to my heart from my tender age while we were in Lobatse as he was loving and caring. Above all, I was fascinated by his boxing skills. He was very talented and passionate about boxing.
People admired him because of his natural boxing skills. I came to know other legends like Muhammad Ali and ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard through him. From Lobatse, ‘Bijos’ returned home in 1977. He formed a boxing club in Serowe and used Lady Khama Centre for training people who were interested in the sport. He believed in discipline and made it clear to his trainees that he was not preparing them to fight people on the streets.
If any of his trainees were caught (street)fighting, disciplinary action was taken and it was usually in the form of press-ups where he’d put sand on the floor and ask the culprit to make a fist on both hands, and then do press-ups using the outer fisted-hands on the sand.
In the past years, he used to entertain people at the Serowe show by organising a two-man boxing competition, himself and the opponent. One of his trainees, Thage, was one of the best boxers Swaneng Hill School had ever had.
Witnessing and hearing about the achievements of uncle ‘Bijos’ in boxing, and the passion he had for his talent, made me love him even the more. He was my superhero.
In him, I learnt that every person has a talent that ought to be cultivated, nourished and cherished. ‘Bijos’ was not working. He enjoyed walking to the Serowe Mall every morning, interacting with other people and come back home in the evening. Some of the things he enjoyed doing when he arrived home was singing at the top of his voice.
Sadly as the years went by, he was overpowered by illness and could not continue with boxing anymore and what remained were just signs of love and passion for the sport as he would be seen walking around Serowe Mall
In 1989 when I completed my Cambridge, I could recall how Uncle Mabijo was passionate about his talent. This is the lesson I learnt from him. Having discovered my artistic talent, I endeavoured to nourish and cherish it just as he did with his boxing gift.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to display my talent in the public domain. That was when I started a cartoon column in the Daily News newspaper. When I was developing my cartoon character and thinking of the name to give it, I remembered my uncle who could no longer continue with his talent because of ill-health. I purposed it in my heart to do something to honour him and I decided to use his nickname ‘Mabijo’ to honour him as someone who made a mark in my life.
I didn’t want to see his name die and appear like he never existed in life. When we met after starting the ‘Mabijo’ cartoon in the Daily News, he was very excited as he appreciated that I still remembered him even though I now stayed in Gaborone.
I will always remember ‘Bijos’ as a man of few words. He had a very sharp memory, and he always remembered a lot of people and how they related. I will also remember the times we spent together at the lands, Nakatsakgama, where during evenings he’d have the opportunity to share with us some folk tales.
My grandparents were Christians and every time before we went to sleep, we would pray. I’ll never forget this other time when he was asked to pray. He surprised us by praying in a language that we didn’t know or understand. I also enjoyed his mastery of the Queen’s language. He was very fluent in English.
Every person is unique, that’s the reason there is always a gap that can never be filled by anyone when one is called to a higher service to be with the Lord. The legend is gone, we shall surely miss him, but we will always look back at his footprints.
May the soul of my dearest uncle rest in eternal peace.