Social ills brought to life through drama

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Everybody knows the destruction caused by social ills such as passion killings, juvenile delinquency and HIV / AIDS to our society, but watching youngsters dramatise all these can be quite an emotional experience.

Emotions were running high and low among spectators in a classroom at Tsogang Primary School on Saturday where three drama groups performed different plays at the Gaborone North music and arts competition.  Stories of an abusive husband who attacks his wife in full view of their children, a young boy who turns into a gangster stealing cellular phones from vulnerable women before raping them, and parents who suppress children's stage talents where the children are driven to devious activities, which land them in jail - these can make even those with a heart of steel shed a tear.  But it was not just the gory scenes, which made former victims re-live their fateful period of life all over again while making those who have been "lucky" to tremble to their knees, imagining themselves in similar situations. There was laughter and ululation as the actors displayed skill and passion in their depiction of what goes on in contemporary Botswana society.  Dikgeleke Theatre Group kicked off the event with a scintillating performance of their play, Re A Sha Re A Tuka. It was a story of two children who were left orphaned after their father murdered their mother in a jealous fit before hanging himself in panic.  The two, left with an abusive female relative, live a life of living hell. At one stage they are viciously attacked for stealing sugar and made to undertake chores beyond their age and ability in the yard.

Like many other orphans, the girl makes that terrible mistake of falling for the whims of a wealthy and pompous married man.  In no time she falls pregnant. The brother is shocked at the discovery and demands that they go and confront the 'sugar daddy', but they get more than they bargained for when they are thrown out like filth.Their abusive "host" catches them discussing the matter and immediately throws them out.  They are left with no option but to turn to scavenging. As if their troubles were not enough, the young girl visits a sangoma who offers to help 'uproot' the unwanted pregnancy, but it all backfires.  After a few days in hospital the orphaned girl dies, leaving the brother all alone in "this cruel world".

Though the first drama seemed to make more sense about what is currently happening in our society, the second group had a better stage presence. Badiragatsi oozed confidence in their presentation of a drama about a young boy (Lenoko) who goes on a self-destructive path that lands him in jail. Their music and dance was also good and well-coordinated.  Lenoko's mother's attitude to often cover up for him only makes things worse for the family as the parents end up being divided. He takes full advantage of his mother's protectiveness and starts playing truant at school, and when his teacher catches him with a zol (marijuana), he tells him to go share it with the principal. 

Within a short time he turns into a gangster and together with his friend they attack an unsuspecting young girl, grab her cell phone and take turns raping her.

The mother only comes to accept that her son is a criminal when he is sentenced to a lengthy jail-term, but still she feels "it is too harsh for my boy".When he returns from prison the father is still not convinced that his son has changed until one day he finds him and his younger sister doing rehearsals with a local arts group.  Lenoko regrets time spent in jail and the fact that when his father tried to warn him he threatened to attack him.Lekoma Theatre Group were campaigning for a just cause in their play Molato Ke Eng, but often over-emphasised on certain issues and the crowd lost interest.  From start to finish it was about them and this made it difficult for the audience to relate to their story.

Their story was about how often parents block their children from expressing their talents and following their passions. A young dramatist, whose parents bar him from doing drama, shifts his focus to "other" activities and lands in jail. But this is his passion and he would not give it up even when behind bars.He and a fellow inmate sell the idea of starting a drama group for talented prisoners and soon he is back doing what he likes most.  When his term ends he returns to his group to continue where he had left off.   The audience may not have been enthralled by Lekoma Theatre Group's performance of the play Molato Ke Eng, but the cast clearly impressed the judges as they won the drama category. Lekoma beat Badiragatsi who presented a play about a boy who also ends up in jail because of his wayward behaviour. Dikgeleke came tops for the Marang Ward in the drama category for their play depicting how passion killings are ripping our society apart with orphaned children ending up in abusive homes, a situation which often drives them into making all the wrong choices in life as they try to find comfort. At the same event it was Makgonatsotlhe who stole the limelight with their dikhwaere tracks, thus proving the popularity of this music genre among Batswana, and ultimately won the category.

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