On the passing anniversary of Gobe W Matenge, grandson Teto Mokaila returned to his grave to pay tribute to one of the selfless civil servants with a play titled Tiyapo - The Memorial at the Moving Space in Maruapula.
Tiyapo was returning to Maitisong Festival after its debut during the 2017 instalment when the man affectionately called GW was still alive and even had a chance to watch it. Matenge, who was a humble activist fighting for the recognition of other tribes in Botswana, passed away on April 26, 2018 at the age of 92.
In the one-man play, which is directed by Tefo Paya, Mokaila focuses on the themes of marginalised tribes, modern politics and bogosi.
Tiyapo – The Memorial opens with Mokaila visiting what appears to be his grandfather’s grave and lighting up a candle before reading the old man a newspaper article about the upcoming general elections. This is the only big difference from the previous production.
The play then goes back to Matenge’s village where it explores his decision to refuse to take up the bogosi position (in the village of Matenge) even though he was the heir apparent.
Matenge’s decision was tantamount to refusing the dreaded Badimo’s call of duty. Mokaila displayed this in a moving way by going into sedimo trances calling out some of the revered iKalanga gods of Ngwale and Nswazwi through the convulsions and shrieks.
Matenge defied Badimo and continued with the civil service where he went up to the position of permanent secretary in the then Ministry of Home Affairs.
Mokaila also shows the audaciousness of his grandfather with
The central theme in the play is Matenge’s advocacy in the recognition of the marginalised tribes in Botswana.
Mokaila shows the gravity of the death of marginalised languages by an example of his family where he says out of the 19 grandchildren only two speak his maternal granddfather’s language, iKalanga.
Mokaila pays tribute to advocacy groups like RETENG that have been calling for the recognition and promotion of many marginalised languages in Botswana.
The play also raises concern with the tribalism undertones in some quarters of Botswana by a narration of a story from Gaborone Bus Rank where a derogatory word for an iKalanga person was uttered but the person on the receiving end just laughed it off.
Mokaila says that some marginalised groups in Botswana have come to accept this abuse.
In the end, Mokaila shows a symbolic flag hoisting of Tiyapo – We Are Here [too], like the way the Botswana flag was hoisted against the Union Jack in 1966 during independence celebrations.
Tiyapo is an important story that adds to the empty reservoir of documented local stories in Botswana.
Mokaila has surely immortalised his grandfather with Tiyapo and if all the grandchildren could stand up and tell their folks’ stories, Botswana would be well informed.