The 5th Maun International Arts Festival

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This year the poetry collective based in Maun, Poetavango will be celebrating the fifth anniversary of their festival called The Maun International Arts Festival.

The festival will take place in various locations around Maun from October 23 to November 1, 2015.  Part of this year’s festival was a short story contest.  According to the press release, the original plan was to publish an anthology of the winning stories as well as some of the better submissions, and have the book read at the festival.

Unfortunately, the plans had to be changed.  There were over 40 submissions, but the judges for the contest (Barolong Seboni, Wame Molefhe, and Cheryl Ntumy) advised that the submissions (outside of the winners) were not up to standard.  They thought many were submitted as rough drafts, which of course, is not acceptable.

Speaking for the judges, Ntumy said: “Writing competitions are a wonderful way to nurture talent, and to encourage future efforts.  Stories should be worked on extensively and edited before submission, perhaps during a series of workshops.

The contestants should be advised to read a lot of short stories in preparation for writing their entries, and should ask others to read and edit their work.  Finally, contestants should make every effort to check their work before submission to avoid making careless mistakes”.

I absolutely respect this decision and I wish there were more instances of this sort.  If we intend to improve the writing and literature of this country, it is time we stop accepting mediocrity (and sometimes much less than that) and awarding such low standards prizes that should only be reserved for excellence.  Ten points for the judges and Poetavango for fighting that difficult battle.

In the end there were winners, and they are:

First place: Wadza Lopang for the story The Small Matters of the Jelly.

Second place: Jimmy Keletso for the story Welcome Home

Third place: Sharon Tshipa for the story Reality for Sale.

The prizes are P3,000, P2,000, and P1,000 and they will be awarded at the festival during a prize-giving ceremony at Nhabe Museum on October 26 at 5 pm.

As for the festival itself, there is a plethora of events taking place, something for everyone from the look of it. There will be mural painting, a writing workshop, theatre, storytelling for children, an ‘Alfa of the Delta’ hip hop battle, an art exhibition, comedy night, poetry slams, contemporary dance, and a traditional night, among much, much more. There is even a football match on the programme.

It looks like the final night has been changed a bit. In the past, the final event was primarily performance poetry with a very small amount of music mixed in.  According to the festival programme, this year the final event will include everything that went on during the week including: dance, theatre, comedy, poetry and literature.  My only hope is that they have sorted out the timing, going home at 2 am is becoming too much for this old lady.

“This will be an action-packed week,” says festival director, Thato Molosi. “We’ve called to Maun top-notch artists from across the world to help us celebrate our fifth anniversary.”

There are artists participating from Zimbabwe, Canada, USA, Uganda, South Africa and Malaysia.  Local artists already booked for the event include: Leshie Lovesong, Sereetsi and the Natives, Mophato Dance Troupe, Zeus, The Contrabanditz, Christophe Durand, JahGene, Maya Roze, Morongoa Mosetlhi, Mambo Ntema, Chief Kunta, Mawee, Mod, Stoki, Mmakgosi Anita Tau, Poet Phopho, Psycho Freakers, and Ribcracker among others. I’m especially looking forward to attending the writing workshop, thankfully not being taught by me, but instead by a very accomplished American writer and poet, Dasha Kelly, author of the novels Almost Crimson and All Fall Down.

Besides being a novelist, she is a well-established performance poet and performed in the final season of HBO presents Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam.We are in for some serious fun, folks. Don’t miss it.

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