P R E S S   R E V I E W S
BOOK REVIEW - Mmegi, Friday, 12th October 2007, Vol. 24, No. 154.


'The Seyei Legend of Sangurungusa': Bontekanye Botumile (2007) illustrated by Emmanuel S. Mutanga. Patterns in the Sky: A Story of Botswana Baskets and Legends. Maun, Thari-E-Ntsho Story Tellers, Voices of African Souls, 36 pages, paperback, P60, ISBN 978-99912-0670-7. Available at Westwood School 7 pm tonight and on Saturday October 13 at the launching-plus cultural festival by Maun youth.

Patterns in the Sky: A Story of Botswana Baskets and Legends is Bonty Botumile's second children's book. It is a marked improvement on the first, but readers will be interested in both of them, as they also have an appeal for youth and adults. Patterns in the Sky is being launched at Westwood School auditorium tonight at 7 pm and again tomorrow (Saturday). Tickets are P40/P2O and copies of the book will be on sale and for signing by the author. The launching will be accompanied by a cultural performance of six dances by a group of youth from Maun and a fashion show.

Botumile's first book is Tlou - the Elephant Story (see Mmegi/The Reporter, Arts and Culture Review 8 September 8, 2006). Ever since she was a child she wanted to write about the stories she heard and share her vision of Tswana mythology with others. "She hopes these stories will be a window on the past for future generations."

Tlou -the Elephant Story is an old Seyei tale made available in a children's book that teenagers and parents also enjoyed. The kinship between man and elephant is expressed beautifully in it. It is accompanied by warm illustrations by Moira Borland, a Maun artist.

Tlou is a starving young mother with a baby in the village of Tubu. Because of circumstances, the mother and her baby, with the help of the ancestors, are both transformed into an elephant.

Patterns in the Sky: A Story of Botswana Baskets and Legends is a mixed media presentation. The first part presents the story of Mma Teko and her son who is too dependent on her. To help make him grow up she runs away to her village Sankuyu.

There she swore not to weave another basket again, unless ... if her magic grinding stone held water she would know that Teko was alive. Teko's path to manhood requires him to track, hunt and kill six different animals. An initiation ceremony will he held in six months. Teko has to return with proof of his successes. Teko discovers that he is being held in the spirit by his ancestors who will guide and protect him. They also tattoo a moon on his shoulder for every 28 days to help him keep track of time.

Teko was an unusual young man in that he also loved to weave baskets and was very attentive and inventive, learning new designs from nature. Each of the animals he had to hunt presented unique challenges to him, both in hunting, in taking away a trophy he could carry home, and in patterns for basket weaving. `but, Teko has a problem - he is not enamored of hunting. His father had made him special weapons for his initiation tasks, but Teko did not even want to use them.

In three moons Teko has walked far, stayed alone, met many different animals, but he has been unable to complete the tasks allocated him. Then from far away he hears the sounds of other humans. He undergoes a ritual cleansing, seeks out the source of their vibrations, confronts an unknown personality and then meets Sangurungusa, "The legendary giant with a treacherous beeswax leg. This lonely giant has prowled the wilderness throughout his life preying on young men and women who get lost in the woods". Those who are found by Sangurungusa must fight him, and when they fail, they were transformed into mini giants and granted one wish. When Teko's time to fight the giant arrives he is down and nearly out when his ancestors come to his assistance.

Finally Teko gets to make his wish, but he is very befuddled. What should he wish for?

Did he want to become a great hunter? Or did he desire to perfect his art of weaving baskets? Or maybe he should establish a new village where he could weave alone to his heart's desire. Or perhaps deep within himself there was something else that he really, really wanted to learn to do, something that could only be granted through the most powerful wish.

Sangurungusa is so impressed with Teko that he grants him his wish and endows two more skills on him that he had not requested-the art of healing and the senses of a Mophane bee honey seeker. These all take time and over the next moon Sangurungusa and Teko became friends. When they part the giant leaves Teko with a special signal.

Through his new skills and friends, in the most amazing an unexpected ways, Teko is able to acquire his six trophies without resorting to the use of any weapons. You will have to get and read this charming book to find out for yourself more about Teko and Sangurungusa and their adventures. Here also by Emmanuel S. Mutanga's accompanying illustrations are most remarkable and apt. Mutanga is an artist from Zambia who lives and works in Maun.This second book by Bontekanye Botumile helps to convey additional cultural knowledge and promote understanding of the Bayei in Ngamiland. There is a treasure hunt. There are basket patterns. Then there are games for children including Mhele. These are included so as to enhance the value of the book. An additional two pages are devoted to linking different types of baskets and their uses.

This book will be of interest to many people. Botumile and Mutanga are to be congratulated for this book. It is only the second in a series and we can all look forward to more. sheridangriswold@yahoo.com 

Dynamic book launch for Patterns in the Sky - Mmegi, Wednesday, 17th October 2007, Vol. 24, No. 156.


They say that there are many ways to skin a cat, but it appears that that adage can also apply to marketing a book.

Maun-based Bontekanye Botumile redefined what a book launch in Botswana is when she launched her new children's book, Patterns in the Sky: A Story of Botswana Legends and Basket Patterns, at Westwood Primary School on October 12-13.

Guests were treated to dynamic performances that included a modelling show from a local Maun label, Mudpie, and an interpretation of her book through dance. The dance included hip-hopping tortoises, kwaito-dancing zebras, and jiving ostriches. The performers, a group of talented unemployed youth from in and around Maun, had the little ones dancing in the aisles. The audience was so enthralled with the performances that some people advised the author to take her show on the road as it would be appreciated anywhere outside Botswana. One hopes Botumile has taken the advice because Maun residents will get to see a repeat the performance at Okavango International School this Saturday.

Patterns in the Sky is Botumile's second self- published book for children. Her first, Tlou - The Elephant Story, was well received, selling over 2,000 copies, basically a best seller in Botswana's book-buying aversive market. Although self-published books in Botswana have lacked in quality, Patterns in the Sky cannot be criticised for that. If anything, it looks better than most books published by the big publishers in this country.

The illustrations by Emmanuel S. Muntanga, an art teacher in Maun, are exquisite. It has interesting back of the book activities and games for children, too. Priced at P60, it is well within most people's budgets unlike the P100-plus-priced books that fill most bookstore shelves. Botumile was the winner in this year's Bessie Head Literature Award in the short story writing category. From the look of things, she has much to teach local writers and publishers about how to win over readers and create a book-loving and book-buying public. The integration of her story in the patterns of the dresses that were modelled and the storyline of the dance performance pulled people in to find out what was hidden between the covers of her book. All of that led to increased sales, which in the end is what sustains writers. Her marketing savvy cannot be underestimated.