Story Of The Gentle Giant
By Tirelo Ditshipi

A Maun based writer Bontekanye Botumile says she wants to change perceptions that an elephant is a destructive animal and tell the story of the gentle side of this giant.

“I wanted to change perceptions about the elephant which is often regarded just as destructive whereas it has a gentle side and other tribes take pride in it,” said Botumile.

Botumile launches her book TLOU – THE ELEPHANT STORY today (Wednesday) at Botswana Craft. She told Vibe that the book describes superstitions as different tribes have believed and lived by them.

She said that it is such stories and knowledge which has been imparted orally in the past, which needs to be continuously shared to preserve culture and educate young people with indigenous stories.

Though such information has not been documented, she said she felt it was necessary to do so because culture gradually changes. The thirty– five year old said she has been writing short stories for publications such as Kutlwano magazine but realised it was time she advanced. The focal point of the book is on the elephant, which goes to tell the differences between African and Asian elephant and the origins of the Okavango Delta elephant.

She added that the book is cultural – educational book which is an easy read, targeted at the younger generation especially those of ages between 8–13.

It also sets out to educate through a cross word puzzle which it carries.

Botumile said the thirty–two page reads' main target market is tourists and that she is currently marketing it to places where tourists such as curio shops, lodges and museums.

At the book launch there will be performances by three Maun based drama groups, Ditswammogo, Dithapong and Tshegagape theatre groups.

By Basadi Moatswi

This week we spoke with Bontekanye Botumile, self publisher (Thari-E- Ntsho Story Sellers) of the children’s book “TLOU, The Elephant Story,” her first self published work. We met up with the young French speaking Motswana writer at the French reading festival, at Alliance Francaise who were celebrating their 18th anniversary.

“Writing is part of me, I do it without thinking,” explained Botumile. Her passion for writing is something she always had and even as a young girl she actively participated in poetry and story writing competitions. Her first serious writing accomplishment was at Form 2 where she took 3rd prize at a national writing competition.

Her writing journey took a serious turn in the USA where she was studying tourism. With the guidance of one her instructors who was a poet, she started writing for her communications’ class and later joined a Christian writer’s workshop that published up and coming authors.

With a Tourism degree under her belt, “I felt I needed to diversify and be the person I wanted to be. I reflected on my life. I told myself I wanted to be a writer. If I don’t do it now, I will never do it. So I quit my job and went on to pursue my dreams, to write, to study French, and to play musical instruments. But to write was a must,” explained Botumile.

She experimented by writing short stories for Kutlwano, and three were published. This boosted her confidence and later some of her tourism related articles were published in Africa Geographic. She has also written a fictional story, “The Two Kingdoms,” which is in the process of being published by a larger publishing company in SA. She views this as her big break, considering how many manuscripts publishing companies rejects. She finds writing therapeutic and even writes for entertainment.

In her book the Elephant Story, she talks of the cultural beliefs, taboos and superstitions. “I believe that I can only write about things that I have experienced because they come from the heart. I wrote beliefs in Maun about how the elephant originated,” added Botumile.

The book contains educational extras like passwords, mazes and interesting facts for children. A woman in Maun who takes care of some of the village’s orphans also inspired the author. She feels that the story is also inspirational because “as an individual your life may change. The elephant is an icon, it started off small and turned into a giant, so for the children who are orphans they have a chance to run their lives around and become giants in some form,” concluded Botumile.

The response to the book as been overwhelming for Bonty, as she is affectionately known by her friends and has given her more inspiration to write. She offers a few words of inspiration, “Do not underestimate yourself, everyone has a story tell. Write from experience, be kind to yourself and do not be self critical.” One thing she has learned is that never take your whole manuscript to the publishers, write a proposal or just a paragraph describing what your story is about and why you thing it is special.

“Self publishing is also not a bad idea, it’s just like any business, when you start a business is not easy and cheap. The great things about it is that you have control over your work,” said Botumile.
P R E S S   R E V I E W S
The Weekly Independent 29 September 2006 Page 10

Tlou Art Exhibition At Nhabe Museum
Galefele Maokeng

Nhabe Museum hosted an art exhibition on Saturday as part of activities marking the launch of the “Tlou-The Elephant Story” book launch. Author, Bontekanye Botumile said in an interview that this exhibition was an important event on the calendar of activities associated with her new book. She says she has committed herself to the promotion of visual and performing arts in Ngamiland. She currently has performing arts youth group that she works with. In the past few years however, the visual arts section has suffered as she was not able to give it enough attention. This exhibition is therefore most significant as it rectifies that imbalance.

The exhibition itself was a great display of artistic work ranging from sculptures to paintings and craft work. The link between all of them is that they showed various artists’ interpretations of the plot of the book. One of the most outstanding interpretations is a sculpture by Christine Stolhofer. The piece, carved from the trunk of a mophane tree captures a scene in the transformation as the woman metamorphoses into the elephant. Thus when viewed from one side it shows the face of a woman and from the other side an elephant face, complete with the characteristic wrinkles. Also outstanding are the two winning paintings by Abel Makonod and Willie Makgobe. The monochromatic drawings underscore the role of the winnowing basket in the transformation process. In Makondo’s piece which obtained the first prize, the woman is holding the basket in both hands and light rays rising from it permeate through the woman and change her into an elephant. In the background, there is a village on the right and the delta to the left. The village with its desolation represents the woman’s old life of poverty and starvation while the delta points to the new life of plenty to be led by the elephant. Makgobe explores the same concept but in him the woman is standing on the baskets and instead of light rays he uses flames. He says these flames represent the magic of the transformation.

Botumile says should everything go according to plan, these exhibitions will be an annual event. This is in order to accord the youth an opportunity to explore their artistic talent. She says with appropriate guidance and nurturing, the youth have an opportunity to use the arts to create employment for themselves and others. Currently her only support for these initiatives comes from the Department of Culture and Youth but would welcome more support from the private sector and the public at large.

“Tlou The Elephant Story is Launched”
Galefele Maokeng

“Tlou-The Elephant Story”, authored by Maun woman, Bontekanye Botumile was launched at a glittering ceremony at Matshwane Primary school of Friday. The launch was spiced with performances from various drama groups such as Dithapong Theatre Group, Tshega Gape and Ditswa Mmogo. This is the second launch of the book after the first launch was done in Gaborone last month.

Tlou is a children story book based on an African folklore that explains the origin of the elephant (Tlou). The story is set in a remote Bayei village in the heart of the Okavango Delta. It tells the story of a young mother, Tlou, who almost starves to death in her hut as she observes the customary confinement period that that every new mother must go through before she can mix with the rest of society, Her irresponsible husband never cared much about her welfare or that of the baby as he spent all his earnings on alcohol. Pretty much as they still do today. Tlou entirely survives on the good nature of her neighbour and friend, Mma Pelo. In the African character, she shares her every meal with her less fortunate neighbour. In the mornings her first concern is to see that Tlou has something to eat for the day.

The plot takes a twist when the ancestors decide that Tlou has had enough suffering and visit her one morning to turn her into a wild animal. Tlou’s initial shock at the presence of the visitors turns into joy as she suddenly realises that she is with divine company. And the ancestors waste no time in accomplishing their mission. They order Tlou to gather together all her valuables as she is about to embark on a journey from which she will never return. The valuables that she gathers include the basic items of the life of a rural African woman leading an agrarian life. The winnowing basket, mats, mortar and pestle.  She also straps her baby to her back in readiness for the journey. And all these become part of her new form as she magically metamorphoses into a huge and gigantic entrant to the realm of man and beast. Finally, Tlou majestically stepped out of her home of poverty and want to lead the blissful life of an elephant in the Okavango delta, as promised by the ancestors. She still enjoys that bliss to this day.

On the whole, the book is a wonderful read and will go well with both children and adult readers. A valuable addition to all children’s sections of our bookstores previously the preserve of Western fairytales and folklore. Bontie’s book is an African fairytale that tells part of the creation story from an African perspective. A most welcome addition to our libraries.

The book is published by Thari-E-Ntsho Storytellers and is illustrated by Moira Borland. Design and layout was done by Taryn McCann while Rod Borland and Slavica Mijovic provided extra graphics. Glen Stephen and Ulla Stenman edited and proofread the book.