Independence Day

“African writers have no obligation to anyone except themselves, they should write what they want – always.” 

Lauri Kubuitsile

As Botswana celebrates her 55th year of independence, Petlo Literary Arts ponders the question of independence, both in a political and in a literary context. What does it mean to be free, to be independent? Are we independent, as Africans, as writers? How does our writing affect the freedom and independence of others?

Here are the views of several writers, those you already know and those you should definitely look up!

Photo by Pixabay on

On Defining Independence

“Independence for me is creative freedom; being able to create one’s art form, be it writing, drawing, music, whatever it may be, without fear or insecurity. It’s also support to create because that’s a thing artists don’t get a lot of and a very important need for all creatives.”

Kearoma Mosata, writer, blogger, social media consultant

“I’m thinking about the freedom of ‘representation.’ With regard to communities of color in the United States, our stories and histories are not told accurately. We are also presented in the context of struggle and not celebration. I think independence within art is the freedom to accurately reflect the lived experiences of marginalized groups. It is the freedom to use ‘representation’ as a means to disrupt the European status quo when it comes to these Eurocentric standards we often fall victim to within our own creativity. It is the freedom to go beyond these standards to appreciate and celebrate different art forms.”

Senecia Curtis, writer and educationist

“I would define creative independence as the freedom to explore and express your creative impulses without fear of judgment or any other negative consequences. It’s having the space to create authentically and that space has to exist within ourselves before it can materialize in the physical world.”

Kibo Ngowi, writer

“It would mean creative freedom. No self-censorship, not being censored or suppressed by a body or individual. It means creating works that are true to me and my environment (real or imagined), as opposed to creating works for the sake of validation, the need to fit in or to please others.”

Sharon Tshipa, writer

“Independence is just a work of art. Fiction. Factual fiction. It has authors and authoresses. It is a brilliant story. But the writers are a different colour, nation and people with different interests and cares. We are not independent. We are just basimane ba kgosing. In short, it is a lie.”

Tshupo Matsogo Matontshe, writer and actor
Photo by Reynaldo #brigworkz Brigantty on

On How Our Independence as Writers Can Affect the Independence of Others

“Traditionally poets were the only members of the community, who didn’t have to be of royal blood, who could tell off the chief. He would then have to reward them with a cow or something. It was the poet’s job to lament, to speak on behalf of the people. The poet had a way with language so he could convey the meaning without causing the king to lose face. Interestingly enough, the government has borrowed this traditional mentality. So I’m allowed to say what I want to say as long as I’m respectful, but that’s not a condition from them, it’s just my understanding of our relationship. “

TJ Dema, poet (from an interview on, 2012)

“I’m a firm believer that language and how we use language determines how we act, and how we act then determines our lives and other people’s lives.”

Ntozake Shange, writer

“Disgust with injustice may sharpen the desire for justice. Readers who don’t see this connection merely wish to be entertained, and I have neither skill nor desire to turn the agony of a people into entertainment.”

Ayi Kwei Armah, writer

“Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, writer

“Fiction can play a great role in advancing different types of knowledge, in making people aware that science and technology does not all come from one part of the world. Because of colonialism, Africa as a whole suffers from a serious lack of confidence, and this contributes to poverty and dependence. Africans look at their own sciences and think of it as primitive, and backward, and evil. No country can ‘develop’ if they do not see science and technology in their own past.”

Dilman Dila, writer and filmmaker (from an interview on, 2019)

“Art is magic, which makes us magicians. We have great power and we can use that power for good or ill. I think it takes courage to be a writer, but it also takes discipline. I owe it to anyone who will read what I’ve written to cultivate wisdom and discernment, to know how to wield my pen. We want to cast spells that open doors, not close them.”

Cheryl S. Ntumy, writer

“I am building a stairway to the stars. I have the authority to take the whole of mankind up there with me. That is why I write.”

Bessie Head, writer

Of Independence and Speeches

By Barolong Seboni

(From Thinking Allowed, Morula Publishers, 2006)

Independence has come and independence has gone. It is now about a month later and the dust has settled, so now you can relax, ruminate and digest, both mentally and biologically, all the proceedings of September 30th. You can digest the food and you can digest the speeches. And I am quite certain gore just as you cannot remember the food that you ate, except that it left you with indigestion and a sour taste in your mouth, you probably do not recall any of the eloquent speeches, except that you couldn’t quite swallow them!

Well don’t worry yourself too much, it happens to the best of us. Actually, I’m not being completely honest. There is an Independence speech that I will always remember. I heard it when I was twenty-two. Perhaps it was the same speech modified and updated (not upgraded!) over the years. Who knows?

Anyway, because thinking is allowed, this week I have delved deep into the recesses of the memory bank and have unearthed a gem of a speech that glows faintly and dull until it is exposed into the daylight with loudness of thought.

I will attempt to present it in dramatic form because indeed it was dramatic. The speech was delivered by a very eloquent Minister and party stalwart, who is still in the high echelons of power even today. For reasons of discretion and also for reasons quite obvious to all who know this modest gentleman who would shy away from the instant fame and popularity that would become his chaperone if his name was presently disclosed (for indeed such men would find it so burdensome to have greatness thrust upon them without foreknowledge!), we shall simply refer to the erudite personage as The Honourable Minister for Independence Speeches, MP, MBE, PH (Primary Higher). For our convenience we shall simply abbreviate and shorten him to T.H.I.S.

The setting is a moderately populated village of Botswana. The villagers have come out in their hundreds to the kgotla. It is not immediately clear if the people are there for the speeches or for the slaughtered beast and the free Chibuku.

The Minister (T.H.I.S.) addresses us from an elevated platform under the shade. He is flanked by the Chief, the Council Chairman and two or three other party people, the most notable one being the Councillor who is quite inebriated and intoxicated by more than just the presence of the Minister. He was making hay while the sun shone upon him. To put it quite plainly, he was drunk like a skunk on the windfall of liquor brought by independence.

The ministerial throat was officially cleared and allowance was made for the interpreter to clear his, and the business of speechifying began.

A Little Literary History

In the spirit of Independence Day, let us liberate ourselves from the myth that African literature is a recent development. We have always had stories in our blood!


And now for a little patriotism! We might be catching on to these facts a few years late, but fortunately, knowledge is timeless! Check out this list of BW “Did You Knows”.

Cool Facts About Botswana


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