The Cactus Patch
Volume 10       June 2007      Number 06

A Fizzled Festival
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

This year was the 20th anniversary of Maitisong (the auditorium at Maru a Pula, Botswana’s oldest private high school). It also was the first Maitisong Festival since David Slater retired as director there. It bodes ill for the future that there were few shows and almost all of these few were local. We were not in it as there was no festival concert.

The Human Rights Film Festival started on the 15th of March with two films showing the results today of tragic events during South Africa's apartheid era. On the 16th I gave a lecture on plants to an archaeology class at the University of Botswana. (The monongo nut in the Euphorbia family appears in digs going back over 7,000 years in northern Botswana.) That evening the Thapong Artists hosted a show with local and Mozambique artists. The live music included our friend Jeremy Burgess from Malawi. (We only knew his parents there. He was away at boarding school.)

On the 17th we had lunch with Lilian Turton and Janet Barnes. They both co-authored the first checklist of Botswana plants. Janet left Botswana in 1989, the same year I started at the museum, and had not been back since. On the 19th we all went down to Good Hope. While the others quilted, Janet and I went out to Kgoro Pan and looked at birds and plants. Among the few plants in bloom was the succulent Pterodiscus speciosus.

We returned on the 20th in time for the Annual General Meeting of the Botswana Society. Janet was glad to see they were still going, although a bit moribund. President Mogae was not there as scheduled as he was in South Africa getting a tendon operation on his arm. (He is president of the society as well as the country.)

On the 21st we saw "Sarafina" at the opening of the Maitisong Festival proper. It ran for 8 nights and dominated the festival. It was well done and tells the story of the student uprising in 1976 in South Africa. (Some critics compared it to professional productions which I felt was totally out of line in reviewing a high school play!)

On the 22nd I showed a film on the Thuathe Meteorites of Lesotho in the afternoon. This was sent to us by our friend David Ambrose who made it after hearing the explosion and recovering over a thousand piece of it. He sold pieces to finance development of a school where it landed.

That evening we went to the final human rights films. The first (Australian) was a biased one on the removal of San from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve. They only interviewed the minority who opposed the move. The second was on how San are benefiting from plants such as Hoodia. Doug from Veld Products gave a short presentation on their work on Hoodia. As usual, I added a few words of caution.

On the 20th they showed films of Botswana politics to start a mini series on local films. Former president Masire as well as an opposition leader answered questions. Unfortunately Kenneth Koma, the stongest opponent of the government here, died just before this. His strength was shown in the films, however.

On Friday the 23rd a series of photo enlargements went up on the outside walls at the museum showing Maru a Pula students in "undress" code. Someone apparently took exception to these because at 2 a.m. on Sunday seven were slashed. In true artistic recovery these were "repaired" with porcupine quills, dried sisal leaves and bits of cloth.

On the 27th there was an opening of a display on traditional pottery (indoors!) I was interested to learn that pots here are made beginning with the top and adding the bottom later as I had observed in Malawi. On the 28th there was an evening of comedies at Mantlwaneng (a rival auditorium to Maitisong) at Westwood School. They began with "II Fornicatione", a spoof on grand opera. Polly and I had done this at the Capital Players here years ago (and were much better - but now who's being unfair?)

Finally the festival ended on the 31st with "Bo Cissoko", a musical production which featured the West African Kora, a gourd harp. Unfortunately they began late with an earsplitting "warmup" band so we left. The real music (we are told) came later.

On the 1st of April we went to the Kapong Hills with the bird club and Janet Barnes (who also published a bird checklist). She thus had a fitting farewell to her visit.

Polly with Janet & Lilian at Good Hope

Janet Barnes, Polly, Lilian Turton & Bruce at the Sanitas Nursery Tea Garden

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