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Interviewed by Donald Molosi| with thanks to BlackLooks


Thursday, October 18, 2012.


I have read many books in 2012 and one of the books that touched me the most is “Memories of Lotsane: The Chronicles of an African Boarding School” by the gifted Sebati Mafate. Mafate hails from Botswana and is not just an author but also a film-maker and actor in the Hollywood industry and other industries globally. I recently caught up with the man himself, Sebati Mafate, and asked him to tell me about his life and work. I hope you all enjoy the interview and grab yourself a copy of this game-changing book.


DONALD MOLOSI: Memories of Lotsane… how did the idea start?


SEBATI MAFATE: The idea started some 10 years ago, when I would tell my wife Vivian about the escapades of boarding school, particularly the story of Andries ‘Hotstix’ Ryan (May he rest in peace), the colored from Boxpits, who could not speak Setswana very well, I am sure by now having read the book you know all about him, and how he demoralized an entire football team by himself, by voicing expletive laced comments at them in his broken Setswana. Such stories and others I told would make people laugh and they, especially my wife, would tell me to write about these stories, and that was when I got the idea, even though to be quite honest I did not have any clue as to how I would structure a story like this one.


DONALD: You mention your wife who is not from Botswana like you. Both of you live in California.Do you think your writing voice would be different if you wrote from within Botswana? If so, how? Has the distance from   home been an informing factor to your writing or not?


SEBATI: Yes, I do think had I stayed in Botswana and not moved to the United States, my voice would have been different, not better, just different, because coming to the US broadened my horizon as a writer, it gave me an international perspective on things, this was evident when I wrote and published my second novel ‘WHEN THE COBRA STRIKES’ which was as you know adapted into the movie ‘Black Cobra’. 

DONALD: You could have written as realistic fiction or some other genre – why autobiography?


SEBATI: I wanted it to be real, because the events mentioned happened. I knew that there were some issues that would be uncomfortable for some people, so I changed their names or omitted them altogether, it was no attempt to embarrass anybody mind you, but really to tell what really happened to the best of my ability. Plus, and really there is no getting around it, I felt the need to relive the experiences – good and bad, however I must say it was worthwhile. Also, I never thought of ‘Memories of Lotsane’ as an autobiography per se, even though many people may look at it as such, to me really it was a narrative, a recalling of events as I saw them during that period between 1985 and 1987; my autobiography has yet to be written,maybe some day when I walk on three legs if you know what I mean.

DONALD: And I do believe you will still be writing then. You are obviously making a living doing what you love -writing and films, a field that is hardly remunerative in Botswana and Africa at large. What do you see as the biggest hurdle for an African writer in today’s market?


SEBATI: I do think we as Africans have not really cultivated our own market, we believe too much in impressing the west, when really we should be having a market that is second to none, case in point Nollywood, or the Nigerian filmindustry as it is known. They make movies at a very rapid rate and do not worry too much about quality as long as the message is there, they are feeding their markets’ desire and it is my understanding that they can barely keep up, which mind you is a very good thing, they talk about everyday contemporary issues that we can all relate to, which makes their films very popular, and their popularity has spread or is spreading all over Africa. Whereas in say South Africa, or even Botswana, we want to do it the Hollywood way, which is prohibitively expensive mind you, and any other way is, according to us, not up to standard. The same principle applies to writing. We have to encourage African literature to be read in schools, and governments (and authors too) should make a conscious effort to promote their own products, and we should do this consistently, something I see lacking among African writers and filmmakers.


DONALD: The story is set in Botswana, one of Africa’s lesser-known countries – did you have to “universalize” the story for a global audience?


SEBATI: Not really, because in the final analysis I was talking about the life of a teenager, in a boarding school, that happened to be African. High school is universal, every one, I would think, remembers their experiences growing up for the most part, especially in a high school setting, because that is a period in time that many of us get to start knowing a thing or two about ourselves and life in general, something I know everyone can relate to, whether you attended high school in Botswana, or Pasadena High School in Southern California for example.


DONALD: What can we expect from you in 2014?


SEBATI: The TV series based on my non-fiction book ‘MEMORIES OF LOTSANE: THE CHRONICLES OF AN AFRICAN BOARDING SCHOOL’ that would be a dream come true, but like every other dream, you have got to follow threebasic rules: Dream, Wake Up, and then Do it.



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