Following the decriminalisation of same-sex marriages in 2019 in Botswana, I co-curated Serepudi, Botswana’s first homoerotic exhibition. The aim was to celebrate and honour queerness as a fully human way to be. But how many of us Batswana, products of colonial education, have been made to feel guilty for queer curiosities in ourselves, whether we are queer or not?
For queer Batswana, a people who are still treated as invisible by our laws, the decriminalisation was a good first step to having their full humanity reflected back to them by their own country. Queer people’s existence as sexual beings who matter just as non-queer people is still contested. Therefore, Serepudi was a reclamation of queer sexuality without the sexuality itself being violated by a heteronormative lens. The conversation continues, but are we listening?
Tuelo Gabonewe is not queer but he agrees that erotica helps oppressed people find their voice. I speak to him in this piece.
Why do we need erotica? The answer to that question is endless and it depends on the limits of your understanding of erotica. What I know for sure is that human beings (including Batswana) always need a story in which to see their full humanity.
In my opinion therefore, the pretense that we (Batswana) are not sexual and erotic and sexually imaginative beings is an outright lie and is also dangerous. It denies a Motswana the full gamut of human experience. It makes certain subjects taboo, thereby keeping certain abuses unspoken about.
In this two-part piece I discuss erotica as it pertains to Batswana, specifically through the work of writer Tuelo Gabonewe.
Based in Johannesburg, Tuelo is 35, South African and writes Tswana erotica professionally in Setswana. I will be interviewing in the next instalment of this discussion. Tuelo has been hailed as the first writer to publish erotica in Setswana by publications like The Sunday Times. I ask him, in Part 2 of this interview, why Batswana need erotica in their own language as they decolonise.
Of course, he is a Motswana from outside Botswana, and that will also be an interesting dynamic to our talk.
I also ask you, dear reader, to make a distinction between erotica and pornograhpy. Generally, erotica is art and literature addressing subjects of a sexual or intimate nature while commercial pornography is primarily concerned with creating sexual arousal and does not care much for aesthetics.
Next week I return with my conversation with Tuelo Gabonewe. For now, I hope you wrestle with the questions in this column for yourself. In whose interest is our secrecy about erotica? Again, I am not talking about pornography. So, do you personally consume erotica? Why? Why not?
*Donald Molosi is an award-winning actor. He is the star of an upcoming film, Station Road, which is currently filming in Kingston, Jamaica.