To know where you’re going you must know where you’re coming from. Banana Emoji challenges notions of nationhood in a new film exploring being a contemporary Motswana.
“Video killed the radio star.” The iconic hook from the song by The Buggles released in 1980 can’t be closer to the truth when it comes to how contemporary media has progressed. When the world migrated from listening to gazing, the same happened in the deterioration from hearing to seeing. It is in this advent of media blends that 2022 presents us with that Banana Emoji – a Botswana-based cultural production hub – has imagined what contemporary nationhood means and looks like to members of Botswana’s society and communities who may have been historically ignored in sight and sound.
At the time that The Buggles released their song, the new wave of cultural consumption was enraptured by the moving image, so much so that even sonic productions relied on visual offerings to be truly popular. Much of the same progression has been evidenced in the proliferation of podcasts that have a visual component as their primary means of audience engagement.
Etymologically, the word is a portmanteau of the words ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’ – coined by Ben Hammersley in a 2004 article for the British publication, The Guardian. The introduction of the moving image to something that is essentially processed sonically is where Theo Silitshena’s directorship met the national anthem of Botswana in the development of the short film titled “This Noble Land.”
In a statement about this new cultural offering, Tanlume Enyatseng, Banana Emoji Creative Director and film producer, expressed that the initiative aims “to drive social commentary through art,” remarking that it is an exploration of “the translation of identity, political discourse and creation”. Having previously produced a short film titled “They Shoot Boys, Don’t They?” in 2018, the thread of queering the heteronormative gaze many in Botswana are guided by and continues through this work.
Nina Simone, the iconic and infamous African American musician once opined: “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I choose to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself.” Enyatseng has chosen to do so too.
In a Botswana that is inching further into a state where homonormativities are legally allowed space to be explored, this new film presents a teaching moment for present and future generations of Batswana. Glotto’s Mboko Basiami crafted the project’s stylistic vision, showcasing the achievable impact of collaborative engagements among the country’s creative practitioners. Thato Moruti, CEO of LEGABIBO, applauded the project, stating that the telling of stories is a valuable resource “in advancing advocacy and raising awareness of issues in our varied communities” and that it allows for emboldened visibility and movement-building.
The project was funded with UK aid from the UK government, facilitated through the human rights advocacy organisation, LEGABIBO, and produced and creatively directed through additional funding from Banana Emoji’s social responsibility project, Banana Club. The art-house film will be shown in a series of curated screenings throughout the year with the aim of affording each audience a unique cinematic experience.