In an amazing two months Sebati Mafate has had his third book published and has overseen the release of a Hollywood backed feature film based on his second novel.
It is an ‘overnight’ success that has been 20 years in the making.His passion for storytelling has seen him write, produce and star in the feature film ‘Black Cobra’ which is based on his novel ‘When the Cobra Strikes,’ and is released this week.
With this remarkable success the 43-year-old Hollywood based writer has announced himself on one of the toughest stages in the world, two decades after leaving Botswana for ‘tinsel town.’
His achievement is the reward for what Sebati calls ‘iron will and single minded fortitude,’ and an unshakable belief in his own talent. He arrived in America in 1992 having won an award from the Bishop Desmond Tutu Scholarship fund to study Civil Engineering. It was a line of study he pursued during the day, whilst at night he attended classes in Creative Writing, a passion that had driven him from an early age.
“Even at primary school I was known as something of a story teller,” Sebati explains as he chronicles the details of his own story
LOCAL BOY MAKES IT BIG IN HOLLYWOOD
Congratulations on the release of Black Cobra. What is it about?
Thanks… Black Cobra is an action adventure tale blending romance, the seduction of fame and fortune, betrayal and the warmth of friendship.
Now that you have a feature film to your name, what do you think it takes to make it big in Hollywood, and where are you in the scheme of such things?
You have got to believe in yourself and have incredible faith. If you do not believe in what you have to offer to the world you will be doomed before you start. Don’t wait for that big break, start with whatever tools you got, and never be satisfied until you earn a good living doing what you love to do, which is what I am striving for. I am a very curious and inquisitive person by nature that is why I feel that wherever you are the world is one big classroom, there is something new to learn every day.
You are living in Hollywood, but are you living the dream and how far does it match your lifestyle?
I have found out that my life is not really different from what it always was. I love telling a story, either in novel form or on the screenplay or even on stage – the only difference now is that I get paid for it.
So is this your proudest moment?
The release of the film is great but I am more proud over the publication of my newest book ‘Memories of Lotsane: The Chronicles of an African Boarding School.’ Talk us through the book.It tells in glowing detail my boarding school experiences.
Writing that book was a great experience indeed. I had the pleasure of reliving some of the most exciting moments of my youth. It was a very uncanny feeling, because I felt like I had gone back in time. One memory revealed another and another, many of which I had forgotten, and in many cases I got help from ex-Lotsane students who were helpful during my research, and gathering of crucial facts that were pertinent to the book.
The book was published at the end of March and is available online and everywhere where books are sold. If it is not available at your local bookstore they can always order it for you.
How do you think the book will appeal to people who may not even know where Botswana is?
Although it is the story of my life at that great institution which I was privileged to be a part of from 1985 to 1987, most importantly it is a story of a teenager growing up – something we can all relate to. We have all had our adventures as youngsters, we have all had our first crushes and inevitable heartbreaks, and that is a universal story that appeals to everyone, whether you grew up in Botswana or never heard of that beautiful
Do you feel like an American or are you a Motswana abroad?
I have always felt like a Motswana abroad because I have never attempted to change who I am. It also helps that I have Batswana friends out here who I speak to all the time and that keeps my Setswana and culture fine-tuned, plus there is always a disparity between me and Vivian (my wife) and my kids.
They are Americans and they of course sound American when they speak, and that always reminds me of my roots because of the different accents.
What do you tell your children about Botswana and home?
The four of them have a romanticized view of Botswana because I constantly tell stories of my upbringing with escapades as a youngster, characters I remember fondly, and the beauty and the spirit of the land. They know it is home and they look forward to seeing their father and motherland.
They are fascinated by the fact that I once lived in a one room house in Bontleng and that we had no running water in the house and the toilet was an outhouse. As kids from the first world they find that hard to believe or even imagine.
With your experience in movies, would you consider coming home to help develop the film industry here?
Absolutely, as a matter of fact I am talking to a few friends of mine out there who are in the industry. There is a script ready for an action adventure feature film that starts in Maun and ends in Los Angeles. The script is in its developmental stage, and it would be really great to collaborate with as many Batswana filmmakers and actors as possible.
I also intend to make a TV series out of the book on Lotsane, and will be coming to Botswana soon on a fact finding mission. I hope to interact with local filmmakers in making this series a reality. I am under no illusion as to what it will take to make this happen, but I believe in the saying that if the mountain cannot come to you, you will have to go to the mountain. It is about time we prove to the rest of the world that we have what it takes to be the best.
Are there other Batswana making a name for themselves over there?
Absolutely – one such person I know is Donald Molosi who is currently doing his Masters in Theatre at the University Of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). Donald has been a blessing and has inspired me as the young man is a fountain of talent.
I had the honor of attending his one man play about Sir Seretse Khama. He had everyone spellbound that night, and it seemed as if the spirit of the great man was reincarnated in him.
Any last or lost words you want to add?
Impossible is nothing – remember that next time someone tells you that you cannot do something and then give it your all. I would ask people back home to take time to read ‘Memories of Lotsane.’ Perhaps after reading the book you will get to know me better, and see that I am just an ordinary Joe.
Just like you I have a story to tell and I wanted it heard. If you are striving for something similar in life, great wishes in all your endeavors. Ours is a beautiful and great country, and we can make it greater.
PERSONAL FACT FILE
Sebati Edward Mafate born in Zambia on 11 June 1968.
Moved with his younger brother and father to Botswana in 1978.
Educated Lesedi Primary school in Gaborone where he completed his primary education. From 1982 to 1984 attended Itireleng Secondary School before heading to Lotsane Senior Secondary School in 1985.
Went on to A level study at Maru A Pula School from 1988 to 1989.
First novel, the historical fantasy fiction tale ‘Kahuru: The Making of an African Legend.’ “Completing that book in 1992 was one of the best moments of my life. It was therapy in a way because I was going through a rough time, and I had reached rock bottom.
My self-esteem was dead and buried, life had no meaning, and I was full of hatred toward a lot of people including my father for having derailed my life. After finishing that book I felt I could do anything
As a ‘work in progress,’ Sebati has just completed his second feature film titled ‘GERALDINE’ which is a psychological thriller. The movie is currently in post-production and should be released before the end of the year.
Amongst his ‘other interests’ Sebati is an avid martial artist. “When I came to Botswana I was 10 years old and my father enrolled me and my brother in karate because he would never intervene in our quarrels and let us fight it out on our own.
I quickly found out as I grew older that karate was not about beating people up, but a way of life that has helped me a great deal.
He also enjoys spending time with his family, travelling, watching old movies, and reading.