INTERNATIONAL DREAMER: Boitshoko Jeremia

He’s a self-made filmmaker and ghostwriter of note currently taking Africa by storm.

Although little is known locally about the 35-year-old Kavimba native Boitshoko Jeremia, regionally he’s an individual many nations look to in order to grow their film industries.

The multi-award winning filmmaker has produced 13 films and is a film director with more than six years experience.

The distinguished Arts Egypt jury member continues to fly the Botswana flag high and has become the torchbearer of the Kavimba people through the promotion of their native Ikuhane language.

Today he’s recognised as the first novelist in the history of his native language, with two novels already published.

In this interview, Jeremia fields questions from Voice Reporter Kabelo Dipholo on the role he plays in the development of the Egyptian arts and culture and the King Moshoeshoe’s Film Festival.

Kindly introduce yourself to our readers. Who is Boitshoko Jeremia?

Boitshoko Jeremia hails from Kavimba, a village that lies 78km South West of Kasane, along the Namibia/Botswana boundary line.

He is a man who is more concerned with what lies ahead instead of where he comes from. The arts and culture have coiled themselves around my adult life.

You are scheduled to conduct a Cinematography, Writing and Film Distribution workshop in Egypt next year. Kindly take us through that.

I’ve been working with Egypt based organisations for a couple of years towards the promotion of art and culture at three different levels. These targeted Egypt locally, continentally and globally.

I’ve also been engaged by Lesotho to do similar work as an African Commissioner.

Some of the Egyptian art and culture organisations I’ve worked with include the Afro Chinese Arts and Folklore Festival, in its fourth year running and Awladna, which is in its’ third year running. One of them has the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt as its’ patron.

The organisations hosts events under the auspices of Egyptian Tourism Authority, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Antiquities, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Immigration and the Embassy of People’s Republic of China to Egypt.

What role do you play as an African Commissioner?

The sole objective of the Egyptian organisations I work with is to employ art in driving tourism within the Arab country.

My role is to get artists in their varied forms to Egypt to showcase their artistic genius.

In addition to this, I’ve been privileged to sit in the jury committee for the 2018 Awladna International Forum for Arts of the Gifted.

I was the only jury member from South of the Sahara at an event that featured artists from 32 countries: from Central America, North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

The jury committee of film, music, singing and performances was made up of professionals in their various fields from Morocco, Egypt and India.

In your journey as a filmmaker, you’ve also won a number of prestigious awards. Tell us more about that.

Yes, in total I’ve won 13 international awards from various countries around the world.

A short film I made in Egypt titled ‘Frustrations’ scooped a Gold Award in Jakarta, Indonesia.

This is in addition to nine other prestigious awards my other works received in South East Asia.

I also received the Best Documentary Award in 2016 from a film festival in Nigeria.

Impressive stuff! You were recently made coordinator for next year’s King Moshoeshoe Film Festival Africa – yet another milestone for a man very few people know about back home!

Film Sector Groundbreakers Lesotho made me their coordinator for the event named after their founding King.

The event’s primary objective is to make the Kingdom of Lesotho a film production hub of choice the world over.

My duty is to get filmmakers from within SADC and Africa at large to attend the March 2020 event. It is a massive event graced by the biggest stars of the industry.

Some of the A-list facilitators include Vuyo Dabula (who plays the role of Gaddafi in ‘Generation The Legacy’), Silas Monyatsi, Liteboho Modise (plays the role of Teboho in ‘Muvhango’), Melgin Tafirenyika (Zimbabwe), Cassie Kabwita (Zambia) and Flora Suya (Malawi).

African giants such as Yvonne Okoro and Osita Iheme are also expected to grace the mountain kingdom. I’ll also work on other events such as King Moshoeshoe Marathon, Miss Culture Beauty Pageant and King Moshoeshoe Fashion Show.

So far as a way for the festival to achieve its grand objective, two programs have been undertaken which are running at the moment.

For some months now there has been a project taking place in five high schools within the Kingdom to train students on the art of filmmaking. Another is the Filmmaker Incubation program, which is expected to run for a period of three years.

I’ve been working closely with Festival Director, Aubrey Silinyana, a South African Film Development specialist, in carving out Silinyana’s dream for cinema within Lesotho.

Above all, I’ve been tasked with leading a SADC tour of eight Capital Cities to promote the festival.

I’m also writing a book to further promote the King Moshoeshoe Film Festival.

INTERNATIONAL DREAMER: Boitshoko Jeremia

While you seem to have attained international recognition, your achievements have largely gone under the radar back home. Why is this so?

Every dream is birthed through a struggle.

Often we propel ourselves to break into other frontiers beyond our comfort zones to achieve the deep yearning of our souls.

If it seems difficult to make it at home, there are other places where your work is bound to be appreciated.

A world renowned Ethiopian Film legend, Haile Gerima once said, “If your work is good enough the world will come to you. The world will know you.” He said this to film students in Luxor, Egypt in 2014, and I was amongst individuals from 40 countries in Africa, as well as Jordan and Oman, that had qualified to be students of Gerima in a 10-day workshop.

Amongst your many badges, one that catches the eye is the fact that you are the first known Ikuhane writer. Kindly share a bit more about the language and your literary work.

I’m self-taught and have established myself as a highly sought after ghostwriter.

I’ve been engaged by authors in Singapore, China, Cameroon, Namibia, Burundi, Liberia, South Africa and Zambia to write books on their behalf without my name ever appearing anywhere in the books. One of the books I wrote for an author in Namibia became a national best seller immediately after its release. I’ve worked on 23 books; only seven of these books bear my name!
Amongst the list are two novels titled ‘Malyekera’ (burning residue blown by wind from one point to the other) and ‘Ikakasi’ (idiot), written in my native tongue of Ikuhane.

It was not easy writing these books in Ikuhane. As you know almost all native languages are not taught in local schools.

The fear of most mother tongues going extinct in the not so distant future presented itself as an opportunity waiting to be acted upon. I stumbled upon a market of readers thirsty to read stories written in the native languages.

Apart from this discovery, what I found more challenging was for people to come to terms with getting used to reading in their native language, something which most had never thought of as a possibility.

I’ve also written a fiction book ‘Mafia in the kingdom’, a novel set in Khartoum and MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). It was a difficult book because I had to immerse myself in a culture foreign to me.

I’m also a publisher of a magazine called Chasit (acronym for Chobe has it), through my company Shippuden Holdings.

It is a monthly magazine that has been running since the start of the 2019 winter season.

Your films have shown in countries such as Rwanda, Nigeria, Peru, Indonesia and USA. Why is your work not known locally or showing on the national broadcaster?

My name Boitshoko means ‘perseverance’ and my passionate experiences have forced me to be where I am today.

I didn’t leave the fate of my success in the hands of another man. I broke into other frontiers.

When opportunities didn’t present themselves at home in Botswana, I went beyond the boundaries of the Republic.

The country that first took interest in my art was Egypt.

It is not surprising that my relationship with the Land of Pharaoh, with a population of over 97 million, is deeply rooted.

I’ve a global approach towards my work. My films have screened in The Netherlands, USA, Estonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Indonesia, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Peru amongst other countries.

What needs to be done in Botswana for creatives like you to reach their true potential?

In my many travels, I’ve realised the true meaning of carving out one’s own dream.

It is a noble duty that can’t be entrusted to another mortal.

It is my wish that other artists might learn from this.

More often than not there is a burnout amongst artists and they give up on the work that makes them happy.

It is imperative that we nurture and promote our artists before other nations employ them to their own advantage.

To that end, what are the challenges you face as a young creative in Botswana?

What I studied at the university and my current occupation are quite the opposite.

I graduated with a Diploma in Adult Education and at one point I worked as a Community Development and Social Welfare Officer, a job that never gave me joy.

Besides directing movies and writing what else do you do?

Apart from writing and filmmaking, I enjoy learning other languages.

I’m currently learning Portuguese, Spanish, French, German and Chinese.

With the exception of English, I already have the command of over four local languages.

Wow, I admire your drive! And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what do you have planned for the weekend?

My weekend will be spent in solitude taking Portuguese lessons after spending time with my maker.

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