March 19, 2009

Botswana – yes, it really is quite like McCall Smith, Minghella and Curtis say it is

"Rose tinted view of Africa." - Kirsty Lang, Front Row today - SAID IT AGAIN!

Every review or article about the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency TV shows expresses that same prejudice. "Surely Africa isn't like that". Richard Curtis tried his best to correct the misapprehension. He mentioned Comic Relief, and how some of the images of Africa that it portrayed may have left a lasting impression of the continent being all poverty and disease. Perhaps his work on the Lady Detective series will help us to forget those pictures.

But only if we can get this message across: Botswana really is a good, friendly, warm, cheerful place. And much of the rest of Africa is too.

Opera House
Click image to enlarge
Lawrence playing detectives outside of the No. 1 Ladies Opera House, Gaborone

I've been visiting Gaborone every year since 1993. My wife grew up there. We were both amazed at how precisely the TV films represents Botswana and the Batswana (so far as TV can accurately represent anything). The detail is quite extraordinary - pictures on the wall that you would only ever see in Botswana, furniture, cars, buildings, the way in which people talk to each other, their facial expressions, the gay hairdresser - IN MY EXPERIENCE ALL MALE HAIRDRESSERS IN BOTSWANA ARE GAY! - or at least they pretend to be - the one's that I've met. And that's no problem, it's a tollerant and peaceful country.

Yes, it is true true that the films focus on certain areas and aspects of Gaborone life. But we aren't really interested in seeing the traffic jams on the Tlokweng Road or the massive high-tech shopping malls that have mushroomed in the last few years. But no TV film ever pretends to represent a whole country in one go.

MCall Smith, Minghella, Curtis - ke itumetse borra!

- 3 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. ‘and much of the rest of Africa is too’

    That’s important for people to recognise. I enjoyed listening to someone complain about the Red Nose day Kilimanjaro climb – the constant message was ‘we came to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro’ – we wouldn’t say ‘We went to Europe to climb Mont Blanc’ or ‘Asia to climb Everest’?

    We do the same with Islam – we don’t seem to be able to differentiate and understand complexity. I hear lots of people saying how great Iran is to visit.

    Anyway – you might find these films interesting:

    20 Mar 2009, 09:59

  2. Robert O'Toole

    The Iranians that i’ve known have all been lovely people. And of course it’s a country full of fascinating culture, history and diversity.

    The art of differentiation, or ‘discretion’ in Nietzsche’s words, should be the foundation of the educational system.

    20 Mar 2009, 11:20

  3. Comment awaiting approval

    This comment is awaiting approval by the author of the entry.

    11 Apr 2009, 12:42

Add a comment

You are not allowed to comment on this entry as it has restricted commenting permissions.