During my very enlightening and life-affirming trip to Botswana in the last quarter of 2014, (as a Performance Poet and workshop facilitator), there were so many AHA moments. (In fact, if I had a Dollar, Naira or Pula for every epiphany I experienced in Botswana, I’d be a retired millionaire by now) P.S: Dear MAUN, I love you so very much 🙂
One of the many highlights was our visit to a village called Thuso and in particular, to the Thuso Rehabilitation Centre. It is a beautiful space where young people living with disability are given a life of dignity and empowered through skill-based and vocational training.
These were the top 7 things that stayed with me:
1. We sat across as mirrors of one another; the artists on one hand and the residents of the Rehabilitation centre on the other. Those with able bodies and those living with dis-abilities. It was profound to see ourselves reflected back at us. We were no different from them, we all have our hidden disabilities, some people bear theirs on their bodies for all to see and others have theirs hidden away from the views of the outside world.
2. The beautiful and gifted storyteller Nomkhubulwane: Through her energetic, searing and very spiritual performance in her native clicking tongue, we saw firsthand, that there are no language barriers in arts, music, culture, poetry…
Because art in its purest form is an expression of truth, it is the universal language of our soul-being. And truth be told, are we not all from the same source, simply manifested in a billion+ unique ways?
3. A beautiful poem by the statuesque and talented Juby Peacock, one of the organizers of the MAUN International Arts Festival (and former Miss Botswana), aptly titled “PERFECT”. It was about love, acceptance, beauty, our perception of self as reflections of God, finding perfection in our imperfections and everything in between.
4. The speech by the director of the Thuso Rehabilitation Centre. The key question presented by him was: ‘For what purpose is your art? For what purpose is your talent if no to uplift those less privileged than you?
5. There are places you visit that you capture with pictures, and there are places go to that you capture with your heart. The general ambience in the room was so captivating and moved my spirit to revisit long-forgotten conversations it had ignored for decades, years, months…things bubbled to my consciousness that I dared not explore in the past.
6. The murals that were done on the walls of the centre…bright, vibrant and eye-catching visuals of hope, light and freedom. It was the reminder we all needed; that we all already have something unique to offer the world around us, and we should give what we have now, rather than waiting for some undefined time in future, when we’re ‘ready’ to give. Each person always has enough to give, – and it does not necessarily have to be money. It could be our talents, resources, abilities, time, energy, attention, intention, prayers, thoughts, networks and synergies etc…
There was a wispy air of sadness (I guess for me it was a sort of mild regret at the time I had let slip by instead of focusing on my dreams), mingled with hope and a keen sense of awareness, almost like a bud of awakening all around the room. I was forced to become more present in my own life.
Perhaps the most poignant moment for me from the list of seven highlighted above, was when the director asked us about our purpose, our big WHY.
Specifically, these were his words: “What is the purpose of art? The purpose of our gifts?” It got me thinking deeper about who I am, what I do and my role/place in the world around me. I thought about all of us, the writers in the room and wondered. Perhaps we write for ourselves, for others, for fame, to entertain, to provoke deep conversations, to shine a light on some causes and create awareness, to make people laugh, reflect, for fun or we write for academic purposes. Some of us may not even know the answers yet. Or maybe we write for no reason at all. Whatever the reason is, it is valid. The most important thing is that we stay true to our unique truth.
If I were to ask of anything from all of you as you read this now, it is that we all go to ‘Thuso’, figuratively of course. Think of a charity or cause or someone in need and give something, anything of yourself. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we don’t have that we forget to celebrate and share what we do have with others around us.
Often we think of others with disability or those with less ‘stuff’ than we have, as ‘less privileged’ and perhaps we believe that we are doing a favour by ‘giving’ to them. I am learning now that in giving, both parties are equally enriched, both the giver and receiver. It is an exchange of value and resources and it uplifts both. So next time, you give of yourself to others, know that you are invariably giving back to yourself. Let the quality of your giving transform. It took me several months to create something out of my visit to Thuso. I am happy to share that WWN’s #Poetry4Change was born out of my sublime experience at Thuso, Botswana.
Love, Light & Truth,
-Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido (www.julietkego.com)
Poet | Master-Certified Leadership Coach-Trainer -Consultant|
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Whole WoMan Network
Raising a New Generation of Transformational, Ethical and Creative African Leaders
~Take empowered ACTION towards a Healthier, Sexier, Wealthier YOU!~