Mmakgosi Anita Tau | Botswana
Mmakgosi Anita Tau has more than eight years of experience in mental health advocacy. A native of Botswana, she is the creator of Mmakgosi Live, a global non-profit campaign that uses poetry, film, dance, and theater to destigmatize mental illness and strengthen connections among artists. She is a co-founder of Sekei Girls, a mentorship program that promotes literacy and nurtures creative talents in young scholars. Mmakgosi holds a bachelors degree in Motion Picture Medium, and is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Film at Syracuse University. She is a recipient of a grant from the British Council and Prince Claus Mobility Fund, a Yaddo Artist in Residence, and a Headlands Center for the Arts Artist in Resident. Mmakgosi participates in the International Writing Programs Women's Creative Mentorship Project at the University of Iowa. She wrote and directed Section 82, a short film about gender-based violence and modern-day slavery that garnered seven awards. Mmakgosi is committed to amplifying the voices of vulnerable people in Africa. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Mmakgosi plans to guide policy change and inspire reform for civil society through her films and Mmakgosi Live.
What do you do in your home country and what do you hope to do upon completion of your Fellowship? In particular, with the integration of your experiences with Drexel University?
I am an activist committed to youth & women empowerment, advocating for change in the African Mental Health narrative. In 2017 I started Mmakgosi Live Botswana, a project that destigmatizes mental illness using spoken word poetry, fine art, film, dance and theatre. This non-profit project has helped a good number of mental health patients and their families by sourcing essential necessities for them. I am the co-founder of Sekei Girls, a mentorship program that promotes literacy and creative talents among young people. We adopt schools and facilitate weekly workshops on performance, accessing international opportunities and managing a Creative career. I recently wrote and directed Section 82, a 24-minute short film about mental health and the injustices that women, especially those in abusive marriages struggle with in Botswana. With my Drexel University experience through the Mandela Washington Fellowship I want to create films that highlight issues of mental health and the injustices women grapple with in Botswana. My films will provoke dialogue that inspires change and policy reform for mental health and Gender-based violence. I believe that my stories can guide policy change and inspire reform for civil society. I am also looking to develop/source scholarships for students affected by Mental illnesses to give them an opportunity to overcome and rebuild their lives.
What is your favorite thing about your home country? What are you most excited about learning about Philadelphia?
My people are naturally gifted storytellers. To this day our history moves from one generation to another through our elders as we huddle around coffee tables, bonfires or by the porch on sunny days. I love Botswana for the peace we have and keep. Botho, a Setswana word that means mutual respect, is a principle at the core of social structures and cohesion in Botswana, it acknowledges the humanity of all and channels compassion, empathy and love. I appreciate how diverse our languages, culture and heritage are and how with all our differences we still celebrate each other. I’m most excited to learn about the people of Philadelphia, the history and best practices of Civic Leaders within the community.
Do you have any hobbies or an interesting fact you wish to share about yourself?
I love travelling, exploring new places and meeting people. I’m a foodie and make dishes drawing inspiration from the places I’ve seen and the people I’ve met. I’m into interior decor,architecture and also small scale craft projects. I enjoy watching films and reading books.
If I were to come to your home country, what is the first thing I should eat?
I would recommend that you eat a bowl of porridge made from fermented melon. It is a traditional dish that cooks sorghum in this flavourful mixture.
A little history:
An age-old tradition called Dikgafela is an Indigenous first fruits ceremony regulated by the Kgosi (Chief). When the plowing season came, the Kgosi would summon people to the Kgotla (village square) and announce to them that it was time to go plowing. When the time to harvest arrived, the Kgosi would summon his people again, it is in this ceremony that people would offer a portion of their first fruits to the Kgosi. These firstfruits were put up in a storehouse and were used in case of droughts to feed the people. No one ever went hungry. A strong sense of community is part of our cultural heritage. After slicing the melon, the seeds are removed and placed on a surface that will allow them to dry. This is the food that was enjoyed during Dikgafela. To this day it is a popular delicacy (when stiffened) at wedding ceremonies served with pounded beef or goat.
The above image is the fermented melon juice which we use to cook the sorghum