Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: Issues, reviews and Botswana

Dumela Mma! Rra! Kea leboha! If something's nice, you do it twice. Completed the first season of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. It's highly recommended. Alexander McCall Smith is a great writer, maybe I should break my novel reading duck and get hooked onto his stuff. For real though, I'll rather find out the story on the big screen. Here's hoping for more of Africa's stories to be told through film or television. This story is set in Botswana. For people like me, who've never been to Botswana but heard about the nation, this was a chance to continue learning. At the start of every episode, we saw a map of Africa and then exactly the location of Botswana. And then we've have to sit through 55 minutes plus of life in Botswana. Or not. Or just whatever stories the writer/producer wanted to tell. Or maybe what I have to say today :-)

I already talked about the TV series on HBO, BBC, and DSTV in this blog entry. You can find out more info on HBO's website. We complain about the images of Africa shown in Western Media. No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency falls into the category of images we should want to see and broadcast. Sure, it's just Botswana, which only is a small African country with no record of civil war or military rule. Yes, it's possible in Africa. They speak Setswana, just like in South Africa. They listen to Kwaito as well. Why they are not part of South Africa is something for the history majors to tell us.

I had been wondering where most of the actors were from. I had believed most of them were Motswana but once I saw my favorite South African actor, Kenneth Nkosi, in one of the episodes, I began to doubt. Sure enough, most of the cast were South Africans. I began to recognise some of them from South African movies and series. I began to research the cast's background and gave up finding out who was Motswana. There are some excellent actors in Botswana, nnyaa? Ee. A friend of mine is not impressed with the fake African accents. I understand Jill Scott and other American actors getting parts, it' an American (foreign) production anyway. They didn't exactly do the wrong thing. For a second, I thought the scenes were set in South Africa too, but no, the production company has constructed Kgalewood to bring us the life of Kgale Hill on this series. Investment always pays. They did a great job.

Great drama always comes with great dialogue. I caught myself beginning to note some quotes here and there. "I am as single as Jesus Christ". "I will not be judging books by covers, I will read every chapter". "I know how men react to low marks and high hem lines". "I am despite superficial appearances, working extremely hard". LOL. I was a little disappointed with the lack of subtitles, but they spoke enough English to render the Setswana and other native lingua soundbites not confusing for the viewer. I learnt some more Setswana anyway and will probably never forget the little I had been taught by my Motswana friends before.

I think Jill Scott (Mma Ramotswe) did a good job but like many others, I loved Mma Makutsi's character played by Anika Noni Rose. Lucian Msamati (Ra Matekoni) did well too. I questioned the character of BK in my previous entry, but as I watched more episodes, I liked his presence too. We saw several characters - the gangster (played by female favorite Idris Elba), the womanizer who had a million pick-up lines (now that's someone interesting lol), the corrupt policemen, etc. We were even introduced to charismatic apostolic Africans. That was a scene. I didn't know what to think about the various animals shown - the 'intelligent' monkeys, the missing dog, the giraffes, the uninvited chickens, etc. I'd have loved to see a chicken being slaughtered though. If Americans can watch donkeys and chickens in close proximity to Africans in Africa, they can witness how we prepare dinner too. Yebo! Ee.

It's interesting how the American guy who was the subject of one of the mysteries had attended Stanford. Whoop whoop! Stanford people doing it big! Going around the world doing great charity work and wooing the ladies. Now that's what's up! Xenophobia wasn't shown only in our Nigerian dentist's case, a Zimbabwean doctor who was the natural person to blame when there were 'supernatural' deaths at the hospital. It's sad how Africans treat other Africans who are immigrants in their country sometimes. I hope we can get past these xenophobic tendencies and welcome more co-operation, trade and community. We practice this when we find ourselves in foreign lands with little numbers as minorities. We can do the same back home. I thought it was interesting how the Indian salesman had a huge house compared to the other characters in the movie. Are there not that many white people in Botswana? Don't remember seeing any white characters in the series.

Okay, so, I vividly recollect someone using a GPS in Gaborone, but do I remember someone using a cell phone? No. What was up with that? Isn't this set in pretty much present day Botswana? That did not make sense to me. So did the typewriter. "Is this the 21st century or did I sleep without realising into a time warp?" "At secretarial college in history class, we were told of a former time before computers, when typing was done on machines and our country was called Batswanaland and dinosaurs roamed the earth!" We didn't see much of the 'developed' parts of Botswana but the little I saw was good. For the most part, Botswana wasn't too different from Ghana. Life on the university campus seemed the same, and had its own 'bad' lecturers. People gave pulas (money) freely when they had favors done for them. Contrary to what you may hear, Africa rewards good deeds.

I love the way Mma Ramotswe solved cases and what came out of them. The African heart is forgiving. I like that. The point of the investigation was not exactly to imprison the perpetrators but to reconcile and make the parties involved 'happy'. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency DVD cover mentions "Never underestimate a woman's intuition. We learn women can tell and see things men gloss over and don't see. It may very well be true. Hey, when Mma Ramotswe finds competition in her line of work, it's a man, who in the end, never really proves to be better. It's really about how we go about unravelling the mysteries that surround us and solving the problems that burden us. A little more talking, listening, investigating will go a long way to breaking down our social vices and menaces and as a result correct the wrongs that are being done. We don't always have a take a hard line like the series shows. It's the African heart at work. Anyway, I have to go return the DVD. Oyee Botswana!
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