The prodigious writer aims to produce a film shot on location in Botswana with a cast of Batswana actors
Sebati Edward Mafate comes across as the quintessential family man, but under his simple aesthetic, he exudes various talents. A gifted author, actor, playwright and filmmaker, Mafate makes it seem easy to straddle these disciplines that he considers to be facets of the same craft. The now US-based author has four books under his name and a film, “Black Cobra,” which was his Hollywood break.
Zambian-born Mafate describes himself as raised by two countries and says his formative years were in Botswana where he underwent most of his schooling and experienced bursts of creativity. “Botswana has given me a lot and it is my dream one day to give back to that great country of ours,” he enthuses. “You see, I made many friends who in some strange way shared the same passion, and I reflect on those moments when I said to myself, ‘Wouldn’t this be great to do for a living?’ Living, not merely surviving. Great living.”
Although he found himself in academia, being a qualified Civil Engineer, storytelling was always a calling that lay deep inside him. “I have been a storyteller from as far back as I can remember,” Mafate recalls. Even as a kid growing up in Bontleng and Extension 2 in Gaborone, I was known to other kids as such. People like Shimane David Mayisela, Boyce Sekgoma and Sipho Mbebe, to mention but a few, knew this.
“The engineering part is because from the moment I could walk, my father had always instilled in me that to survive in this world I must be an engineer. So you could say I was ‘brainwashed’ from an early age. The fact that I was not really that good at maths mattered little because my father always got tutors for me, which, I must say, didn’t help much. How I managed to get my degree in that field is still one of life’s greatest mysteries.”
Quite witty in his portrayal of his father, he says his inspiration came mainly from him. As a matter of fact, he describes his father as great storyteller unbeknownst to himself. “My father was a consummate storyteller to whom I listened a lot,” says Mafate. “Because he was a political refugee from South Africa and a very sociable man, I got to see a lot growing up, first in Zambia and finally in Botswana, a great country full of many stories.
“I read a lot. Not just books and novels but newspapers and anything of interest and I am a good listener. I may have a conversation with someone and the person may say something that sparks an idea for a story. I also like to travel and the business I have allows me to travel every week to the Midwest in the US and I always keep my eyes and ears open.”
The author singled out two books and his Lionsgate distributed film “Black Cobra” as the highlights of his career. “The publication of my first novel, ‘Kahuru: The Making of An African Legend,’ which was originally considered – strongly, I might add, by MacMillan Botswana, thanks in large part to then editor Kgomotso Motsumi, the publication of my non-fiction book ‘Memories of Lotsane: The Chronicles of An African Boarding School,’ and the release of my movie by a major Hollywood distributor, are quite significant to me.”
He explains the challenges that come with Hollywood: “It is no secret that this is an industry that conspires to keep you out, not to mention the phonies and egomaniacs you come across every day, especially the ones out to make a name for themselves. Those are the ones to watch out for. But one thing I have realised is that to make it, you have to create your own opportunities. No one will hand it to you. The days of someone coming up to you and saying ‘Hi, you look good. Let me cast you in my upcoming movie,’ are long over.”
Says Mafate regarding what people must expect this year: “Three more novels are coming out this year, two of which, ‘The Triumphs of Kahuru’ and ‘Kahuru and The Impostor,’ will complete the human leopard trilogy. Infact, a very talented Motswana artist, Wilson Ngoni, is working on the cover of the last book in the human leopard saga. The third, ‘Ironic,’ is a strictly romance novel, the first of its kind I have ever attempted. And then there is that lifelong dream of finally shooting an action/adventure movie in Botswana later this year. A few big Hollywood names have been attached to this project, but my wish is for the majority of the cast to be local talent like the great Donald Molosi, Imani Archibald Seboni, Makgosi Keloneilwe, Advent Monyatsiwa, and a young and upcoming talented martial artist named Mohammed Ali, to name a few.”
Molosi says of Mafate’s book, ‘Memories Of Lotsane: The Chronicles Of An African Boarding School’: “The book gripped me. I smiled and cried eyes as I read the this masterful writer’s chronicles of his brotherhood with his dormitory mates at Lotsane Secondary School in Botswana and their teenage loves and heartbreaks. ‘Memories of Lotsane’ is set between 1985 and 1987 and re-enacts, through powerful language, the exciting gumbo of boarding students from all over Botswana and their unique sense of humor,”
Mafate is currently in law school. A karate enthusiast, he shows no signs of ceasing to reinvent himself.