Songwriter, singer, poet, author and storyteller, Onalethuso Petrus Ntema is a man of many hats.
Popularly known by his stage name Mambo, the 36- year -old versatile artist from Maun has been honing his storytelling skill for the past 13 years by entertaining international tourists in and around the Okavango Delta with folk tales.
“You’ll love the storytelling in the evenings around the fire in the camps, being closer to nature. We also do native drumming, folklore jazz, camping, and boat cruises, and “says Mambo
Mambo owns a tour company, Mweenda Travel Agency that operates in the country’s two tourism towns, Maun and Kasane.
“Our clientele is mostly international tourists and they love the Botswana they see through our art, interpretation, music, poetry, and storytelling,” says Mambo the social entrepreneur.
He goes on to explain that social entrepreneurship is about creating an experience, bringing an alternative, and exploring a niche.
“We are learning Chinese in school, but who is learning Seyei for example? Wouldn’t it be nice for tourists to come to Maun or Chobe to at least interact with and understand the people there and their rich culture,” he explains
Mambo has realized that cultural heritage is attractive to tourists and that young people can actually explore that and create jobs for themselves through showcasing cultural activities.
“International travelers are fantasizing about the African culture, and they like to come and learn about it from Africans themselves.”
Although his guests are mostly international, Mambo says they do get local bookings as well. “ We take our clients for day trips to the countryside to see the culture of people in the Chobe region for instance; You’ll see the Subiya people pounding corn, playing traditional games such as rope skipping and then there is traditional food tasting among other activities of the day.”
Passionate about creative arts, Mambo sits as a member of the Craft Council of Botswana and he has used that to market baskets from the Northwest region to the international market. Through his make-shift curio shop in Kasane, Mambo exports baskets to Europe, USA and sometimes he travels there in person to market them.
A sociologist by profession he is ever curious and eager to learn new things. Seven years ago he published a poetry book, which sells on Amazon.
“I traveled to the US to publish my book because I was looking at the market, which absorbs and appreciates books or literary work in general. That is why I wrote a poetry book then invite tourists to use my camping equipment, I read my books to them and make that part of the camping activity, and then they go back and buy my book on Amazon. It is incredible,” he adds.
Recently Mambo released his very first solo album, titled Stranger. It is dance hall music. Apart from traditional arts he is into contemporary music.
The 22- track album featuring HT Tautona and Skinny Dawg was released in March this year and already Mambo says it is doing well in the market.
“The reception is good especially in Maun, so far so good, we sell it as a combo, a T-shirt and a CD,” Mambo explained when we caught up with him at his other stall in Maun located just in front of Centre Lodge at the old mall.
The album is an infusion of reggae, hip-hop, and Afro beats and it is about love, poetry, inclusion, unity, and gender-based violence. Further, the songs are a mix of Seyei, Sembukushu, and Sesobeya languages, which are spoken in the North West region of Botswana.