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Reflections on The Careless Seamstress by Tjawangwa TJ Dema



Tjawangwa (TJ) Dema has been on this words road awhile. My first encounter with her poetry was back in 2005, when she was a mentee on the British Council Crossing Borders programme. Today she mentors poets.

The Careless Seamstress is published as the winner of the Sillerman Prize for Poetry 2018.

The collection contains forty-six poems. There are poems that bear witness to women’s lives; poems that examine faith and belief.

Her poems unpick Setswana sayings and tradition, they draw from Greek mythology, Setswana traditional stories.

The poems are as varied in their content as they are in form. In one word, it is erudite.

The first poem in the collection The Elegy of a Half-Done Quilt opens with a question: Sisters, do you remember that painting of you with camellias in your hair?

The one Papa painted then set alight on the patio to provoke our mother? The dexterous mother is constantly spinning.

An image that forms, is of a woman her sewing machine trundling, sewing, bringing to life the Setswana saying mosadi tshwene o jewa mabogo—a woman’s beauty lies in her hands.

We are taken through birth and death, and the ceremonies of joy and pain that take place in between: a baby’s christening, a graduation, a wedding.

The poem ends with the mother’s admonishment: ‘say sorry to your sister/It’s what you say to someone you love’.

In this poem, the father is barely visible, he does not do much, yet his daughters wish for his life—not their mother’s lot: ‘all we wanted was to be downstairs like our daddy’.

In Apoptosis, women are: collecting dry cow dung to fashion mud bricks/glad to do it when the men were gone doing god knows what.

In Women Like You: women like you hold the sharp end of the knife. Dema takes apart the seams of a SeTswana saying that would sew shut a woman’s lips, cause her to swallow words she would rather speak.

Self-Portrait with a Missing Tongue begins with Monna ga a botswe kwa a tswang teng.

One does not have to speak Setswana to appreciate the themes she explores: the trepidation of a just-married woman as she sits with other women who knows more about marriage than she does.


To begin with, your maiden name was never yours, only that your father loaned you his own to tide you through the morning
you would wake up, with women saying exactly this to you.

As we are taken back to their girlhood years and taken through the rites of passage, we are left to wonder how different life would have been, had they been born boys.

Discrimination is confronted in The Other. This poem is an indictment of our society. In it, the words used to cleave through our humanity, separating us from them.

In the combi the girl who likes mirrors says she is a Motswana not Botswanian and next time the reporter better get it right.

I have been taking classes to learn these other words so when she says Masarwa a, I wonder whether she sees herself. Perhaps she is Janus the two faced who looks both forward and backward at the same time.

But I fear it is much simpler than that. Most people cannot feel a hurt that does not look like them, even if it belongs to them.

A poem like Domboshaba starts off in Botswana but it travels beyond the country’s borders by referring to the brutality of the transatlantic slave trade.

The total disregard for lives that has taken place through the ages is referenced.

The title pays homage to the history of the Bakalanga.

Imagine you come from this
Familiar everyday of corn and air
Your dead hurled overboard
Without ceremony
Of leaving in peace.

That Dema reads widely, imbibes from many sources is evident in the way she uses words.

To create Vesta, she exploits her facility with the English language, she references Roman mythology, then she adds Setswana flavour.

Father used to place mother
in a three legged pot
all day she would stew

The foreword of the collection is written by Professor Kwame Dawes who states that the wait has been worth it.

And yes, reading this collection is like being given a beautifully stitched garment to wear, but it needs to be tried on several times, before one can say, yes, it fits just right.

Throughout the collections, there are carefully placed clues in the imagery, in the metaphors that one must search for.

Who knows whether one actually finds them…It matters not.

The Careless Seamstress is collection that I will return to again. And again. I am growing into it.

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Block 8 nurse challenges Covid-19 test results



A nurse who allegedly tested positive of Covid-19 during the emergency parliament session has given the Ministry of Health and Wellness up to next week Tuesday to respond to his legal demands as he believes that the test results were fake.

The victim, Morobi Dinao, a nurse at Block 8 Gaborone has made demands that the ministry give him signed results by the person who carried out the laboratory tests.

Dinao was diagnosed at a special parliament sitting in April, his supposed positive results leading to all MPs and those who attended the session to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine.

According to legal documents from Ndadi law firm, the 37-year-old nurse was admitted at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital on the 9th of April after he was told he tested positive.

On the 13th he demanded to see his results but was sent from pillar to post and the hospital could not give him the results.

He kept on demanding his results and on the 19th of April he was shown the results through his glass door from outside by one Dr Feledi.

Dinao allegedly asked for a copy of the results but the Doctor said he would revert to him after consulting with his superiors.

He was given his results when he was discharged on the 24th of April.

There was no explanation of the results and the document was also not signed hence the suspicion that they were not authentic.

Some of the things that made him suspicious, he says, are that the specimen submission form that carries his results is markedly from the one he completed on the day of tests.

He says the form does not have the laboratory personnel signature portion yet the one he duly completed had it.

The demands are that MOH should give an account of the delay of initial results.

Dinao’s lawyer, Uyapo Ndadi, told The Voice Online that they are awaiting response to their client’s demands before they can take the next step.

“I do not understand how a doctor can seek for his superior’s permission to give a patient his own results. How do you get admitted without seeing your results and told we are following the instructions to admit you? A lot is questionable in the whole scenario,” said Ndadi.

Ndadi further said he’ll await his client’s instruction before considering any court action.

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No water supply in Maun this weekend

*Main water pipe raptured at Nxaraga

*70% water supply shut down for maintenance work



Most parts of Maun and surrounding areas are expected to experience a dry spell this weekend as the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) cuts water supply for the next two days.

The department’s head of business, Thabo Ndadi, explained that seventy percent supply of water in and around Maun will be shut down to allow for maintenance of main water pipe to the area.

“This week we discovered that our main water pipe that brings in water from Kunyere boreholes has raptured and thus unable to adequately supply water,” explained Ndadi.

Ndadi further confirmed that they started noticing the leak last month but avoided tempering with it as it was during the lockdown and when the country had just reported first cases of the killer Covid-19 disease.

“Our hope and prayer was that the leak would not become so bad before the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency, but the water pressure has gone down and therefore we have to fix the problem and we cannot do it without temporarily cutting the flow,” added Ndadi.

Seventy percent of water supply in Maun is from boreholes along Kunyere river in Nxaraga area, while the other two boreholes in Shashe and Sexaxa make up the remaining thirty percent.

“This effectively means Maun will be running with a seventy percent water shortage and we are pleading with members of the community to use water with extra care,” Ndadi added.

In fact some areas will go dry for over 24 hours and WUC has advised people to store water for weekend use today because from tomorrow, taps will be completely dry. “Many other homes will get water way beyond the 24 hours, because after maintenance the water has to make a long journey to reach the taps, for some it will take 48 hours or so. In fact the whole recovery process takes seven days so, it may be practically impossible to complete the recovery within 24 hours.”

Meanwhile Thamalakane river has started to fill up, but the WUC water treatment plant in Borolong is yet to start pumping water from the river as they have to wait for at least a month for the water “to be of better quality to be processed for consumption. Right now the water volume is still low for such an exercise but the plant is ready to start operations. Already we have begun testing the water for quality and it not yet where we want it to be,” Ndadi said.

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