A House Without Snakes

In 2015, filmmaker Daniel Koehler spent several weeks in Botswana making a documentary about the San people of New Xade. The film features MaP alumnus Ketelelo Moapare, who was born in the area and received a scholarship to study at Maru-a-Pula.

A House Without Snakes’ premiered in early 2016 at the Full Frame Documentary Festival in Durham, North Carolina. The film has been featured numerous international festivals including Disthwanelo Human Rights Film Festival, National Geographic Further Film Festival and St Louis International Film Festival. It was also screened for students at Bana ba Metsi, a school for at-risk youth in the Okavango region, and Moeding College in partnership with Stepping Stones International. 

Ketelo is currently studying Civil Engineering at the Michigan State University, USA on a MasterCard Foundation Scholarship.

Ketelelo Moapare’s Story:

“Orphaned at birth, I was raised by my grandmother, an illiterate woman who was raised in the semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer tribe of the Central Kalahari, called the G//ana. I too was destined for a life of illiteracy and despondency were it not for a library that I helped to establish in my remote village of New Xade. At the age of 13, I partnered with two American Peace Corps volunteers in my village who wrote an application to the African Library Project to procure books for a community learning centre. When the books arrived, I helped to unpack them and order them according to the Dewey Decimal system. This process was long and tedious, but it gave me a sense of ownership of the library. We named the library, “Yiaguisi”, which means “stepping up” in my mother tongue. Instead of being resigned to a future of illiteracy, I helped to bring the first-ever community library to my village, and have used the books contained therein to give myself a “step up” in life. This experience taught me that difficult circumstances into which we are born can be overcome by positive action, and not being afraid to ask for assistance from others.

I am from the minority ethnic group G//ana, a sub-group of the San people. As a member of this group, I encountered discrimination from classmates and teachers in school. For instance, we were punished at K’joe Primary School, New Xade for speaking our “click language”. In fact, even our name puts us down; we are known in Botswana as the “Basarwa,” which literally means, “those with nothing.” Despite these challenges, I was determined to use education as a platform to level the playing field. With focus and a strong work ethic, I performed exceptionally well and was even awarded a national scholarship (top achievers scholarship) to pursue my A-Levels at Maru-A-Pula School. I have used this opportunity to tell other students about my tribe and our way of life; to show them that we, too, are people who have something worth sharing. I continue to use every opportunity to promote cultural tolerance in the hope that Botswana will unite in diversity.”

~ Ketelelo Moapare