MOTSWANA PUTTING AFRICA ON THE MAP
The name Africa Amara sounds very interesting, I’m sure as much as me, our readers would like to know what the name means and what was the inspiration behind giving it to the show?
The name Amara means urgent business in Swahili and this resonates with the objectives of the program. We are engaged in the very “urgent business” of changing the perceptions about Africa particularly in Australia.
How would you describe the Africa Amara talk show?
It’s not a talk show, it is a cultural show. The program features a range of stories. It is divided into varying sections that cover issues of major interest to an average Australian, including Australia’s Multicultural Society and African migration to Australia. These stories are mostly told by distinguished African Australians, Australians and anybody else with broad and deep knowledge in their areas of expertise. They inform, debate and challenge audiences with new perspectives. These will hopefully encourage Australians to be more open and accommodating to Africans that they interact with in their communities.
The program also highlights -the growing economic interdependence between Australia and Africa- news about Africa development prospects as well as successful African businesses in Australia. Told by those directly involved and those that know best. The stories are also meant to foster a new way of thinking among Australia’s business community regarding what Africans have to offer.
It was highly successful in terms of numbers, in it’s 1st broadcast it attracted over 55, 700 unique TV viewers in Melbourne and Geelong through the TV channel C31, and over 10, 000 in Western Australia through WTV. In Western Australia the season has been re- broadcast 3 times over the last 4 years due to demand.
As a young man, all the way from Botswana, What inspired you to produce a show in Australia?
Foremost I noticed a niche in Australian TV or TV programs, both mainstream and at community levels. At the time I decided to do the show, there were TV programmes that catered to varying people that live in Australia from different cultures. However there was no TV program that catered for Africans or African affairs. I was also compelled by the imbalance of stories that are often presented to the Australian audience, the stories that were mostly shared here were negative, about Africa being a war zone, an unsuccessful gloomy continent or about African Australians misbehaving and failing to integrate into Australian society – these were fuelled by the usual homologous interpretation of Africans or Africa. For example if a bunch of kids of African decent were to run into some issues here, media would usually present them as Africans, this way of portraying Africans meant that to the Australian casual observer, that may not know much about Africa, Africans were seen as trouble makers and not such a cool bunch of people.
I therefore saw it absolutely vital to create a show that would allow stories about Africa or African Australians to tell their own stories. Without sounding bias, I also wished to share success stories and quell the negativity that was being portrayed.
The spark came during the world cup in South Africa, for a change I noticed that images about Africa were by default shown to Australians as they enjoyed watching the soccer games. During that time, there were images of developed places, happy colourful people, for that brief period, Africa was shown as a fun place to be. I then thought to myself, how about if Africa was always presented this way, perhaps the world could start to see Africa differently. And so I began, drafting the business plan for Africa Amara.
What were your two most notable experiences hosting the show?
The hosting, although most notable was actually a small part of the whole project, the big job came from producing the show, which encompassed building a solid business plan for it, marketing strategies, and everything else that was necessary to bring the show to life and keep it going. Also all the hands on multimedia work that was necessary for the show including the video’s, graphics and all the challenges that surfaced along the way, the hosting was only about 3 % of the total work.
Anyhow, with the hosting I guess I did surprise myself there, before Africa Amara, my TV career had always been “behind the scenes” rarely did I go before the camera or present. I actually wanted to have other people present, but eventually decided I would do it myself. I surely hope I pulled it off.
Upon producing the pilot, I realised that it was possible for me to present. I realised as productions went on that my confidence grew, my listening skills or ability to remain attentive throughout interviews improved. Most importantly, I brushed up on my research skills as I had to study each subject or person to be interviewed in good time before holding the interview.
You have had the opportunity of interviewing notable people. Any experiences you can share?
Yes, most of the people are well known, but some in particular have significant achievements. Dr Berhan Ahmed is well known as an advocate for Africans in Australia, he was also honoured as the Australian of the year by Prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2010. David Vincent, a young man from Sudan is also an author, peace advocate and former child soldier. His journey and life has been broadcast not just by Africa Amara but many other TV programs and through other publications. He is seen as one of the Sudanese communities foremost young leaders.
And perhaps this one would be a project rather than a notable person – The African Australian inclusion program is a joint venture between the Nab Bank and Jesuit Social Services, this initiative has given jobs or careers to aver 100 professional African migrants since it started. Mostly cooperate professionals who were stuck in limbo in terms of career. Most of them were getting knocked back when applying for jobs because of misconceptions that employers had about Africans. This inclusion program is well known amongst the African community, not only has it given careers to these people, but the effects have affected their families, improved lives and boosted the moral of younger Africans who could have been otherwise discouraged from pursuing careers in cooperate Australia.
Having worked in the television industry in Botswana, and experienced its highs and lows, what advice would you give to aspiring tv producers?
Persistence, readiness to work hard, appreciation of new technology and understanding the risks involved in running such an entity. That’s what I have learnt and I believe if one can realize these, they can produce any kind of show they wish.
What’s next for Africa Amara?
It is my ultimate wish to continue with the project or produce future broadcasts, but this will also depend on many other factors such as sponsors. If I am confident I have time in Australia I will continue. Anyhow I do continue to engage in other Video productions in Australia.
I’ve had the privilege of watching your show here in Australia, but where can people living in Botswana and other countries view Africa Amara?
About the producer.
Ogolotse Ntwaagae, that is my name, most people call me O-G, some say Og, my mother calls me Golo. Everyone seems to have a way of chopping down my name. I’m from Botswana, but Australia is my home, it has been for 8 years of my life.
I have been involved with TV production since 2001 and have worked in this field in Botswana, America and Australia. I have done work for Botswana TV, was a camera loader for the BBC/HBO/ Weinstein company production of “The no.1 ladies’ detective Agency”, videographer for black November – The movement- an undertone campaign for Nigerian / Hollywood movie “Black November by Director Jeta Amata. However, the Africa Amara TV show is the highlight of my TV career.
I’m a fun loving guy, appreciates every person on earth and I have no enemies up to date. I am also a recording musician and have been doing music for over 15 years now.