“Greetings from…” Oratile Olivia, a Setswana language digital activist from South Africa

Rising Voices invites you to join us for the 5th in the 5-episode “audio postcards” series “Greetings From…” series, featuring the voices of African language digital activists from South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana.

In this fifth and final episode, we explore the personal narratives of Oratile Olivia Gabaphethe in her own words.

Special thanks to producer Malcolm Bamba, whose collaboration with each activist has brought forth these compelling stories. Through his work, listeners will embark on a journey, gaining insights into the origins of each activist's digital engagement with their language. Additionally, this series sheds light on the challenges they confront and their ongoing motivation for their work.

The spotlight of the fifth episode shines on Oratile, whose work revolves around the Setswana language of South Africa. Rising Voices interviewed Oratile in this earlier blog post about her work, and you can follow along the audio with its transcript below.

Download the audio file here

Malcolm Bamba (MB): Hello everyone, I'm Malcolm Bamba and welcome to Rising Voices Presents “Greetings from..”, a series which follows language activists from across the globe sharing their stories of preservation in a digital age. In this episode, scriptwriter and language activist Oratile Olivia shares her passion for language activism from South Africa for the Setswana language and other languages. Here is her story.

Oratile Olivia (OO): Greetings beautiful people. My name is Oratile Olivia and I'm a script writer and language activist. I'm from Mafikeng, a small town located in the North West province of South Africa. Though I'm currently based in the Gauteng province. The Botswana people, as we are called, come together in song and dance to embrace and celebrate each other and trust that unity plays a huge role in building our community.

Being in the film making industry, I've come to live out the reality of what the phrase, “No man is an island” really means. And so the work that I do has never been a one man show. What makes a project a success is the working together of everyone involved in it. Hence, no department is ever insignificant, regardless of the magnitude level of the work that is given to them.

It is on that note that I allowed my scriptwriting to fall into the hands of language activism. As much as I advocate for my home language, which is Setswana, I respectfully support and consider every other language because I believe in their co-existence, something only unity can do. I took my craft and united it with an initiative I believed in, an initiative so broad that it could have gotten me to not consider at all. But I trusted the vision so much that I understood it's for a good cause. Language brings people together. It is when we communicate with each other that we force the relationships, and that happens primarily because of the existence of language. Language itself unites people, and it is also through such understanding that I keep to the work I do and love it so much.

OO: Three years into it, and I look forward to more productivity with optimism, as I believe in the coming together of people, all of us. We are all different in life and that's the beauty of it all. Otherwise, there wouldn't be need for us to connect. My work in the art and language environment allows me to bring people together. The stories I write and tell, the work I do and stand for, afford people of distinguished backgrounds, principles and values to relate with one another. I honestly cannot think of anything else I could be giving my time to doing, if not uniting others with me as well.

For the longest of time, I wondered how people advocating for different languages could come together and get along just fine and so well. Being in the field for some time myself, I learnt that it's only through unity and nothing else. The idea of diversity in it stands to bring together and not separate, thus giving the beauty of the blend. I am not here to promote one language and demote the other, but I am here to give each a platform of its own to thrive in full uniqueness that is possible and greatly honoring how I'm doing it. Unity kopano. That is what I do and I love doing it. In closing, I would love to say Tswellopele e mo kopanong, which ideally means progress lies in unity. Thank you.

MB: Thank you for listening to Rising Voices audio postcard series. For more information on the language activists featured in this episode, visit rising.globalvoices.org or follow us at @DigiAfricanLang on X (formerly known as Twitter). I'm Malcolm Bamba and I will see you in the next episode.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.