Advancing Human Rights through Art
The Fellowship helped elevate my profile in spaces where people might have never imagined that an artist could also be a critical scholar of human rights and knowledgeable on pertinent social justice matters.”Katlego Kai Kolanyane-Kesupile, 2018 Fellowship Alumni, Botswana
Each June, Pride Month recognizes the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) individuals have had on local, national, and international history. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is proud of the Fellowship Alumni, like Katlego Kai Kolanyane-Kesupile, who are defending human rights for LGBTQI individuals across the world. Katlego is an independent researcher, cultural architect and development practitioner focused on marginalized communities, such as people with disabilities, LGBTQI people, and people living in rural areas.
Building community through art and activism
Katlego considers herself an ARTivist, combining her love for art with her passion for activism. She is the founder and creative director of the Queer Shorts Showcase Festival, Botswana’s first, and only, theatre festival focused on presenting original works dealing with LGBTQI themes through various theatrical means. She is also a playwright and a published poet and has served as a speaker and facilitator in festivals and conferences around the world – including Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
“ARTivism, for me, is the merging of age-old traditions of storytelling, education and community building,” Katlego says. “It can level inequalities without relying on intelligence or qualifications, as such, it is a valuable tool across cultures, classes and generations.”
As a culture, human rights, and social justice scholar, combining these schools of thought and practice through art was a natural progression for Katlego’s career. After her Fellowship, she was one of four recipients of PlayCo’s Black Women Playwrights’ residency in New York, where she produced a new Afro-futuristic play.
Advocating for human rights
As a researcher, Katlego focuses on marginalized communities, and her outputs are usually in the form of creative educational products, enabling consumers to initiate a dialogue on the topic. Her research applies a feminist, human rights lens to solution-building for development.
She recently completed production on a documentary series investigating transgender rights and inclusive healthcare in Botswana. In 2022, she was appointed to the Board of Trustees for The Other Foundation, the largest human rights and LGBTQI advocacy donor foundation in southern Africa.
“The Fellowship helped elevate my profile in spaces where people might have never imagined that an artist could also be a critical scholar of human rights and knowledgeable on pertinent social justice matters,” Katlego said.
Written by Abbie Wade.
2017 Reciprocal Exchange Participant, Mauritius