Koolkat Motyiko, who is a fellow at NEWF would be representing Botswana at the Fellows Summit and congress in Durban, South Africa. He would be attending with his band, including Bogosi Prince Tshekiso, Tumi Sejoe, Tumisang Mothei and Rufusiah Molefe. Band members: Gaekgone Lesego, Gift Mokaleng, Godwill Taboka, Kabo Leburu and Keolope Matlhape are also expected to be in attendance. Asked what people should anticipate from NEWF Congress, this year, Titus said that they are looking forward to a fulfilling event filled with networking.

“Our words for the year are ‘Refine’ and ‘Refocus’ and we are looking forward to engaging with invited fellows, industry thought partners and partner organisations through a series of thought provoking, aspirational and deeply informative panels, case studies, workshops and screenings,” she said. She added that their Congress sessions and workshops topics include: State of the Nation Address, a Cameroon Spotlight, Vision Boarding, Ethics in Documentary, Podcast Creation and Distribution, Industry Rates, Film Financing and Co-productions, Conservation in Action, and an audience choice screenings of three films from a fellowship in their community such as Nkashi: Race for the Okavango. This screening would go a long with rhythmic entertainment from the ‘Ko Seronga’ hitmaker otherwise known as Koolkat Motyiko and his band as the backdrop to an evening celebrating Botswana’s history in this field.

Head of Communications at Nature Environment Wildlife Filmmakers (NEWF), Stefanie Titus, explained that NEWF 2024 Fellows Summit and Congress, under the theme, 'Redefine and Refocus' in Durban, South Africa, is focused on professional development for creatives in the film industry. She explained that this annual gathering comprises two parts, including: Fellows Summit, which is open to NEWF Fellows by invite only and their Congress, is also open to any interested parties from the industry, at levels ranging from emerging and mid-career, to established professionals and grant makers.

She highlighted that NEWF started in 2017 and working through Africa Refocused to grow the film industry across the world. “Africa Refocused is a program in partnership with the National Geographic Society and supports NEWF’s Storytelling and ocean access programs and activities. This years Congress, #NEWF24, refocuses our lens on the next level of professional development for our fellows,” she said. She noted that the summit is jam packed with practical, industry-led workshops, while the Congress invites emerging talent and industry parties to ‘Cross over to the Wild Side’.

While the African film and storytelling industry has grown tremendously over the last few years in particular, NEWF believe that part of their mission is to migrate talent from fiction and music productions, to passionate nature and conservation storytelling for the preservation of the planet and her wildlife, Titus said: “This year's Congress features a slate of panels, case studies and workshops for attendees to learn from,” she said.

Titus explained that the value of Congress is in the networking opportunities. ”For emerging talent it’s an opportunity to connect with the NEWF community, industry professionals and get a feel for their potential professional tracks or interests within this storytelling industry. For professionals, production companies and grant makers it’s an opportunity to meet talent at all levels, seek or lay the groundwork for collaborations, observe the stories coming from this community and identify opportunities to mentor, hire locals and or develop new projects, partnerships and pitches,” she said.

Titus reiterated that they take great pride in NEWF’s Pan Africanism. “It’s a sense of pride shared by countless fellows, all of whom have contributed to our rich cultural, inclusive and authentic community of storytellers,” she said. She further reiterated that the addition of Botswana musicians to TiKwenda, a collective born from NEWF’s Composers Lab and the Nkashi film and soundtrack has meant expanding the authentic, local rhythms, vocals and beats of this impressive musical melting pot. She added that, Authentic African composition is a growing industry that is becoming hard to ignore, especially with wins like Nkashis at the prestigious Jackson Wild Media Awards. To beat fellow nominees of Hans Zimmer’s calibre speaks to the undeniable authenticity and the growing recognition of the need for music that honours Africa’s history of oral and musical storytelling.

She also mentioned that Rufusiah who will be in attendance at #NEWF2024 received a grant to produce her film, Whisperers of the Delta, while Tumisang Mothei who will also be in attendance, won the Narrator competition in 2020 and has remained a close member of the community. “With more diverse soundscapes, cultural references and technical flair, every time fellows from new regions join, we are able to lean into interesting and promising partnerships and celebrate African storytelling and composition in new ways,” shared Titus.

Asked if they have any plans of carrying out any of their workshops in Botswana, Titus told BG Style that they are currently scouting fellows in the Central African region. They are also in discussion with the Botswana Film Festival about the potential to partner and support each other's work. “There is a lot of buzz around the Nkashi Soundtrack that may spring new activity too. We’re leaning into more peer-to-peer activity in 2024 so who knows how much of that will be led by our Batswana fellows? 2025 is going to be a big year for growth and sustainability following this year's refinement,” Titus said, emphasizing that they expect a lot of their fellows’ growth to come from cross-continental collaboration, nominations for specific opportunities and partner hubs and labs.