Tshepho Phokoje uses her photographs to talk about conservation

By Boniface Keakabetse for The Okavango Express

Botswana wildlife photographer Tshepho Phokoje is one of the few women documenting wildlife and conservation issues in the country.

Self-taught Phokoje, 40, whose surname interestingly means a jackal, only started wildlife photography in 2019.

Phokoje recently held a wildlife photography exhibition at the Nhabe Museum in Maun, in northwestern Botswana near the Okavango Delta, called Vixen Photography Solo Exhibition.

The exhibition aims to inspire the community, especially potential female photographers in Botswana, to venture into nature and wildlife photography. A total of 33 photos are in the exhibition, which will run until the end of March.

Phokoje said, “There is a story behind every image on display here, aimed at creating a platform for conversation about animals, how they live in their habitat, and ways to conserve them.”

Phokoje used internet tutorials to learn photography techniques

(Boniface Keakabetse)

She added: “My belief is that when people see something like wildlife photography up close, they can easily pay attention and learn how to conserve wildlife. This exhibition is a way to bring animals closer to people.

Phokoje explained that she also regularly shares the inspiration behind her photos with people in her community: “I realized that it becomes more believable and interesting for people to hear the stories of someone they know.”

She started with humble beginnings after a friend saw her photo of an incoming thunderstorm. As a compliment, the friend lent him his DSLR camera to take pictures.

Phokoje revealed that she was determined to improve her craft and started watching YouTube videos religiously. She also enrolled in a 6-week program offered by the American Embassy called “America On The Move”, to learn the basics of drawing and painting.

In 2019, Phokoje’s photo of a martial eagle she took while crossing Makgadikgadi National Park won her second place in the Wildlife category at the Botswana Photographers Awards. This realization reinforced his desire to take his path in wildlife photography seriously.

Speaking at the exhibition, director of the Botswana Wildlife Training Institute, Moemi Batshabang, said it was heartening to see women showcasing their artistry in the male-dominated field of wildlife. wildlife photography. According to Batshabang, wildlife photography is an example of sustainable use of wildlife resources and could also serve as a conservation tool.

“This art requires knowledge of the environment and animal behavior, as well as patience to capture the unique moments of the natural world,” Batshabang added. Phokoje, who is a poet and writer, has also received accolades from the Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO). BTO Director Thatayaone Mmapatsi described her exhibit as a potential innovative way to develop and market Botswana’s wildlife tourism and conservation heritage.

This article is reproduced here as part of the African Conservation Journalism Program, funded in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe by USAID’s VukaNow: Activity. Implemented by the international conservation organization Space for Giants, it aims to expand the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in Africa and bring more African voices into the international conservation debate. Read the original story here.

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