The yoga teacher creating queer safe spaces in Botswana
Drake Selwe found peace and clarity during the pandemic, inspiring him to start transforming Botswana’s queer spaces through living his passion: yoga.
Selwe is no stranger to flying high. The yoga teacher, entrepreneur and LGBTQI+ activist worked as a commercial pilot before the pandemic hit. The reality of Covid-19 and lockdowns caused him to take a deep, serious look at his life and what he wanted to do with it.
“Actually, the period during Covid-19 was the most peaceful time of my life,” Selwe says. “It brought so much clarity, and it was in that time that I decided to return to yoga.”
He first started practicing yoga in 2021 which was facilitated by his background in contemporary dance and ballet.
It is the cornerstone of Selwe’s activism and work. He seeks to create safe spaces where Gaborone’s LGBTQI+ community can come together and not only enjoy the powerful discipline of yoga, but to connect with each other and discuss their shared challenges.
“The landscape of the queer experience in Gaborone is individual to Gaborone,” Selwe says. “It’s not as free and liberal as Johannesburg may be, for instance. On the other hand, it’s not as strict as the Middle East or other African countries.”
“My dream is to have a proper queer wellness day.”
Botswana’s attitude towards the queer community remains socially hostile, despite legalising homosexuality back in 2019. Many LGBTQI+ people have faced discrimination, verbal abuse and even violence and are often marginalised and even isolated. A queer-friendly place to come together is needed.
Selwe, who also holds a BA in Acting and Writing, emerged from his pandemic enforced introspection with an idea how to better serve the queer and broader community. He understood there was a strong need for safe places to meet up, and even more, a need for mental health support for the queer community.
And so, in the midst of the pandemic, he founded his company Yoga With Drake.
Selwe began by approaching venues he already knew were queer friendly. “I reached out to restaurants and other spaces that were welcoming. We started off coming together for film screenings and other events. Then I did some queer friendly yoga classes. We had conversations about mental health, and we started to build a sense of community.”
The issue that Selwe faces is that there is currently no funding for queer friendly yoga classes where LGBTQI+ people can gather, talk, get some exercise and share their experiences. This is the task he is currently tackling so that he can continue to grow and build a support network for the LGBTQI+ community in Botswana.
His work is not limited to the LGBTIQ+ community, though. He also promotes the benefits of mental health and wellness with a regular spot on national radio, does corporate-sponsored yoga gigs and even teaches pole dancing.
“I really want to upscale and do more classes,” Selwe says. “My dream is to have a proper queer wellness day. To celebrate queerness. To help heal the queer community.”
The passion in his voice strikes directly at the heart. Community is a driving force in his life. It is clear that he is not intending to build a village for the queer community, but a vibrant city that embraces LGBTQI+ people completely.
You can follow Drake Selwe on his Insta.
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