Botswana female wildlife photographer, Tshepho Phokoje is one of the few women documenting wildlife and conservation issues in the country.
The self-taught Phokoje (40) whose surname interestingly means a jackal, started doing wildlife photography just in 2019.
Recently Phokoje organized a wildlife photography exhibition at Nhabe Museum in Maun called Vixen Photography Solo Exhibition.
The exhibition targets to inspire the community especially potential female photographers across Botswana to venture in to nature and wildlife photography. 33 pictures are on exhibition which is running until end of March.
Phokoje told The Okavango Express: ‘’There is a story behind every picture exhibited here aimed at creating a platform for conversation about animals, how they live in their habitat and ways of conserving them.’’
She added: ‘’ my believe is that when people see something like a wildlife photograph at close range they could easily pay attention and learn how to conserve wildlife. This exhibition is a way of bringing animals closer to the people.’’
Phokoje explained that she also regularly share the inspiration behind her pictures with different people in her community: ‘’ I have realised that it become more believable and interesting for people to hear stories from someone they know.’’
She started from humble beginnings after a friend had saw her picture of an oncoming rainy storm that she had captured. As a compliment the friend borrowed her his DSLR camera to use to take pictures.
Phokoje revealed that she got so determined to achieve that she religiously watched You Tube videos to improve her craft. She further enrolled for a 6 weeks programme that was offered by American Embassy called ‘America On The Move’ to learn drawing and painting basics.’
In 2019, Phokoje’s picture of a Martial Eagle that she shot while driving through Makgadikgadi National Park became second in the wildlife category at Botswana Photographers awards. This achievement convinced her than ever to take her path in wildlife photography seriously.
Speaking during the exhibition, Botswana Wildlife Training Institute Principal, Moemi Batshabang said it is encouraging to see women showcasing their artistic mettle in the male dominated field of 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 one to know the environment and animal behavior as well as patience to capture the unique moments in the natural world’’ added Batshabang.
Phokoje who is also a poet and a writer also gained praise from Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO.) BTO Manager, Thatayaone Mmapatsi described her exhibition as one of potential innovative mediums for growing and marketing Botswana’s wildlife tourism and her conservation legacy. ‘’