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Home » Columns » An Open Letter to Honourable Thapelo Olopeng

An Open Letter to Honourable Thapelo Olopeng

Publishing Date : 19 June, 2017

Rasina Winfred Rasina
Events Review

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim! Your lordship, may it be known to you that we shall as creative artists continue to engage and shout at each other over the lack of direction and expected growth in the creative industry until you act….bona bra yaka….gobatla kegotlhamaleditse….this beautiful and unique country of ours attained independence in 1966.


It was only recently when your Ministry coordinated the celebrations to inspire patriotism, pride and confidence in ourselves for having come this far….kontleng hela gagore gawa njesa sepe….you did well….!....hakere waitse gore selo senna sharp hela ha motho ajele sengwe....hahahahaha.…wantshwara hakere….!....This communication though is not necessarily about this your lordship. Its is a cry for attention.


You are my witness that all the national celebrations are done with and through the Creative Industry. It remains the only sector that we are able to come all under one roof despite our political, social, religious and economic differences to relate as a people who come from far. A people who are still going far into a beautiful future. This cannot be done by giving the Creative Industry attention only when you want to celebrate achievements.


For the sector to grow there needs to be a proper body regulating the growth, sustainability and nurturing of the Creative Industry. Without this body, all the efforts you are putting in are merely a waste of time, resources and emotions….ese gore kebatla gogokgobera maikutlo mong wame….kegotshaba mogomaswe….this institution is a must your lordship. This body that we have for so many years been humbly and kindly requesting for is called the Botswana National Arts Council.  

Honourable Minister, the issue of the Botswana National Arts Council has been going on for many years. I specifically recall that I personally became a part of it during the tenure of Rre Thebe Mogami…..kana okae mong wame ruri.…?....who was the then Minister of Labour and Home Affairs. The Department of Youth and Culture, as it was then called, was under this particular Ministry.


I still recall yet the many meetings that proceeded to the tenure of Rre Moeng Pheto who took over from Rre Thebe Mogami from the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, where we were still some small and unrecognized department. Though being a fully fledged Ministry, we are still singing and dancing to the same old song that remains our misery, our agony and our eternal pain. I write to you as an appeal that you consider this matter an important assignment.


I travelled with this issue, both as a theatre practitioner and a music administrator to the days of the then first ever Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, her lordship Gladys Kokorwe. Many meetings were yet held, promises made, promises never fulfilled and promises vanished. Our issue never ended, it landed at the desk of Honourable Shaw Kgathi during his tenure as the Minister of Youth Sports and Culture. Very little attention, if none at all was given to the matter then.


I apologise on behalf of Honourable Shaw Kgathi on the assumption that his schedule was too tight, too busy and too engaging to consider this subject matter needing dedicated attention…..gake batle gomokgoma gosele kana bare haatenegile obolelela mosimane gore….“you a starting a war you can’t finish”….This matter is now at your desk as the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development……mogalaaammakaapaaaa…..selo se leina banna….! One can only look at you, look up you as the man at that high office and plead. Your lordship, this narration, monotonous as it sounds, is of great importance in the emphasis that this is a long, tiring, and emotionally draining journey.


Unfortunately, this matter is handled by politicians, on behalf of us creative artists. You can imagine the frustration we are going through of having being to be at the mercy of political processes yet without direct or immediate say in matters that are affecting us so painfully. Many have already died your lordship fighting this battle…..keraa gore mong wame hautlwa kegopola baswi jaana kegore pelo yame ebotlhoko ja ntho….I recall clearly my friend and my brother the late Gomolemo Motswaledi, who during his days as an employee of the Department of Youth and Culture fought for this to become a reality.


He left the civil service before this could be attained. He continued fighting for such under many other forums given to him by KTM Choir and this was never attained in his life time. I recall the late veteran, Malombo Mmereki who sat patiently in the long meetings which we the young Turks presented paper after paper justifying why this was urgent. This remains a pipe dream.


Your lordship, at one point during the reigns at of Mme Tlhabologo Ndzinge as the Director of Youth and Culture, that was sometimes between 2008 and 2009, we gathered as Arts practitioners, particularly in the field of Creative Industry policy. We spent two full days under heavy deliberations at the Botswana National Productivity Centre.


We listened to case studies from neighbouring countries on how they were able to formulate and put into life their National Arts Councils. There were about 80 of us in that gathering which was facilitated by the Chief Executive Officer of the then newly formed National Arts Council of Namibia. This was hope, and indeed just hope, that finally we are moving towards the stages of implementation and less talk.


I was to later have an opportunity to travel to Zimbabwe on a bench marking mission on the implementation and the relationship of the Zimbabwe National Arts Council and the arts practitioners in that country. I did report back to both the Ministry and the three additional funders of the trip being the Arterial Network based in Cape Town, Art Moves Africa and the British Council. Promises were made, promises never fulfilled and promises vanished.


I was to yet spend three solid weeks in Caper Town under the tutelage of the Arterial Network in expanding the scope, where several countries including, Lesotho, America, Swaziland, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Libya etcetera shared on their successes, their challenges and the journeys of their inspiration and how their National Arts Councils have inspired the Creative Economy, creating sustainable jobs, educational opportunities, cross border cultural exchanges etcetera in their respective countries….owaaaiii….nna keha kele mono hela….ese tlhong ebolaya motho mogo nna….!....


I am mentioning this because it was part of the journey that we shared and continue to share back home with your Ministry and appropriate arts organisations. These trips which were largely funded by the British Council, Arterial Network and Art Moves Africa and in some instances the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA); were meant to equip us to help the Government of Botswana to understand the need of the Botswana National Arts Council and hence whenever returning from this trip, I and others who in particular instances had the opportunity to travel such, did come back to report to your Ministry and many other relevant bodies. Promises made, promises never fulfilled, promises vanished.


Your Lordship, this is not just a communication to you that all that we are waiting for, the State Theatre, affordable venues, representation in laws, regulations and policies affecting directly and indirectly the Creative Industry sector, and all the synchronisation of efforts, can be done only effectively through the existence of the Botswana National Arts Council. If it becomes difficult to comprehend my lordship, as I know your busy schedule, simply think along the lines of the Botswana National Sports Commission.

It will make your job easier to engage. We are not saying we need another, or duplication of the Department of Arts and Culture that your Ministry already has under its many portfolios. The Botswana National Arts Council is and will be a completely different animal altogether. Your lordship, I will not be honest to say we do not appreciate your dedicated efforts in helping to build the Creative Industry.


But we need to look beyond your tenure as the Minister responsible. The next Minister might not have the vigour, robustness and passion that you carry. And when such unfortunate moment comes, we will be comforted that; the Botswana National Arts Council will carry on the journey; and your legacy. Allahur Akbar!

The Journey Continues,

Rasina Winfred Rasina
Email: rwwrasina@gmail.com
Mobile: +267 71886794      
Facebook Page: Rasina Winfred Winnie Rasina
     Twitter: Rasina_W_Rasina

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