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Improving the Situation of Fine Arts Industry in Botswana: Challenges & Solutions


KEITH PHETLHE


In this era of the 21st century, the fine art industry in the developing countries like Botswana continue to face developmental challenges. This situation has compelled researchers to pose some crucial questions as way of showing the growing concern on the development of art industry in Botswana, and perhaps beyond the borders where I believe local talent has the capacity to expand and develop further. Some of the questions I attempt to answer in this article are as follows:

how much do Batswana know about the fine arts? How can the fine arts be supported by the government and private sector? What has been done so far to improve this industry and how can these efforts be supported further? How can we improve the fine arts in local languages as part of marketing the tourism industry? What can the Ministry of Arts and Culture do improve the situation of the fine art industry in Botswana? What is does it mean to perceive the fine arts as an industry, and how can they be perceived as profitable enterprise in Botswana?

My attempt to answer the questions above does emanate from my perspective as a scholar and researcher within the humanities, and it does not in any way suggest that I want speak from a ‘a holier-than-thou’ attitude. My goal is only to examine the situation of the fine arts in Botswana, exclusively, and present an argument that despite their potential to grow or develop the economy of Botswana, the fine arts continue to suffer neglect. This unfortunate situation persists despite the amount to local talent and amount of resources channeled towards financing the study of the Humanities and Arts in the local tertiary institutions.

To understand the arts, we are obliged to define them from the local perspective, from the aesthetic way of conceptualizing and contextualizing; in terms of how the arts are generally perceived by communities in Botswana and their communal function. In addition, we need to learn from countries abroad such as Greece, Italy and perhaps the US, and appreciate how such countries have historically approached the area of the fine arts as an enterprise.

Emphasizing the definition, the fine arts constitute any creative activity, material or immaterial/tangible or intangible that is consumed by the society for their aesthetic appeal or beauty and their communal function. This definition is theory based and therefore complex, but it can be simplified to mean fine arts include any work creative work of art that is produced and consumed in Botswana. Some examples include, poetry, film, folklore, music and dance, sculpture, theater and performance arts e.t.c Already, these works of art can be seen across Botswana in the malls, our clothes and jewellery, villages and arts centers such as the Thapong Visual Arts and the National Museum.

The list is endless and this is because they are a way of life- culture. Other examples include, sculptures and monuments that decorate significant buildings in Botswana, the glaring displays of artifacts at the main-mall or at the entrance of business places like Bull and Bush or Botswana Craft. Oodi College of Fine Arts, Limkokwing University and, the University of Botswana produce abled citizens who graduate with Art degrees from these universities every year.

Many locals produce immense talent mostly seen during the annual president holidays and other cultural activities; for example Oodi Weavers, Dithubaruba, Mbungu wa ka Thimana and Motlhaolosa Poetry Ensemble, to mention but a few cultural groups that exist in Botswana. However, the critical question that remain unanswered is, how can we utilize these artistic skills profitably? Perhaps the answer should be somewhere between where our national priorities lie and our general attitude to the arts. We must have a ‘collective responsibility’ that views art as an enterprise worthy of financial support and constant monitoring and the availing of arts endowments.

Efforts done thus far which come with the package of the money won from the president day competitions should encourage investors to  look further and invest in the art market, especially those who are into the the tourism and hospitality businesses. As a noted poet and culture activist Moroka Moreri has argued elsewhere in an exclusive interview, ‘artists need not to have circular jobs, but they should be given grants and loans to pursue the arts’. I can’t agree more. My own view which corroborates Moroka Moreri’s understanding is that this is the only positive way to promote the growth of the art industry in our country. However, proper, administration, management, and accountability are required to ensure the sustainability of these programs.  

Based on my observations, artists in Botswana continue to be exploited by consumers due to the following reasons: many generally don’t view art as business, and therefore fail to understand when an artist such as a poet or musician expects a payment for the artistic services rendered. Culturally, art across many African societies including Botswana was done for entertainment purposes (and other social functions) and the idea of profiting from it is a new development that proves that our culture is continually adapting.

I have personally performed poetry and rendered my services as the MC during some occasions only to be shocked when I was told that I had volunteered, or when a payment was fully determined by my consumer until I started to rethink ways of making my clients realize that my artistic services should be paid for. There are many other artists who continue to face this challenge, and are swallowed by unemployment despite the talent they possess.

Furthermore, I have also observed that many are times when people who sit as judges or adjudicators for the art competitions are largely unqualified amateurs with a very poor background in the arts. This is a problem and will probably continue to pose as a challenge to the proper development of the arts in Botswana. I think it is fitting to suggest that artistry in Botswana needs a proper administration, which should be handled by the people who are not only passionate about the arts, but also those art administrators who are trained to handle budget and profits reaped from artistic enterprises.  

How then can we improve the fine art industry in Botswana? We first need to ensure quality and appreciate the fact that the arts should occupy a significant role in the domains of our society and our economy. Therefore, our art production should be critical at all times, thus responding and maneuvering themes and topical issues of importance in the society. We also need to have artists who are prepared to produce the arts and a society that is equally prepared to consume and support local art.

This is the first major step to safeguard our ‘cultural economy’ through the use of arts in Botswana. Currently in Botswana, private and government financial institutions like banks, CEDA, National Development banks often given loans or grants to support businesses but despite this, the arts continue to be poorly supported however. Is it too risky to sponsor or make an investment in the arts? Hardly. Arts continue to flourish in the so called developed countries because of the way they are viewed.

Artists who want to build their artistic portfolio should also be supported financially to pave their way to becoming art entrepreneurs. This can be done by private investors and through the government programs. Secondly, we need to change our view towards the arts and think of the arts as a component that can have a commercial value. If we do so, our art industry with see growth both locally and internationally.

In conclusion, what can we learn from other countries where the art industry is flourishing? We can learn that art in any given society has a functional value, hence Botswana is no exception. The importance of the fine arts goes beyond entertainment, the arts are important repositories of our cultures. Through art, members of our societies, including the Minority groups will have their voice in the affairs of their society.

As I have argued elsewhere, during the conference hosted by the Department of English under the theme of The Competing and Complementary Role of English in Africa, I argued that we must incorporate other local languages into the extracurricular activities in our schools as a first step into shaping an inclusive and diversified education. In this article, I have defended the current situation of the fine arts in Botswana by highlighting on the challenges and possible solutions to the outlined challenges.  

KEITH PHETLHE pursues a Ph.D in Comparative African Literature with a minor in Film Studies from Ohio University, College of Fine Arts. He is a member of the African Literature Association. He does research on Postcolonial Theory, Translation, African Languages & Literatures, Language Education & Film. kp406314@ohio.edu

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WeekendLife

Mr & Miss Captivating in the works

21st June 2022
Miss Captivating

Beauty pageant queen Babedi Isaka will see her brain child, Mr & Miss Captivating finally come to life on August 22nd this year. Isaka enunciated that Mr & Miss Captivating is a home-grown pageant open for both international and local contestants between the ages of 16 and 26.

She went on that the pageant will open doors for contestants to get more out of life by teaching the contestants multiple life skills such as etiquette and boosting self-esteem. Isaka’s first stint was fashion modelling in 2016 and later on ventured into pageantry in 2018 to date.

She has several tittles under her belt. Among them being; a Miss Botswana 2021 top 16 Finalist and the most recent one being Miss Teen Africa 2nd Princess 2022. She believes her immense experience and the partnerships she has are a perfect fit to make the event a success.

On what inspired the pageant and the name, Isaka highlighted “A queen or king should influence and dominate by some special charm, art, or trait and having an irresistible appeal in society. Thus ‘captivating’ “

The pagent is expected to give back to the community by empowering the boy and girl child with life skills. Isaka noted that some of the ways women mark their place in the world is through beauty pageants as often times, tittle holders get involved in some form of social work.

“The majority of beauty queens use their offices to get involved with NGO’s or individual established projects during the cause of their reign. For some queens, these projects span the period of their reign and for others it becomes a life time thing.” She highlighted.

To Isaka an ideal Mr. & Miss Captivating is pictured as a leader and should have the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose that will serve communities for the greater good as well as being in possession of a character which inspires others.

The stereotype on the street is that pageants set unrealistic standards for women of all ages. Young girls and boys often try to live up to these standards and mature into adults complexing about their bodies and men who demand their wives or girl friend to look like beauty pageant participants.

Isaka however is a body image champion. She is of the belief that pageantry does not degrade women. In her own words “Pageants promote goal setting and truly inspire a contestant to search their soul, think about the future and plan on how to get there” adding that “There is nothing rarer, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself by being comfortable in her perfect imperfection. That is also why we have men as contestants, to clear the stereotype that pageantry objectifies women.”

Still on the matter of controversy and stereotype, when asked about the swim suit segment of pageants that always causes an uproar. Isaka confirmed Mr & Miss Captivating will have the swim suit segment emphasising “as an aspiring beauty queen, it is very important for women to be healthy and comfortable in their own skin.

The swimsuit round in pageants helps women love their unique build and instils discipline in working towards their fitness goals.” Mr & Miss Captivating has so far rallied 10 sponsors among them; beauty parlours, clothing lines and news media. The event will be hosted by local comedian and unisex model, Troy April. The standard ticket is selling for P300 while the VIP goes for P450.

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WeekendLife

Mowana’s Infinity Pool: Swimming in the wild!

21st June 2022
Mowana

Her mystery is not just the large bodies of water with isolated islands rich in the beauty of flora and fauna in this tourism gateway – this internationally renowned travel capital, has a strong sense of history, some sort of hidden purpose and legacy which plays with one’s senses as they explore the mighty Chobe River.

From Cresta Mowana, the Cresta Marakanelo flagship, the richness of Chobe has no better panoramic views. Tales and legends are shared about the islands in the area. Sedudu in particular once a subject of fierce dispute between Botswana and Namibia arouses interest from residents and visitors alike.

Some say the reasons for territorial dispute of the some 30 plus years ago was because of the unknown mysteries the island carries. As residents and visitors sit by the fire at the Boma the tales of the area can stretch until morning.

“Why fight for a piece of island no men can live in?” whispers one senior citizen who referred to himself as Rra Mabala as he rolled his traditional tobacco on a piece of old newspaper. “In the olden days we believed that the Chobe is home of spirituality. Those that were lost would find their way by simply appreciating her beauty. When you come here no matter your life’s troubles, when you leave you will find your way. The white man comes every year because he knows this,” he notes.

I set my sights to Cresta Mowana this past November. Its unique architecture which blends African tradition in wooden pillars, stone and thatch is a welcome contrast to the four-star amenities that make the likes of Prince Harry and many other international guests feel at home in the middle of the bush.

The balconies provide a sensational feel of Mother Nature at its best with the lush of green giving a carpet of green rare in our arid region nationwide. Chobe gives you an escape. The Serondela Restaurant is located adjacent to the river and makes meals much a delight and a platform of meeting new friends and mazing conversations.

For me the beauty was swimming in the wild. You guessed it wrong I do not mean swimming in the Chobe the Clarence Spa Infinity pool is about 30 meters away from the mighty river. As I swam overlooking this masterpiece of nature I remembered just why touring at home has so much meaning.

I looked for the fortune Rre Mabala spoke of in the hope that I find my path like so many who had come before come before my time. I realized that probably finding your way was not magic in the sense of Harry Porter novels but rather a renewed sense of self and relaxation which makes one put things into perspective.

The crisp air of being nestled and enveloped in nature with all things green made me realize just why the hotel group invested over BWP3 million in revamping the executive and presidential suites. The mighty Chobe River has an endless charm.

Visit Namibia from 500 meters away as you cruise the river on a boat. Make sure you choose a responsible company for this who have vetted captains. I enjoyed swimming in the wild. This Easter I may just do a revisit.

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WeekendLife

Cresta properties ranked among the top 10% of hotels worldwide

21st June 2022
Cresta

American travel online company TripAdvisor, Inc. has ranked 10 of Cresta Marakanelo Limited (CML) hotels amongst the top 10% of hotels in the world during the recently published Travellers’ Choice awards.

The properties awarded the TripAdvisor 2022 Travellers Choice Awards include Cresta Bosele, Cresta Botsalo, Cresta Marang Gardens, Cresta Mahalapye, Cresta Maun, Cresta President, Cresta Thapama, and from Zimbabwe, Cresta Churchill, Cresta Oasis and Cresta Sprayview.

Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform*, helps hundreds of millions of people each month** become better travellers, from planning to booking to taking a trip. “You are in the top 10% of hotels worldwide, congratulations.

Every year trip advisor recognizes businesses that have demonstrated a commitment to hospitality excellence with a traveller’s choice award- and- this year you made the list. That means you’ve earned consistent great reviews, so keep it up. Good job, and congratulations on your well-received win, (sic)” stated a communication from the TripAdvisor, Inc. head offices.

The Travellers’ Choice awards honour travellers’ favourite destinations, hotels, restaurants, things to do, and beyond, based on the reviews and opinions collected from travellers and diners around the world on TripAdvisor over 12 months. Travellers’ Choice recognizes businesses that earn consistently great reviews.

The news brought excitement to the Cresta Marakanelo Limited (CML) camp which has since been motivated by the development, “This nomination is a step in the right direction, it reflects that our local and international clientele has trust in the CML brand, services, and products.

All the gratitude for this development goes to our clientele, CML has some of the busy properties in the country and region, our strategic plan has always been to provide quality products and services,” said CML Managing Director Mokwena Morulane.

Over the years CML has been a home to local and international visitors who have left impressive reviews after receiving world class hospitality. It has a long history of serving travellers who seek authentic African experiences as well as modern comforts.

“As one of the leading hotel and tourism players in the country, we always strive to provide the best in true African hospitality. This has motivated us to work hard and continuely innovate our services. hopefully, next time more of our properties will be ranked amongst some of the best hotels in the world,” concluded the CML Managing Director.

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