KEITH PHETLHE â€¨ 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. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thabiso Tshwenyana is certainly a bright spark. He has been hitting the books, at the same time pushing hustle on radio! Well, you may not know who I’m talking about right now unless I refer to him as ‘Lerapo’, or ‘Bundle of Joy ya Radio’, as he is commonly called by his aficionados on radio.
Lerapo is resolute on taking over the entertainment and broadcasting space, of course wearing many hats as a radio host, content producer and a socialite. Not only that, he is a fresh Real Estate graduate currently functioning as a property analyst.
One may wonder how this young lad (currently 23-years-old) managed to be on radio, at the same time pursuing his Degree in Real Estate. Well, he says it took grit, time management and really doing what one likes. And he is right, because in today’s world anyone can call themselves a presenter. But it takes unparalleled skill, unbreakable determination, and heaps of talent to captivate an audience of millions.
Whether or not you think he’s the best, there’s no arguing that Lerapo is possibly the most prominent young radio presenter to hail from the Botswana. Initially starting his career in 2017, Lerapo earned himself a reputation as ‘Bundle of Joy ya Radio’ by consistently pushing the boundaries of what could be said and done.
His shows consists of outrageous humor and youthful content that’s shocking the radio establishment, and taking young people to cloud 9. The show is called The Youth Café on Duma FM, and airs every Saturday between 2PM and 2PM, broadcasting in vernacular.
When sharing with Weekendlife his startling life on radio and how he will be turning it down this year, he says the journey started back in 2017 at RB2 where he hosted a 30-minute feature. “I am definitely a go-getter. I love radio and this has been my childhood dream! I held onto this dream and survived against all odds. I am happy to be on radio because after all the knockings, snubs and distressing coercions, I persisted nonetheless. Sometimes it was just a matter of being at the right place at the right time.”
Before joining Duma FM in 2019, he was a content producer at yet another youthful urban radio station Yarona FM. At the age of 23-years old, Lerapo has worked at three radio stations, both government and private urban stations. Remarkable! For someone aspiring to be on radio, I can confidently say he is the pluq for inspiration and familiarity.
He continued to dish more on what radio really needs, saying “Taking time to perfect the craft, being open to learn from others and just digging down on books and the internet on how radio works did magic to me. It became easier to comprehend fully what I needed and how to go about getting it.”
Being a radio presenter means having a whole team prior to going on air. This means having a show prep, and reflecting on how the show went down with your producers or programs manager. Programs manager handles the business of the radio station and leave the voice and personality to the presenter.
Presenters have to follow rules of the programs manager even if they may not see eye-to-eye. They may prefer to play safe and repeat music even though sometimes a presenter prefers to take a risk and make changes to the music. Nevertheless, the success of the radio station lies in programs manager’s hands.
“After a show I usually have a reflection on how it went then I plan for the next show. On Tuesdays I have what we call an ‘air check’ with either the programs manager or his assistant to identify hiccups on the previous show and see how best to work on them to have a great delivery on the next show. Since I produce my own show, I give them a preliminary show prep. Once approved, I start contacting guests to be featured on the show and later share the final show prep a day before the show airs with the bosses.”
Still on his show, he does live reads. These are paid adverts that he discusses with the marketing department prior to his show going live. Well, as for a sizzling playlist, the music compiler knows how to serve him right.
He says a great radio hosts listens, reads and makes a show about the listener. ‘A common mistake we make as radio hosts is that we make the show about us and tend to feel that we know more than the listener. We also ought to respect the listener, these are our clients after all. Radio hosts should also refrain from relying on social media for content, most of it is fake and unverified by relevant authorities.”
December 2019 was the time a case of the contagious Corona-virus was first identified in Wuhan, China. The world has never been the same again, as the deadly virus swept across countries and killed many people.
Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. African countries felt the heat too, as the first case reached the continent through travelers returning from hotspots in Asia, Europe and the United States. The first COVID-19 case was recorded in Egypt on 14 February. Since then a total of 52 countries have reported cases.
Most African countries took swift action early on, and it is largely thanks to these efforts to limit gatherings and strengthen public health capacities. Governments introduced back-to-back lockdowns, curfews and the compulsory wearing of masks in public places.
Some countries suspended forthwith cross-border trading, save for commercial and transit cargo related to essential and critical services. Air transportation, tourism and social events were at one point shelved to mitigate the spread of this virus. For many countries, this mechanism helped reduce infections, however, numbers don’t lie. COVID-19 in Africa has since taken a drastic turn, with numbers now surging at an alarming rate.
The neighboring South Africa has from the onset, been the only country in Africa with the highest number of COVID-19 cases. As of Monday January 4th 2021, there were over 1 Million (1 113 349) infections after the country recorded 12 601 new cases post festive season.
The number of Corona-virus deaths in South Africa has now surpassed the 30 000 mark, the highest in the entire continent. Gauteng province continue to record most cases of the COVID-19, now leading with over 301 thousand cases.
Reports from South Africa say mortuaries have ran out of space as COVID-19 bodies’ pile up. Funeral parlor owners say they are under immense pressure and are battling to cope with the high number of burials they have to perform due to deaths from the contagious Corona-virus.
The country is currently under level 3 lockdown. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced during an address that there will be a nationwide curfew from 9PM to 6AM, subsequently banning the sale of alcohol from retail outlets and the on-site consumption.
In Botswana, President Mokgweetsi Masisi extended a curfew until January 31st 2021. In his address to the nation this week, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Edwin Dikoloti said there shall be no movement of people between 8PM and 4AM until month end while the Presidential COVID-19 Task Force team continue to assess the complexity of the virus.
Botswana currently have over 13 thousand (13 613) confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus, with a significant number of recoveries that stood at over 12 thousand (12 481), as of Monday this week. The Corona-virus claimed over 45 Batswana lives. There were 563 new cases confirmed on Monday.
According to COVID-19 Case Report, there are 553 859 total tests conducted, 407 055 of which were local tests, while 1827 were transferred out. Zimbabwe has 15,829 confirmed Corona-virus cases and 384 deaths as of January 5, 2021. In response to increased COVID infections, the government instituted a new nationwide lockdown on January 5. Curfew is in effect from 6PM to 6AM. International air travel is still permitted, subject to testing requirements, while international land travel and inter-provincial/inter-city travel are largely prohibited.
As of December 1, the government of Zimbabwe requires all new arrivals to the country to present a negative COVID-19 test result issued within the previous 48 hours. The government provides no option for testing upon arrival for such travelers.
In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, COVID-19 has found its adventure playground. Tunisia and Egypt are two countries with most cases and deaths recorded, with 139 140 and 138 062 cases. From both countries combined, there are over 10 thousand deaths related to COVID-19.
My Star Botswana has consistently been keeping people glued to their screens every Sunday evening to watch their favourites battle it out for the cash price. This has been the case since the show started back in 2007.
The winners of the controversial competition are usually taken to the United Kingdom for sightseeing and benchmarking.
The whole purpose of My Star was to unearth raw talents and flair from the grass-roots. The show Producer and Director, Keabetswe ‘Master Dee’ Sesinyi, together with his team would scout talent from across the country, including rural areas.
Well, things took turns and twists this time around, as the show failed to attract the much desired attention. Many loyal viewers were not aware that the show had started and to my surprise, the grand finale was way too shallow for a show of its magnitude. Even the show producer didn’t like the turn out. My Star 2020 totally lost touch.
Master Dee made no bones about lack of sponsorship harming the plan to throw an over-the-top grand finale. He says despite him being on his feet every time trying to source sponsors, he ran around in circles and was left out in the cold many a-times. One may wonder how tables turned so drastically.
This is extremely unscrupulous for a protuberant talent show. My Star was considered an A-list show, but more than ten years now and the show is still held at Gaborone Technical College hall, it’s scandalous that the venue cannot be upgraded to match the talent and prestige they are looking for.
“I thank you so supporting the arts. I know everyone came here with a goal to see his or her contestant win. Today we doing things in a different way. It won’t be the usual My Star show that we know because of the COVID-19. The arts have been the hardest hit by this pandemic. The fact remains arts are the foundation of all jobs,” said Master Dee.
He hit the nail on the head. This sector has seen dust this pandemic year. It was the first to be shut, and to date, it has been opened in a phased manner. Well, for social events that mount up larger crowds, the story has not changed. This is because the virus spreads easily when many people get together without health protocols being adhered to.
Master Dee, however, expressed discontentment at how My Star ran without a single sponsor. “I personally know what it is to be artistic, and I understand the passion that each contestant has. But do people understand this passion like we do? It is very sad that we are here to see the reality TV show that comes on the national TV channel every Sunday without the main sponsor. Very sad!”
He gave the small team he was working with a pat on the back for helping him see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“These guys make me see the need to try further. When push comes to shove, they assure me that someone will realize the potential of this project. Through this COVID-19, we have sent more than 28 Batswana youth to Universities. And who doesn’t see that>? What is it going to take for people to understand that this project is not about me, and that it is for Batswana?”
“Sometimes when I speak like this I feel like I could shed a tear. But it is painful sometimes when people don’t see what you see. When I go around looking for sponsors, they say I want to enrich myself. I mean who doesn’t want to be rich? It’s just a fuss,” he said.
Nonetheless, Master Dee showed gratitude to the Youth Ministry for making it possible for young people to be admitted at the Universities. I believe education is key, so I had to fight to see them being admitted in educational institutions, he told few guests at the grand finale.
“I will be naïve if I cannot actually echo the sentiments of government assisting in this manner going forward. But enough can be done. We need corporate companies’ to stand up and not just take from us.”
Meanwhile, Neelo Gopolang was crowned the winner of My Star Season 14. She walked away with P100 000 after garnering herself over 70 000 votes from the general public. First runner up, and people’s favourite Queen Garekwe managed to secure only 2000 plus votes, earning P10 000 from the competition. Justice Nyathi was announced as the second runner up, going home with P10 000 as well.