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Arts: Potential ignored!

Performing arts, if taken seriously can be a career and contribute to Botswana’s Gross Domestic Product as is in South Africa- South African actress, Sindi Dlathu has remarked. Dlathu revealed this at her Master Class last weekend at the University of Botswana.

Dlathu was seemingly impressed by the “potential talent” she witnessed during the intimate event. A cohort of young aspiring actors, choreographers and singers, attended the session; and according her, if incubated their talent can help improve the country’s economy. Dlathu is mostly known for her role as ‘Thandaza’ on popular Venda soap opera, Muvhango. She is one of the show’s founding actors in 1997. Dlathu was launched in the public eye at a tender age, having been amongst the Sarafina cast at only 14.

An all rounder, she is also a choreographer and singer and has worked alongside Michael Peters, the man behind Michael Jackson’s dance moves as an assistant choreographer. “In South Africa, the arts contribute enormously to the country’s GDP, it has grown and has now become a big industry and it is now contributing to the country’s economy. The Botswana government needs to seek sponsors and partnerships with other countries in order to draw investors from across. This can help further the career of arts individuals,” Dlathu advised.

Moreover, she advised that if the government can partner with Multichoice, a video entertainment and internet company with a strong presence in South Africa and across the African continent, this can attract investors from other countries.
She further called on to the youth to be proactive and show the government that they really want to do this. During an interview with the actress on the event’s sidelines, Dlathu revealed that the passion of the young performers had impressed her. “I am touched by the passion, I have never seen such passion, these people were ready to absorb and they are also very insightful. They knew what they wanted, they did not come to see me but because they are passionate and I will definitely come again if invited,” Dlathu said.

 “If I had a production house, I would take them all. There is a lot talent here!” she added. Meanwhile, theatre performer, Ralph Thato Dennison, who recently directed Kgosikgolo-The Musical and co-founded Sedibeng Choir alongside Andy Batshogile and others, in an interview with WeekendLife said he believes that the government is not doing enough to meet the needs of performing arts locally halfway. “I think government officials should do thorough research on the arts industry. The reason why they are not assisting enough is because they don't understand the magnitude, work and finance put on a production. In general our government is not doing enough to assist the arts industry. They put more focus on sports and the arts we are overlooked,” Dennison highlighted.

He further said that government personnel should undergo intense training and workshops to train them on the arts industry and what they go through to put up shows. “Most of the time we would for example propose a P200 000 budget looking at all the logistics and cost we are going to incur. Then they will in turn give us P70 000 and we will remain with debts after shows because of lack of resolute funding. On the other hand, when we request for funding and we include remuneration for performers we often get asked why we have to pay people to display their talents,” he lamented.

He also backed Dlathu’s sentiments about the arts industry in South Africa. “South Africans take arts seriously. They don't assist according to who they know. They have programs to assist mature groups. In South Africa people can make a living from performing arts because of consistency, here it is just measured as a hobby,” he highlighted. On the other hand, Co-Judge of Signed International, Tumelo Edward Chaba said that Botswana has great potential in the area of performing arts. “The potential is there and the market is ready to consume local content. The only challenge I see is we are still behind when it comes to investing in it, so artists can't do their best because of that,” said.

He further explained that acting in Botswana has improved in a major way. “Back in the days we didn't have local acting schools and now one can apply at Limkokwing or AFDA and get their skills upgraded and even gather more insights surrounding the acting profession in general. Furthermore some people are actually making a living out of acting,” he said. “The government is soon to launch BTV 2 youth Chanel and I think it is good news to both actors and producers so in a nutshell I think the industry is heading in the right direction,” he explained further.

Last year February, Minister of Basic Education, (then Education and Skills Development) Unity Dow was quoted at the launch of the Performing Arts programme as saying performing arts had the potential to diversify the country’s economy.
The project tagged Unleash Your Star Qualities, which was a partnership between the Ministry of Education and Limkokwing University; enrolled 100 candidates selected from auditions conducted around the country and were to be credited by the university.

The performers enrolled would go on to produce and perform Moratiwa a theatrical piece under the guidance of legendary jazz artist Socca Moruakgomo. Since the play, the group never produced any other offering. Neither did the ministry nor the University show any signs the Programme would continue. This month, marks one year since Moratiwa premiered. On the other hand, the University of Botswana only started offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in 2009. In 2013, the department of Music, Visual and Performing Arts was introduced.

From as early as 1982, the UB had a travelling theatre, dubbed the University of Botswana Travelling Theatre (UBTT). The theatre, having travelled most of the country gained prominence and was appreciated by the public. It was on that basis that the university designed some theatre courses to be offered as part of the English curriculum and simultaneously recruited staff qualified in theatre studies to teach the courses. The first cohort of the UB BFA graduated in October 2014.

Although there are a lot of productions companies in Botswana, DeeZone productions has been dominant in the arts industry offering better platforms for actors and artists to showcase their talent. The company has hired a limited number of more than 30 graduates who have played part in local television stories, like Ntwakgolo, Lethabile, and even introduced Btv’s first magazine show Pula Power and First Issues.

Most local soapies that have aired locally are momentary; currently the country does not have a solid drama. Thokolosi and Re Bina Mmogo are two notable television dramas aired on Btv. Botswana has exported most of its acting talent to South Africa, including some musicians and models. Connie Ferguson, Oneal, Ban-T, Thato Sikwane, Thabang Mmolotsi, Kgomotso Ratsie and Kaone Kario are among Batswana who are making significant strides in the South African arts industry.

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WeekendLife

Botswana fades away from Miss Universe pageant

17th May 2021
MISS-UNIVERSE-2013-Tirelo

Botswana once had a story love affair with the world’s biggest premium beauty pageant, Miss Universe. This was in 1999 when Botswana’s first representative at Miss Universe, Mpule Kwelagobe, effortlessly snatched the title.

It was every contestant’s beautiful dream to wear the crown, but winning at first entry was implausible if not magical. Kwelagobe made the country contented, and history was made. Taking a closure significant look at her performance at the Miss Universe held at the Chaguaramas Convention Centre in Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago, Kwelagobe battled it out on and off stage with 84 contestants and showed them dust. She was in the Top 5 spot with South Africa, Venezuela, Philippines and Spain. There are countries which snatch the Miss Universe title every year.

Miss Universe 2019 was a South Africa, Zozibini Tunzi. Mpule Kwelagobe scorecard looked pretty remarkable. She scored 9.05 out of 10 on her interviews, 9.18 swimsuit, 9.36 evening gown, semi-final average 9.19 and 9.48 on the Top 5 question. These results were good enough to earn her the crown.

However, over the years (since the crowning of Mpule Kwelagobe), Botswana has been fading away from participating at the Miss Universe. Between 2002 and 2003, the country did not participate in Miss Universe but in 2004, the country sent a winning title of Miss Universe Botswana to Ecuador, Miss Universe 2004.

In 2010, Mos Syde Worldwide Entertainment Group: an international entertainment and fashion company domiciled in Botswana took over the Miss Universe Botswana pageant after a six-year absence. Tirelo Ramasedi was crowned Miss Universe Botswana 2010, and represented the country in Las Vegas on August 23. As it is right now, Ramasedi is the only former Miss Universe queen still keen in having her name shine out there: she works closely on projects aimed at empowering women and young girls.

Sadly so, 2013 was the last time Botswana participated in Miss Universe. After five years of not participating at Miss Universe pageant, the first Miss Universe Botswana Mpule Kwelagobe took over the franchise. The winner selection of Miss Universe Botswana 2019 was to remark Botswana to Miss Universe 2019, however, was cancelled.

2019 marked another possible six years since Botswana lacked participation in Miss Universe. This drastic zero participation in this premium beauty competition paved way for our neighbours South Africa to sail smoothly at the competition. Zozibini Tunzi became an instant global queen and everyone’s favourite after displaying intelligence, poise and taking up space to be crowned Miss Universe 2019.

The pageant was not held in 2020 due to COVID-19. This will be the third time in the history of the competition in which the event will be held after the calendar year has ended: this previously occurred during Miss Universe 2014 and Miss Universe 2016 (in which Botswana was not participating).

Miss Universe Organization announced early this year that the competition would be held on May 16 2021, at Seminole Hard rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, United States. Zozibini Tunzi will crown her successor at this competition.

Botswana, will not be participating at the Miss Universe 2020, again. The weakening Miss Universe Botswana has been attributed to by internal fights within the organization. But why participate at Miss Universe?

The Miss Universe Organization is a global, inclusive organization that celebrates women of all cultures and backgrounds and empowers them to realize their goals through experiences that build self-confidence and create opportunities for success.

Women participate annually to affect positive change personally, professionally and philanthropically as inspirational leaders and role models. The delegates and titleholders that have participated in the MUO system are able to cultivate their personal, professional and philanthropic goals. These women are forward thinking and motivated not just talk about change, but to initiate it.

Prominent beauty pageants analyst in Botswana Morekolodi Smith took Weekendlife in an exclusive interview that it has been so many years of absence from participating at Miss Universe, and this shows that Botswana lacks consistency and commitment.

“The franchise holders fail to host a national pageant. I think they should hand over the license to Miss Botswana Organization because it hosts the pageant annually. Then the winner gets to participate in both Miss World and Miss Universe. They can maybe crown two representatives. Botswana has faded away from Miss Universe platform and fans have forgotten about it,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

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WeekendLife

Given Carter fools Batswana – again

11th May 2021
Given Carter

Pranks, for a common man, is designated to the 1st of April- April fool’s day. Usually it’s the only day out of the entire 365 days one can make a fool of others and get away with practically anything, anything legal that is.

While there are fanatics who do it for amusement, there are some who do it to earn their daily bread and butter. Some obviously saw a niche to keep people fascinated especially in these emotionally straining times of COVID-19. For the record, they don’t play ordinary cards as you may think.

Their pranks are as big and as real as marriage wrecking and all the drama that comes along with it. Given Carter is not just your ordinary boy next door. The Tonota born prankster is currently taking the entire country on an emotional rollercoaster from the comfort of his home in Francistown.

At only 32-years, Carter BW’s skills of planning and executing a prank is what sets him apart from the rest. In fact one can go as far as to say that he’s the only prankster Batswana know.His ideas are unique and relevant, telling a tale that someone can sit and think about, perhaps learn from it because they are everyday life happenings that most people can relate to because they have a way of really hitting home.

In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, the versatile Given Carter (who is also a photographer) says the inspiration behind pranking was to introduce something not so common in Botswana, and challenge typecasts associated with art, especially modern art.

“Growing up, we only saw pranks on the television dominantly done by the whites. We never thought this is something we can do, or maybe we didn’t understand the logic behind it. But I guess, pranks are real life lessons we need, its only that they are shared in a more hilarious and sometimes obstinate way,” he said.

Given Carter told this publication that, he spends most of his time on the internet, learning more tricky skills. This is quite a remarkable observation because in this era of advanced technology, one doesn’t necessarily have to go to school to learn from the grassroot. The use of technology has made it easier for people to acquire skills and knowledge, and still do exceptionally well without being in class.

“Of course, a bit of it is common sense but I make use of the internet to learn more on how I can improve my craft. It is quite unpretentious to do a prank because they are real-life situations, so its not much of a big deal. I needed people to learn and I think I came at the right time because most people are online, and the reception is just incredible.”

He however shed light on his first video shot in Shakawe that went viral, subsequently leading to speculations of his crew’s arrest. Given Carter was however not arrested instead he was brought before the police for questioning.

“We were not arrested as people may think. We were called to write statements on what the prank was all about and we were released the same day. I believe maybe we went too far in what we depicted in the video because it’s something that the society is not yet ready to accept, but it has been happening for a long time,” he told WeekendLife.

In many Western countries, pranksters do this for a living through YouTube accounts and subscriptions. “As it is currently, I do not have a YouTube channel. I am still building a platform and I’m certain very soon it will be up and running. I am primarily focused on taking my craft to the people, and let people know more about what I do. So technically, it has been about familiarising people with the art.”

Even though that’s the case, Given Carter says there is room for paid partnerships and endorsements. After all, there is an entire crew which need money to pay the bills. He says with so much ideas spinning in his head, there is need for financial support to be able to dish out more seeing that people love his works and how realistic his pranks are.

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WeekendLife

Vee, Charma Gal battle it out for fellow artistes

4th May 2021
Vee, Charma Gal

Odirile Sento, popularly known as Vee together with Magadeline Lesolobe (Charma Gal) took the liberty of playing as big of a part as they could to consolidate some resources for musicians which might be of assistance during these trying times.

In these unprecedented times of the overwhelming and the deadly COVID-19, it is only critical that people stand together and remain committed to helping each other, being kind enough to lend a helping hand in any way possible.

The contagious virus left people confounded, deprived and depressed. The pandemic shuttered many economies, industries and the entertainment sector was no exemption. If anything, the entertainment industry took the biggest hit of all the sectors but this was a hit felt in every country in the world not just a local tragedy.

There were tear-jerking testimonies of creatives, in particular artists, suffering from extreme hunger as events were given a rain check. Technically, social events have been shut for sixteen months now.

There were series of protests calling for the immediate opening of the creative sector, in a phased manner. Some brave yet unfortunate artists were arrested for taking up arms and protesting the strict COVID-19 regulations placed on the entertainment sector.

When protests failed and their laments falling on government’s usual deaf ears, prominent artists Odirile Sento, popularly known as Vee together with Magadeline Lesolobe (Charma Gal) took the liberty of playing as big of a part as they could to consolidate some resources for musicians which might be of assistance during these trying times.

COVID-19 has created untold challenges for musicians in Botswana, but there are possibilities- challenges have a way of breeding solutions nonetheless.

In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife on Wednesday, Vee said the Battle to Develop Artists Welfare is aimed at inspiring artists to learn diversification, which has been lacking for quite a stretch amongst fellow artists. A lot of local artists depend solely on music, which on its own has been performing below par, and COVID-19 has brought that into clear view, showing how most artists in Botswana live off scraps, barely making money off their beloved passion- music.

“This project was born out of compassion. The world as it is now is experiencing a rough patch, and you can imagine how other artists are coping. It is really a struggle, and we saw it critical to jump on-board and help our fellow colleagues. It will help artists start small businesses, some will start short courses which will enable them to find employment in the long run.

For it to have weight, we incorporated it into a challenge on stage, performing our songs. We hope this will inspire business moguls to sponsor and pledge some monies towards this initiative,” said Vee.

Charma gal indicated that the live battle on stage has been supported with musical instruments, further indicating that this is a volunteerism project with no proceeds to gain from.

“We will divide and disburse proceeds to our fellow artists, I mean these are people we have been working alongside for so many years. There is no how we can be reckless towards them when we see how hard the situation is.

We are in this together, and we are going to stick together like that. Some have started already doing something, and meeting them half way is only fundamental,” Charma Gal told WeekendLife.

The duo stressed that Gaborone North Member of Parliament, Mpho Balopi, has pledged P50 000 towards this battle, further calling on other businessmen to come to the party. Vee says Balopi supported the initiative from the get-go, brushing aside allegations that the project is politically influenced.

Initiatives brought forward to aid the entertainment sector have caused controversy, with Vee emphasizing that not all artists will benefit from this particular charity cause. “We have artists who are struggling, and sadly so. Some of them were bread winners and there is no income coming in, making it hard for them to cope with the economic challenges.

There has been an increase in VAT recently, and such developments make the situation worse. Rigorous assessments will be done to identify our desired beneficiaries.”

Vee and Charma Gal will be battling it out on stage with the battle scheduled to take place on the 28th May 2021. Because events are still striped, the show will be online with COVID-19 protocols to be adhered to.

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