Although a form of self expression, art has been known to be subjective. The world over, there are some artworks famous for being ugly-some even celebrated. Recently, Gaborone’s roundabouts are full of such self expression, but the producers have not been spared harsh commentary from the public. As the critiques are hard at work, DAVE BAAITSE wonders, is the recoil justified at all?
Gaborone’s roundabouts, of which some were known to be death traps got a makeover a few months back, precisely just before the country’s golden jubilee celebrations. The revamp was much welcome, it meant they were more visible and attractive looking, but lo and behold-too soon, the ethereal, creepy, grotesque sculptures arrived.
What seemed a welcome development to the city was soon subject of harsh debate, an insult to the arts industry, even more bruising to Batswana who would have to explain to their tourist friends how come only the wacky ‘pieces of art’ made the final cut!
But the ugliest forms of art have been displayed and universally loved, presumably for their uniqueness or ugliness; what is the brouhaha about our own displays at our roundabouts? Some quarters have slammed the artworks as plain lack of creativity on the part of prisons department.
The initiative by Botswana Prisons Services was purposely to give vibrancy to the city, particularly during the build up to the BOT50 celebrations. Since then, more sculptures have been put up during holidays and special days, including Valentine’s Day. Critics took to social media calling on government to discontinue the practise of erecting the unattractive sculptures. Currently, the Netball World Cup Mascot, Naletsana has been recreated and now deformed statues of her stand tall at our roundabouts. Nineteen countries have descended in the country in anticipation of a mouth-watering showpiece. The embodiment of the name Naletsana, a small star, has been victimised.
The zombie look alike is by no means representation of what a ‘little star’ should be and has all potential of scaring away any girl with interest in pursuing netball in future. Renowned artist, Wilson Ngoni who has over the years won many hearts over through his painting skills spoke to WeekendLife to share his views on the initiative. He described the sculptures as shoddy work and not representative of the local artists’ talent.
According to Ngoni, there are a lot of good artists who are capable of doing better than what has been seen around town. He is of the view that artworks are meant to carry memories over a long time and archiving them. “These artworks are not attractive, they lack skills thus result in substandard works,” he said.
He further argues that, the shoddy works being displayed in public spaces sends wrong the wrong messages about local artists to outsiders. He opines that the artists who are brought to put up the sculptures need proper training before they can be tasked with putting up artworks to be seen by travellers on the roads. He highlighted that when he went to Berlin to participate at the ITB he painted the Okavango Delta, one of the iconic tourists’ attraction areas in Botswana.
Thus he sold the place to the masses which encompassed more than two thousand people in attendance. He advised government to engage experts to work with the BPS in order to enhance their skills. ‘Son of the Brush’ as he is affectionately known said the country did not in any way regard and engage with artists in terms of building an iconic BOT50 sculpture that would represent the history of Botswana.
He pointed out that the recent Seretse Khama sculpture was made by Australian based artist Ray Gare. He said in Paris, people travel to see the famous Paris bridges that carry French memories. When contacted for comment, Botswana Prisons Service Assistant Commissioner, Wamorena Ramolefhe said the initiative is part of the Prisoner Rehabilitation Program. “Basically,” he said, “this is to impart to prisoners some various life skills to use once they are released.”
He said the sculptures found at roundabouts are meant to raise awareness and sensitise people on national issues. “Sometimes we get feedback that they are ugly yes, but this is part of their training,” he said. The Assistant Commissioner also said the initiative is aimed at giving the city a facelift.
He confirmed that the prisoners are trained by prison officers who have various skills. “The whole idea is to make them law abiding citizens once they leave prison. Besides life skills we also offer them a psychosocial program which is character moulding, intended on refining their behaviour,” he concluded.
According to World Population Review, women aged 16-19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault and female college students ages 18-24 are three times more likely to experience sexual assault. Transgender people and those with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault or rape.
From these very statistics Botswana can be found second only to neighbouring South Africa with the highest rape cases in the world. The number of incidents per 100,000 citizens do not take into account the number of cases that have not been reported to authorities. This goes without saying that Botswana may very well be on the same level as South Africa if not surpassing it.
Most of these victims have a hard time dealing with the violence they faced to an extent where it affects their day to day life.
WeekendLife interviewed rape survivor, Patience Ruwona, who was raped at the age of 15. Ruwona shared her gruesome experience and what it took for her to find healing, gather strength and move forward.
“It happened eight years ago and at the time I was only 15 years old. My mother was staying with her boyfriend at the time. So it happened that one day I came early from school. I was still doing form 2. I was the first one to come back from school. The boyfriend was home. So when I was changing into home clothes in my room, the boyfriend came in without even knocking. He then told me my mother has left some money so that whoever comes back first from school can go and buy meat,” Ruwona narrated.
“I then told him I will come get the money when I am done. He went back to his room. So after I finished changing, I went to their room. I knocked and he told me to come in. When I got, I found him half naked with only a towel. That made me feel very uncomfortable because when we were growing, we were taught never to enter an elder’s room when they are not fully dressed. I told him I came to collect the money and he pointed the dressing table.”
Unbeknownst to the young unsuspecting Ruwona, her mother’s then boyfriend would then grab the young lad, rip apart her garments and have his way with her. When Ruwona threatened to expose him, the audacious perpetrator would laugh in her face, telling her that there would be nothing her mother would do about the incident. And true to his words, Ruwona’s mother did not flinch upon hearing the gruesome crime that befell her daughter.
“In the evening when my mother came I told her everything. It was a simple thing to her and she never took it seriously. I told her I am bleeding and she said go and wash up we will talk about this some other time. Just like that suddenly I recalled that man’s words and I truly believed him. Till then I have not told anyone about this. I thought my mother is going to protect me, so if my mother failed to protect me no one else could protect me,” said a distraught Ruwona.
Seeking help after being raped
“Physically I had no desire to have sexual intercourse, I was scared. Years passed by and emotionally I was still battling because there were days I had flashbacks of the rape. It’s like a wound, it can never heal but it can stop bleeding. It never heals. It will bleed another time. I felt uncomfortable around men and I never went for counselling. I never went for anything, I thought I will cope on my own,” she said.
“So one day I decided enough is enough and I decided to speak out. That time I figured counselling would be best. I later went for counselling and I was doing well. I had to accept it happened and put everything in the past. Forgiving my mother helped me to heal.”
Director of Save A Woman, Babedi Samakabadi, has highlighted that rape is a permanent wound that one has to live with for the rest of their lives.
“The first thing the victim can do is to admit that they have been abused and they should be able to talk about it to whoever they can trust; could be a close relative, a counsellor, a friend or a pastor. It is not easy to take a step towards your healing but it must be done.
Victims of rape, must create a huge room in their hearts to forgive the perpetrators even when they are not sorry, forgiveness will help the victim to make peace with life and the future. Forgiveness will allow the victim to be able to get over the horrible experience and not associate the intimate relations as abuse at all times,” said Samakabadi.
“If one doesn’t allow themselves to heal and move on, dating and engaging in intimate matters are going to be a problem in their lives. As the victim can disclose to whoever they trust like friends or family, they are also advised to seek more especially professional counselling for proper psychological therapy, as the memories of the incident may torment the victim therefore therapy may assist with getting to live with such memories without being drawn back or life progress being affected . Lastly, the victims must know that issues as these aren’t easy to deal with through our own ability, we need God for strength, wisdom and courage. We have no power to diminish some of the weight in our emotions or the damage done to our souls and hearts, hence we need God to carry us through.”
If you or a loved one is in need of help in dealing with rape or gender based violence, the following organisations provide free counselling services;
BOFWA (Botswana Family Welfare Association) 390 0489
BOSASNET (Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network) 395 9119
LIFE LINE 391 1270
MBGE (Men and Boys for Gender Equality) 395 7763
BGBVC (Botswana Gender Based Violence and Support Centre) 390 7659
BOCAIP (Botswana Christian AIDS Intervention Programme) 391 6454
After its initial outbreak with a cluster of pneumonia cases at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Wuhan City, China, Covid-19 has spread rapidly across the globe. The virus has hammered economies worldwide and brought devastation to many.
On 16 September Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a church with thousands of members in various countries, held a global online prayer service to pray for the victims of the coronavirus and their families, healthcare workers, government officials and for the complete eradication of and cure for Covid-19.
The virtual prayer service was live-streamed to the entire congregation with more than 200,000 members in countries all over the world participating, including the USA, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
In keeping with social distancing, health protocols and protecting its members from possible exposure to the coronavirus, Shincheonji arranged the virtual gathering for members to pray together in safety and set an example for others.
Prayers were mainly for the healing of those infected with the virus, for overworked healthcare workers who are struggling to fight Covid-19, and for people in economic distress in the wake of the pandemic. The overwhelming online participation from its members worldwide showed the desire and urgency to end this virus and for healing and restoration in communities.
The Chairman of Shincheonji Church Mr Manhee Lee suggested this online virtual gathering and said that all believers will continue to pray at the church’s worship services until the complete eradication of the coronavirus.
At least 1,700 of the church’s South Korean-based congregation have donated their blood plasma for research around an effective treatment. Convalescent plasma has also showed promise as therapy for Covid-19 and is believed to have reduced the severity of symptoms in critical patients.
“In order to defeat Covid-19, we need to embrace, love, and unite,” as global citizens, the church said. “We wanted to do all we can as believers by praying for the people working to prevent the spread of the virus and healthcare workers who are working at the frontlines of this battle against Covid-19 and we believe that God will answer our earnest prayers.”
The annual prestigious music awards, African Muzik Magazine Awards and Music Festival (AFRIMMA), has resumed this year. But this time around with a virtual version of it.
The awards that celebrate the originality of African music has unveiled their seventh edition. The awards seek to promote the African talent by bringing together on the same stage African legendary artists to celebrate African culture.
The event was established by the International Committee of AFRIMMA, in collaboration with African Union to reward and celebrate musical works, talents and creativity around the African continent while promoting the African cultural heritage amongst African countries.
However after the Covid-19 global pandemic, the event will not be hosted on a live global stage, but it will be hosted virtually and nominees are expected to deliver their performances virtually. The AFRIMMA Virtual Awards 2020 is set to be the first of its kind in the African music world with performances coming from different artists around the world and audience catching the performances, speeches and award presentations on multiple streaming devices.
Amongst the many who are nominated by the AFRIMMAs is local sensation Vee Mampeezy who has been nominated in the category for Best Male Southern African alongside music giants, Black Coffee- South Africa, Slap Dee – Zambia, Cassper Nyovest- South Africa, Master KG- South Africa, Jah Prayzah – Zimbabwe, Vee Mampeezy – Botswana, Shyn – Madagascar, Tshego- South Africa, Tha Dogg – Namibia and Yanga Chief – South Africa.
Mampeezy has established with WeekendLife that prior to that, he had received an email from AFRIMMA confirming his nomination. They wished for him to perform which he said he will confirm the performance first with his manager, but as for now he is not sure if he will be performing.
“We have accepted the nomination. It is such an honour to be nominated alongside music giants like Black Coffee. I am very excited, others I am not as excited to be nominated alongside them because I have been nominated before with them. I do not mean to say they are not great, they are great in their respective right,” he said.
“We should be excited as a country that Botswana has been nominated as well. Before anything else, the fact that we are there as nominees makes us winners. It is such an honour to be recognised more so that Botswana is a small country with a very small population.”
Famous and most decorated artists the likes of Diamond Platnumz, Mr Flavour, Harmonize, Davido and Jah Prayzah are also amongst the nominees. However, South African based artist affectionately known as Master KG has been nominated six times for Video of the year, Best Male Southern Africa, Artist of the year, Best Collaboration as well as song of the year.
Master KG’s song ‘Jerusalem’ has been making waves internationally, and it was used mostly during the pandemic to shake off the Covid-19 anxiety. The song was nominated after South African Music Awards (SAMA) failed to nominate the young talented artist.