Thursday, June 13, 2024

Artists sing the blues over Arts Council treatment

The newly formed National Arts Council of Botswana (NACB) is not hitting the right note with the creative industry.

The Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) has taken a leading role in expressing the growing dissatisfaction within the creative industry.

NACB faces mounting frustration amid allegations of corruption following the suspension of its chief executive officer (CEO) Shombi Ellis.

The controversy has sparked outrage among artists and creative industry practitioners who demand transparency, accountability and an explanation for the suspension.

BOMU insists that the NACB should recognize that creative industry practitioners are the primary clients and intended beneficiaries of the Arts Council.

BOMU has misgivings that the lack of progress in developing and sustaining the sector is causing considerable distress.

While the NACB has been in existence for over two years, critics argue that it has made negligible contributions to the growth and development of the creative industry. Apart from relatively minor efforts such as producing banners, flyers, and procuring furniture, the Council’s impact has been called into question.

The suspension of CEO Ellis has only added to the frustration.

Ellis, who has held the position for less than three months, was suspended without a clear explanation, leaving the artistic community bewildered and dissatisfied.

Artists, who feel that they are stakeholders and integral to the success of the Arts Council, demand transparency regarding the reasons behind Ellis’ suspension.

Rasina Winfred Rasina, the Secretary General of BOMU, emphasizes that the Arts Council is a public entity funded by taxpayer money and should be held to the highest standards of transparency and accountability. Rasina stated, “We refuse for the Arts Council to operate in secrecy. We demand openness, transparency, and truth.”

Artists are also concerned about the potential impact of the suspension on ongoing processes, such as grant applications. The fear of mismanagement and embezzlement has left artists questioning the credibility of the Council and the security of their funds. The lack of information surrounding Ellis’ suspension has led to a sense of unease and mistrust within the artistic community.

Speaking to Sunday Standard in earlier this month Seabelo Modibe, a representative of the Botswana Musicians Union, pointed out that the suspension appears to be related to Ellis’ efforts to make the grants system more transparent. For the first time, artists were invited to submit grant proposals through advertised opportunities, a departure from the historically secretive process.

Amid these controversies, there are whispers within the artistic community that Ellis’ suspension is part of a larger scheme to manipulate grant adjudication decisions for personal gain. Some artists claim that the suspension serves as a way to remove her from the process, allowing certain board members to exploit their positions for financial benefit.

As artists unite against the perceived injustice, the NACB faces increasing pressure to address the allegations of corruption, lack of transparency, and inadequate progress in supporting Botswana’s creative industry.

The credibility of the Arts Council and its commitment to fostering the nation’s artistic potential hangs in the balance. The public now awaits a comprehensive explanation from the NACB regarding the circumstances surrounding Ellis’ suspension. The outcome of this controversy will undoubtedly shape the perception of the Arts Council’s integrity and its dedication to nurturing the creative talents.


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