Batswana have been urged to embrace promoters of local culture and refrain from adopting other cultures in order to retain their cultural heritage.
This was said by Zimbabwean playwright Stephen Chifunyise at a recent two-day consultative meeting on the safeguarding of Botswana’s intangible cultural heritage.
Chifunyise, who is also a member of UNESCO’s Africa Intergovernmental Committee, said that raising cultural awareness is one of the most important ways of recognizing and realizing the value of culture.
“Encouraging the concerned people to increase the viability of culture is very crucial. Musicians, poets and artists usually provide entertainment at corporate events and gala dinners, but they are then relegated to the back benches. They should be recognized because they play an important role of promoting culture,” he said.
Chifunyise lamented the current trend in Botswana, and indeed Africa as a whole, where international artists are given preference and paid more than local artists.
“People should appreciate the value of culture and know that culture is their identity. Culture may have a religious, social or spiritual value, and it can also stimulate interest, especially to the younger generation,” he said.
Chifunyise also indicated that artists involved in cultural activities can use it as a vehicle to inspire creativity and thus create more geniuses. He gave example of the SADC anthem which was composed by the late Duncan Senyatso, a Motswana, and the recent outstanding performance of local traditional artists at the SADC conference in Harare. “These are milestones that should inspire other local artists,” he said.
He highlighted that it is very important for communities, custodians and proponents of culture to promote culture so that it remains sustainable and does not diminish.
“Cultural heritage should be safeguarded through the introduction of laws that protect cultural heritage. Creators and custodians should also be funded and inspired to continue with their efforts. Government, through the cultural department, should also be seen to be encouraging cultural activities,” he added.
Chifunyise also commended festivals like the annual Domboshaba and Letlhafula festivals, saying that they are very important in revitalizing cultural heritage. He also pointed out that restoring some elements of culture that may have faded is another important avenue through which interest in culture can be generated.
He encouraged the cultural departments to document and honour artists who achieve milestones and receive awards as it would lift their morale and integrity.
Chifunyise cited the naming of the streets and theatres by legends as one way of showing them integrity and honour.
The event was organized by the Department of Youth and Culture with the objective of encouraging communities and other stakeholders to take part in the ratification and participation of communities, groups and individuals in cultural heritage.
This is in accordance with the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage initiated by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, France.