Lack of cohesion in government and the business community’s endeavors to develop arts and culture in Botswana are largely responsible for the present moribund state of the arts.
To date, arts and culture in Botswana are largely undeveloped, and local artists are eclipsed by their counterparts in neighboring countries.
This was revealed at a plenary meeting aimed at organizing massive support from key stakeholders ahead of the month long heritage festivities billed for July. The Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture Mothusi Nkgowe said they will work to preserve and promote artistic creations and cultural heritage, so that they can contribute to the national economy.
Currently few local artists are lucky to be making a living from their arts, while the majority has abandoned the profession to seek other avenues of livelihood.
As a result, many artists are loath to join the profession and their talent remains unnoticed and untapped.
“The artists deserve to benefit from the fruits of their labor like everybody else. We are assembled here today to share ideas and chart the way forward with regard to the contributions we can make, individually or collectively, towards the promotion of the arts so that every artist can realize his/her aspirations and their perceived vision of the future” said Nkgowe.
In neighboring Zimbabwe, the arts are a major engine of economic growth despite the general downturn in the rest of the economy. Botswana’s arts should be brought to the same level of performance, if not higher.
Attendants included members of the diplomatic corps, the business community, government representatives and artists.
Nkgowe pleaded with the business community to assist arts and culture through mentoring partnerships, outright scholarships and other practical partnerships. The life of an artist generally revolves around two critical issues, the artist as a singer, dancer, painter, or sculptor and the artist as a business person.
“It is in the latter category that the life of an artist is at its most precarious existence. Artists in this country lack business skills in marketing, branding, management, product development, presentation and the list is endless“said Nkgowe.
But the fact is that all these skills are in abundance locally. Therefore the business community should partner government to help artists to acquire the requisite skills. This will not only guarantee the growth of the national economy, but also the business community.
Still teetering, Botswana arts and culture needs all the support it can muster in order to grow, develop and surge forward.
Time has come that we recognize the arts and culture for what it really is; the social fiber that binds and moulds us together into a national totality distinct from all others.
“In this sense, the arts and culture sector is everybody’s business and we are all challenged to embrace it one way or the other. This sector is therefore everybody’s natural partner and friend; We need the sector when we are happy to complete our state of joyfulness and when we are sad to soothe our pained hearts,” he added.
Started in 2008, the July heritage festivities will culminate in the President’s Day arts competitions in the categories of drama, traditional song and dance, contemporary music, comedy, poetry, traditional instruments, chorals, baskets and crafts as well as fine arts.
Already, groups in these respective genres are currently participating and competing with one another regionally.
“The diversity of activities in the competitions gives different businesses the opportunity to get directly involved through product marketing, branding, sales, community social investment and permanent sponsorship of a given category of arts by each business,” Nkgowe further revealed.
Contrary to suggestions the business sector was reluctant to financially assist artistic creations, contributions picked from the floor indicated the sector is willing to come to the fore and assist government but only if there is meaningful and sustainable overtures to enhance the economy.