Sunday, November 27, 2022

Heritage and Constituency Festivals could diversify the Economy

Over the past four years while Secretary General of B.O.M.U. I travelled the width and breadth of this country looking for artists and actually taking part in the organizing of both Constituency and Heritage Day Festivals and I was pleasantly surprised at how many people the events employ and the commercial opportunities around them.

As a matter of fact, these arts competitions are far different from Constituency Sports tournaments. The sports tournaments have their own challenges of ownership and appreciation by sporting codes as opposed to arts competitions. The difference is that in Sports there are running leagues and international regulations from western based mother bodies like FIFA e.t.c. which have a blue print of how things should be run.

In the Arts the rules and regulations are done in Botswana by the community arts groups and individuals, Artists and Department of Arts and Culture. There is no outsider peeping Thomas like FIFA or other international sporting regulatory bodies, who will tell us how to promote and develop our own artists. There are however major challenges though with these competitions which are caused by lack of funding which leads to winners paid late, competitions postponed due to lack of transport and other logistical problems e.t.c. But on a lighter note the competitions are always staged in the midst of all these challenges due to the will of artists.Inadequate time for planning, inadequate publicity and current Department of Arts Culture structure where they don’t have outstations/offices impacts badly on the competitions and the artists who are beneficiaries and participants. This is hampers the growth of the festivals, artists, organizers, communities at national level and the ability for gov’t to get a tangible return on investment. This is due to tiny budget allocated to Department of Arts and Culture. The Department is so understaffed that a lot of tribes and cultural groups are marginalized and cannot participate in these events, as there is no one to reach them.

Maybe people don’t like the headline name “Constituency” but one may ask what other name is there to use? As a concept on paper and on stage this is a piece of wizardry. The only thing that needs to be done after 5 years is a review of the competitions to make them more inclusive in a broader context and also to embrace new commercial environment and dynamics like trying to host workshops and mentoring of artists before competitions on business and the industry in general.

The competitions should be rebranded, they should have a website and also have corporate partners.

The Minister of Arts and Culture and The President H.E. S.K.I. Khama should arrange a meeting with all big players in the corporate sector to try and encourage them to sponsor these competitions/activities to complement gov’t budget in other countries is called sponsorship matching. With the economic recession rumoured to return again there is a need for forward planning and belt-tightening, otherwise a budget cut will have adverse effects on other cultures and remote artists as they will not be able to participate due to budget cuts. Those who have been omitted in the past will be omitted forever.

The main success of the competitions has been integration of artists in the rural areas into the mainstream industry. I am more surprised that none of the local commercial radio stations has tried to tap into this opportunity as a means of building content. One will ask with so much local music being performed and produced around these events what music do these commercial radio stations want? Do we really need these commercial radio stations if they never take part in national events? If these commercial radio stations have in the past benefited through adverts from the competition why have they benefited when they are cold towards local artists? Commercial radio stations should not be given business by government if they are not committed to developing local artists – its plain and simple. They should get support from foreign governments if they play 40% South African, 40% American and 10% Local and 105 European music they should go to South Arica and get 40% business, 40% business in America and 10% in Europe. The gov’t should only commit itself to radio stations that promote locals and this will also assist C.O.S.B.O.T.S. to distribute more royalties local and the Minister of Trade and Industry in her efforts to implement the Copyright Act.

These types of competitions and events (Heritage Day and Constituency events) are there in countries like Australia, England and in South Africa, but they are done differently as most of the production is outsourced to private sector or commercial event managers. Due to budget constraints and different backgrounds between us and these countries I think probably our competitions are bigger due to the intensity of the competitors, quality of perfomances and number of people who enter the competitions on pro rata basis. e.g. In Botswana it will be difficult to use the Aussie, UK or South African models while having a small budget although their structures and strategies are more effective. Privatising them will be a good way of growing the industry as gov’t will make its money back through taxes, levies and these companies will employ people to run these events.

H.E. S.K.I. Khama and the Minister of Arts and Culture are going to have difficult choices to make in the near future, maybe in the coming two years mainly because of the growth of the competition if a review is not done now because the current budget will soon be insufficient to even run Central and Kgalagadi regions competitions which are the biggest constituencies in terms of the number of participants.

One of the things that could be done is to get sustainable grant from the Alcohol Levy and use the events to create awareness about dangers of alcohol. One may ask why these competitions? In a year there are close to 200 different festivals from Dramma, Comedy, Poetry, Traditional Song and Dance, Pottery, Paintings e.t.c. While some of the events are held same day one will not be aware of the impact they have when they are not on the ground. These competitions keep communities active, intact and youngsters busy and that’s one element that is needed to grow the arts. People always talk about soccer teams buying booze after winning the tournaments but I have seen a lot of youngsters who have won the constituency arts competitions in studios trying to cut albums and the issue of alcoholism from winnings is not rife in the arts. If it’s there then we don’t know about it. When I was at B.O.M.U. as Sec General we never received a single complaint but mostly the complaints were that the competitions are not all inclusive as they left out a lot of artists.
The govt must introduce Tax holiday for people/companies who sponsor the Arts. Of late govt has introduced tax holiday for Sports and all the companies have ditched sponsoring the arts and are only sponsoring sports with millions. It is very important to know that our culture is very important because it is who we are and what we want to be. When our national team leaves for Equatorial Guinea they must go there knowing their roots, their culture, who they are, what they represent and why they represent that particular culture. We just came from a workshop where we were drilled on Tax issues by B.U.R.S. which was insightful for us. I think the industry needs such interactions on a regular basis maybe monthly, because most of us are dull in terms of the business side of things. We just want to sing and showcase our talent unfortunately our talents come with money.

We learnt that in Sports there is tax holiday while in the arts there is nothing like that, that in Sports winnings and donations are not taxed while in music artists are taxed for every little income as long as its taxable. I don’t want to taint the good B.U.R.S. presentation but in short in Sports they don’t pay any tax except for salaries of players if they are taxable but all other earnings are free from tax e.g. winnings and donations. This is quite sad for most of us and I don’t understand how this skipped the eyes of Parliament and MP’s to pass a bill for tax holiday for sponsors of sports while leaving the arts out. The MP that was presenting the motion must bring back another one for the Arts because he/she has not done us justice. His/Her motion has made sponsors to pack and leave the arts in the lurch.

I am a key believer that once the tax issue is sorted out then more corporate stakeholders will get involved which means gov’t will employ more people, purchase more cars rent more offices e.t.c.
All these will not be done for the festivals only. These festivals have some sort of commercial aspects that will be fully exploited like exhibitions, commercialization of certain activities like merchandising e.t.c. which can be sold in art galleries and museums. I believe the success and upward growth of participants in these competitions should give gov’t an assignment to come up with creative ways of growing the industry. But one starting point is increase of the budget and capacity of the Department of Arts and Culture. P 100million from the Alcohol Levy to the Department will not be a bad start. This will go into employing staff countrywide, opening offices, workshops and capacity building, business mentoring of artists in rural areas like Kgalagadi, projects funding and general re-branding of the sector.

My partying shot is there is a need for tax exemption, there is a need for H.E. S.K.I. Khama and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture to come together with artists to map a way of growing these festivals further. It will be unfortunate if in the coming three years we are meeting because participation numbers have gone down, over and above everything. The National Arts Council is needed now especially from a research point of view to give strategic direction and credibility to some of our ideas.

Yours In Music

CONTINUES ON PAGE 8

One of the things that could be done is to get sustainable grant from the Alcohol Levy and use the events to create awareness about dangers of alcohol. One may ask why these competitions? In a year there are close to 200 different festivals from Dramma, Comedy, Poetry, Traditional Song and Dance, Pottery, Paintings e.t.c. While some of the events are held same day one will not be aware of the impact they have when they are not on the ground. These competitions keep communities active, intact and youngsters busy and that’s one element that is needed to grow the arts. People always talk about soccer teams buying booze after winning the tournaments but I have seen a lot of youngsters who have won the constituency arts competitions in studios trying to cut albums and the issue of alcoholism from winnings is not rife in the arts. If it’s there then we don’t know about it. When I was at B.O.M.U. as Sec General we never received a single complaint but mostly the complaints were that the competitions are not all inclusive as they left out a lot of artists.
The govt must introduce Tax holiday for people/companies who sponsor the Arts. Of late govt has introduced tax holiday for Sports and all the companies have ditched sponsoring the arts and are only sponsoring sports with millions. It is very important to know that our culture is very important because it is who we are and what we want to be. When our national team leaves for Equatorial Guinea they must go there knowing their roots, their culture, who they are, what they represent and why they represent that particular culture. We just came from a workshop where we were drilled on Tax issues by B.U.R.S. which was insightful for us. I think the industry needs such interactions on a regular basis maybe monthly, because most of us are dull in terms of the business side of things. We just want to sing and showcase our talent unfortunately our talents come with money. We learnt that in Sports there is tax holiday while in the arts there is nothing like that, that in Sports winnings and donations are not taxed while in music artists are taxed for every little income as long as its taxable. I don’t want to taint the good B.U.R.S. presentation but in short in Sports they don’t pay any tax except for salaries of players if they are taxable but all other earnings are free from tax e.g. winnings and donations. This is quite sad for most of us and I don’t understand how this skipped the eyes of Parliament and MP’s to pass a bill for tax holiday for sponsors of sports while leaving the arts out. The MP that was presenting the motion must bring back another one for the Arts because he/she has not done us justice. His/Her motion has made sponsors to pack and leave the arts in the lurch. I am a key believer that once the tax issue is sorted out then more corporate stakeholders will get involved which means gov’t will employ more people, purchase more cars rent more offices e.t.c.
All these will not be done for the festivals only. These festivals have some sort of commercial aspects that will be fully exploited like exhibitions, commercialization of certain activities like merchandising e.t.c. which can be sold in art galleries and museums. I believe the success and upward growth of participants in these competitions should give gov’t an assignment to come up with creative ways of growing the industry. But one starting point is increase of the budget and capacity of the Department of Arts and Culture. P 100million from the Alcohol Levy to the Department will not be a bad start. This will go into employing staff countrywide, opening offices, workshops and capacity building, business mentoring of artists in rural areas like Kgalagadi, projects funding and general re-branding of the sector. My partying shot is there is a need for tax exemption, there is a need for H.E. S.K.I. Khama and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture to come together with artists to map a way of growing these festivals further. It will be unfortunate if in the coming three years we are meeting because participation numbers have gone down, over and above everything. The National Arts Council is needed now especially from a research point of view to give strategic direction and credibility to some of our ideas.

Yours In Music

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