Chairperson of POETAVANGO movement, Legodile Seganabeng, says the group was compelled to introduce coaching clinics as a way of empowering children in schools after some of them had shown thrilling performances and quality presentations at last year’s arts festival in Maun. As a result, he says they have planned to engage even more children from other parts of Ngamiland district so that traditions and diverse cultures that are relevant to this region are promoted.
At the group’s annual general meeting last week, Seganabeng said during its formation back in 2008, they were not sure if POETAVANGO was going to survive, looking at their relatively small number which included just two poets, a musician and a guitarist. But with monetary assistance from Barclays bank and the department of arts and culture in 2011, he said they started growing in leaps and bounds, and began the annual Maun International Poetry Festival as their main project.
“As we grew, more and more countries started taking part in our festivals. Brand Botswana also came on board after realising that our artistic works were going to brand Botswana as a country. We realised in 2014 that we had grown bigger, and that is when we also introduced more music, comedy and visual arts among other things. Later in the year we rebranded and called ourselves the Maun International Arts Festival as it was not poetry alone anymore”, he said.
However the International Arts Festival came with its challenges as it meant they had to adjust their budget. Segananbeng said it was last year’s event that proved to them that they had indeed grown steadily, thus making them even more determined to expand and include in their fold, more activities. In the first quarter of 2014, he said they started working with other Non-Governmental Organisations such as Bana Ba Letsatsi centre, which takes care of abused and vulnerable children in Maun. Their role here was to nurture their talents in terms of writing and music, after the recognition that children there were more passionate about the two. “We went there and took them through a series of workshops and taught them the art of speaking out, and how to voice out their concerns through writing and music. We are talking here of children who are traumatised by circumstances they have no control of. So we found it only right to take them along and offer the little assistance”, said the chairman.
Their lineup of activities included the Hundred Percent Poets for Change which they did for patients after liaising with management at Letsholathebe Memorial Hospital. In this particular activity, he said they had come to the realisation that spoken words, arts and music heal, and that they can in a way help patients heal through therapy as it has proven to be the best medicine that also heals the soul. The group according to Seganabeng also got an invite from Brand Botswana to perform in Gaborone during the celebrations of the listing of the Okavango Delta as a world heritage site because unlike other groups, they (Poetavango) originate and relate well with the delta.
The highlight of their calling, he said, was when they went on a benchmarking session in Harare, Zimbabwe. It was while there that they also interacted with organisers of the Harare International Festival of Arts, something which he says has played an important part in influencing how they are going to run future festivals locally.
Meanwhile Performance and Improvement Coordinator at North West Region Violet Jacob said they are more than excited that POETAVANGO has partnered with the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MOESD) in grooming young talent. As a ministry, she said they recognise talent and are more than willing to assist in any way possible because nowadays young people have demonstrated that they have more vision as compared to those of yesteryears. She said MOESD benefits a lot from young talent as it now shows the ministry is slowly but surely realising its dream of being knowledge based economy that is also globally competitive. “We trust that you and other youth in this country will keep flying Botswana flag high. Unlike you, our grooming was dependent on our parents, but you are more advanced and more independent. By that I promise we will continuously support you”, she said.