Sunday, May 22, 2022

Show must go online

Amidst a hard-hitting no-contact virus which has induced growth of e-commerce and social media activity, Thapong Visual Arts Centre remains artistry.


Though it still houses artists and gives them a platform to work and showcase their artworks it confirmed to this publication that they currently do not have any online means of facilitating the selling and marketing of artworks.


Could it be that this lack of activity on online platforms by the Centre is a major reason why Botswana’s visual arts industry is growing at a snail’s pace?


While the effect that the pandemic has had on artists’ business is worth noting, the reality is that the new normal has called for adaptation across different industries. While local artists continue with traditional methods of commerce, artists and art dealers across the globe have turned toward the digital horizon.


Over the years, artists around the world have learnt to depend on online tools to run their art business and market their artwork. Now, more than ever, is the time for local artists to join in, harness and tap into the power of the internet to make connections and readapt their business to a changing landscape.


Thapong Visual Arts Centre is a platform which provides artists with studios and space to work as well as a gallery to display their works. The centre seeks to promote unity and excellence within the visual arts in Botswana, through sharing skills, enabling personal growth and development and promoting arts locally and internationally through networking. Alongside its gallery and exhibitions programme, Thapong Visual Arts Centre maintains studios and hosts workshops.


The Centre Coordinator Reginald Bakwena when speaking to this publication said the pandemic has severely affected the centre’s ability to achieve its mandate of giving artists and their work exposure. He said the centre assists visual artists to sell their artworks by hosting workshops and inviting interested parties for viewings. However, since the pandemic which restricted movement of people, Bakwena says their business has suffered massively. He also mentioned that they suffered the most as a result of restrictions in travel since they rely immensely on purchases made by tourists visiting the country.


He said: “We have been affected by Covid since we rely heavily on tourists purchasing the artworks as souvenirs. We normally host schools to come and learn from the artists but since this is no longer possible the pandemic has even affected the exchange of art knowledge with the general public as exhibitions are no longer attended like before.”


Bakwena said that they try to mitigate these challenges by encouraging artists to develop innovative ways of getting customers and making sales. He said that one of the ways is by encouraging artists to have active social media platforms which serve as virtual marketplaces. The irony however is that the Centre has not had any social media presence since 2020.


According to Hiscox online art trade report 2021, online sales of art across the world have skyrocketed since the pandemic. While local artisans are struggling with finding buyers, others across the world have turned to online platforms which seem to be even more rewarding.


Bakwena noted the potential of online platforms in exposing artists’ work to potential buyers and the international markets. He however said that their lack of online presence is mainly because of a lack of manpower since previously he handled the social media platforms but the workload from his role as centre coordinator resulted in inconsistency on the centre’s social media pages and ultimately its inactivity.


Bakwena said that reviving their online presence is top of their priorities and that they hope to have the issue fixed by next week.

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