Last Updated
Tuesday 26 May 2015, 18:00 pm.
Our heritage

There was an unusual recent full page advert in Mmegi placed by Universal Builders Botswana inviting those with imagination, talent and a sense of creativity to submit their ideas for the design and construction of a national landmark - something to rival the Eiffel Tower in France, Tower Bridge in London, the Pyramids in Eqypt, the Sidney Opera House, the Taj Mahal in India and so on.
By Staff Writer Wed 27 May 2015, 13:41 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Our heritage








The idea does seem to replicate so many other initiatives that have popped up in recent years - which appear to represent a need for this very new country to catch up or even match those which are so much older. The idea is, of course, a touch bizarre. Features, landmarks, if you wish, cannot be created according to a perceived need to compete with the most remarkable that the world possesses.

Here, we cannot build a pyramid, even a small one - why would we wish to do so?  The problem is that whilst many of the world's great historical buildings were designed and constructed with the deliberate intention that they should be recognised as great buildings, be remarkable, admired and best of all, loved -  they were also designed to be used, to be functional.  Many were built to meet a religious need, for commerce, or transport or today, recreation.

The many remarkable buildings that have been constructed in recent years in the oil rich kingdoms of the Middle East, or in Malaysia, were not the result of an advertised competition for a new national symbol. They were the result of hardnosed commercial decisions taken within economies which had the cash to involve the most reputable of the world's architects.  Their designs were expected to be audacious, awe-inspiring and unbelievable.

And thus rival anything the poor old Egyptians ever managed or even dear old Eiffel.  If we really do have pretensions that this country belongs in such a league, the dismal, depressing experience with the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport terminal building in Gaborone should have brought us shudderingly down to earth.We now know that this building was indeed designed to reflect absurd and wildly impractical notions of worldly status.

But like Icarus, we crashed. Yet here we are again, searching the locker for that elusive something, a new slogan, a logo, a brand, a vision which will somehow encapsulate everything that this country was, is and hopes to be. We have run through this bag of expensive tricks and found, unsurprisingly, that only few of them have really worked.

So, learning nothing, we still seek to try out more. For me there are so many major needs to be met and problems to be overcome. I would prefer to get those basic needs sorted out - for clean water, proper sanitation, decent food and shelter - rather than distracting ourselves with fantasies.



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