Mmegi Online :: 2016 state of the arts
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Tuesday 21 February 2017, 15:35 pm.
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2016 state of the arts

The year 2016 was supposed to have been a great one for the arts. It was the year that all the artists in Botswana should have reimagined everything about Botswana because it was the year of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations. But at the end of this year, I am here writing this to a soundtrack of Mlesho’s Tlhomela and some newbie South African outfit with a catchy lyrics but poor production saying “O Seka Bora Moreki”. How did we get up here?
By Thalefang Charles Fri 23 Dec 2016, 11:51 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: 2016 state of the arts








BOT50’s missed opportunity

The BOT50 organising committee was placed under the then Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture under the helm of Thapelo Olopeng – the Minister who loves entertainment since he juggles as a DJ and loves Facebook. Almost all artists agree that BOT50 did not do enough to support the entire art industry. They failed so bad that they could not even design an appealing mascot for the celebration.

A Golden Jubilee celebration presented Botswana with perfect opportunity to showcase her rich art. It failed to leave a lasting legacy of inspiring artworks that would shape the industry going forward. But at the end of 2016, there are no books, no major art exhibitions, not many inspiring songs coming from the BOT50 euphoria. Someone even said the best thing that happened with BOT50 was the fireworks that left the multitudes at National Stadium clouded in smoke reminding them where the nations’ millions of pula went. Up in smoke!

Art murals

In 2016 Batswana somehow demonstrated why they are the home of Tsodilo Hills, one of the world ‘s oldest rock paintings haven, by going out to decorate rocks, trees, dogs and almost everything with national colours. People did not want BOT50 to spoil their party. This explosion of blue, black and white somehow led to an exciting wave of commissioned public art especially murals.

The silos at various dikgotla became canvas for heritage murals for various merafe in Botswana. Although in Serowe Bangwato royal family apparently turned down the initiative it was a beautiful concept. The young artists that worked with the Bakwena murals at Molepolole main kgotla used bright colours that really brightened up the kgotla. The Gaborone Main Mall murals at the Turnstar building are also a very important initiative in the city’s public art and we hope it shall spread around the country.

 

Paintings

Today most government offices and corporates in Botswana have walls decorated by local artworks. It is always heart warming to recognise that the business community embraces local artists. This must go on and we should applaud President Khama for urging government to buy local art.

 

Theatre

Mophato Dance Theatre this year staged world-class local dance theatre pieces Pula and Borwa. Pula remains the best production and authentic Setswana story ever told on stage this year.  Maitisong Festival had new local theatre artworks that demonstrated the new energy of writers who are eager to tell unique Botswana stories. Directors like Andrew Kola, Donald Molosi and Tefo Paya among others deserves commendation in their passion and telling our stories. Plays like A Woman of Many Firsts, Born Around Here and Blue Black & White are a step in the best direction for the arts. Events like Makgaola Kgang organised by people who are fellow artists are invaluable going forward.

 

Traditional Dance

The President Day’s Competitions, which is an initiative of President Ian Khama, this year continued to unearth real art and cultural gems from around Botswana especially on the traditional dances. The event has made it possible for Botswana to showcase its best dances. As the competition became fierce, choreographers have become more and more open minded in the presentation of our dance. We have seen many groups reimagine our traditional dance. For example this year we saw Dipela Tsa Ga Kobokwe bring down the stage with their traditional sledge entrance that captivated audiences through their performances. Also at the President traditional dance competitions we have heard a slight remix of Hosana sound by some groups. This brave new way of rethinking a traditional sound shows some growth and a bold expression on our artists. Although the organisers of traditional dance events still lack the appreciation of setting their events for the right ambience, away from hard hall stages, the dances are progressing and developing very well.

 

Music

Few days ago I witnessed guests at UB Staff party at the exclusive

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Staff Lounge dancing to Tlhomela and it dawned on me that the song might not be a shattering work of art but it gets anyone moving. This is a beautiful thing because for many years many Batswana have been enjoying the festive season with South African songs. Although Oska Bora Moreki is also trending locally Mlesho’s Tlhomela dance is this year’s dance floor winner.

Botswana traditional sound is still making strides in East and Central Africa. This year my colleague Baboki Kayawe returned ecstatic from Tanzania after she discovered that Shumba Ratshega’s Makhirikhiri (Pronounced “Makhilikhli” in East Africa) is still the greatest song up there. I discovered that five years ago and it is a beautiful thing that our music is appreciated in far away countries that do not even understand our language.

But the music industry is still raved by politics that do not translate to art. This year we saw one-man protest by singer DT who was fed up with Botswana Musician Union major flop of their awards. Images of DT walking in the melting heat through the streets of Gaborone escorted by one police vehicle are a shame to the industry. Such an expressive industry should not be employing civil union tactics when they have such amazing power of creative protest songs. I urge all artists to make their protest inside their studio, just like what Scar did when Gaborone shady promoters refused to pay him. He put it in a song saying, “Ntueleng”.

And while we are on music I would like to commend The Botswana Gazette newspaper for bringing Eric Ramco to pen a column about his experiences in the industry. Although I would have advised Ramco to put it in a book, his column is very important in telling the recent history of the music industry in this country. Ramco is recognised as the father of the fusion of traditional dance music with modern beats that lead to the new sound of groups like Matsieng, Culture Spears and others. His column would help in maybe setting the record straight from all the talk of fallouts with him and artists during his glorious days of Ramco Records.

 

Lifestyle Events

We have seen a new wave of lifestyle events that promotes the arts. Events like Chillstep Sunday, Pop Up Market and Jam For Brunch in Gaborone are the future art expression centres. They provide audiences for artists to promote and sell their art. We need to see such events spread through major urban centres in Botswana. The fashion industry is also excelling well as evident from the successful events that they keep hosting.

 

Music Festivals

This year the country enjoyed great festivals headlined by amazing artists from around the world. As I am writing this, hip hop heads are waiting for what could easily be a greatest rap festival Botswana has ever hosted headlined by the boss Rick Ross on New Year’s Eve in Gaborone. This year many promoters have received flak for preferential treatment with regards to foreign artists at the festivals. One of the highlights occurrences that are bad for music is the media boycott of Hamptons Festival after the organisers told off the media. The organisers should make peace with media because the industry needs both to develop. The Mascom Live Sessions continue to inspire and host amazing shows, GIMC this year filled the National Stadium while BOT50 closed Old Lobatse Road in a festival that although it was free for all it flopped.

Olopeng has once again negotiated for the extension of entertainment hours for festive season festivals. This welcome temporary measure should be extended to all festivals throughout the year. We cannot only have more time during December because some people view it as just to accommodate his gig in Tonota. The Minister should bring back ‘Lala Vukas’. The nation shall party.

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Lifestyle
Fri 23 Dec 2016, 18:00 pm
Fri 23 Dec 2016, 11:51 am
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