FRANCISTOWN: Supa Ngwao, which has been out of operation for the past 18 months, re-opened for business on Friday.
The museum was founded in 1992 and is housed at Francistown’s first district commissioner’s buildings in the old central business district.
The building is located a few yards from Jubilee Hospital along the railway line and next to the city’s iconic Nyangabgwe hill.
A new board that was elected at this year’s annual general meeting (AGM) runs the museum. The former director, Stella Rundle arranged the AGM after dissolving the previous board.
According to the Museum’s new vice chairperson in the board of trustees, Saadia Rossenkhan the previous board was dissolved because it was dysfunctional which led to the inconsistency of operations of the museum.
“The board was none functional and it negatively impacted the operations of the facility that ultimately led to the closure of the museum for 18 months,” she said on the sidelines of the museum’s official opening ceremony.
“Stella (Rundle) organised an AGM and new board was elected to take care of not only the affairs of the museum, but also the rich history of the city that can be associated with the museum that include the old jail that is adjacent to the museum, the railway line and other historic monuments around Francistown.”
Rossenkhan who likes to be referred to as Phazha, her Kalanga name, said the re-opening of the museum was long overdue. She said they have received support from Botswana Railways (BR) and the national museum.
“Botswana Railways supported us tremendously. We also received back up funding from the national museum, which we could not get last year as the museum was out of service and we are expecting another funding this year.”
“For now, we wanted to get the museum going and a lot is in the pipeline for the museum and will happen after this re-opening.”
She said they have two artists who currently displays at the museum, but soon the museum will open doors to more artists.
The museum houses a Mukani Action Campaign, a company that works with translating books into the Kalanga language and also publishes their own Kalanga books.
She said they are currently looking at hiring a permanent curator and other staff members for the day-to-day running of the museum. She said they had struck an agreement with the Tswana weavers who will also be housed at the museum.
The museum has an in-house dressmaker who specialises in the German print or jeremane, as it is commonly known in Setswana.
“The duration of the designs takes two days at the most. This is the Tswana culture of attire. It is interesting as the designs are made specifically to suit the customer and tourists love that. They will have something to take home as souvenir after visiting the museum,” Rossenkhan said.
Modisaotsile Mothibi, 82, a
“This was the district commissioners building and we walked from the police station to bring the criminals for arraignment to the magistrate here and walked them back to those cells.” He said pointing to the jail a stone throw away. “Then, it was Bechualand Police Force and we were paid with this cheque (pointing to an old cheque written £1-14-10 that is 1 pound 14 shillings and 10 pence) and it was a lot of money at the time.”
A young artist, Ogomoditse Thuso of Tati who strives on fine art was equally excited at the opening of the museum. He said the facility is his hope of a marketing platform for his artifacts.
“This is an inspiration for us as artists. It encourages me to do more artworks. My art was almost rotting at home and at last I am hoping this museum becomes a place where I can market myself and sell my artworks. I am excited and I am hopeful it will one day turn around my fortunes.”
Barnara Winkler walked out a smiling customer after purchasing a Bul-Bul bird feeder.
“I have bought a birdfeeder and it is absolutely a wonderful piece of art, besides I love feeding stray animals,” she chuckled. She also suggested the museum sell traditional foods so that they can be constant walk-ins.
The museum is divided into four rooms. The entrance leads into a room that is displaying the history of Botswana Railways. The first thing to notice is the ticketing booth and many pictures of coal-fired powered trains from as far back as the 1890s.
The next two rooms display the history of Francistown in its entirety. There is a section of the iconic Nyangabgwe hill, the 1952 Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WENELA) Air Service that was one of the busiest airlines in Africa and had the largest runway in Francistown. The rooms also displays history of the gold mine, the court, police and jail, the Tati Company, hospitals, the churches and schools, The Tati Beer Hall where people imbibed and indulged. There are also sections of the first settlements, such as Tatitown and Somerset West.
The museum is open to all walk-in customers for P2 during weekdays from 8am to 1pm. According to Rossenkhan, the operation time will be adjusted after a full staff is secured.