Arts leaders reflect on Khama
Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU)
BOMU President Pagson Ntsie has told Arts & Culture that Ian Khama contributed immensely especially with the establishment of President’s Day competitions in 2008. “As BOMU we pivoted the whole thing because these competitions started with music and it put us ahead of other sectors because music is the most consumed entity in the industry,” he said. Ntsie said that through the P25,000 maximum prize money artists got the courage to work hard. “It created sustainability for some of the artists who were unemployed,” he said. Ntsie further credited Khama for putting music like Polka in the market.
He said other mediums like segaba and guitar resurfaced in the process. Ntsie said they later visited Khama at his office to give him a BOMU award in recognition of his contribution. “We used to blame MYSC but after a conversation with him we realised that he listened,” he said.
Ntsie was also quick highlight that Khama branded artists like Dr Vom and Mlesho when he danced to Thobane and Tlhomela respectively. “He showed appreciation and in the process he boosted those artists as a marketing tool. The artists started getting bookings,” he said. Ntsie however outlined that Khama left with a burning issue like the establishment of an arts council still unresolved. “It has been long overdue and we wished he could have at least mapped a way forward,” he said. Ntsie further said that a music industry Act is not yet in place to guide the entire sector. “We don’t just want an arts act, but we want it to be specific to music because at the moment we don’t have any
Thapong Visual Arts Centre
Just like the performing arts, the coordinator of Botswana’s leading visual arts, Thapong Visual Arts Centre, Reginald Bakwena credited Khama for the President’s Day competitions, which has seen many artists come out of their shell to pursue their passion.
“A lot has changed during Khama’s tenure especially since the time he issued a directive compelling the government departments to buy local artwork,” he said. Bakwena said the result has contributed positively towards the improvement of artists’ livelihood. He said even though it was difficult to find funding it was during Khama’s era when the centre got a massive revamp. “He promoted the arts and this is the same sector that can contribute to the growth of the economy,” he said.
Botswana Entertainment Promoters Association (BEPA)
BEPA president Zenzele Hirschfeld said the Afrimma Transformational Leadership Award Khama received in 2015 depicted him as a leader who encourages music to grow beyond the Diaspora. “The Cultural exchanges that continue to be sponsored to celebrate the creative industry throughout other parts of the world like Mophato Dance Group and Re Batswana Music Ensemble founded by the late Soares Katumbela,” she said. Hirschfeld said genres as setinkane and Sebaga were not common amongst youth and now there is increased participation of youth in these genres as well as art.
“It would take us a while to state everything that His Excellency The President has done for the creative Industry as a whole and for that we are eternally grateful. Yes, a lot can still be done, but he has started the journey for us to continue where he left off,” she concluded.