The National Museum Main Gallery is alive with beautiful artworks marking the Annual Artist in Botswana Exhibition, which officially opened Tuesday night. It ends on May 27.
It also provides an opportunity for the most talented to win special prizes.
Given the quality of artworks submitted, the two judges had a tough time arriving at the winners for the different art categories - paintings, drawings, photography, and sculptures. After some careful evaluation, it was finally announced that the first prize (Paintings) went to Gigi Kenalemang Malebang for his "Trio" painting, using oil on canvas medium.
Wilson Ngoni took second prize with his "Traditional Council" painting, also using oil on canvas medium. The third prize went to Olemogeng Maaramela, with three pieces, "Xgane", "Magabe", and "Two Fish". Two other artists, Mokwaledi Gontshwanetse with "Letlhoko la Ditiro" an acrylic on canvas painting, and Alfred Ncube with "Working Together" a watercolour on paper painting, won commendation prizes for their brilliant efforts.
In the sculpture category, first prize went to Barnabas Nduzo with his "Traditional Dancer" wood sculpture, followed by Isaac Chibua with his "The African Girl" fibre glass and resin sculpture. Mabelane, who scooped the first prize in the paintings category, received his second prize, the commended prize in the sculptures category with his "Maloba Jale".
The other categories - the drawing and photography - only received commended prizes, with the photography category prize going to Phil Sandick, with "Ntwa kgolo ke ya molomo" a digital print, and Karin Duthie with "Hyena", a digital print photograph.
In the drawings' category, Kabelo Mooketsane received a commended certificate for a beautiful drawing done with charcoal and pastel.
The artwork, which is untitled, has a naked male figure, who seems to be carrying the world on his shoulder. Angus Holbrook for "Jill" using ink and charcoal took the other certificate in the same category. Wendy Borello's
"The End of the Day" was chosen as the Best in Show.
Speaking at the event, the Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, Moeng Pheto, noted that the arts' section "is certainly growing in the country and should not be taken lightly as it contributes to the national economy," hence his ministry's commitment to supporting the arts.
He said the ministry was in the process of buying local artworks for decoration of public offices and promised to encourage other ministries to follow suit.
For his part, Principal Curator and Head of Art at the Botswana National Museum, Lesega Segola, noted that the annual exhibition has grown steadily over the past two decades.
"Although not immediately discernable, some artists have made great strides and grown and are now entering realms where they will begin to command some serious attention," he said.
Segola commanded the works of the two prize-winners, Malebang and Qhaeqhoo Moses. He noted that Moses of the Kuru Artists was the only one who had taken the break to work independently.
Segola also noted that the number of artists participating in the 2007 Artist in Botswana had grown significantly.
"The majority of these artists are formally trained at art schools abroad. This has already had an impact as applicants for exhibition space are on the rise. All this bodes well for the future."
The judges for this year's exhibition were Harun Harun, an independent curator of art, and Banyana Selelo, curator of art-education at the Botswana National Museum.
They noted that the annual exhibition has grown by leaps and bounds if the quality of works submitted was any yardstick.
"A number of works are of a very high standard, and very unique and interesting. As judges we did not find it easy to select the works for prizes.
In all, the exhibition seems to be a manifestation of a move towards a gesture that articulates a sense of understanding, discovery and affirmation of individual artists voices," the judges said.