Of the country’s six struggling NGO museums, Kanye’s Bathoen II Museum is ironically the most baffling and disappointing.
Alone amongst the museums, it began life with a building, a collection and with help from the National Museum. The building was the late 19th century church which, in the late 1960s, was abandoned and neglected.
The collection belonged to Kgosi Bathoen. In 1968 the National Museum was established in Gaborone by Alec Campbell with Kgosi Bathoen acting as Board Chairman. Responding to BII’s request for help, Campbell seconded two volunteers, Alice Rampa and Lynn Farmer, to help out at the Kanye museum. It would appear that I took this particular photo some time after their departure. But for a certainty, I remember clearly that the building was in poor shape with a substantial tree growing through one wall.
The collection itself was woefully neglected and scattered all over the place, as is evident from my photo, but worse, had very obviously been looted. I immediately advised Kgosi Bathoen that this was what was happening and it may well be that it was then that he decided to donate to the National Museum what remained of his collection. From memory, the most important items in his collection were the guns and the walking sticks. In the event, it can hardly be regarded as accidental that one of the National Museum’s first exhibitions was the recreation there of BII’s personal office.
In the normal course of events, it should be a simple matter for those responsible for the Kanye Museum to ask the National Museum to provide a list of all the materials that BII donated to it. Somehow, and I have somehow lost this part of the thread, the museum then ceased to exist – its collection had gone and its building had been acquired by the Lutheran Church after the LMS had emerged at the last minute to claim legal ownership. A later emanation, however, occurred in 1997 when Abram Kesupile using the Phuthadikobo Museum’s trust deed as a model, established the museum, seemingly for the first time, as a legal entity.
My impression has been that the museum at this stage was already in possession of the two old buildings that it still utilises – namely the offices of the District Commissioner and, seemingly, of the Station Commander of the Police but I am unclear how this could have happened if it had no legal persona. All the NGO museums have had to struggle to find the best ways of using older buildings which had been built for other purposes and which were either far too large and costly to maintain or too small. Somehow the museum in Molepolole, for instance, has contrived to make the best use of a building which cannot be much larger than the museum’s premises in Kanye.
But can the Kanye Museum survive, as was asked by a recent article in Mmegi? With a small regular annual subsidy from the government the museum is unlikely to disappear yet again.