'Plenty of room for improvement in visual arts'

Bakwena recently attended Tate Intensive Programme in London, UK
Bakwena recently attended Tate Intensive Programme in London, UK

After attending a curatorial intensive project named Tate Intensive 2019 last month in the UK, Thapong Visual Arts centre director Reginald Bakwena has revealed that a lot is yet to be done to improve visual arts in Botswana.

Bakwena said curators were invited from around the world. “The whole process of the project was to look into bringing new ideas in the arts and discussing how we can take the arts forward as institutions,” he reflected in an interview this week.

He told Arts & Culture that they looked at how artists should collaborate with curators and he realised that it was most especially important locally.  “Curators are the people who manage galleries and the work of artists, so it’s crucial to be critiqued by a curator because they know what the customer wants,” said Bakwena.

He added that curators help artists build a strong concept. “I realised that Batswana artists need to create a relationship with curators so that they can talk on their behalf (including with international connections).”  He said artists couldn’t penetrate the international market alone. Moreover, he highlighted the need for more resources locally like spaces to work in.  “In Botswana we have Thapong, which is doing well and based in Gabs, but artists travel all the way to come here. We need to develop another facility in other areas like Maun,” he said.

Bakwena said in the UK the government is putting more money into the arts compared to Botswana.  “Their galleries are big and people are coming in large numbers to view the work. Here there is appreciation, but we need to work on it more,” he highlighted.  Bakwena said they need to develop some commissioned work in the city. 

“Artists need to be given commissioned work to express themselves and maybe we could compete internationally,” he said.  He said with elections near, political parties need to commission artists to do works that are thought-provoking.  Bakwena was quick to mention that artists should work within spaces that are available. 

“There are some parks in the city and we need to document our history through monuments,” he said. He said installing artworks in public spaces could attract tourists, as the latter believe in seeing such.

He said some of the areas they discussed at Tate were taking art to the community.

“Curators there take people around and teach them about what they do. Even the community ends up contributing and in the process they build art appreciation,” he said. Bakwena said in Europe they invite people to discuss and talk about artworks.

“We should invite more people here and share art with the international networks,” he said.

Bakwena said Tate Intensive discussions were designed to be open, honest and confidential. “The programme was a chance for participants to share their most urgent concerns, to learn from others’ experiences, and to generate shared solutions,” he said.

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