Botswana: Arts Put On Pedestal

Gaborone — Cabinet on July 17 decided to ratify the 2005 convention on the promotion and preservation of the diversity of cultural expression, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has said.

"We have our cultural policy in place, we have ratified several UNESCO cultural conventions, which include the 1954 convention on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, 1985 convention on stolen or illegally exported cultural objects, 2003 safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage among others," he said.

Speaking during a brunch he hosted for creative arts industry members at State House on July 8, President Masisi said government had also issued various presidential directives to support local arts, craft and artefacts.

Government, he said, had done all to promote the creative arts industry and had embraced more than 20 000 artistes with a multi-million Pula annual budget.

He urged the attendants to participate, grow the budget exponentially by turning the millions into billions of Pula.

The President vowed to assist the creative arts to exploit the whole value chain and explore opportunities in their industry.

He said government would be at the forefront to ensure that spaces and opportunities were opened.

"My job is to help you do it and I am going to do it. Do all you can, serenade the world and call the world to Botswana and if some can't come to Botswana don't feel shy pack your bags and go to them. The capability of exporting our culture and ensuring that it remains ours is what we have to do," he said.

Pointing out that the industry had the potential to market Botswana's prized commodities such as beef and diamonds, Dr Masisi said government was going to capacitate the relevant ministries in new ways to meet growing challenges.

President Masisi said government would help the industry grow by conversing more with artists and taking their advice.

He said sharing ideas was part of Botswana's value proposition as it moved towards a knowledge based economy.

Welcoming guests, First Lady Ms Neo Masisi implored the artistes to share the powerful stories that accompanied their God given talent.

"You are a unique group, tapping on what the maker bestowed upon you to earn a living. Some of us had to be trained but you are using something that has been planted right from conception. I'm sure you all have powerful stories that accompany this talent, I would like you to share it," she said.

She insisted that they share how their talents improved the livelihoods of their families or their communities.

"For me personally, it's all about these stories behind this talent that I am interested in hearing or reading about. Get out those stories, where they impact on other people especially the less privileged, our lives are about giving to others, if God has given you talent share it in whatever way," she added.

For his part, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Mr Tshekedi Khama said the meeting between President Masisi and the creative artists was the beginning of great things to come.

He said he was impressed that Dr Masisi sat and conversed with them on a number of issues that could open opportunities to develop the industry.

A number of artistes decried lack of decent price rates for their products and unanimously called for the establishment of an art council as well as proper management of the music union.

Source : BOPA

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