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A youth cultural group that has travelled the world, believes the Botswana unemployment problem can be solved through a practical integrated approach to the Setswana art and culture.
Director of Ngwao Letshwao, Odirile Rammoni, who has travelled with the group to countries such as the United States, Belgium, Brazil and Australia among others since 2001, says how other countries have utilised arts and culture to become iconic globally can replicated in Botswana, creating a whole new, sustainable avenue for wider job creation.
“It is important that Botswana shines on the world stage. Our Setswana culture and dances are the second diamond that we have. Ngwao Letshwao has been travelling the world, showcasing our various dances such the Hosana dances, Tsutsube and Phathisi; We are marketers and PR people for this country. We carry our baskets made in the Ngami area and other artefacts and people really get fascinated with our country and they come here,” he said.
“We are given stalls wherever we travel and we showcase Setswana culture, branding Botswana, carrying our curios and handiworks and people really get fascinated with our country,” said Rammoni.
“Our tourism cannot be driven by wildlife alone but our culture itself is the diamond that we are looking for to drive our GDP (gross domestic product) up and create jobs,” he added.
Rannoi sees jobs in sound engineering that is specific for Setswana music which is broadcast electronically. He sees also the need for better exposure to the Setswana culture, whereby Botswana delegates to international gatherings are always accompanied by culturally clothed men and women as it creates interest on Botswana.
Rammoni says that the diamond value chain can be copied for the arts, whereby the retailing of artefacts can be done overseas, while production takes place in Botswana. “These value chains can be created because truly speaking, the Americans just love our culture, and they can go and sell it back home.”
“There is an opportunity for these crafts if we become producers and they can sell from their retail shops. We can create employment. Just in Gaborone, if we have 400 dancers, we can dance at lodges, at the station, at the airport. We can charge tourists for performances. We wear our Botswana colours. There is also an opportunity to do this all over the country,” adding that “I am available to roll this out and we have already made requests to the City Council to allow us to do that.“We are lucky to have sponsorships to fly all over and provide us with accommodation but we struggle to get per diems for the dancers,” he said.
Rammoni is recognised in other countries as a custodian of culture, having briefly worked for Disney and chosen by Australia to be a cultural ambassador for their festivals which attrack over 250 000 revellers. “We have more than 300 proposals from across the world to bring dance groups but our requests to Government sometimes don’t reach leadership. But we have people like Dineo Phuthi and Minister Olopeng, who can see what the arts and culture can do for this country,” he said.
“We have seen these things when we travelled to the US, China, Belgium, Brazil. Botswana is an affiliate of UNESCO. They issue calls for funding from Paris and we don’t have a delegation that catches word of these opportunities and informs us but Zimbabwe and South africa are far ahead in their cultural tourism because they use this funding. Whenever we don’t get sponsors, I pawn my vehicle to make it possible. We are going to make Botswana a destination of choice,” he added.