In an effort to promote and support local artists and art, Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited Trust (BIHL Trust) recently collaborated with Thapong resident artists in their nationwide campaign aimed at creating awareness around rhino conservation. Artists, Arone Edward, Bolaane Mazebedi and Christopher Mokgeledi were commissioned for the campaign titled ‘Rhinos in the City’ to paint and decorate live size sculptures crafted by one of Thapong oldest resident artist and renowned metal sculptor Joseph Piet.
A total of three fiber glass sculptures developed by Piet will be placed in three key locations of Maun, Francistown and Gaborone. The Gaborone rhino sculpture will be placed at the Molapo Piazza while the other two will be placed at the Maun Museum and the Francistown Civic Center gardens. Each sculpture, currently a blank canvas will be decorated by the three artists. This will give the artists a chance to showcase their artistic talent and customize the sculptures.
The ‘Rhino in the City’ initiative is the brainchild of the BIHL Trust which recently made a donation of P100 000 to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary Trust for ear notching and DNA sampling of the rhinos. “Following the donation, we wanted to do something to raise awareness around this conservation effort. Unless we make such topics a central part of the public’s consciousness, it becomes all too easy to overlook. With this project, we aim to shed light on the threats to this beautiful creature, at the same time working as a collective to protect it,” said Tebogo Keepetsoe, BIHL Trust Administrator. He added, “this has also provided us with an opportunity to contribute towards the growth and development of local artists, a space which we are truly passionate about.”
According to results of a census report published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, “At the beginning of the 20th century there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia. This fell to 70,000 by 1970 and further to current 29,000 roaming in the wild today. However, there are concerns that the unprecedented rise in rhino poaching since 2008 may bring this species back into decline if poaching is not reduced.” Elsewhere in the world, several initiatives have been carried out as a way of sensitizing the public at large on issues of rhino conservation.
Piet, the sculptor of the three rhinos had this to say, “The three sculptures took me about three months to make and finish and I used fiber glass. I particularly enjoyed working on this project because it is for a good cause and it gives my work as an artist, exposure throughout the country.” He added that the only challenge he experienced was sourcing materials in Gaborone. “A lot of art stores here in town don’t have fiber glass and I think that could be because there are few sculptors here,” said Piet.