Is BNAI the answer to the arts industry’s growth?

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The arts are a vast subdivision of culture and are composed of many disciplines, united by their employment of the human creative impulse. The term encompasses a broader range of disciplines, which include visual, literary and performing arts. In its continued effort to develop this aspect of the creative industries, The Botswana Society for the Arts (BSA) held its annual general meeting with artists this past weekend at Thapong Visual Arts Centre in a bid to harmonize operations and share ideas on how to boost the arts industry locally. “Botswana Society for the Arts is an umbrella organization that aims to create a destination for world class arts. There are currently no institutions in Botswana offering fulltime courses in visual or performing arts. As BSA we have come up with Botswana National Arts Institute, which is an innovative concept that combines skills and entrepreneurship training in the arts and hands on practical experience,” said the Chairman of BSA, Felicity Leburu Sianga.


The idea for the Botswana National Arts Institute(BNAI) came about in 1996 when the BSA, together with other stakeholders realized the potential of the creative industries and the need for a permanent purpose built educational facility in the Art/Creative industry field. BSA will provide arts training in dance, music, drama, painting, sculpture, photography, multimedia recording, and backstage skills including sound and lighting. The Government has already granted BSA 10 hectares of land in central Gaborone, P10 million towards professional design fees, tax concessions and a design concept. The estimated fi nancial fi gures for the institution are P40 million for the theatre, foyer and cafeteria, P7 million for the dance/drama studios, P6 million for the recital room and P5 million for the recording and photographic studios.


“The BSA intermittently received an operating grant of P100 000 from the department of Arts and Culture. We received it last year after almost 3 years of no grant, which also is far from supporting the operating needs of the society. We are constantly engaging with corporate and donor agencies to help us in our daily works, not forgetting to mention our loyal members whom we also depend on for their membership fees for survival. I need to also mention that it has been a very diffi cult couple of years with donor and commercial entities as they now have to do budget cuts and savings, hence it has been very diffi cult to receive long term funding support due to the recession,” said the Coordinator of BSA, Lebogang Matsididi.


The Vice Chairman of BSA, Ulf Nermark also highlighted the importance of artists becoming members of the organization because their work is downloaded on their website and shared with local and international markets. “Members benefit as we improve their profi les by promoting, advocating, lobbying, and raising awareness and providing skills training. Artists also learn business ethics. Just because you painted a picture does not mean you deserve a fat cheque. Quantity and quality are different things and buyers are looking for quality work. The only art that is lacking behind in Botswana is the production of documentaries. There are not many people doing documentary screening even though most people own cameras. Batswana should develop the culture of taking videos and uploading them on You Tube to increase their exposure,” he said.