The importance of public art

Thapong Visual arts centre is where artists, including talented sculptor Joseph Piet find the heartbeat for their artwork. If you have passed by Thapong, you will  have noticed sculptures neatly placed towards the entrance, welcoming guest to Thapong .  Piet however, pines for a time where his artworks could find a more public home.

Public art is the practice of involving artists in the conception, development and transformation of a public space and encompasses a wide range of art forms including mosaics, paintings, sculptures, lighting, landscape designs, textiles, glasswork, video installation, ceramics and performance art. Public art is important as it can be used to encourage revival and enhancement of public or private spaces. Time Out caught up with the sculptor to shed light on the situation of Botswana’s public art.

“We have very few public art installations  around here, yet we have a lot of open spaces around the city that would look appealing when artistic works are on display. Public art is needed and is important as it can be used to portray our culture to foreigners as well as to show the upcoming generations our way of life or culture and how we got where we are,” Piet said.

The Kumakwane native uses fiberglass, metal and clay to craft his pieces  because they  are easily obtainable. When asked what motivates the story behind  his sculptures, Piet reveals that they usually come from the surroundings of where he grew up, adding that “they are flashbacks from my childhood, our culture and certain incidents that happened back in the days.”

When asked why there are not many public arts installations in Botswana Piet said the problem was that Batswana have little knowledge and do not understand art. “I would like to see more information about art disseminated to Batswana and to also see local artists working with international artists. By so doing, they will get exposed to what is expected of them so as to produce crafts that are of world standard. This will in the long run help Batswana artists to win art tenders locally,” he explained.

He also emphasized the importance of making sculptures that show some sort of action and tell a story. “The expression of an artwork is very important. Artworks are like stories told through the action of the art piece because those who can’t see or read about the storyline can be able to touch and understand what the sculpture is all about. That is the beauty of motion sculptures,” he said.