Once chased away from adjudicating an arts competition, budding filmmaker Mmakgosi Anita Tau – who has only ever been paid P30 worth of royalties in Botswana – now has the support of two institutions in the USA to write a script for her first feature film.
The proposed National Arts Council Bill is highly commendable. I think the Bill comes at a time when it is much needed. The unemployment crisis and socioeconomic disparities have not had any mercy on artists.
I have been offered “exposure” by many event organizers to perform for dignitaries in Botswana but “exposure” was not and is not enough. I needed resources – money to run programmes that I initiated. I have performed at events where international artists were better valued for the work that they do, and yet we local artists in Botswana struggle to even have airplay. I have been a member of COSBOTS for two years and have since been paid P30 ($3). This Bill should ensure equal treatment for all artists.
Artists have been mocked for living from hand to mouth with no source of sustainable income. The real problem has been regulating industry players (getting them to pay artists commensurate to their work).
Growing up, I read Google Eyes and Chinua Achebe for my literature. I yearned to read a collection of poems or a novel by a Motswana. We need to provide local writers with support to produce, translate, and publish texts that capture our diversity and preserve our culture. I think we should also look into supporting educational programmes that provide learners with space to develop their creative skills.
In 2019, I was commissioned to judge a presidential arts competition only to be chased away by an officer who thought I was inexperienced. I hope that the board entrusted with serving us will be practitioners or patrons of the arts. We need people who respect art and its practitioners. Both the public and private sectors should be involved in developing the arts. FNB has built parks, and in my opinion this is the time to create partnerships for building theatres, film and television studios, art studios, artist residencies and museums.
I have seen my fellow artists grapple with the state of their mental health. I have tried to speak out on issues of mental health but I do not have the resources to sustain my work. I hope that the Bill will get the conversation rolling about psycho-social support for artists.
I was once asked what job my degree in film making would give me. I graduated in 2019, and in 2020 I received support from two art institutions in the USA to write my first feature film. While I may have these opportunities, I realise that not all of us have such support. I think we need to invest in production of television programmes and films from the process of research and writing the script to the last phase of editing these productions.
I think our country needs artists who are also academics committed to studying, researching, and documenting our culture. We need scholarships to further our understanding of indigenous art, culture, and contemporary art.
I believe that the beneficiaries of this Bill should include marginalised communities, people living with disabilities, people living in rural areas, veterans, and the youth.