Thapong warns counterfeiters

Reginald Bakwena of Thapong Visual Arts Centre has warned that in addition to being punishable for copyright infringement, plagiarised works could tarnish the image of artist, clients and centre alike. If the works are not original, he intoned, they may amount to an adversary of the anniversary of “BTC at 40,” which is the theme of this year’s competition.


“Artworks should be original. There are no negotiations there.” These words were uttered by the Coordinator of Thapong Visual Arts Centre, Reginald Bakwena, at the launch of this year’s Thapong Artist of the Year (TAYA) and BTC Phonebook Cover competitions in Gaborone last week.

The launch marked a continuation of the three-year partnership of the centre with Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTC) that began in 2018 whose focus is promotion and growth the visual arts in Botswana.

While the date for the competition is yet to be decided, the deadline for submissions is 3 November 2019.

“As artists prepare to submit their works for the competition, I cannot stress enough the importance of submitting original works,” Bakwena continued. “If your work is inspired by something that already exists, references should be made. We will not accept works that are plagiarised because this phonebook is a commercial book and that would be copyright infringement. We don’t want to get anyone into trouble.”

The Coordinator explained that submitted artworks should be clear and capable of being interpreted in a manner that fits this year’s theme of “BTC at 40: Tapping into our Intellectual Wealth.” Bakwena said artists and the centre were enjoying the benefits of skills exchange with other arts organisations in neighbouring countries, thanks to the partnership between Thapong and BTC.

“This year we are planning to take the winners to Zambia so we establish more relationships,” he disclosed. “Last year TAYA had 87 participants while the BTC Phonebook attracted 101 participants. This year we are hoping to attract more. A minimum of two artworks that are ready for display may be submitted at Thapong Visual Arts Centre for the competition.”

For his part, the Deputy Chairman of BTC Foundation Trust, Baagi Mmereki, said following the establishment of the BTC Foundation in 2016, the programme increased to include TAYA. As a result, the foundation signed a three-year partnership with Thapong to advance the arts and culture sector in Botswana with a sponsorship of P1.7 million. As part of the package, artists are sponsored to attend workshops and share skills with an array of established professionals from across the SADC region towards gaining international exposure.

“The phonebook competition targets youth in schools while TAYA awards recognise all artists at the national level to encourage them to earn a living through art,”Mmereki explained. “The overall sponsorship for the 2020 competitions is P416 000. The amount also includes prize money, administration fees, training and development.”