What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
That was Langston Hughes. To answer that very question, well sort of, we spoke to Jane Swartland, Secretary of the Botswana Society of the Arts to find out what the BSA is all about and far along they are with their plans to build the Botswana National Arts Institute which is to have a purpose built theatre and eventually have departments including drama, dance, music, visual arts, media arts and event technology (sound lights etc) right here in Gaborone.
TJ: What challenges does the BSA have to contend with in its daily management of programmes
JS: Financial ones mainly, also human resources. No grant (was offered to the BSA) this year for running costs from Arts and Culture, and no support either from (The Botswana National Youth Council) BNYC, to which we are affiliated.
TJ: We are interested particularly in the Botswana National Arts Institute (BNAI)that you intend to build how far are you with that project
JS: First phase, performing arts, ready to build. In (National Development Plan 10) NDP10 but deferred because of budget constraints. Will go into NDP11 if funds available. Meanwhile we are working with international partners to get a training programme to start a national theatre company, which will eventually have its home at the Institute.
TJ: We know you received ten hectares of land near the Gaborone Dam from the government (on a lease), ten million pula towards design fees as well as tax concessions for any donations made towards the school of the arts, have you received any additional funding from elsewhere since?
JS: Only from the EU to pay for consultants to produce Strategy plan for the BNAI in 2009. Potential funders want government to contribute.
TJ: Is there any institution in Botswana currently offering full time courses in the visual and performing arts
JS: No. Oodi College will offer courses in applied arts and technology, which are related but not the same.
JS: We encourage anyone who feels strongly about the need for full-time training in the arts to a) say so loudly and repeatedly, via our FB page (link from website) or elsewhere; b) join the BSA and increase our national representation. The BSA exists solely to help artists and develop the arts.
TJ: According to the Strat Plan the BNAI is meant in principle to place Setswana culture at the ‘center rather than the periphery’ of the institute’s learning. This would go a long way towards shaping a strong cultural identity in the arts. Thus far, any graduates in the fields of the arts have had to study outside our borders and their influences and references are mainly if not exclusively international. I suppose one must exercise patience, art is hardly a national priority in Botswana and we must understand it will likely take time to recognize our own stories as worthy of staging. This for me is really what is at the center of an argument for an institute such as the BNAI. To have a formally recognized body that can mainstream professional/international best practices while also ensuring that we do not loose sight of the value of our cultural resource (myths, poetry, ritual, history, songs) as a breeding ground for all our narratives. To offer the global arts marketplace product/ions that meet specified standards but also hopefully present something unique to space from which they were hatched. Methinks we should all be praying, knees bent shoulders set to carry, for an explosion of sorts - part peace bomb and part magic wallet.
For general information on what the BSA does please visit www.bsa.org.bw . If you are interested in becoming a member or having a chat with the folks at the BSA they are happy to hear from you, kindly email firstname.lastname@example.org / +267 3952949 or visit them at Plot 10213, Mafulo House, Broadhurst, Gaborone.