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Faces of Botswana

SHARE   |   Thursday, 16 May 2019   |   By Lame Modise
Bakang Baloi holding a copy of his book tittled Faces of Botswana Bakang Baloi holding a copy of his book tittled Faces of Botswana

Photographer Bakang Baloi’s photographs are currently on display at the Thapong Visual Arts Center, profiling an in-depth life of the Basarwa tribe especially their traditional and cultural rituals mostly relayed in dance.

The 74-photo exhibition will be curated at Thapong Visual Arts Center for the next seven days. Baloi also unveiled a 308 page coffee table photo book titled ‘Faces of Botswana’ showcasing over 200 of his extensive work on the Basarwa traditions.

In an interview with The Patriot Lifestyle, Baloi narrated how he took over 10 years to finally see his book published. The self-published offering which was conceptualised in 2010 after the realisation that most coffee table photo books from Botswana were mostly profiles of wild animals and the Botswana diamond story, retails for P 350.00 while the portraits on display at the exhibition retail for P 700.00 per piece at the visual center. The items will be available for sale until the end of the exhibition on the 16th May 2019 after which, the items will be available at book and art vendor stores across the country.

There are currently 2000 printed copies of the book available. “I felt the need for a book that would highlight the stories of the people of Botswana and their culture. What better way to do it than showcase the Basarwa tribe,” he quips. The artist also believes that the book is a microcosm of how the local tourism industry can be diversified to express all aspects of the tourism sector.

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Despite having his book published after a ten year project implementation, Baloi believes that appreciation of visual art by Batswana has declined drastically over the years. “Botswana art has predominantly been utilitarian, where a basket is weaved and a spoon carved mainly to be used, visual art on the other hand is for appreciation,” he observes, adding that there needs to be interventions by sponsors to increase patronage to this segment of art.

Baloi also contends that art should be visible and for that to happen, there needs to be extensive involvement by stakeholders with a strong opinion such as the media to ensure the nation knows about the available visual artists and their work. He also trusts that art should be taken seriously and treated as one of the ways to make a living instead of being treated as a pastime.

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Aid to publish ‘Faces of Botswana’ photo book came from the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) after Baloi submitted an application for a Grant from the Levy on Technical Devices Fund.

Speaking at the book launch and exhibition last week Thursday, CIPA Representative, Vincent Rapoo said the authority prides itself in ensuring the growth of the arts industry in Botswana through the Levy on Technical Devices, which is a tax collected by the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) on behalf of CIPA.

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The Levy is from all purchases of devices that are capable of copying creative and artistic works such as music, architectural works, literary works, photographs and films and these include cameras, photocopiers, scanners, blank disks and smartphones among others.

He explained that the objective of the Levy is to assist with capacity development, the quality and diversity of the creative industry, enhance awareness on Copyright matters, offer support for law enforcement initiatives and contribute towards conserving Botswana culture within the creative works.

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 CIPA Registrar General, Conductor Masena had in 2015 during an open call for sponsorship, said “The Creative Industry in Botswana is still at infancy, and one of our key objectives at CIPA is to see this industry develop to first world standards, and create employment especially for the youth of Botswana.”