Botswana’s arts and crafts are being showcased at the Botswana National Museum National Gallery, showing the rich cultural heritage of the country. This is in partnership with Ditsong Museums in South Africa. Some of the crafts exhibited at the museum date as far back as AD 1050. The exhibition reflects how Botswana crafts evolved over time. The joint exhibition came as a result of a three-year collaboration agreement signed in November 2013 between the Department of National Museum and Monuments (DNMM) and Ditsong Museums of South Africa on behalf of the respective governments. The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama officially opened the exhibition with the theme ‘Arts and Crafts of Botswana, Re Ribolola Serodumo Sa Ngwao Ya Rona’. The exhibition showed relatively plain artefacts of yesteryear that can be easily contrasted with the lavishly decorated crafts produced currently. With the significant change in both design and usage of the traditional and modern crafts, Khama said it is where the theme that says ‘Unearthing the ambience of our traditional culture was birthed’.
He said the agreement called for areas of cooperation in collections management, monuments development, capacity building and exchange in expertise and resources. He said Ditsong Museum is a consolidation of eight national museums ranging from Archaeology, Natural history, Geology, Military History, and Anthropology. Tshekedi said this will show how arts and crafts evolved from basic traditional uses to decoration. “Curators visited the different museums of Ditsong to benchmark on electronic documentation and collections care, and with the second phase of the partnership the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture (MYSC), and DNMM in collaboration with Ditsong museums initiated the exchange exhibition,” he said. Among the presentations made were that of wood carvings, which showed the products like wooden spoons, mortar and pestle and dugout canoes among other things. From iron smelting/blacksmithing, often the rocks were heated with fire and then cracked by pouring water and some of the products were in display to show that. In beadwork the ostrich egg shell bead is considered as the oldest known man made bead and even today they are still made by the Basarwa women of the Kalahari Desert. This was also shown, and the steps involved in making such. Pottery products which are considered as one of the most important elements of Botswana arts and crafts were also on display.
Other displays were that of the basketry which is commonly used in walls, roofs, rugs and fishing among others in which Motlhakola tree is popularly used. On how he sees the exhibition, Ditsong Museums Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Diamond Mushwana said that he was very impressed at the exhibition and the standard that they have set, which will then make them to work twice as hard to make sure that the exhibition is flawless when host it in his country. He said that Botswana and South Africa have always shared similarities because South Africa has got more Tswana speaking people and this could also be seen through some of the similar crafts that were made. He said there are also a lot of similarities which shows that even across cultures there are also similar traits. He said the exhibition will go a long in benefiting both parties to understand more about each other and how to live well together. “We also have the obligation to market the exhibition when it gets in South Africa, and many people will come to see what Batswana can do and its history,” he said. He said he is impressed of the rich collections that Botswana has exhibited, especially the very deep-rooted ones.