Real Alternative Party
Real Alternative Party has found it appetizing to indulge in the public arguments and opinions concerning the consideration by BDP Government to commission services of professional companies with producing capabilities to the further development of Botswana theatre industry. Our view point is that, for the Botswana Theatre sector to have a sustained development pathway there is very great importance for international networks with a strong international standing to be commissioned as intermediaries to deepen the local theatre genre practice. This would accord local players to specialize in different areas. If indeed government is genuine and honest on this collaboration effort, its results has the enormous capacity to grow local theatre markets beyond Botswana.
Our most worry is when the budgeted funds would be spent on selfish and self- aggrandizement purposes. Motives of political hypes and corruption inclinations which have become prescriptive doses for public ventures we hope will not emerge in this venture. We express this worry because the BDP ruling elites continue to amass wealth with swelled appetite for greediness. Above and beyond malpractices, contingent key game changing initiatives that will fundamentally change the way local theatre practitioners create artistic productions, and aim to capture audience’s imagination for life are needed in Botswana. There is a dire need in Botswana to invest in developing quality theatre works that can excite and resonate with audiences here and overseas. Intermediaries could help not only in this regard but could also be instrumental not only to provide job opportunities to local practitioners, and improve the overall quality of their work. It could also open doors, scale up international reach, build audiences, and broker collaborations beyond Botswana. The goal to commission international networks by BDP government has to complement or supplement keen local individual theatre practitioners, organizations and companies’ efforts for mentorships. In addition, the recently established National Arts Council has to be mandated to anchor long term partnerships with the ‘would be contracted’ international tenants with the eventual aim of designing and implementing curated theatre programmes.
The initiative said to be currently considered by the BDP State has to facilitate a stronger theatre scene in Botswana where active international intermediaries who can facilitate greater collaboration across the local performing arts sector to contribute to the development of the theatre scene, in talent development, furthering the quality of local works and developing audiences avail opportunities for talented Batswana to carve out meaningful careers across the fields of theatre education, community engagement, performance, production, producing and management; and ultimately enriching Botswana theatre to be maximally appreciated.
It is for a fact that the Botswana Theatre scene has a significant base of professional companies and established artists, who have periodically presented their works on a range of regional and international platforms. These various efforts are important. Yet contrariwise, while many local theatre companies have periodically presented their works on a range of regional and international platforms, these engagements are often opportunistic and on an ad hoc basis. Also, Botswana artists and companies are very limited to create defining works that can excite and resonate here and be respected on the international stage. Playwriting works offered by the Botswana theatre practitioners are scattered and have no clear and sustained development pathway. They also do not provide diversity. There is also insufficient qualified talent to create, produce quality shows and programmes. As matter of fact Botswana creative processes are without an iterative process of refinement because they are stereotyped, passive ‘devised’ works than ‘text-based’ works therefore lacking a liberation gestation.
Little value is given to the role of the dramaturge as a “third eye”, and little attention is placed on research, documentation and critical writing / discourse to give a work greater depth and meaning. As a result, the quality of many productions in Botswana suffers and cannot compete with international acts in attracting audiences. This is because the driving mechanism of the Botswana Theatre emphasize on sentiment manipulation and more on farce than relationship building, awareness raising, society critiquing and future imagining, among others. According to us for the Botswana theatre scene to make the next quantum leap, there needs to be some consolidation and specialization of roles so that artists can go deeper and truly invest in the creative process to create quality works and for the theatre scene to evolve a canon of local works that Batswana identify with and are proud of. First priority should be to develop incubation platforms to help local artists to focus on the creation process, to tell new Botswana stories and give older ones a new lease of life. National Arts Council has to put in place scholarships and residency programmes, and enhance the training needs of and nurture less experienced practitioners and new entrants.
Moving forward, there is a need for more aggressive advocacy and promotion of theatre to make it a part of mainstream consciousness. Botswana Theatre has also shown to be submerged in prejudices, opinions and malicious teasing among the practitioners who are not open-minded and do not think critically. Its approach of education does not focus on social reality. There is serious need to sharpen skills of practitioners` critical thinking abilities to disassociate them from personal opinions and biases and examine all elements in a logical way. Botswana artists should seek acceptance and have a critical attitude towards any given situation. Theatre has to facilitate for the liberating environment in Botswana where artists must express themselves freely without worrying whether they were right or wrong. So, educating Botswana artists to think critically will have an impact on society itself and its evolution. In the final analysis, we have to see theatre, and all art, playing a role in constantly reminding audiences of everyone’s humanity.