Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Art is Life: Insights on Creative Cultural Tourism in Chobe and Okavango, Botswana

By SOULSEEDSNTEMA Blog Correspondent

"Art is a therapeutic yet abstract language. It tells more to the eye's adventurous need" said MamboNTEMA, a 30 year old Matsaudi native (born in Maun, Ngamiland, Botswana), Self-employed Creative artist during a reflection and analysis of the Chobe's Creative Cultural Tourism packages at the Chobe Alliance for Arts Organizations (CAAO) meeting on 'Exploring Chobe tourism through Social Business models.' He is the Public Relations (and Marketing) Manager at CAAO.

In his detail, Onalethuso Petruss Buyile Ntema, known as MamboNTEMA, also a self-Published Writer & Author and Musician, explored that he has come to realize that 'life is a risk on its own. We risk to exist as free beings. And so we express our concerns and obsessions on such circumstances through creativity. And such creativity is an asset, an intellectual asset that which if unexplored may render us vulnerable and poor; but if expressed, one can survive, hence artists should strive for artistic excellence through creative means..."

He furthered that "it was an uneasy decision-making journey, when I left my formal employment in 2013, as a University Graduate and a Professional, it was a joke to my colleagues and family but I had decided to embark on my creative adventure as a self-employed citizen because I did not want to depend on any monthly wage anymore. I wanted to create my own. I wanted to unfold the hidden artist in me. I had analyzed the corporate world and had researched extensively on creative and social business models and their viability in the general but Botswana context. I wanted to expand on that opportunity and have a dozen more ideas on the subject. My mother (Ndaruka Ntema) stood by my side. She urged me a mile further. She reminded me that I was a stubborn but creative child that won awards in Traditional Song and Dance Inter-School competitions and Youth Rallies in the North West region..." In his Sociological theorems, MamboNTEMA has somewhat conceptualized his creative products and ideas as 'life, reality and mental inspiration' furthered on 'Creative Cultural Tourism social enterprising'. 

He mentioned, "I somehow share(d) with friends and artists in my circle including some government and corporate entities (Ministry of Youth Sport & Culture, Botswana Tourism Organization, Department of Tourism, Department of Forestry & Range Resources, Department of Wildlife & National Parks, Museums, CIPA/COSBOTS, National Union for Botswana Artists, Ngwao-Loshalaba, BAOTA, Craft Council of Botswana etc), reputable art activists and business persons in Kasane, Maun, Gaborone and abroad such as World Youth Alliance, Volkerkunde Museum in Germany, bench marking through Literature search and review etc..." 

In Botswana, Creative tourism is visibly gaining momentum but not as explicitly as packaged as in other countries that have laws and policies specifically on such. For instance, Makgadikgadi Epic, Khawa Dune Challenge, President's Day (Arts) Competitions, Kuru Dance Festival, Maun International Arts Festival, (Orange) Letlhafula Festival, Maun Horse Race, Desert Race, Gaborone International Music & Culture Week, Consumer and Trade Fairs, Zambezi Cultural festival, District Agric shows etc. 

These and others not mentioned, are potential economic contributors that need a legal framework with requisite structures and amenities to operate on, of course we need to leverage on such initiatives as economically sustainable, in cognizance with Poverty Eradication strategies, Local Economic Development initiatives, Economic Diversification Drive, Remote Area Dwellers Programme, Vision 2016 pillars and the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the UNESCO (Intangible Cultural Heritage). 

But in Chobe, none! Except until recently, but still not as artistically and culturally creative and packaged as one would expect - especially the tourist is often 'left out' in such activities. However, it shows the extent to which domestic tourism is relatively an economic asset to Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) or social businesses and Cooperatives. 

There is need for a National Arts Council to push this agenda. In Botswana, the Botswana Society for the Arts for instance does not have an explicit policy or program on Creative Cultural Tourism, neither does the Craft Council of Botswana because it should somehow be a national agenda requiring government intervention, presumably. But one way or the other, a paradigm shift is imperative, much as the country has banned hunting in around 2011 and adopted a non-consumptive tourism rhetoric, such alternative packages would benefit the rural or creative beings that benefited through Community Based Natural Resources Management Policy and Programme whilst boosting the Botswana tourism product and branding. 

In other countries, National Arts Councils serve best as contributors to artistic excellence and livelihood improvement, of course arts entities remain autonomous but coordinated; the South African Arts and Development Association (http://saada.org.za), Development Grants by NedBank Arts Affinity (RSA - http://www.act.org.za/development-grants.html) to support development of a reliable, sustainable and vibrant arts and culture sector in South Africa. The program provides support to activities that increase job opportunities for and develop South African arts and cultural organizations, associations, cooperatives, networks, individual artists and practitioners with various grants. For our country to reach-out to Creative industries especially on Creative Tourism, one would opt for the National Arts Council.

In the context of Chobe (unlike in Ngamiland/Okavango and other parts of the country where art and culture is relatively celebrated but minimal benefit to the host and adjacent communities), arts and cultural entities are uncoordinated and scattered, without a sustainable socio-economic model yet the locality presents a prime spot for Creative Cultural Tourism as the gateway to Okavango, Moremi and Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The cultural richness and diversity has been abused by opportunistic promoters masquerading as arts custodians yet the artist remains poor and dis-empowered. 

Therefore, there was and is need to advocate for the artistic empowerment and welfare to add-value to the non-consumptive Tourism products and services engineered by the industry. As observed elsewhere, especially in neighbouring countries, Namibia's Bukalo, Chimanimani, Kasika and Impalila communities, Mambova and Mansa in Zambia and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe have profiled their cultural heritage incorporated in the tourism packages and tourists would prefer to stay longer (there) than a 2 night stay at current in Botswana, probably due to lack of and or limited alternative tourism activities. Hence CAAO.

Mr. Ntema's multi-contentedness leaves a lot than meets the eye, and at one of his sector businesses, he said 'African Art and Crafts is an open market curio stall that sells artworks and crafts. We get our products from curators in Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and DRC. We sell wooden, stone, wire, batik, palm leaves and jewelry products. As well, we have African attire, handmade shoes and sandals,, post cards and nature photographs, depicting the cultural heritage concept of the KAZA region...' 

Visit this Link for Photographs of some of our products at the African Art market: 

 CARACAL UNTAMED event, Kasane. July 2014. Photo credit: Lyn Francey
 Rre Mwezi moving his fingers to the vibrations of the Djembe drum at the  CARACAL UNTAMED event, Kasane, July 2014. Photo credit: Lyn Francey


And at CAAO, our #CreativeTourism Products & Services:
- Crafts
- Traditional Song & Dance
- Folk & Contemporary Poetry
- Traditional Instrument 
- Storytelling 
- Art and Cultural Festivals; an array of cultural showcase on crafts, cultural regalia, cuisine, traditional games and song/dance
- Contemporary Art and Fashion, Modelling
- Cultural Tours
- Seboba Nature & Recreational Park Tour
- Snake Park Tour (Centre for African Resources: Animals, Communities and Land use - CARACAL)

On another tempo, MamboNTEMA has been invited by Museum für Völkerkunde to attend the annual Markt der Völker in Hamburg Germany slated for November 11-15, 2015 and is currently fundraising to heed as invited. And before then, he would perform at the Maun International Arts Festival 2015 on October 24-30, 2015 in Maun, Botswana, at the invitation of POETAVANGO Spoken Word Collective. Also, invitations continue to be received from South Africa, England, Australia, France and Zimbabwe.

Mr Ntema is a Self-Published Writer & Author (SOUL SEEDS, 2014 published in the United Kingdom), Folk & Contemporary Poet, Folk-Reggae Musician, Creative Writing Mentor, Interim Secretary General & Public Relations Manager (CAAO), Managing Director & Owner of OPN Group of Companies (Pty) LTD which was incorporated by the Registrar of Companies in 2012. The company is component based and trading as African Art & Crafts, Mambo Cleaning Services, Mambo-a-Tjaratjamba Bush Camp, Mambo Music & Poetry. 

Member of:

- World Youth Alliance
- Austin Poets International (Texas)
- Author Learning Centre (Xlibris Corporation/Author Solutions - UK)
- DYSISgraphy
- Chobe Alliance for Arts Organizations (CAAO)

Supporting Act:
- Craft Council of Botswana
- Angelous Society (Gaborone)
- POETAVANGO Spoken Word Poetry collective (Maun)
- DYSiSgraphy (Gaborone).

Related links:
- ILANGA TOURS & SAFARIS: http://www.ilangatours.com/
+267 73739942 - bookings@ilangatours.com
+267 72480435 - matsosangwao@gmail.com


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Lame. We just ought done this longtime, but time is never. Bless up. oneBlood