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Home » News » Weekend Life » Gaborone’s disliked sculptures

Gaborone’s disliked sculptures

Publishing Date : 10 July, 2017

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Although a form of self expression, art has been known to be subjective. The world over, there are some artworks famous for being ugly-some even celebrated. Recently, Gaborone’s roundabouts are full of such self expression, but the producers have not been spared harsh commentary from the public. As the critiques are hard at work, DAVE BAAITSE wonders, is the recoil justified at all? 


Gaborone’s roundabouts, of which some were known to be death traps got a makeover a few months back, precisely just before the country’s golden jubilee celebrations. The revamp was much welcome, it meant they were more visible and attractive looking, but lo and behold-too soon, the ethereal, creepy, grotesque sculptures arrived.  


What seemed a welcome development to the city was soon subject of harsh debate, an insult to the arts industry, even more bruising to Batswana who would have to explain to their tourist friends how come only the wacky ‘pieces of art’ made the final cut!  


But the ugliest forms of art have been displayed and universally loved, presumably for their uniqueness or ugliness; what is the brouhaha about our own displays at our roundabouts? Some quarters have slammed the artworks as plain lack of creativity on the part of prisons department.


The initiative by Botswana Prisons Services was purposely to give vibrancy to the city, particularly during the build up to the BOT50 celebrations. Since then, more sculptures have been put up during holidays and special days, including Valentine’s Day. Critics took to social media calling on government to discontinue the practise of erecting the unattractive sculptures.  Currently, the Netball World Cup Mascot, Naletsana has been recreated and now deformed statues of her stand tall at our roundabouts. Nineteen countries have descended in the country in anticipation of a mouth-watering showpiece. The embodiment of the name Naletsana, a small star, has been victimised.


The zombie look alike is by no means representation of what a ‘little star’ should be and has all potential of scaring away any girl with interest in pursuing netball in future. Renowned artist, Wilson Ngoni who has over the years won many hearts over through his painting skills spoke to WeekendLife to share his views on the initiative. He described the sculptures as shoddy work and not representative of the local artists’ talent.
 

According to Ngoni, there are a lot of good artists who are capable of doing better than what has been seen around town. He is of the view that artworks are meant to carry memories over a long time and archiving them. “These artworks are not attractive, they lack skills thus result in substandard works,” he said.


He further argues that, the shoddy works being displayed in public spaces sends wrong the wrong messages about local artists to outsiders. He opines that the artists who are brought to put up the sculptures need proper training before they can be tasked with putting up artworks to be seen by travellers on the roads. He highlighted that when he went to Berlin to participate at the ITB he painted the Okavango Delta, one of the iconic tourists’ attraction areas in Botswana.


Thus he sold the place to the masses which encompassed more than two thousand people in attendance. He advised government to engage experts to work with the BPS in order to enhance their skills. ‘Son of the Brush’ as he is affectionately known said the country did not in any way regard and engage with artists in terms of building an iconic BOT50 sculpture that would represent the history of Botswana.



He pointed out that the recent Seretse Khama sculpture was made by Australian based artist Ray Gare. He said in Paris, people travel to see the famous Paris bridges that carry French memories. When contacted for comment, Botswana Prisons Service Assistant Commissioner, Wamorena Ramolefhe said the initiative is part of the Prisoner Rehabilitation Program. “Basically,” he said, “this is to impart to prisoners some various life skills to use once they are released.”


He said the sculptures found at roundabouts are meant to raise awareness and sensitise people on national issues. “Sometimes we get feedback that they are ugly yes, but this is part of their training,” he said. The Assistant Commissioner also said the initiative is aimed at giving the city a facelift.
 

He confirmed that the prisoners are trained by prison officers who have various skills. “The whole idea is to make them law abiding citizens once they leave prison. Besides life skills we also offer them a psychosocial program which is character moulding, intended on refining their behaviour,” he concluded.

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