With the festive season upon us, the world will – whether consciously or by force of habit – resort to above average consumption of creative outputs. As such, it is only wise that those who make their livelihoods from the creative industry be savvy with their coin.
While many in the global north had been holding off on ramping up sales for the so-called Queen of Christmas in favour of observing Thanksgiving, Mariah Carey has returned to a spot that is rather familiar to her. The diva, whose 1995 album, Daydream, reached 11x multi-platinum earlier this year (signalling more than 11 million units sold), is most associated with her 1994 earworm hit, “All I Want For Christmas.”
Shopping centres, restaurants, parties and even greeting cards carry the melody far and wide, making for content that is worthy of reigning over the Billboard Hot 100 list each year since 2017 to-date with the growth of streaming platforms. Perhaps, then, one might wonder how local artists in Botswana can tap into such revenue-generating activity. Maitisong Theatre and Absa Bank Botswana have stepped up to meet this challenge through capacity building initiatives.
Speaking to Tefo Paya, Director of Maitisong, one is fast awakened to the professional theatre-maker’s passion for the business of creativity. In a recent dialogic masterclass on “The Business of Creativity,” Paya led participants through an introductory course in understanding a fundamental facet of being a professional artist rather than being a passion-driven hobbyist.
“I wanted everyone to understand the basic equation that ‘product plus service equals success,’ which is something simple but few novice artists pat attention to,” says the international performing artist and educator. “Art for art’s sake is not in the realm of business.”
This initiative stems from a long-running project framed as “The Lore Movement” – a skills-development drive inspired by the Setswana saying, “Lore lo ojwa lo sale metsi,” – dedicated to imparting wisdom from experts to burgeoning participants in the creative economy.
Boasting household names such as Dato Seiko, Jordan Moozy, former Miss Botswana Palesa Molefe and US-based filmmaker Mmakgosi Anita Tau as alumni and participants in the movement, Paya’s transitioning of the work of developing young artists into creative business brands has been met with positivity in the person of Nicholas Evans, Principal of Maru-a-Pula School where Maitisong is located.
At the core of the recent workshop was getting creatives to understand how to translate self-valuation into market value so as to ensure realistic departures towards competitive participation in the creative sector at large. From observation, Paya offered: “Batswana are great at marketing but we are weak when it comes to matters of quality control or even looking at market availability and the affordability of the product or service to the market.”
Considering that “creative and cultural industries across Africa generate about USD4.2 billion in revenue (with) a growth rate that outpaces other sectors on the continent”, according to cultural funding organisation, Africa No Filter, it works in the favour of artists to be economically savvy.
This is where the collaboration between Absa Bank Botswana and Maitisong offers a portal toward financial stability through building economic acumen in creative practitioners and youth. The duo hosted the fourth instalment of their Financial Literacy Festival under the theme: Mosele Wa Pula O Epiwa Go Sale Gale.
The call to timely devotion to work and self-application is fitting as the country works its way back out of two years of pandemic incubation. While popular artists have managed to bounce back with the support of those who trust and believe in their brands, Yodit Kassaye Molosi’s sentiments that “there’s no point in having money if you don’t know how to use it” resonated with the participants. As the Citizenship Manager for Absa, Molosi emphasised the institution’s drive to “make sure we play our part in building the communities in which we operate” and further urged participants to take advantage of the skills being offered by her accompanying team.
The facilitating cohort comprised members of the bank’s internal colleagues volunteer programme from sectors such as the financial crime unit, retail lending, governance and control, and retail credit. For his part, Neo Mubambe, Head of Retail Credit, took the participants through understanding debt and its usefulness in personal and professional development.
Oftentimes, lessons such as these do not get disseminated to artists who are often seen as non-players in the general domestic produce, especially in remote areas of the country. That Maitisong and Absa livestreamed the festival – which also featured live music by Blue Condition and a theatrical performance by The Acrobats – is further testament to their commitment to creating accessibility across the board.
Echoing Paya’s words in his welcome remarks that “Fa o le modiragatsi you’re a person of action,” both workshops were geared toward propelling participants beyond fear and egoistic visions of themselves into being economic players. The next frontier is for the creative sector to be met with enthusiasm by corporates and state agencies as profitable contributors and collaborators, rather than mere servants of entertainment.
The year 2023 bodes a great welcome to rejuvenation and it is hoped that initiatives such as these will enable creatives in Botswana to be the badiragatsi that Setswana summons them to be.