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Botswana has been a State Party to the 2003 Convention since 2010. Its 2001 National Policy on Culture provides a good platform for the implementation of the Convention in the country. The Department for Arts and Culture in the Ministry of Youth Development, Sport and Culture (MYSC) was designated as the competent body for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage at the national level in 2008. It then established a National Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee, comprising representatives of the National Commission for UNESCO, expert academicians in the field of culture, representatives of government departments, information and broadcasting services, arts and culture non-governmental organizations. Four District Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Committees have been set up to serve as local structures for the implementation process, in particular inventorying, and have drawn up strategic plans on implementation, outlining annual activities to be undertaken by different stakeholders, including institutions such as schools, education and research centres.
With regard to training in the management of intangible cultural heritage, the Botswana National Museum trains communities, researchers and associations on the preservation, protection and safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. The UNESCO National Commission also provides financial resources for training government officials, university staff, researchers, practitioners, bearers and members of non-governmental organizations. The Human Resource Development Council advises ministries on areas such as lifelong learning skills and the Botswana Training Authority validates courses across training institutions including those related to intangible cultural heritage. The Thapong Visual Arts Centre is responsible for the capacity building of visual artists while a number of arts and culture associations, including the Botswana Folklore Association, the Botswana Poetry and Story Telling Association, the Botswana Association of Theatre Activists, the Botswana Musicians Union and the Botswana Visual Arts Association undertake training activities.
Previous to documentation carried out under the terms of the 2003 Convention, efforts were made by several government entities, community museums and researchers, and considerable materials exist in print and electronic media platforms, which need to be updated. The aforementioned Strategic Plans of the District ICH Committees place a priority on documentation activities, in cooperation with research centres and other state parastatals working on crosscutting issues relating to ICH. The Botswana National Museum and Monuments has undertaken research and documentation relating to intangible cultural heritage since the 1970s through its Ethnology Department and holds audio-visual and other materials. The Departments of Information and Broadcasting also document ICH in both digital and print formats; this information is disseminated through newspapers, radio, TV and other media outlets. Researchers, research institutions and the general public are given access to intangible cultural heritage materials at both the Departments of the Botswana National Museum and Monuments, Information and Broadcasting Services following official written requests to the respective institutions. A Southern African Regional ICH database platform has been created in collaboration with Chinhoyi University of Technology (Zimbabwe) to develop an integrated database onto which the participating countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe continue to upload their elements.
In 2010, the Department of Arts and Culture undertook a Pilot Project on Inventory Making at Grassroots Levels in the Kgatleng District, beginning with in-depth consultations with the communities of the twenty-three villages. A District ICH Committee was launched and community researchers were identified by the community. Following a ten-day capacity-building workshop, fieldwork was conducted over six months with a five-day workshop to evaluate the results. The research report was officially handed to the Paramount Chief of Bakgatla ba Kgafela and the Kgatleng District ICH Committee and a photographic exhibition was held to allow community museums, schools, researchers and the general public to access information on the first ever systematic ICH database in Botswana. Overall, 122 elements were documented and the Committee proposed three elements for possible inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List, of which one was inscribed in 2012. A further inventorying process conducted in 2011-12 recorded 93 elements in Chobe District and 143 in the North East District, which are currently under the custodianship of the local chiefs office and the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development. A similar ICH inventorying project was undertaken in 2014 in Ghanzi District, where fifty-four elements were inventoried and the database is currently hosted in the MYSC District office and the community and District ICH Committee are in consultations with the local library regarding the uploading of elements. The inventories are ordered according to communities and groups/bearers of domains of ICH and the databases developed before ratification are being reviewed to bring them into line with the Convention, including in terms of the criteria used. Importance is given to the viability of the elements and, in particular, to those in danger of disappearance. There is limited participation by non-governmental organizations working with communities and knowledge bearers to define and identify their elements, but Chiefs encourage bearers and practitioners to provide information on these.
Other safeguarding measures include promotion and awareness raising about intangible cultural heritage carried out by the Ministry in collaboration with different stakeholders, such as the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee, which has established a sub-committee to develop competences in awareness raising. The media, with the governmental and private sectors, have taken a leading role in disseminating information on intangible cultural heritage. Other activities include festivals held across communities, arts and culture fairs and competitions and the annual President’s Day Competitions and Awards Ceremony. Research into intangible cultural heritage is/has been undertaken at varying levels in the four districts by various cultural institutions, researchers, associations and some individuals. Communities have been encouraged to undertake research projects on specific elements such as the Phathisi dance in the Kweneng District.
Formal and non-formal educational programmes play a major role in promoting intangible cultural heritage. At the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, formal courses are provided and the Ministry of Basic Education has established subject-specific Panels in the Department of Curriculum Development and Evaluation to develop relevant learning materials and teacher handbooks and guides. Museum clubs, environmental education clubs and cultural clubs provide extracurricular activities on intangible cultural heritage. The University of Botswana runs several courses with a research component relevant to intangible cultural heritage in the faculties of humanity, the arts and sciences (the latter on traditional medicine and environmental studies). The Ministry of Wildlife, Environment and Tourism (MWET) collaborates with heritage practitioners and traditional knowledge bearers in wildlife and environmental management through research on animal species, most of which form the totems of the diverse communities of Botswana.
In 2010, a ten-day capacity building workshop on inventorying was conducted for community researchers, cultural officers, community cultural practitioners and the local authorities for the Kgatleng District ICH Committee and capacity-building workshops on inventorying were rolled out in three other Districts during 2011-2014. In 2012-2013, the UNESCO Harare Office organized a five-day National Stakeholders Workshop on implementation, a workshop/meeting for the National ICH Committee to develop a National Action Plan for safeguarding ICH and a training workshop for the National ICH Committee on International Assistance requests. In 2014, a training of trainers workshop was held to broaden the base of trained workshop facilitators from various communities. Non-formal education on intangible cultural heritage is transmitted through social structures and cultural associations, often comprising bearers who play a central role in this transmission.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, Botswana has participated in a number of sub-Saharan African and sub-regional meetings, workshops, conferences and training programmes on intangible cultural heritage to exchange information and share experiences with the network of cultural experts and specialists on good safeguarding practices under the Convention. Botswana is also an active member of the Southern African ICH Database online platform. Botswana has hosted a network meeting for National Commissions of Southern Africa to exchange views and ideas in support of national approaches to cultural heritage. During the inventorying exercise in the North East, intangible cultural heritage practices were found between the Bakalanga communities in Botswana and Zimbabwe and discussion between experts and specialists was initiated on possible multinational nominations. In terms of networking, there is continuous cooperation between ministries and cultural heritage institutions such as museums and other public institutions in the region to exchange experiences and expertise. A bilateral agreement between Botswana and Mozambique has established an open-air museum in Gaborone at the Bonnington Silos to demonstrate farming practices and related equipment. In the past three years, there has been a standing agreement between folklorists in Sweden and the Botswana Folklore Association to exchange information on the use of traditional musical instruments and recording of folklore music.
Botswana currently has no elements inscribed on the Representative List. The ‘Earthenware pottery-making skills in Botswana’s Kgatleng District’ element was inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List in 2012.