Gaborone’s iconic BotswanaCraft has hit 50 years since it was first established in June 1970. A collaborative effort between the US Peace Corps and the Botswana Development Corporation, the company was later privatised in 1993.
BotswanaCraft is one of the very best places to go for traditional food. But that’s not all – BotswanaCraft also plays a huge role in the development of Botswana’s rural-based handicraft industry. It is instrumental in the export of Botswana-made handicrafts and secures a market for the country’s handwoven baskets, many of which are produced in the northern district of Ngamiland.
BotswanaCraft has always promoted indigenous crafts hoping to generate an income for rural Batswana. Over the years, BotswanaCraft has sought to market Botswana baskets and handicrafts abroad and has successfully found a market for them in America, Europe and other parts of the world. It is in part due to BotswanaCraft’s efforts that Botswana baskets have become widely popular and are regarded as some of the finest in Africa because of their high quality, outstanding workmanship and originality. Not surprisingly, BotswanaCraft is one of the largest suppliers of African curios in Gaborone.
BotswanaCraft also has a courtyard restaurant, conference room and hosts corporate events and music shows. The Courtyard Restaurant is tucked away behind the curios and gift shop and makes for an ideal business meeting place whether it be for breakfast or a relaxed lunch.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, BotswanaCraft has had to put on hold plans to celebrate its milestone as was its initial plan. BotswanaCraft Managing Director, Oliver Groth told Mmegi’s Arts & Culture that over the years, BotswanaCraft has provided a platform for many rural craft producers throughout the country. Groth said that most of the producers are women living in very remote rural villages who depend on subsistence farming and crafts to generate an income. He said the main products include basketry and pottery, both of which have evolved over the years.
“When we built and occupied our premises in Gaborone in 2000, the company expanded its role to include cultural events and the courtyard restaurant. We started with our first Letlhafula Festival to celebrate the great variety and diversity of traditional Botswana foods and tastes.
Our courtyard restaurant still specialises in traditional food. Further along the journey, we started hosting live musical events. The very first event was a small gathering listening to Louis Mlhanga and Regis Gizavo from Madagascar (may his soul rest in peace),” he revealed.
Groth further revealed that live music added a whole new flavour to their way of doing business. He said they have been honoured to host numerous artists from around the world, but the purpose has always been to feature local artists alongside foreigners to enable the sharing of skills and ideas.
“In the early 1990s, our slogan changed to ‘sharing culture’ as we believe we must continuously learn from others. So, we both import and export crafts as a way of sharing culture with the rest of the world,” he further revealed.
Groth said one day they will learn to appreciate their art, craft, music, drama, poetry and dance and respect and honour those who are blessed with the creative spirit.
“Until then, our work continues. With thanks for your support,” he cheerfully concluded.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the globe, disrupting life as we know it, BotswanaCraft wrote on its Facebook page on the occasion of its 50th anniversary;
Today marks 50 years since BotswanaCraft was first incorporated on 9 June 1970. We are happy to still be open and serving the public! Recently, Covid19 has significantly impacted our business. However, we would like to thank everyone who has supported the company and helped us over the last 50 years! With your continued support, we hope to continue for at least another 50 years!
Since June 1970, we have grown to be a cultural centre that includes our craft shop, restaurant and venue hire. We are proud to have hosted many live music shows and food festivals. We are proud of our people, culture, heritage and traditions. We value honesty and service to each other.
With great thanks,
The BotswanaCraft Team (9/6/2020)
Happy 50th anniversary, BotswanaCraft and long may you live!