Poetry Night at the Maun International Arts Festival

Ambassador Miller at Poetry Night during the Maun International Arts Festival

Good evening, everyone. I am thrilled to be at the Maun International Poetry Festival’s renowned “Poetry Night.” We have been a proud supporter of this festival for the past three years, and I wish to thank our colleagues at Poetavango for their enduring support, collaboration, and friendship – in particular Legodile Seganabeng, Thato Molosi and Juby Peacock. The NGO Poetavango is not only filled with talented artists, but also entrepreneurial leaders who have contributed enormously to the growth of artistic space in Botswana and the economic growth of Ngamiland. As this festival continues to grow and thrive, more international tourists will be drawn to this region not only for its pristine wildlife and humbling beauty, but also for its energetic and talented artists.

The U.S. Embassy in Botswana continues to support the arts in Botswana by bringing American artists, choreographers, musicians, poets and writers under the overarching objective of promoting mutual understanding between the U.S. and Botswana.

Earlier this week as part of our Arts in Embassies program we brought three U.S. visual arts to participate in the Maun International Arts Festival. The Art in Embassies exchange focused on art as a career and strategic tool for diversifying the economy. This exchange provided a platform to value the work of visual artists in Botswana and the U.S. and expand networking opportunities between Batswana and American artists. In addition to working with artists at Thapong Visual Arts Centre in Gaborone and with instructors and students at Molepolole College of Education, the visiting artists spent three days here at the Maun festival. They led a workshop on abstract impressionism, participated in the spontaneous creativity workshop and led a discussion with art teachers.

We are also thrilled to have Dasha Kelly, renowned U.S. slam poet and writer, back in Botswana to perform and give writing workshops to teachers and students. Her messages of youth and women empowerment continue to resonate with Batswana audiences.

Speaking of youth and women empowerment, please allow me to use this platform to encourage all of the young people here tonight between the ages of 25 and 35 to apply for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, also commonly known as “YALI.” Since 2010 we have sent approximately 35 Batswana youth to the United States on this tremendous professional development opportunity in the fields of business and entrepreneurship, public management, and civic leadership. In both 2013 and 2014 there were 500 African leaders from all corners of the continent who participated, and this number is set to double to 1000. You can still apply between now and November 11 at youngafricanleaders.state.gov. Last year Monametsi Sokwe of NCONGO was one our Batswana participants, and we’d love to send more talented youth from Ngamiland.

In conclusion, so we can return to the fabulous performances before us tonight, our support to Poetavango for the Maun International Arts Festival is just the tip of the iceberg. My Embassy so proudly supports a number of festivals and cultural collaborations throughout Botswana. We will continue to support American and Batswana artists to educate, inspire, and learn from each other. I would like to personally thank the Maun International Arts Festival organizers, and all the performers here tonight, for their dedication to elevating the arts in Botswana. Thank you.