This kind of cultural diplomacy is important,…some of the best education is traveling to a new place and meeting new people. Working with artists across Botswana, I learned so much about the local people and culture….I can’t speak for the people, but they seemed excited to meet with us and talk about the issues we share and seeing our differences as well as the things we have in common.
Peter Clouse travelled to Botswana from Detroit to join artist Jill Galarneau and artist Jacquelyn Gleisner for an Art in Embassies Artist Exchange in Botswana. All three artists are graduates from Cranbrook Academy, with Peter being the most recent one. The artists, who all live in different cities, planned the exchange with Art in Embassies curators and US Embassy Gaborone staff, and finally met in person for the first time at JFK airport for the flight to Johannesburg .
After making the connecting flight from Johannesburg to Gaborone, the artists had a few hours to recover and then met up with Elena Andreotti from US Embassy Gaborone to review the upcoming final schedule, which started with a presentation at the Thapong Visual Arts Centre on Monday evening. Peter presented an overview of his artwork made of found and recycled materials and showed some of his installations and projects. On Tuesday morning Peter started his screen printing workshop with his first group, his workshop running simultaneously with Jacquelyn Gleisner and Jill Galarenau’s first day workshops.
My workshops at Thapong Visual Arts Centre were great. I got an amazing amount of students engaged and excited about the project I prepared. In the workshop the students learned a cheap and alternative to traditional screen printing. Many of the students did multiple designs and were able to make multiple prints of their designs. I used materials like embroidery hoops, pantyhose, glue and paint. I was focusing on trying to use materials that are cheap or can be found around the house. The participants in the workshops really seemed to enjoy themselves. Using materials that people can afford was important to me and people seemed to really connect with that.
The results of the workshop were innovative, experimental and visually appealing. One of the participants designed a version of an Art in Embassies logo. The prints were shown on the large wall in the outdoor covered space of the Thapong Visual Art Centre and provided a great background for the afternoon discussions between the American artists and the Batswana artists.
Meeting the local artists and listening to them and their experiences was fascinating. To
learn what they thought about American artists was surprising to me…when I told the group of artists at Thapong that I had three jobs in order to support myself as an artist, they were very surprised.
On Saturday morning, the artists left Gaborone for a flight to Maun. The scheduled weekend workshops, as part of the Maun International Arts Festival, took place in very hot weather and the artists had to improvise on their prepared workshop on abstract expressionism at the Nhabe Museum, as electricity and running water was not available that day. But the diverse group of participants, poets, visual artists and musicians, really got into the theme of the workshop and took their creative process beyond the parameters of canvas and paper. Later that afternoon, the three American artists interpreted spoken word into visual expression. On the last morning in Maun, the artists spoke about their work and a visual art curriculum at schools to a large group of secondary art school teachers from all over Botswana, who had also convened in Maun as part of the Maun International Arts Festival
My experience is Botswana was awesome. It made me really appreciate what I take for
granted, and what really matters to me. The AIE program changed me as a person and artist.
I believe I also made a difference to at least a handful of people and I was fortunate to meet a lot of talented and interesting people when I was in Botswana. I have already been in contact with several of the people I met in Maun, Gaborone and Molepolole on Facebook, Instagram, and email. And I’m working on scanning in all the prints from my workshops at Thapong Visual Arts Centre and plan on making a book or zine.