When Two Worlds Became One

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By Helga Kohl “Welcome….. Dumela!” were the friendly words of Mrs Michelle Brochot (the Director of the Alliance Francaise) who greeted me on my arrival at Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone, Botswana. Shortly after my arrival in Botswana, I quickly realized that there were indeed some very exciting events awaiting me. A few anxious moments were had due to the delay in the arrival of my photographs – they arrived late in the afternoon of the day prior to the opening of the exhibition. However, the efficient and friendly support from the staff of the Botswana National Museum ensured that the work was ready for exhibit to the public timeously. Amidst extensive coverage by both Botswana Television and Press, the exhibition was opened by Mrs Emeldah Mathe, the President of the Alliance Francaise. The event was well attended by the Botswana public and the evening proved to be a resounding success. I found myself positively overwhelmed by the incredible response and sheer appreciation for the artwork on display by all who attended the event. With the excitement and formalities of the “opening night” out of the way, my focus and attention turned to the scheduled Photographic Workshop. I was reunited with colleagues I had met in Bamako, Mali. Mr Bruno Boudjelal, (the Photographic Workshop Instructor) from Paris, Abraham Oghobase from Nigeria and Richard Lokiden Wani from Southern Sudan. It was indeed a tremendous surprise and joyful reunion for all of us. Prior to my arrival and unbeknown to me, the attendees of the workshop had been hard at work. For ten days, these individuals had scoured the streets of Gaborone both day and night, in an attempt to photographically document scenes of daily life in Botswana. In all, there were twenty photographers, eight of which came from outside of the Botswana borders. My theme for the workshop was that of contemporary architecture. This required that I concentrate my efforts on a series of specific buildings with a view to photographing them in a contemporary manner. Permission was obtained from the offices of the President and Attorney General and the next eight days that followed saw me hard at work, day by day, out on the streets, passionately capturing the often unseen essence of buildings. Every second day, the participants met with the workshop instructor to discuss the work submitted with a view to making a series of pre-selected photos for the intended exhibition. This indeed was the most interesting and informative part of the workshop for me. After viewing the work submitted, I listened very carefully to the comments and views of the instructor (I admit I did not always agree with the opinions expressed) however amidst a background of fun and respect for the work of each other, we worked together and learnt a lot from each other. One full day of work was required from all involved to collate and hang the final works which would be collectively shown as “The Workshop Exhibition.” The results were indeed impressive. With the help of our French colleague, two worlds had effectively been created. On the one side hung the Kolmannskope work and on the other side the results of the photographic workshop. For the first time ever, Botswana displayed a photographic exhibition of extremely high standards. In effect, the first step on the road to a professional photographic standard had been taken. In summary, a lot is still needed to take Botswana further along this road. Many photographers are self-taught and require training in the basic concepts of classical photography. During our spare time, many hours were spent discussing and analyzing the work of the photographers. Basic concepts of complex subjects such as composition, light, film, technique form the foundation of classical photography. The positive aspects of the mentorship aspiring photographers were displayed when a short course in architectural photography which Richard (my colleague from Sudan) and I embarked upon. Much fun was had by both of us and he was excited with the new found possibilities that he had discovered. He left the workshop with a promise to continue to document the environment in his country with his newfound skills. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the following people and organizations: Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre (Mr Sebastien Lanoye) the French Embassy in Namibia, the Alliance Francaise in Gaborone, Mrs Michele Brochot and Miss Emmanuelle Blancho. The President of the Alliance Francaise Mrs Emeldah Mathe. The Head of Arts Division at the National Museum Mr Philip Segola and his staff. The Botswana Society for Arts and Mr Ulf Nermark. To Mr Bruno Budjelah, whose contribution to photography was very much appreciated by all my colleagues -“You did an incredible job despite the fact that there were times that it was difficult, Thank-you!”