Pop culture is very influential on society anywhere in the world. It is communicated through movies, television shows, music, all kinds of media, fast food, clothing – and even more. Pop culture in Botswana is often a product of America due to globalisation and America’s commercial dominance of much of the world.
Botswana’s popular culture is considerably Western. There are food chains such as Nando’s and KFC. Botswana has hardly any of its own sports or games beside a card game played by many generations called Bridge. Its people take inspiration from Western countries when playing sports such as football (soccer), tennis, cricket, golf, rugby or track and field. Though traditional music using string instruments is very important to the indigenous people, hip-hop is popular among the younger, urban generations – as it is in a lot of the world.
Global popular culture is not as prominent in poorer families. Due to limited resources, the traditional foods in Botswana are all home-cooked meals made from meat from local animals and crops grown in surrounding land. The Folk people dress in home-made garments and accessories made from animals, usually from the skin of cow or goat.
The better off Batswana (collective term for people from Botswana) view the US as the ‘golden land’. They aspire to follow the American Dream by earning enough money to move there to live. These people are most likely to accept American culture and buy American products, which explains why some Batswana dress in a similar way to Westerners. A humble country like Botswana is unable to compete with huge brands like Coca-Cola and Nike. Its TV and movie industry functions on a smaller budget as the government provides limited support for performance arts.
However, Botswana is a creative country. Batswana express themselves in performance art. An annual festival for literature, music and performance is held for school choirs and traditional dance groups. Schools have choral and dance groups, and young people may receive grants to develop song-drama groups. Other groups are organised on a volunteer basis and compete in neighbourhoods, villages, and national competitions. Young groups’ performances often focus on social issues such as HIV and AIDs.
The National Museum and Art Gallery promotes popular culture in Botswana and hosts annual exhibits of Western-style art and traditional crafts. Crafts mainly involve weaving wood before painting them decoratively. Basketry, along with woven hangings and printed textiles, generate considerable income when they sold to tourists. Western travellers often see Botswana crafts as a part of Botswanan culture to take home as a memento – or even just to look well-travelled.
Botswana’s historical literature was mostly orated, and religious ‘praise poetry’ was commonly performed in local chiefships. There are still a number of older men proficient at it, but traditional literary forms have not been generally passed on to the modern generations. Modern Batswana prefer to perform music and watch television.
Botswana’s best-known writer is Bessie Head, a victim of South African Apartheid who emigrated to Botswana and wrote extensively about the country. She wrote autobiographical novels and short fiction in which she reflected on her spirituality. She lived the last ten years of her life in Botswana, where she received citizenship after becoming an unofficial ambassador for the country through her works.