There are groups of people and organizations promoting indigenous crafts, newly introduced crafts or western art forms. Their products can be purchased in curio, craft, gift shops and malls in Gaborone, Francistown, Maun and Kasane and at safari camps in the Okavango and Chobe regions.
Botswana baskets are widely regarded as some of the finest in Africa, and certainly the best in southern Africa. Their high quality, outstanding artisanship and originality have gained them international recognition, with exports to many countries around the world.
The baskets are made of the mokolwane palm (Hyphaene petersiana), which are cut and boiled in natural earth-tone colouring. The lemao (in Setswana) is the main instrument used to make the baskets. This is a sharpened piece of thick wire set in a wooden handle, which is used to pierce the tight coil and insert and then wrap the palm.
Many traditional basket designs are representative of animals and nature. Many basket-makers say they do not know the origins of these designs, but some claim they were taken from the designs of Mbukushu beaded skirts and aprons.
Traditionally, baskets had many practical uses, with the shape dictating its function. With the introduction and adoption of mass-produced western buckets, bottles and pots, basket making declined.
In 1973, BotswanaCraft Marketing Company, hoping to generate income for rural Batswana, began buying Ngamiland baskets and other crafts. BotswanaCraft and other wholesalers have continued to market Ngamiland baskets and handicrafts, are now exported to North America, Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
A National Museum annual basket exhibition brings the year's best baskets to Gaborone. Visitors to rural areas have the opportunity to purchase crafts directly from the producers.
Few households in Botswana still use traditional pots as receptacles to hold water, and there are only a small number of rural women who still make traditional pottery, mostly to sell. However, the tradition is showing signs of recovery as the tourist market grows. Modern ceramics are produced at several small-scale potteries in Gabane and Thamaga, both located near Gaborone.
Oodi Weavers, located in the village of Oodi just north of Gaborone, has gained an international reputation for its fine work using karakul wool. These artisans produce high-quality, hand-woven tapestries, carpets, bed covers, jackets and coats, including locally inspired designs and patterns.
Woodcarving has played an active role in production of traditional items such as tools, cups and bowls, and spoons; all fashioned from the wood of the Mophane tree. Elsewhere, animal figures may be carved by individuals living in rural areas, and then brought to the towns to be sold. Artists are now using Mophane wood to produce jewellery as well as animal and human figurines.
Jewellery made of beads, ceramics, stones and malachite are produced in cottage industries across the country and sold in urban areas of the country. These traditionally oriented products are now augmented by more contemporary designs increasing in popularity in urban areas.
Tourism and tourists' fascination with the Bushmen have brought a revival of sorts to traditional Bushmen crafts. San artisans now produce and sell hunting sets, fire-making sticks, beaded jewellery and belts, leather items and musical instruments for sale in craft markets across the country. Authentic ostrich eggshell beadwork is still produced, and the contrast of the creamy white beads on brown and black leather thread makes for attractive jewellery and decoration.
The Mokoro is the traditional dug-out canoe used by the fishermen of the Okavango Delta. This, typical African craft was brought to the delta by the Bayei people in the 18th century. Hewn from a single tree, it is a narrow vessel with a rounded bottom and no keel. To the inexperienced these canoes appear extremely precarious, but they are actually surprisingly stable when properly loaded and they are especially suited to shallow delta waters. The vessel is propelled either by paddles or a pole. To protect trees in the delta, mokoro are now primarily moulded from original craft with fibre glass.
There are many local artists - citizen and expatriate – working in Botswana. Paintings are sold in local galleries, curio shops or even displayed in Gaborone or Francistown malls. However, most artists prefer to stage exhibitions in the National Museum, or Thapong Art Centre, or at their private homes. The National Museum in Gaborone has an annual art competition for all schools in the country, the results of which are usually quite interesting. The National Museum hosts an annual National Art Exhibition in which all artists living and working in Botswana are invited to participate. The Kuru Development Trust in Ghanzi District is encouraging the growth of Bushmen painting.