That question might be best answered by the Okavango Diamond Company (ODC). The Botswana-based firm, which is recognised as one of the world’s premier rough diamond trading companies, recently unveiled a truly monumental stone. Named “The Okavango Blue”, this historic scintillating rock weighs in at a stunning 20.46 carats. For the company, the discovery marked an opportunity to tell a unique story of Botswana.
With the world’s attention on the biggest blue diamond to ever be discovered in Botswana, and ahead of its auction, ODC is using this gift of nature to celebrate the country’s rich stream of creative talent. “We want to tell the story of The Okavango Blue through the lens of Batswana,” says Marcus ter Haar, ODC’s managing director, who put out an open brief calling for submissions from artists inspired by the rare diamond and the beauty of Botswana’s vast landscape. “Diamonds have transformed the fortunes of this country over five decades and we were fascinated to see how these talented artists could talk about this special stone, and Botswana’s natural diamonds, through their own creative interpretations,” he continues.
To shoot the campaign, ODC selected fine artist and photographer Letso Leipego, who grew up in Botswana’s capital city, Gaborone and is known for his arresting depictions of rural life in Botswana. “Most of my work is inspired by our beautiful country,” Leipego explains. “Being given the opportunity to work on this campaign has been an emotional milestone.”
For the ODC project, Leipego collaborated with some of Botswana’s best creatives; including fashion designer Botho Chalebgwa, model Kaone Monamodi, jewellery designer Boitshoko Kebakile, furniture designer Peter Mabeo, potter Danny Moatlhodi and weaver Thuto Sekate. The small team set about creating a campaign shoot that encompassed the epic landscape of Botswana – from the exquisitely barren Makgadikgadi salt pans to the lush Okavango Delta.
“Working on this project has been an awakening of sorts,” says Chalebgwa. “The remote locations brought forth a feeling of nostalgia and a great sense of pride in our heritage. The talent here far supersedes the physical borders, the traditional boundaries and the psychological limitations so prevalent with the times we live in.”
As The Okavango Blue shines a light on the creative bounty and beauty of Botswana, Leipego reflects on the emerging arts industries: “The creative scene here is still developing,” he says. “We are a country that’s rich in culture and I believe we should be the ones documenting that, whether in the form of fashion, photography, film or books.” Or in this case, via a once-in-lifetime exquisite and natural blue diamond.