Motlhala, a Setswana word meaning trail is a mark or a series of signs or objects left behind by the passage of someone or something. For renowned local fine artist, Ronald Kegomoditswe, his trail is not just marked on canvas but he has grown from being an artist of tremendous promise to a visual artist of note. Arts & Culture Writer MOMPATI TLHANKANE caught up with the artist from Sefhophe as he was just getting one of his acrylic paintings dry ahead of his upcoming solo exhibition titled Motlhala on May 29, 2021 at Thapong Visual Arts Centre
When Arts & Culture arrived at Kegomoditswe’s creative art studio in Tlokweng, where he has rented a room in a big house, the artist who also goes by the name Ron De Artist took the team straight to the garage where many of his works which have never been exhibited or seen before were.
Known primarily for his incredible use of colour and attention to detail especially when it comes to painting portraits, Kegomoditswe’s series of Botswana’s five presidents from Sir Seretse Khama to the current President Mokgweetsi Masisi is exactly what catches the eye before anything else. Another work of art that is hard to miss and quite not surprising from Kegomoditswe is a painting of half-naked females. He had told Arts & Culture in a previous interview that nudity in art is no longer a slur.
Getting into much detail about more of what is in store for art lovers ahead of the exhibition will only ruin the surprise. But Kegomoditswe himself explained that he named it Motlhala because he just wanted to appreciate his artist journey from where he started, his steps and how he managed to overcome the challenges that came his way. “I also wanted to recognise those who paved way for us. It is all about the process not the product because I believe that all of us are still works in progress,” said.
Kegomoditswe added that the works which will be exhibited were random and themed as well because they are a combination of abstract and realism artworks. “These are techniques I have been doing for the past seven years. The series I did with the presidents is our motlhala and it shows where we come from as Batswana,” he noted. He said he had to come up with his own style in order to stand out from other artists.
Kegomoditswe said he decided to work with his curator and art educator, Obed Mokhuhlani because of the latter’s rich academic background in art. “My academic background in art is shallow so I believe in strategic collaborations. I am happy to work with him because now I worry about the artworks and he is taking care of everything else,” he added.
For his part, Mokhuhlani who is a two times Thapong Artist of The Year (TAYA) award winner said, in 2020 he conducted a professional development workshop for Thapong artists and Kegomoditswe was one of the participants. “During the workshop I mentioned how I sponsored myself for the curatorial programme and Kegomoditswe was keen in knowing what it entails to be a curator and how curators work with artists,” he revealed. He said after curating the Francistown Arts Meeting Exhibition this year Kegomoditswe approached him and requested to curate his solo exhibition.
“We met and discussed the logistics and agreements. At around the same time I was also in preparations for establishing Empire Arts Consultancy, an art and artist management/event management company. It thus follows that
While art exhibitions locally are free of charge, Mokhuhlani said they decided to sell tickets for Motlhala art exhibition because artists live in poverty, yet all their works are consumed for free.
“In the creative industry, the visual art sector is the only one that has free shows for the public, yet it is extremely expensive to create, transport and protect our works. The public pays a fee for music festivals, comedy and theatre shows, book launches and poetry nights, but they find it strange to pay to view works of art.
This has left us poor and the little we make from sales is never enough to sustain the recreation of more works and is also not enough for our livelihoods,” he highlighted.
Mokhuhlani also said Empire Arts stands to shift the thinking that artists can only get remuneration for their hard labour through sales of works only. He said to put up a show like a commissioned solo exhibition can cost over P200 000 if there are no sacrifices/compromises along the way. “So we are selling tickets to sustain the artists, and other shows that are coming after Kegomoditswe’s will have the same experience. We are aware that Batswana may be slow to adapt to these changes, but someone had to start it, for the sake of the artist, and we are hopeful they will listen our plea and buy tickets,” he added. He said planning an exhibition such as Motlhala in COVID-19 times is tough, and they have had to move dates three times already.
Mokhuhlani further explained that Motlhala is a solo exhibition that was supposed to feature fresh works that the artist had not exhibited before.
“Our target is to have 30 works in total, of these 25 will be fresh works and about five or possibly more, will be works from Ronald’s private collection.
It takes time, resources blood and sweat to create 25 master pieces in five months. It literally means foregoing some of the pleasures of life and confine yourself to the studio, working day and night, and having a nagging curator breathing down your neck can’t come easy,” he revealed. Mokhuhlani said that he is particularly impressed by Kegomoditswe’s tenacity to see this through. “At some point he had to leave the studio to assist in selling the tickets at Main Mall.
This is a way of inculcating the spirit of Art as enterprise and imparting entrepreneurial skills in the artists. We really would like to invite the public to come view these great works and buy works, or place orders for the prints,” Mokhuhlani concluded.
Tickets for the exhibition go for P150 and P75 for tertiary students. Motlhala exhibition opening will be held at Thapong on May 29, 2021 at 10AM and the exhibition will run until June 12, 2021.