Painting himself  to fame

Painting himself to fame

MASERU – WE might never know what was going through King Letsie III’s mind when he saw a beautiful portrait of himself, his late father, King Moshoeshoe II, and his great grandfather Moshoeshoe I.

The portrait was displayed at the Winery and Arts exhibition held at Lehakoe Recreation Centre sometime in August this year.
As he paused and looked at the portrait drawn by Mandela Themba Zwane, we can safely guess that he must have been blown away by the art that beautifully captured the lives of his late father and grandfather.

For Zwane, portraits are part of his everyday life but doing one for the king was an honour.
Zwane’s other portraits depicting nature display his inner feelings and comprehension of the world around him.
Zwane’s portraits seek to engage the viewer’s imagination by taking them beyond the ends of the frame.
Painting has always been Zwane’s passion.

A National University of Lesotho (NUL) Development Studies and Sociology graduate, Zwane is shining.
He began drawing at a young age when he was still in primary school and he has now turned the talent into a career.
“I grew up with this passion for drawing. It was just overwhelming that I was best at it and I took it as a kind of hobby before realising that it is something I can do for a living,’’ he says.
Around 2012, he met an artist who inspired him to view art as more than just a hobby. From then on, Zwane realised his talent had the potential to change his life and the lives of people around him.

He started getting mentorship from gurus.
“While I was still at the university, I met Justice Seatisi who is a professor of art. He started mentoring me and from that period I ceased doing art just as a hobby but also took it as a profession,’’ says Zwane.

Ever since that time he started doing more sketches as part of his practice.
“Practice makes perfect. Practicing a lot has given me more experience and improved my skills in drawing,’’ he says.
He mentioned that while he was still at university, he would grab every opportunity to sketch.
“I was using most of my slots for drawing,’’ he says.

“I am more of a portrait artist. But I paint anything a customer wants. It can either be decorative portrait, or portrait of their pictures.’’
He does decorative and written painting on clothes and caps.
For his paintings, Zwane says he uses fabric paintings, acrylics, watercolours and craft paint.

“I just buy some colors, some I create them myself,’’ he says, adding that his own colour mixtures ensure that his work remains unique to that of other artists.
“I don’t only use the colors I buy but I mix others to make my work more exquisite,’’ Zwane says.
However, challenges remain. The biggest challenge is how to make a living from his talent.

Most locals are not familiar with art and do not appreciate it enough to part with their money.
“It has to be recognised as a means of living. I need to be financially stable, doing what I love, not having to migrate to a neighbouring country so that I can be recognised,” says Zwane.
There are more successful artists in South Africa like Dineo Sheshee Bopape, whom he regards as a role model.
Some of them own big companies which are generating millions of maloti.

But this cannot just happen without the people who are supporting and buying their products, Zwane says.
He appealed to Basotho to recognise and support the talents of their own people instead of falling for imported items.
“There is high unemployment rate of about 27.3 percent in Lesotho. This kind of work, if supported, can create employment for talented Basotho and provide skills for people who are willing to be engaged in this industry through establishment of companies.
“We also have excellent tailors in Lesotho who can sew nice clothes but still people mostly depend on imported clothes,” he says.

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