The taste for colour

The taste for colour

MASERU – AT only 29, Itumeleng Mothobi is painting her own success story, breaking the walls of gender stereotype in an industry traditionally viewed as the domain of males.
Raised by her grandmother in Lithabaneng on the outskirts of Maseru, Mothobi learnt the skills of her trade while growing up under the care of a guardian who demanded nothing less than hard work.

From smearing mud on the kitchen walls daily as a young girl, she is now a painter of repute known for giving beautiful final coat to many new and refurbished homes.
She believes that without her grandmother’s guidance she would not have made it this far in life.
“My grandmother was a very hardworking woman,” she says, recalling how, after household chores she would also work in the fields.

During her childhood, Mothobi recalls, they would wake up early in the morning to do the house chores that included smearing the walls and on the floor.
Mothobi says they had to wake up early in the morning to finish their duties before sunset.
“I believe this is what shaped me into a very hard working woman who would take any job as long as my physical ability allows me,” says Mothobi.

She credits her “hardworking” uncle for introducing her to the world of construction early in her life.
“He used to give me some tasks such as fitting the floor tiles and doing house painting,” says the holder of a degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the National University of Lesotho.
“He was working in Mokhotlong and every time, he was back on leave, he would take every task coming his way such as fitting the floor tiles, wiring.

He would even lend a helping hand where people were building,” she says.
She vividly remembers the day her uncle delegated her to paint a home of his client.
“I still consider it one of my finest days,” she says.
The client asked me her how much she would charge for the work, massively boosting her confidence.

“It made me realise that I am capable,” Mothobi says.
“After the work was done, everyone was very impressed of what I had done.”
The vocation stuck for Mothobi. Through the experience, Mothobi realised nothing could stop her from becoming the queen of paint.
“From that day, I realized that actually I am a painter,’’ she says, oozing with confidence. “I like everything that challenges me.”

After some hard thinking, she decided to establish her own business.
“Women are good painters and their work is neater than that of men. Women have very good eye and taste for colour. They can even advise the clients on which shades suit the home best,” she says.

Although she does not possess a professional painting qualification, the quality of her work has been drawing in more customers.
“I have a very good relationship with my customers,” says Mothobi, adding she makes up to M8,000 from painting eight rooms.
Adding that “being in charge” had always been her dream.
She says she uses part of the proceeds from the painting work to boost other ventures she is running. These include selling clothes, hair pieces and beauty products.

Like most women seeking to make a mark in a male dominated field, Mothobi has had to endure moments of discrimination.
Since she is female, some people find it hard to believe she can do a quality paint job.  Others struggle to take orders or learn from her because of their gender prejudices.

“There are some people who still have a tendency of judging a book by its cover,” she says, adding that her vision is to grow her enterprise into a giant construction company that will also offer electricity wiring, plumbing, painting and ceiling installation.

And for that journey to be successful, she is not going to confine herself to gender stereotypes. Rather, she will continue slaying.
“If a person sees me putting on nice clothes, make up, a weave and a pair of heels looking like a boss lady or slay queen, it is difficult to trust and believe that my hands can do such work as painting,” says Mothobi.

Refiloe Mpobole

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