Famed Mosarwa artist died dirt-poor

20 Oct 2013

Cg'oise Ntcox'o, the internationally renowned Mosarwa artist and presidential award honouree whose artwork was featured on the tailfins of eight British Airways planes for five years, died a pauper.

"The deceased was registered as a permanent destitute with the social and community development department, said Phatodi Nacane, the public relations officer of the Gantsi District Council, in response to an enquiry by Sunday Standard.

He added that in accordance with the guidelines of the destitute persons' programme, the Council will pay for her funeral expenses. That includes the coffin, transportation of the corpse and mortuary bill.

This is hardly a fitting send-off for a woman who, for five full years, flew Botswana's flag higher than any artist ever did. As part of a rebranding exercise, British Airways wanted to use art and designs from international artists and other sources to represent countries on its route network.

The project was overseen by Newell and Sorrell, a London design agency that selected Ntcox'o's art from among thousands from across the world. Sunday Standard's information is that she was paid a total of "between P30 000 and P40 000" for her work.

Ntcox'o's design was called "Animals and Trees" and was one of only three such from Africa. The other two designs were by Martha and Emmly Masanabo, both from South Africa. As a result of this exposure, international demand for Ntcox'o's work grew exponentially. She and three other Kuru artists were selected to join four American artists in a printmaking workshop at the Tamarind Institute in New Mexico in the United States. During this trip, Ntcox'o flew in one of the planes featuring her artwork and she is said to have been immensely pleased.

Not every British liked the "ethnic art" on BA planes and in 2001, a new CEO reverted to the Union Jack flag livery. Two years later, Ntcox'o was enrolled in the destitute programme. In the same year (2003), her husband died and it is unclear whether she fell on hard times because of this tragic event.

Nacane said that under this programme, "beneficiaries are assisted with a food basket and private clothing, so the deceased was receiving such since her registration in 2003."

Following her husband's death, Ntcox'o moved in with Dada Qgam, a friend and next-door neighbour who was an internationally acclaimed artist in her own right. However, the latter succumbed to cancer in 2010 and, according to a statement from Kuru Art Project, Ntcox'o moved around between her friends and her own family members in East Hanahai.

Originally from Kalkfontein where she was born around 1950 (date disputed by some), Ntcox'o settled in D'Kar where she was buried yesterday.