Thursday, April 18, 2024

A fine artist who works in forward-reverse mode

Nas’s artistic skills allow him to beat the rest, but life has taught him he may as well forget about being the best.

As a fine artist, he manifests a winning formula ÔÇô dribbling his creativity past challenges and hurrying towards success.

But quite often, he either fails to score or just picks up small prizes as consolation. In literal terms, Nas does everything right ÔÇô except to finish.

Woefully, many of his clients do not understand the power of appreciation, often picking on his lack of Art-College certification as a pretext for paying him less despite his creativity adding value to their lives.

Sadly, his school points may never allow him to enter college. Admission cut off points is 37. Nas’s points tally is less, so he is in a dilemma. A conversation with him accentuates his sense of dissatisfaction.

Yet Nas is unequivocal that artists, like graphic designers and architects, are broad minded thinkers who design the future. And so they deserve attention.

Nas was born Vetumwatumienas Jobe Musengua, and explains that the name ‘Nas’ has nothing to do with American rapper. Rather, it’s taken from the last three letters of his Herero name. Others call him Tumie, a name also ‘extracted’ from Vetumwatumienas.

This tall and lanky young man is a talented artist who nestles in his comfort zone of pencil, crayon and brush stroke techniques.

“I feel good when I do free hand…that’s like my strongest area,” he reveals.

The approach has put him above many.

In his journey as an artist, he has exhausted a few strategies trying to eke out a living. He painted to sell and did illustrations for stories.

Both have failed to provide a good living. He would go out there with his creation, returning a frustrated man. He acknowledges college education as his deficiency.

While his creations have attracted attention from companies, some still choose to undermine him because he has no college papers to prove his creativity.

“I was working part time and they hired me for my talents…I got fired for not having papers,” Nas says, pointing to this as one of his most painful experiences.

Companies operate under rules, and while respecting them, Nas says he wouldn’t mind bending them a little in pursuit of success of everyone.

He believes some of the trained people need his creativity as much as he needs their technical support. It is a combination that can produce the very best.

“Imagine I get a call in the morning to do an illustration for a newspaper with a 2 o’clock deadline. I’d just grab my tool, sketch to the theme and in a few minutes I’m done. In a case of trained person without artistic background, they’ll start paging through books, spending time, eventually loosing the plot,” he says.

To Nas, art comes from an inner valuable space of human ÔÇô emotions ÔÇô and should be received with respect. Emotions come out as the identity of life as we live it, and from the different angles that we see it from. To reveal that takes skill.

Nas creates with passion but since discovering his artistic energies, he hasn’t found one convincing reason why art won’t give a good meal at the end of the day.

He works and meets potential business partners, who ÔÇô quite often ÔÇô tend to control everything, including the business exchange of ideas.

He says they don’t want him to say anything but to just succumb to the atmosphere that a desperate Motswana would refer to as a rare opportunity. This is where things fall apart because Nas believes in clearly defined endorsements that can change life. But at times he gives in.

“Sometimes I’m worth five hundred Pula after spending days in the heat…just what is that? I think a lot of people don’t understand art,” he laments.

Some public comments suggest that artists are people who know how to decorate, that their thinking is below average and they deserve nothing better than praise.

Nas believes someone should be impulsive to make such remarks. An artist’s thinking capability, he says, overlaps any other in the world because artists are a different kind of curious people who foresee the future in its natural form.

“Artists are visionaries,” he philosophises, trying to defy the over-documented idea belittling artists.

Although he can’t quite pinpoint the period when he started curving along the flow of brush strokes, he knows art has always been his game, especially during his primary school days where he was a member of 4B.

He remembers the vulture sculpture that he crafted and the Botswana map that he drew using rocks. “I was doing standard five then,” he reminisces.

Nas can also do word puzzles and write poems to support his drawings. He has grown to understand that companies seem to appreciate art as compared to individual people.

In the meantime, he has been tinkering with advertising where lack of qualifications has also proved his biggest barrier.

Science could have gone well with art for him. He remembers being credited for a job well done at a science fair organised by HATAB.

“After that I became the first to do illustrations for the government magazine, Kutlwano. It was in 1999,” he recalls.

With a few of his achievements from school, he believes he could be far. He says the government uses artists without allowing them to achieve anything.

“I won’t lie to you…they only want to use you like a pawn, otherwise they won’t help you anyhow,” he claims.

Nas has crafted works for people he admires, but all they do is shake his hand, pat his shoulder and tell him to keep up the good work. They don’t buy into his wish of furthering his artistic education.

“I won’t progress well without school. They want 37 points with Science, Maths, English and Setswana,” he says.

“I always passed my art with As…there was no A+ in my time. That means I was good,” he brags.
Looking back, he says some of the people he has worked with could have helped him with the school idea. He says Kutlwano ÔÇô the government magazine ÔÇô could have been the first.

“I asked them to take me to school but they say they don’t sponsor people to school. They could do something, even if it means finding a sponsor for me,” he says.

At school, his main interest would be a graphics program that can help present his craft without a lot of hassle.

“I need Photoshop and illustrator,” he reveals.

These are programs he has seen graphic designers use to manipulate his art work and getting paid for it. He wants to do it by himself and be paid for it.
Nas takes pride in several other projects.

“I’ve donated artwork to Letlhabile Primary School in Phase 4. It’s at the entrance of the gate. I’ve erected the sculpture of my headmaster, Mr. Ntseane. He takes it everywhere he goes…I have also made a plan for Dikgatlhong village,” he says proudly.

Buying into a joke that ÔÇô with art ÔÇô one plus one can add up to eleven, he says: “If an artist does an artwork and it gets worn out, no one can fix it because they don’t know what was going on inside him when he created.”

On another jocular tip, he says art is bigger than science experiment results and mathematical calculations. But still young and strong, he refuses to admit defeat. The most important thing right now is accessibility to college.


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