Monday, May 23, 2022

An artist’s interpretation of African metaphysics

Art presented itself to Monica Mosarwa-Selelo as a solution in her quest to find her identity as an African. Her artworks depict a sense of belonging and the understanding of our culture as one of our roots as Africans. What always fascinated me about her work are the traditional stories she uses as her theme. They are her space of refuge in identifying herself. One will realise that she knows how to move around the issue of identity, that is the story telling of our roots, and also how to make an idea visible. Our traditional way of life continues to inspire her in its cultural diversity, architecture, craft and global identity.

When you look closely at her artwork; “Traditional Doctor”, a lithograph, you will notice that she juxtaposes light and dark, especially on the face of the doctor. The artwork is super positioned with a background, front view as well as objects around the image. Materials like black ink and hand paint are combined to create an aesthetic view that is particular to the way traditional doctors throw their bones and the concentration the doctor experiences during the trance. The artwork depicts realities of our traditional way of living hence this makes her work different from artworks produced by other artists.

Mosarwa-Selelo’s work addresses African ideology which has been affected by post colonialism. The artwork; “Traditional Doctor” is against the ideal societal function according to the colonial master’s influence which has affected the traditional value of the Setswana chemistry. The artwork further gives an understanding that tradition is invaded and dominated by civilization. Her work emphasizes the use of ditlhare as a medicine for healing. Her artwork finds itself obliged to accommodate the uncivilized because the society thinks when you are rooted in your culture you are not civilized. The making of her artwork is articulated around her concept which is proper to a situation marked by post colonialism. It is natural, then, that the subject of her artwork is, in fact, centered on the visual and historic aspects of African identity. It articulates around the constellation of cultures provoked by a state of post colonialism. In short, her artwork addresses the origins of culture.

In her collections, there is also an etching print, “Evil”, which symbolizes the dark act of witchcraft. The print depicts the evil side of life. It visualizes a person being hung by bats. The print narrates the story to us that the other side of African life may be evil. It depicts the evil power of witchcraft. Once you look at it, you will sense the cause of death by African muti. This scene gives an understanding that the things we see are made active by the power of invisible forces behind them and it is these hidden forces behind the natural that is the superficial sin that the artist decided to capture and portray in her artwork. The artist used the medium to subvert, criticize, protest and express emotions that are a concern to our society such as people bewitching one another. Furthermore, Mosarwa-Selelo’s artworks have a powerful visual narrative. Her idea is rooted in African culture.

Mosarwa – Selelo is not only an artist but also an art educator at the National Museum, Monuments and Art Gallery. She holds a BA in Fine Art with a major in printmaking from Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

She has participated in several art workshops and exhibitions held locally and internationally among which are the Thulipangwe International Artists Workshop in Namibia, Mbile International Artists workshop in Zambia, Aftershave International Artists workshop in Nigeria and Women Artists Workshop in Austria to mention but a few.

MosarwaÔÇôSelelo is also involved in community service. She does art therapy at Lobatse Mental Hospital for the mentally challenged and also coordinates Museum Women Art project along with the children’s project.


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