Sunday, May 22, 2022

Kalafatis’ resurrection in fine art

There has always been the suspicion that Raymond Gare might have been a mole?working for the State during the extra-judicial killing of John Kalafatis who?was killed with no fewer than 10 bullets in 2009 by Botswana Defence Force?members.?That suspicion seems to have gained a bit of credence the moment Gare?relocated to Australia before Kalafatis’ murder could reach the courts. So Gare?never testified in a court of law to say what he saw and knew of the murder of?his friend who enjoyed hanging around with him at the Thapong Visual Arts?centre over smokes, art, music, brandy and coke.?But Gare swears by his ancestors that he was never an accomplice in the murder?and wonders why the assumption that he has blood on his hands in the?Kalafatis’ murder arises.

State security agents were convicted by the Lobatse High Court in 2011 for Kalafatis murder. They were pardoned by the President and did not serve their full sentences. Gare re-emerges as the same John’s friend who still feels a deep scar etched in his memory.?

“I did not testify in John’s case because I was never contacted by anyone in?authority. I did not run and I was never wanted by the police, it was a?coincidence that John was executed in front of my eyes when I was in the?middle of my plans to already leave the country. It was easy for anyone to?contact me through Face book, phone or Skype. I still have a question to?myself as to why the case was registered after I left Botswana. I’m married to?an Australian citizen. I live here with my family,” says Gare.?Gare’s collage, titled ‘Aftermath’, tells the story of what?happened the night Kalafatis was killed – the incident he describes as “the?night when we met the terror squad”.

Gare tells The Telegraph the death of Gomolemo Motswaledi triggered the Aftermath artwork.?Reliving the sad memories of the day Kalafatis was killed, Gare says a few?seconds after he had parked the car in which they [John Kalafatis, Raymond?Gare and Joseph Piet] were in at Notwane shops, one man knocked on his window?with a 9mm pistol, and as he looked him up surprised, there were already two?shots fired through the rear windscreen of the car. He says the shots?inflicted injuries to the back of John’s head.?“Sitting in the car, I was ordered to raise my hands and make them visible,?and ordered not to try any moves. I briefly turned and got a glimpse of John?who appeared dead already, slumped over in the seat.

Then Joseph Piet and I?were ordered to be out of the car. It was freaking cold and we were ordered to?lie down on the ground,” he says.?They [State agents] then returned to the car to fire more bullets through the?rear side windows at John – it was like they were killing him twice. They shot?his upper body, more than 10 shots. Before they called the police, they made?calls to their own superiors. They made sure John was dead before they called?the police – four hours later. They brought a coffin for him before he was?certified dead by a doctor. The car played music till the battery was flat,?there were a lot of people who were watching from the pub, but no one was?allowed to come close. We were at the scene for more than 4 hours,” says?Gare as he re-narrates the events of that year.?“In addition to the tragedy of that night which I tried to convey in my?collage Aftermath, art has always been my therapy.

To portray such an ideal?relieves my inner consciousness and the mental torture that I went through.?It’s an injury to my mind that I will live with for my whole life. What I?witnessed on that night has affected my world of art, my depictions, concepts?and colour. Some of my work has turned to portray anger against systems that?allow such things to happen. I live with questions as to why I was so?unfortunate as to have seen John’s execution like a dog before my eyes. Why?God chose me to see such barbarism. One answer I get to such questions to?myself is, my name Tshenolo which is biblical, translates to Revelations:?leina lea mareelelong. I’m serving God by creating art,” says Gare.?Gare has produced a controversial artwork on Botswana Presidents.

In the monochrome artwork, he deliberately makes father and son Sir Seretse Khama and Ian Khama dwarf former Presidents Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae making?them insignificant and unwanted players.

The significance of the parliamentary building in the background is unclear. But it could very well fit in the urban legend that the Khamas own land within which some State?properties are built.?In the same artwork, the artist employs a dove in his artwork that flies away?from both Masire and Mogae. A dove is known to symbolise peace. Could the?artist be telling us in a hidden message that his personal observation is that?the peace that reigned in Botswana under Masire and Mogae presidencies is?eluding the country under Khama?

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