Mpho Mokgatle still has vivid memories of the phone call that changed his life. The voice on the other end congratulated him for being a finalist in the 18th Shining Lights Awards. The aspiring jewelry designer could have been forgiven for momentarily losing his speech.
Overnight, the young Motswana graduate of the Oodi College of Applied Arts and Technology became something of a trail blazer in Botswana, a country where no one hardly talks about jewelry designers except maybe when mentioned in stories of Hollywood red carpet events dominated by bling bling movie stars.
“After receiving such a life changing call from De Beers informing me that I’d been the only entrant chosen from Botswana as a finalist in the Shining Light Awards, I was lost for words”, he recalls.
The prestigious jewelry design competition; sponsored by The De Beers Group of Companies, showcases young talent from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The competition is open to current students, as well as those who have completed their studies at a tertiary institution in the past two years.
Mokgatle however says the highlight of his experience was attending the grand finale of the Shining Light Awards at a gala event in Rosebank, Johannesburg on 8thJuly 2015. Hardly surprising. His name was called out as winner of the coveted award in a spectacular grand finale held in the Circa Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The award comes with a fully sponsored 2-year scholarship with Keith White Designs: jewelry design school in Johannesburg, courtesy of De Beers Group of Companies.
“I never thought I’d get the opportunity to take off from Gaborone to Johannesburg or have the privilege to study at Keith White’s Master School of Design, whilst being exposed to the workings and dynamics of the local diamond industry”, he says.
Philippe Mellier, Chief Executive of the De Beers Group, told the finalists: “You truly are the shining lights of Southern Africa and I look forward to watching you light up the diamond industry in years to come.
Modern diamond jewellery designers need a head for business, just as much as they need an artistic eye and a skilled hand, this year’s awards have sought to identify those that have the commercial acumen to match their creative flair.”
Mokgatle’s earliest memories involve dreams of one day becoming a big jewelry designer. “Growing up in Moshupa, I was lucky to study art and design at primary and secondary school. I had a natural flair for the creative and won competitions to exhibit at the South West Art Association and at the National Presidential Competition.” He was smitten with art and design just like other boys love football and music.
After completing his form five, he decided to pursue an Honors Degree in Marketing Management at ABM and ANGLIA RUSKIN Universities. As a young creative talent with a desire for design he found marketing uninspiring. He yearned for a career where he would be creating things.
“Marketing was not my passion as I longed to design again and I enrolled for a certificate course in Jewellery Design and Manufacturing at OODI College of AppliedArts and Technology. It was whilst studying towards my certificate in 2014 that I first learnt about De Beers’ Shining Light Awards. My all-encompassing passion and love for jewellery design was reborn. I didn’t waste any time then, I submitted my entry form and prepared for the competition right away, under the theme: “The Promise.” The day I received a call to say I have been shortlisted as a finalist, I made a pledge to Kevin Goodrem, Vice President of Beneficiation at De Beers, to deliver on “The Promise,” and I did through a collection I called the ‘’ Infinite Portion”. My concept is derived from a human twist of fingers, which is a sign of a promise usually done by people to show their promises and commitment,” he says. “This requires individual determination, endurance, discipline and trust; this brought to mind a picture of interwoven crossroads, which is a symbol of strength and of an enduring bond that is united and will last longer.”
My advice to aspiring designers in Botswana is to look into the De Beers’ Shining Light Awards. It’s open to anyone with talent and you don’t have to be from a specific town or socio-economic background. Take a chance and believe in yourself. It takes determination; passion and zeal to make your dream of being a designer come true. The great thing is that it can take you to places, experiences and people you never dreamt possible. This is a life changing opportunitythat comes around every two years and one cannot afford to ignore it. The local market in Botswana presents many opportunities to designers to make a viable living and to make a name for them. I challenge all young designers, who think that they’ve got what it takes, to take a chance and get involved.
I am currently continuing my studies at Keith White’s Master School of Design, courtesy of De Beers. I am so privileged to walk down the streets of Johannesburg, theCity of Gold, and to source inspiration from this wonderful city. My accommodation is also paid for and I receive monthly allowance. Keith White’s Master School of Design is one of the best in the country and it’s all about precision and perfection. We are one big family and I’m excited to work with such gifted and experienced designers each day.
The people are hospitable and the food, culture and norms are not that different from Botswana’s. I get to interact with people from diverse cultures, learn local languages such as Zulu and have started to build my future clientele.
All I can say is that this two-year sponsorship is designed to make winners in the jewellery industry and hope to start my own business in the future. So, to all you aspiring designers out there ÔÇô go for it!” To learn more about my collection and more information on the Shining Light Awards, please visitwww.shininglightsawards.com