Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Mologasele tells history through art

They say there are many ways to kill a cat. Though this sounds like a tired clich├®, it is relevant when you meet one of the promising artists, Gatang Mologasele.

While historians have documented history through literature, Mologasele is documenting it through art.

In fact, Mologasele is in a class of his own because his work is captured in artistic form, using paintings and also visual images using film.

Mologasele, who is not known in the art industry in the country, but not a novice either, is expected to take the industry by storm.

“One day, I happened to pass by Debswana where they had set up an art gallery.┬á The gallery is part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programme. An art exhibition was being held there,” said Mologasele.┬á

He had also brought his art work along.

It was at that exhibit that one of the ladies at the exhibition noticed Mologasele’s distinct work.
She instantly fell in love with what she saw.

“These ladies, who liked my art work, are working in partnership with Debswana for the art healing gallery. They are curators so to speak.┬á Because they knew the kind of artist that I’m, they told me that they wanted something different. To put it in their own words, they said they wanted something that can ‘wow people’.”

They believed that Mologasele was that kind of artist: an artist they had been looking for because he could hold a “wow show”.

And Mologasele did not disappoint.

The first exhibitions were different in the sense that there were various artists exhibiting different works with different themes. But the ladies at the healing gallery chose Mologasele because he had brought something that they had been looking for, for a long time.

“I started making some preparations for the exhibition. I didn’t struggle because there was something that I had already started while still a student at Vaal University of Technology, in South Africa. I continued where I had left my project while I was a final year student at University,” he says.

His project was called Ba-Sekgoma project.  He had painted some images to tell a story that had happened many years ago in the Chobe area.

“I believe that telling a story through art is an effective way of documenting history because visual art is very powerful.┬á I felt that I was best placed to tell history through art. Unlike literature, which is likely to result in some people getting bored while reading these days, visual art forces people to start asking questions. Film is a contemporary tool for us artists, unlike in the Renaissance period,” says Mologasele.

The upcoming exhibition of the Ba Sekgoma art work will, apart from showcasing paintings, also be in the form of a 20-minute film preview and a full length film is going to premier at the cinema on a date yet to be set. He says that the upcoming Ba Sekgoma exhibition is scheduled for the 20th April until May 11 at the Debswana House in Gaborone.

“The exhibition will be open to the general public,” he said. “We will be donating 18 art works to a new Kachikau clinic in the Chobe area. The main sponsors are Debswana, Botswana Housing Corporation and Limkokwing University. The donation was made possible by BHC, which sponsored the framing to the tune of P36 000,” says Mologasele.

But what is Ba-Sekgoma? Mologasele explains that they are a segment of Batawana tribe.

“These are very interesting people. They came to be known as Ba ÔÇôSekgoma because they were the followers of Kgosi Sekgoma Letsholathebe of Batawana,” says Mologasele.┬á┬á

According to history, Kgosi Sekgoma Letsholathebe and his brother Kgosi Mathiba had a dispute as to who should succeed their father. A chieftainship row ensued.

“Some people supported Sekgoma while others rallied behind Mathiba. You should also note that Sekgoma was the eldest. The people who are captured in my paintings are the ones who narrated this historical event to me,” said Mologasele. He also explains that he carried out research at the National Achieves.

The project is also captured in a film apart from the paintings.

“These events took place during the colonial period when these royals were fighting over chieftainship. The colonial government favoured Mathiba and imprisoned Sekgoma Letsholathebe at Mafikeng without trial.┬á They believed Mathiba was the legitimate heir and he was left to rule Batawana in Ngamiland area,” says Mologasele.┬á Upon his release, Letsholathebe was not allowed to go back to Ngamiland; he settled in Chobe area.

“Upon his release, his followers broke away from the Batawana and joined Letsholathebe in Chobe,” said Mologasele.┬á “That is how the tribe earned the name Ba Sekgoma. The Batawana who followed Sekgoma,” explains Mologasele.

A desertion by one Walter Dikole, which is a very important source of information, also helped the artist in his historical work.

“I chanced upon it during my research. I think it was published around 1970. The desertion is entitled; Sekgoma Letsholathebe rule and British Administration,” said Mologasele.

Mologasele’s love for art work took a different turn when he met another student, Chris Makhondo, at Masunga Senior Secondary School.

“He did not only inspire me, but was also my mentor. He taught me how to draw and paint. He inspired me a lot; in other words he gave me hands on experience. He natured my talent and I went on to pursue Fine Art at Vaal University of Technology,” said Mologasele.
Initially Mologasele had wanted to pursue a career in Law.

“But when we applied for sponsorship from the Department of Student and Placement under the Ministry of Education, they told us that since Law courses were offered at the University of Botswana, they could only send students who want to study courses that were not offered at UB. Since competition for sponsorship was tough then, I did not want to gamble and wait for admission from UB, I just opted for Fine Arts,” he says.┬á

The Vaal University of Technology management also recognised Mologasele’s talent and skills.
“In my fourth year, I was appointed Assistant Lecturer. I was teaching second and third year students. I was on the university’s payroll for a year,” he says.┬á

The 31-year-old artist who hails from Kachikau in the Chobe area has also worked as a temporary Art and Design teacher at Lobatse Senior Secondary School.

“I also worked for Billy Kokorwe and was the lead camera operator for a documentary entitled ‘Lady Khama Charitable works’. I also worked as a lecturer at Limkokwing University campus in Gaborone for more than two years. I was a principal lecturer. I’m influenced by photo realism and super realism techniques of working in art,” says Mologasele.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.