To environment engulfed in industrial sound of drilling, Gosego Motlogelwa trembles to vibrations of the portable motor machine. By default, pieces of wood crumble away from prey wood that he works on. And, as if ignored by gravity, dust snakes its way up the sky in slow motion.
He pauses to shed perspiration with his backhand, adjust the hand-made surgical mask and maintain the drill bit’s safety cling to the machine. It’s a rollercoaster ride kind of job that requires vigilance and safety. Peeping to establish what he is up to, he unfolds his receptive mood through a smile. “I’m making pen holders,” he says.
The pen holders resemble tiny baby feet. Small as they are, he has to establish every detail. His creation matures with every touch dictated by his tools; from sew blade through drilling machine to sand paper, it’s a transaction that consumes both his mental and physical energy. It is also a health risk from dangerous machines, dust and some chemicals used to dress up the final product.
For a while he leaves the work to take gulps of water and scout for food before coming back for more bouts; the tough reality he has to go through to tell stories and make ends meet. It’s a job for neither the fainthearted nor sissy boys.
In any simple way one can think, these bouts are his drill and he enjoys himself there.
Characterised by more work and less talk, at the end of it all, he brings out his version of the world, in his most presentable skill, woodcarving or clay-moulding.
Gosego’s calm attitude is the last thing one can rely on to explore his profile. He is soft spoken, his speeches are low, almost in hushed tones, but his crafts are loud and poetic. The more he works is the more he explains his observation. And enthusing abstract is the farther he leaves you with more room to think.
No matter the creative mood and the amount of work and soul he puts into his work, some potential clients do not see his work as all completely fabulous. They view it negatively and, at times, think his pricing is a wish to live beyond means. That makes selling a challenge he has grown to live with. “The artworks go slowly,” he has discovered.
The discovery goes hand in hand with the idea that art is given less attention by responsible ministry. He mentions that if people in charge noted that artists are also people trying to make a living, they could do better to improve relations and enterprising skills. As for now, the ministry applauds football because it gives money back to some organisations. “They forget about artists and the only time they remember is when there are scheduled competitions,” he has noticed. But the 28-year-old from Lerala village is one of those that won’t quit.
Gosego specialises in clay moulding, woodcarving and wire weaving. Art is a silent communication tool in his world. When he started at childhood, his involvement addressed boyish interest and he armed himself with tools such as coloured pencil. “I started at primary school, helping teachers with teaching aids. I drew both Botswana and African maps for them. I also did lettering,” he explains. That matured over the years and today he uses art to express what he sees when he reaches his inner emotions of a man his age.
His is not work of a shallow mind and, although it’s obvious abstract, it borders on realistic, probably because of what he goes through to create. “Sometimes I see my craft in my dream,” he says. He has also noticed that the moment he starts to sketch, something great comes out when he begins to carve. “It’s rare for me to sketch,” he explains. Whether it’s some sort of super power from the most high or just his skill, he can’t explain it.
But by some realistic means, Gosego also draws inspiration from observing his raw materials’ shapes, particularly curvaceous flow of tree branches. Then he earns an equally realistic attitude and unveils what he sees in a shape that people can relate to without brain battle. “This was already in its natural shape when I carved it,” he says, pointing at the crocodile sculpture in his art studio. “What I did was uncover it for people to see,” he adds.
Gosego’s mandate in art is to address social issues of day to day activities. “I also do functional art, like household equipment that includes TV stands, coffee tables, traditional chairs,” he says.
He also weaves wire tables.
He started to make art for a living in 2006 in the mining town of Selibe Phikwe. His first exhibition was when he was a form 2 student. There, at JC, he also learnt how to mould objects using Plaster Of Paris. At form 5, he started to paint but latter abandoned it. As a woodcarver, he says nobody taught him.
After school, he spent three years in Selibe-Phikwe trying to make a living through art. “There was the other guy who sold artworks in town. He let me display my works in his stall,” he adds. His target was residents and tourists.
He moved to Thapong Visual Art Centre in 2010. The move was based on the belief that the place is already marketed and art lovers always come by to check out the latest creations. During exhibition, brochures and booklets are published, which allow them a slick chance to be noticed and heard, he said. “Sometimes we exchange ideas as artists, which helps a lot,” he adds.
Although it is great to be an artist, he also comes across characters, some of whom he still won’t believe they meant whatever request they made. Some people claiming to be traditional doctors come for walking stick saying they want to use them on their crafts. Others want sculptures to put in their businesses to make them flourish. He fancies his artworks as display material, and not a type for ritual purposes that he never initiated it for. “Some people don’t respect art. I want people to decorate with this not kill the initial spirit I exerted in the creation,” he says.