A crafting date with Qhaeqhao Moses, aka Olemogeng Maaramela, brings memories of days at cr├¿che when art was everything, done by kids expressing freedom. Dipping the brush in paint accounted for a mess on the pad, the floor and clothes. Kept simple with no tiring rules to follow, no known technique to engage and no price tag to the final work, art was purely a play reflecting thoughts.
The extra ordinary shapes and activities, crafting way into the little boys’ space, made great subjects of study.
Although with age line to cross, Qhaeqhao’s attitude to painting fits the profile. Aged 38, his work is ÔÇô firstly ÔÇô a result of unrehearsed arrangement of pictures that captures imagination and blows in a wave of amusement. Secondly, he paints objects that captured his boyish mind when growing up at the cattle post; porcupines, pangolins and tortoises. He tones that with bold elements of abstract, giving his artworks a high, sudden impact that leaves room to wonder. “It’s called imagination,” he describes his category of art.
Those with blurred appreciation for art might struggle to cope and see his as a childish play and a waste of time. But that can only be the nature of underground art ÔÇô misunderstood. Adding to that is ÔÇô similar to poetry ÔÇô deep and intense emotional stories. Otherwise, the man has bills to pay.
After many years of abstracting, Qhaeqhao still hasn’t found the one thing that he can mention as his basic point of interest in doing this kind of art, whether he draws inspiration from colours or animal shapes he draws. “I don’t know how to explain it,” he says laughing at himself after scratching his head trying to find answers.
We painted together. To symbolise a niche cut only for a few like him in this field, he sidelines the use of pencil to make guidelines for his paint work. And he brags about it, “I don’t need it”. No one would doubt, given a chance to see him work and what comes out when he finally raises his head from the canvas. There are no pencil marks nor paint overflow. He draws birds facing different directions, which he says symbolise life, death and all situations that dictate our lives. At the end there is one great but unusual admiration of shapes and colours, revealing how deep some thoughts are. But unlike kids at cr├¿che, the most creditable thing on Qhaeqhao’s work is neatness and skill. He leaves the artwork crisp and admirable.
A believer in inner space, he clings to the idea that art goes beyond eye-retina. “Art is medicine. Why do you think artists never fall sick?” he asks in relation to stress. Then he answers… “Whenever I get tired, I walk around to see other artists’ artworks. At times I get my head down on canvas to bring out what worries me,” he reveals.
To that experienced knowledge, Qhaeqhao believes that if hospitals were decorated with artworks, healing would be speeded. And to erase the idea that he just wants hospitals as buyers, he says different art techniques, in different colours, would provide different healing techniques.
Otherwise, patients would spend time staring at the ceiling and dazzling light, eventually succumbing to illness, he says.
He also identifies art as a method of devotion. “Art is an investment,” he says, expressing his dissatisfaction regarding some people’s response to the president’s call to buy artworks from local artists. His fear is that some might buy for the sake of scooping points from the highest office, and the danger would come when they try to make sense of what kind of artwork they bought. He suspects that they will eventually see his crafting as trash. “Imagine finding your artwork at a dumping site,” he imagines.
He wants everyone who takes his artworks to do so in good faith of love for it, and it should mean a lot more. “You don’t decorate with my artwork. You invest on it. In fifty years to come, young people will enquire on how we crafted. They will need to see our works. I want my work to be an investment in the country as a whole… in generations that come after me,” he adds, emphasising the need for artists to always write their names and dates on their crafts upon completion. He says that way grading for quality won’t need scientific proof for accuracy.
From a long hard look and deep thought, Qhaeqhao’s artworks can make it well in fabrics, which can add value to the fashion industry. “I’m not there yet,” he says, citing that at the moment it will give fakers a chance to reproduce. For now, needs the copyright act to be well established, well defined and understood by all involved. His anticipation is to design clothing from scratch, bearing only his label on it, and not buying T-shirt to print on them.
His visit to other countries opened his mind to that possibility. “An aboriginal artist in Australia called Jimmy Park did the same with his artworks,” he says.