There are a lot of art lovers in Botswana,” says prolific artist, Velias Ndaba. “However they cannot afford to buy art works by local artists.” And it is for this reason that artworks at Gigi Malebang and Ndaba’s Work in Progress exhibition, housed at Alliance Francaise in Gaborone, reveal lower prices than expected. There are artworks going for as little as P600.
“We live off art, the larger part of our market is in South Africa,” said Ndaba. “I have reduced the cost on my artworks as an effort to encourage the local art buyers to purchase some art.”
Ndaba launched his career 22 years ago, and has dividends that include mentoring that he has done for a number of Botswana’s artists who include Thapong Visual Art Centre’s co-ordinator and artist Reginald Bakwena.
Bakwena says, “Ndaba must be mentioned, in the secondary school curriculum which only has reference to Egypt as ‘African art.’ Ndaba has mentored and influences the styles of many Batswana artists.”
Twenty-nine years old, Gigi Malebang agrees that the local art market is small and “it is in fact commercial organisations that buy the bulk of my art works.” Malebang says. He says that existing structures for exhibiting art are insufficient for fulltime artists who sustain themselves through their work.
Malebang believes that a lot has to be done in taking art to the masses and giving the public an understanding of art, how art relates to the wider community. Art is a powerful tool, says Malebang, apart from sustaining artists economically, art may be used in reforming wayward behaviour.
The two artists seem to represent two contrasting lifestyles. Malebang’s themes revolve around experiences of urban dwellers, while Ndaba’s depicts rural life. Ndaba’s Waiting for the bride depicts a traditional wedding party with women wearing shawls looking inwards, towards the approaching bride who is not visible in the picture. Month-end Special and Drink and Joy show a typical scene of a traditional beer drinking session. He also visits pastoral life with titles such as Wandering Cattle and Ko Morakeng.
Togetherness is among Malebang’s most striking artworks; it is typical of his style of implying light movement with the extravagant use of colour. The painting comprises of two women who are distinguishable when viewed from a distance (from the picture) leaving what appears to be a night-club or bar together. Interestingly, it’s commonly said that women don’t get along easily and when they do, it’s like fire and petrol. Single and Hunting is another interesting painting, which depicts the modern day dating quandary of women setting out to find partners as shown by a silhouette of a woman sitting by in a pub.
The exhibition will run till the 5th of March.