When 2010 Miss World 1st Princess Emma Wareus arrived back in Botswana from China after the beauty pageant, she received a gift of a portrait done by Motswana artist, Mompati Motlhabane.
The Department of Youth, Sports and Culture had approached him at short notice to do Emma’s frame portrait, one she was happy to receive at the international airport.
Motlhabane, 32, born in Gumare Village, has been operating from Kgale View, Gaborone. He was funded by the Youth Development Fund in 2006 and has made robust progress locally. Mompati says he ventured into arts after completing his certificate in Travel and Tourism at the Gaborone Institute of Professional Studies (GIPS).
The talented artist mainly does re-upholstery, framing, painting, interior design, mirrors and portraits.
“I do art work as a hobby and my experience after working for Chobe Design Store doing upholstery has helped me to set up my own work shop,” he says.
Of the local market, he says growth is encouraging, owing to government support through funding of local artists, as well through buying of their products. And he thanks the government for its efforts to lift the profile of local artists.
“For a long time locally, art has not been appreciated and not recognized,” said Motlhabane. But now, he says, many government and private premises are now mostly decorated with art pieces from local artists.
Currently, Motlhabane has employed two full time youth employees and one on a part-time basis at his Artifacts Investment Company.
Impressed by his handiwork, Emma Wareus recently approached him to do a similar portrait to hers for reigning Miss World, Alendria Mills from the United States. Motlhabane stated that he can do all sizes of portraits from the biggest A1 to the smallest A5. He also works on walls and canvas.
“Art is talent; it needs patience and can only be done by a hard working and creative person,” said Motlhabane. He names some of the challenges as unreliable clients and low prices demanded by customers. He said that portrait sizes like A3 sell at prices that start from P5000. A lot of art equipment and some tools are not available; he has to get them from South Africa.
“Batswana love art and only a few do not know how to interpret the message from some portraits,” said Motlhabane. He encouraged financial institutions to support the youth by continuing funding them and expressed gratitude for the Department of Youth Sport and Culture’s fund.