Creatives Under Lockdown is a SABC News feature, which focuses on issues affecting artists. This week, fine artist Kabelo Lethswene talks about the craft.
Kabelo Letshwene was busy sketching during a class at Makgetse High School in Hammanskraal, paying no attention to the lesson. When his teacher approached he tried to hide the drawing but it was too late. The Setswana teacher insisted on seeing what was on the paper and instead of reprimanding him, he advised Letshwene to consider a career in the arts. A seed was planted.
Resistance at home
Convincing his parents to allow him to study Fine Art at the Tshwane University of Technology was a momentous task. However, Letshwene was up for the challenge.
“There are times when we need to make our own decisions and me deciding to become an artist was the time when I had to be stubborn with what I wanted and push away whatever they (parents) wanted. My parents were not happy with the choice that I made, particularly my mother. As for my father he has always had an artistic eye since he is a carpenter, so it was not so difficult for him to understand that his son wanted to become an artist.”
He went on to complete a Diploma in Fine Art.
What is Fine Art?
Fine artists use different technics to create art including, among others, weaving, painting, glass blowing, and sculpting. “They create art to send a message or provoke a feeling into the person observing their work. “
To Letshwene the craft brings fulfillment. “Doing art is a source of my joy. There is no greater feeling like looking at a complete piece and saying ‘wow did I really do this? I am mostly inspired by African cultures. I aim to preserve African images and values through art. I am also inspired by young children and the elderly because I believe that children are so close to nature and they possess spiritual knowledge.”
His work has been showcased both locally and internationally. He was involved in the Fazoo Project, which created artwork for the Pretoria Zoo and was in the top 100 of the Thami Mnyele Fine Art Awards. Annually the competition puts young professionals from across the country head to head.
“In 2017 I held my exhibition in my local area where the aim was to motivate artists who are interested in fine arts. It was a very successful occasion. In 2019 I was invited by the Depot Art Gallery to showcase my work in the US and then later that year I was also selected to showcase my work again at the Spectrum Art Fair in the US.”
Despite all his achievements thus far, Letshwene regards being the Thami Mnyele Fine Art Awards as his highlight. “It is important because that is where everything started. That was when I got hope and that was when I started to realise that there is life into this thing (art). It will remain my highlight regardless of what I will come across (in the future) because that is where I come from. “
Although he has come across some stumbling blocks along the way, he is adamant that he is going to continue in his journey as an artist until he dies. “This is what I am going to do for the rest of my life. “
Letshwene aims to make art accessible to young people. “One of my future goals is to own gallery space or a studio where local artists will learn more about art, where I am going to help them become good artists without struggling like I did because like, for instance, it was not easy for me to access these kinds of things. It is going to be easier for them because I will be their motivation and it would not be that far-fetched like in my case.
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Q: Who are some of your favourite artists?
A: Nelson Makamo, Lindo Zwane, Sizwe Khoza
Q: Of all the pieces you have created which one is your favourite?
A: It is a piece called Monna, it depicts a man sitting on a bench, wearing vintage clothes. Behind him are portraits of women. It is about gender-based violence.
Q: What is your message to other fine artists?
A: They must do further research, they must also plan properly. They must be prepared for any challenges. They need to be strategic about their goals and they should not ever act impulsively.
Below is a podcast of the interview with Kabelo Letshwene:
Related: Part 1: Starving artist’ a more meaningful phrase amid lockdown
Related: Part 2: ‘I don’t know myself outside my world of acting’
Related: Part 3: Letshego Zulu on fitness under lockdown
Related: Part 4: Uzalo’s Wiseman Mncube shares his journey
Related: Part 5: Artists advised to spend prudently in order to survive rainy days
Related: Part 6: Thabo Malema on the new enemy, his dream and COVID-19
Related: Part 7: Musician Tribute Mboweni on her collaboration with DJ Ganyani
Related : Part 8: Musician Shade on life as an independent artist