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Itumeleng Motswetla grew up in Old Naledi, an area that has been considered notorious and with diverse lifestyles for the past years, something of an experience that has marked her as an artist.

Her work points to her concern with modernity’s life and cultural expressions. Her works can be recognized by her signature expressionistic style, figures with large heads and abstract paintings of faces. She is the most prominent young modern artist, currently dominating the contemporary art scene in the country. Her company Arts with Itu is famously known for turning banal objects into fine arts by utilizing concepts like commerce. In doing so, she holds up a mirror to society and reveals it in all its grotesque contradictions.

Her fascination with these subjects is also reflected in the commercial materials she uses. Whether you hate or love her, she succeeded in taking the art world by storm and securing a permanent spot for herself as one of the youngest most popular artists in the country.
In an interview with WeekendLife, she said her abstract paintings of faces and bodies, she plays with human form, saying her paintings are graced with absurd, cut-up, often carnivalesque characters. In her own words, she is doing this for people, she gives them what they want. ‘’People want pictures, and I am definitely going to give them pictures’’ she said

A 20-year-old initially from Palapye noted that she started art as a profession in 2018, and has since capitalized on it as a source of living, and making ends meet. She said she works with anything she can draw creativity from, ranging from African print, crocheting or threads even. Born without a silver spoon, she drew an inspiration from her single parent, the mother. ‘’My mother raised me single handily, it was not an easy task.

As strong as she is, she made it a point that I have all that I needed. She took me to school, and basically provided all basic needed I needed for survival. In executing all of these things, it was not easy as someone may presume, she worked hard and inspired me to do the same. I grew to appreciate her and aspired to be exactly like her. She nurtured my talent and made me the artist I am today,’’ she said.

‘’Most of my art works express that. I am all about women empowerment, and I’m always open to collaborate and support other young women. I strive to break stereotypes associated with women, and prove to the world that women can achieve what they have been restricted to do because of cultural beliefs and norms in the past. A woman is capable of doing anything and succeed in it, women are determined and I have lived to witness that from my mother.’’

She stressed that her intimate, on-location approach and sensitivity to her subjects are what make her contemporary paintings style so moving and powerful when compared to works by other artists. She uses brushworks, rich colors and precise forms to create extremely realistic pictures, and has incorporated cropped framing, an unusual use of perspective, and the use of colors to strengthen emotion.

‘’I transform our expectations of what is real and what is not. When someone describes something as ‘’surreal’’, the chances are good that an image by me pops into his or her head. My works is all about twisted curves rooted in the ideas of symbolic art and is constantly concentrated on the beguiling satisfaction of color and tone.’’

However, as a young female artist, she is clouded by lot of challenges. ‘’I am being looked down on for being a female artist in such a male dominated industry. I’m often told I am just wasting time and I should be doing something which is of great significance to me, but with the passion I have for art I do not see myself ceasing doing what I love for something else. Art is actually what is important to me and I won’t trade it for anything else,’’ she confidently explained.

Further, she said at times she misses opportunities and face rejection probably because of gender and lot of people sidelining her and undermining her capabilities. ‘’I am capable of producing great quality art, it is only that people are too quick to judge and have their own assumptions. I challenge them to try me, I am willing to show them fine art they have never seen before. If we can only do away with condemning before we see the actual product, I have that assurance that we can develop the art industry in Botswana.’’

Remaining relevant and consistent has earned Itumeleng trust from her customers. She stressed that she makes it a point to produce master pieces after another. ‘’I make sure that my next art work is better than the previous one. I invest a lot of resources and effort into my art, it is a craft I ought to take seriously as it put food on my table. That way, when selling to people they are able to realize the true value of an art. And if that is the case, selling my artworks becomes easy, hence being able to penetrate the market,’’ she highlighted.

She passed gratitude to local art galleries that have put efforts together to support the local art industry, saying that the annual art competitions are helpful in improving one’s creativity and they gain recognition. ‘’These competitions afford us an opportunity to showcase our artworks. People from different countries buy out crafts, they get to appreciate what we do and as it builds confidence in us to keep doing more. The support I receive from Batswana has always been amazing, and it’s really appreciated.

Even though some do not understand this kind of art, hopefully in the long run they will get to see it beyond just a painting and it will be possible for artists to make a living out of art with ease. Itumeleng said collaboration with other artists is imperative in the development of the industry. She said she is willing to assist female artists mostly as she aspires to see them succeed out of artistry.

‘’With unemployment being high most particularly amongst youth, I believe we can make a living out of arts. It is time we live from what we can do with our hands. The arts have the ability to transform our lives, and without relying on government alone to create employment, we can efficiently do so,’’ she concluded.

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WeekendLife

Death or Divorce – a tough choice for many

24th May 2022
pic

Rebecca* is a woman in her late thirties. She holds her head high and walks with a sway in her steps. There is an air of confidence when she speaks. So when she tells me how her husband has been abusing her throughout their 17 years of marriage, I am taken aback.

“Everyday is a new experience for me. I don’t know what version of husband I’ll meet; the one who will scold me for forgetting to lay out his clothes or the one who will hit me for putting too much salt in the soup,” she says while wiping tears. 17 years is almost two decades. I ask her why she has had to endure all that pain for a long time but she only shakes her head and does not answer.

Like Rebecca, hundreds of women experiencing domestic violence find it difficult to leave. For some, it is for reasons best known to them, for others, they simply do not know why or have the words. People who have not experienced abuse find it unfathomable that survivors stay in their relationships and not leave. It seems almost like they enjoy it. But until an experience has been felt, it is easy to give directives on how to act.

For Ms. Ilavbare Goldfish Rahmatulai, it took 6 years to escape the suffocating grip of her abuser. “It was a traumatic experience,” she tells me. “I can tell you this for free; the same intensity used to abuse you is the same intensity used to beg. When he does this, pity begins to set in and you become confused on what to do.”

Ms. Ilavbare Goldfish Rahmatulai

I ask Ms. Demilade Lawal, a psychologist from the University of Chester, in an interview, if there is a psychological reason behind this and she affirms.

“For a lot of women, it’s a glimmer of hope that things are going to get better. And that glimmer of hope can be understood when we are aware of the social cycle of abuse. There is a tension phase, an abuse phase and a honeymoon phase. In the honeymoon phase the abuser temporarily changes his ways and alters the victim’s decision to leave. Then the tension starts and then abuse follows.”

Another reason women remain entangled with their abusers is the fear of the unknown, the unclear reality of what would be after leaving.

“The truth is, as much as this person abuses them, there is an emotional connection. They love this person, there is a traumatic attachment whether they are aware of it or not. It is not the best love environment but it doesn’t change the fact that this is how they feel about the person that abuses them. So the thought of starting afresh without this person whom they have grown to love despite the abuse is just as frightening,” Ms Lawal says.

Although this may sound like an unjustifiable reason to some who have not walked this path, Ms. Rahmatulai agrees.

“In my case, I loved him very much. I could not imagine going to tell my family members or friends that the man I loved started hitting me as early as a month into our marriage. I was embarrassed. So I stayed back, hoping it would get better,” she says.

Research shows that one of the many reasons why women remain in abusive marriages is a lack of income which results in total financial dependency on the abuser. Could this be a strategy to trap the victim in an abusive cycle?

“While I was married, my husband would give me very little housekeeping money. He knew I did not have a job and the money would be insufficient but I could not say a word. I had to feed my children. If I complained I would get beaten. He provided for everything in the house, what authority did I have to question him,” Ms Rahmatulai says to me.

I ask Rebecca if she has a job and she says no. She mentions she’s an interior decorator but she barely gets offers. When she does, her husband collects everything.

A major factor for avoiding abusive marriages is to identify red flags. However, these flags are sometimes mistaken for natural behavioural traits. In Ms Rahmatulai’s case, she tells me she noticed her husband was quick tempered and ill mannered before marriage however she waved them aside as he had never hit her during courtship.

How then can abuse survivors find the courage to leave?

“The decision to leave is a process, it takes a shift in perspective – realising that you deserve better and that your kids deserve to grow in a healthy home where they don’t learn to be abusers or think it’s okay to be abused,” Ms Lawal says.

“When I pack my bags to leave, my husband would hit me. When I unpack, he would hit me. I started going to school to get a degree and then later I started trading. When I had what seemed like enough then (N80,000/ $192), I left my husband regardless of the worst that could happen. I realised if I stayed long enough, I would be dead,” Ms Rahmatulai says.

“It’s been 20 years since I left. I’m 51 and a lawyer now. I have dedicated my life to helping women in abusive marriages leave. So many men have called me a home breaker but I say it’s better to break a home and save a life.”

*Rebecca has asked to stay anonymous by using a pseudonym.

Claire Mom is a Nigerian journalist and an advocate for human rights.
Email: clairemom26@gmail.com
Twitter: speakclairely

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WeekendLife

7 Days to go before As One Music Concert

24th May 2022
ATI

Multitudes of music lovers are expected to throng Francistown’s Obert Itani Chilume Stadium for the highly anticipated As One Music concert next weekend.

Updating WeekendLife on the preparations of the event, Kesego Okie said the preparations for the show are going well and they are working around the clock to make sure that they fulfill all logistics that need to be concluded. She said, ATI has been working hard alongside the featured artists to give Batswana the best experience at concert.

She said that the concert has been accepted well by Batswana and they are very happy with the ticket sales. ”But of course we are looking forward to more ticket sales as more people are showing more interest in being part of this historic event and we are grateful to all our partners and sponsors.”

She appealed to the Francistown Business Community to come on board and support the initiative as it’s a concert for the people. Okie said Francistown was chosen for a reason as they believe it is a gate way to a number of other strategic places in Botswana like Maun, Orapa, Phikwe and Kasane.

“We also felt that since the city has been greatly affected by COVID-19 an event of this magnitude was befitting to be held in Francistown so that we can also play our role in uplifting the socio-economic livelihood hence we believe it is vital for the business community of Francistown to embrace us so that collectively we can contribute meaningfully together as one to the community of Francistown”.

She indicated that they have a large number of artists particularly from Francistown that have shown interest during the show activation and other artists that have collaborated with ATI in the past and those that have contributed in the growth of his music, and it would be very difficult for them to fulfil the mandate of the show without support particularly from the corporate community in Francistown.

Tickets for the event are sold at P50 kids, P150 general, 500 VIP silver circle and VVIP for P1500. All tickets are sold at all Liquarama Outlets across the country.

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WeekendLife

Phakalane soars to new heights

24th May 2022
Magang

Founded 30 years ago by David Magang, Phakalane Estates came from humble beginnings to gradually expand into developing one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the country which attract high income dwellers.

When the development began in the early 90s the estate was to be developed into 13 phases. It is then that a decision was taken by the developers to come up with plans that would be appealing to certain groups of the society.

Phakalane Estates continues to make its mark in the property development space, this year, they have managed to invests over P45 million on major renovations to the Golf Estate properties namely the hotel, golf course, and conference center.

Already the company has erected 84 single and double bedroom apartments which commenced early this year. The construction of these new apartments has been set for Peto Estates, a gated community within the Phakalane neighborhood strategically placed a stone’s throw away from multiple shopping centres such as Mowana Park and Acacia Mall.

“We want the best for our clients that is why even in Peto, we have various apartments for every one and also bearing in mind that the people should be not far from the complex,” Phakalane Estates’ Lesang Magang said in an interview.

So far the roads tarring has started at Sebote estate which is part of the estate expansion, it is expected that even things electrically will get handed to the Botswana Power Corporation which will be the last stage plus the lights on the streets. “In terms of infrastructure we don’t compromise we ensure that it is world class so that we don’t disappoint our clients. Those that brought houses earlier when they sell them it comes at a profit.”

Following the success of the launch of Peto Estates back in 2014, when over 300 plots ranging in cost from roughly P300, 000 to P1.4m were immediately sold out with a high surplus of demand, Phakalane Estates boasts strong confidence in the market demand for new apartments in the area.

The apartments are set to follow the trend of the estates with state of the art modern designs and facilities that will unequivocally catch the eye of professionals in the market for a smaller yet upscale rental property in Gaborone. Phakalane Estates CEO Subramaniam Parthiban has expressed plans for the creation of an all-new industrial park in Phakalane aiming to expand and consolidate the existing industrial strength the community already boasts.

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