He is not your average painter. When he draws, he pours his heart and soul into it. The result is art that amazes in its tendency to capture details, and stuns in its capacity to mimic the real, without sacrificing its appearance as art. No wonder his artefacts are highly sort after by the eyes that celebrate true beauty. We are talking about Thabiso Motsamai, the former National University of Lesotho (NUL) student.
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He lives in Qoaling in Maseru. And he is known in this business by another name, "Motaki Wa Lifahleho (one who draws human faces)." He specializes with the human part of art. Even when he is drawing landscapes, they should always have some human elements in them.
Great artists are also hard-workers. That’s for sure. And great artists do not develop their skill by chance. They work for it. However, there is something about great artists that differentiates them from amateurs (bomachansane). Great artists are born. They are not made.
Well, Thabiso Motsamai is a born artist.
“I started drawing well before I knew I existed,” he started to reveal an amazing story behind his art. “I was so young by then, I would only learn the stories of how I used to draw at an early age from my mother.”
His mother used to tell him how he would make an excuse of going to toilet only to find him outside, drawing everything from insects to birds, “I even drew pictures of my mom and dad,” he said. By that time, he was so young that he didn’t even know that what he was doing was called drawing.
He thought he was writing!
He would say, “Mom, come and see, I have “written” you and dad, I have “written” K'hamthuse (A bus that used to travel between Maseru and Thaba Bosiu in the late '80s). Her mother fondly recalls such episodes.
It was time now to go to primary school. “I spent my years there drawing. And drawing.” He still remembers how he would be called by teachers to draw just about anything in some events.
But things would take a sudden and nasty turn when he entered High School. He would have an experience that would nearly kill what is basically his life-long pursuit:
This is how he recalls what happened, “When I was in Form A, I remember taking my pencil and drawing so many things. I and my friends posted the artefacts on the room wall at the back. At one time, our teacher was not in class and," as most former high school students can relate, "we were in a jovial mood, going through the artefacts, picture by picture, analyzing them.”
Unbeknownst to them, their good teacher was watching. She was listening. She then jumped in and beat them all to pulp.
Unfortunately, from that day on, the teacher had also beaten the art of him.
That was it.
He went through a long cooling period. Years later, he found himself living in the same backyard with a highly talented Chinese painter famously known in Maseru then as Mr Lee.
Mr Lee could just take a quick look at your face and put it on paper in a few minutes, just as it was.
Since there was an artist still buried deep in him, Motsamai would take turns to intently observe Mr Lee making one drawing after another. Mr Lee was not even aware that right by his side was another great painter.
“However, I just observed his great painting skills, I did not even ask him to teach me anything.” The High School episode had left a deep scar that would take longer to heal.
But then, he would soon find himself a student at the NUL. Little did he know that an artist in him was being rekindled therein. “One day I was just sitting in a class and bored. I later found myself drawing. And that was it,” he said.
From that day, he started drawing again. He then sold his artefacts at a very low price to his fellow students who amazingly bought quite a lot.
“I have learned so much since then,” he said. He used to use just a pencil and a normal paper. Now he knows how to use such things a Charcoal, Acrylic and even Pastel. He has even learned that there were different forms of pencils used in drawing, depending on what one wants to achieve.
He is determined more than ever to never look back. “I am more than prepared to bring art to an average man on the street.”