“Art is classic, classical things shine.”

Thabiso Motsamai
Thabiso Motsamai

The memorable words were uttered by none other than the young, talented Mr Thabiso Motsamai, a National University of Lesotho (NUL) student of Sociology and Demography who is living his dream.

He is one of a few fine artists who specializes in drawing faces of people in Lesotho. He is inspired by drawing faces and doing that fulfills and delights him. Off course he draws other things but to a lesser extent.

When he commenced his first year in the academic year 2010-2011 at NUL, he fell in love with a girl and drew her face. Little did he know that the act would be his big turning point in life. It was the first face he drew that was not from his mind. And it was the first after several years from the day he got beat for drawing and hanging many faces on a wall back in high school.

Unfortunately, the girl did not like him. Fair enough, those who saw Thabiso Motsamai draw were in awe and wanted their faces drawn too, for cash of course! Although he never intended to sell, he sold his first work of art for R20.00 that year!

Ever since the day his work became public, he is continually growing. He sells his work to multitudes of people and his prices have changed. He is learning a lot and watching what other fine artists are doing. He says he intends to do more of a commercial art when he leaves school. With time he wants to teach the younger generation art and also support orphans with what he will be getting.

Thabiso Motsamai added that even though his love for art may not seem to be in accordance with what he is studying. He is forever grateful for what he studies in class. He says uneducated artists are cheated a lot. But with the kind of mind opening education he is receiving, he will not be manipulated in any way.

Education, in his view, sharpens the mind, and can be applied in many and seemingly unrelated situations.

For him, it has been a long meandering journey. He started drawing at a tender age. “Many times I would ask my mother to allow me to go to the toilet, just for her to find me lingering somewhere in the outside, drawing!”

Motsamai recalled, with a light laughter. In consultation with his mother, she alluded to the same, “My son was an avid artist early in his life,” she said proudly. “I can still imagine seeing him drawing a well known local taxi called “come duze” back then. Looking back, I wish I could have supported him more than I did in his pursuit for art.”

It is in primary school that he learned how to make use of a pencil, and then a life-long journey of success began. He drew lots of imaginary faces, none of any people he had seen.

Unfortunately, when he began high school he hit the rock. He began detesting art. This happened after being severely beaten by his then teacher for drawing several imaginary faces and hanging them on the back wall in the class. “Instead of seeing the talent I had, my teacher chose to see a disrespectful and a silly Form A boy,” he said.

After some time fate made him to stay in the same compound with Mr Jackie Lee. A renowned artist who is famous for his incredible arts. As Thabiso Motsamai was quietly watching Lee every time he got a chance, his love for drawing faces aroused once more. This time it increasingly grew.

He, however, could not say a word to Mr Lee about any kind of drawing because he had been beaten for it. He was afraid. Not even sure whether art was bad or not. Yet he did not deny himself a chance to learn quietly from Mr Lee.

Motsamai then continued, “the type of environment you surround yourself with is one of the important factors in determining whether you will succeed or not.

It is important that you surround yourself with positive people.” He does not stop to say, “… although it nearly killed my dream, the beating taught me a crucial lesson, which is, I should never associate with people who have “impossible” in their dictionary.”

He believes that anything is possible, just when you set your mind on it. No matter how hard it may seem, it is possible. He says there are lots of young growing artists who are not given a platform to express themselves. According to him, they also deserve a chance.

It is worth mentioning that Mr Thabiso Motsamai made the stand which he uses for drawing, with his own bare hands! He has a saying that goes, ‘art is classic, classical things shine.’


This blog post was originally written by NUL Research and Innovations