Raphael Pholo says art is a means of communication and to reflect society. The 25-year-old self-proclaimed introvert points out that he wants to be a voice. “Every voice can speak forth a solution; I want to speak against social ills, help find solutions to societal pressures and challenges, and to every life challenge holistically.”
A recent art work by the young man that piques interest is of a man carrying a sewing machine with a pair of scissors in his hand, depicting a tailor, and titled Self Employed. He explains that the artwork speaks of the unemployment rate in Botswana. “The solution to the devastating reality of unemployment is self-employment,” he says. Pholo, who hails from Tobane village, explains that his work is inspired by everyday life and human experiences. He is particularly interested in the lives of Africans. “I try as much as I can to capture happy moments, the struggles, the smiles, the tears and pain, the vulnerability… I want my work to communicate the life of an African child in every aspect.”
Pholo cannot point out a particular time when his love for art was ignited but he asserts that art “has always been in me.” He recalls how as a boy growing up, he would draw on sand with his finger, on the floor and walls of an abandoned old house at his grandmother’s place. He says he used mosidi (charcoal). Nowadays he uses graphite pencil, acrylic paints and pen. Since those days as a boy who won art awards at school, he has been discovering himself as an artist and experimenting with different mediums. “I am most comfortable with pen and charcoal because they produce monochromes. It is also always easy to convey deep emotion with monochrome art.”
Pholo says there is an abundance of talent that should be nurtured and celebrated. “Evidently, if you can visit the art gallery at the national gallery right now, you will see mesmerizing artworks by local talents.” He however says there is room for growth in the art industry in Botswana. He further says reception from the public is still lukewarm. “Batswana only appreciate commissioned art portraits of themselves.
They are barely interested in buying random art pieces but their buying and appreciating our work would be the only way for our art industry to grow.” He adds that support usually comes from outside Botswana, which is quite unfortunate. “I had people from South Africa showing enthusiasm in my work and expressing interest in buying it. But not a single Motswana has bought my work. The art industry needs support to grow.” He adds that another challenge artistes face locally is the shortage of reliable art suppliers. “Even the ones that are there are limited in terms of the materials on offer and this can limit you as an artist because you work with what you have.”
Pholo has been invited to participate in an art exhibition in a few months’ time and he is excited to finally share his work on a larger platform. He believes subsequent exhibitions will follow as his star continues to rise. He remains undeterred in his passion and believes in putting in effort to get results. He says that doing art requires hard work, discipline, determination and constant planning. “Working hard and practicing more are the core values that keep me going; practice perfects a skill and betters a talent.”