Visual artist Thuto Lobakeng (25) has roaring business in fine arts offering drawings, paintings, sculptures, pottery, basketry, commercial arts, logo designing, book covers and photography. His life changed last year when he got a P100 000 Youth Fund grant, which he used to open his art studio called Artistas Visual Arts in Block 6. At the moment he has employed two other young artists and they exhibit their works at Chillstep Sundays in Molapo Piazza or in malls. His studio officially opened last month. “The launch was very successful as media, friends and family came to support my work,” he said. He said that his love for art started when he was in junior school and he always attained top grades in it. When he was in high school he had to do it part time because the class that he was in did not offer art. He was later admitted at Botswana Accountancy College to study Computer Systems Engineering. But then he dropped out to follow his passion and later applied for the youth fund.
Lobakeng said the business is going on very well and is making enough through his craft to cover all expenses like rent, transport, food and other necessities. He did not blink when saying that he still feels he made the right decision to forego academics to focus on his craft because that is exactly what he loves. “When I dropped out I was scared but now I know that I made the right decision because I am doing something that I love and know so with hard work and consistency I will succeed,” he said. Unlike other people that might doubt the success of art in Botswana, Lobakeng believes that there is still so much untapped art market in the country and that is why he knows very well that he will be successful and he is already on his way up there.
He said companies buy his products when approached with individuals being the core of his market. He is thriving in doing individuals portraits because many people like to see themselves being drawn. “I do a portrait almost every day,” he said. In regard to paintings, Lobakeng does them according to his mood. This will then be very evident in his paintings where he will use dull colours when sad and use warm colours when happy. “Sometimes I paint when I look at something and see that something can be a good work,” he said. His dream is to create Artistas into a brand to inspire other young Batswana artists. He said he wants to have an art gallery framing shop and to be able to supply art to schools and art shops.