One thing that Art cannot separate itself from it’s the experience of its maker. Without experience art cannot be. It cannot spring out of a void and say something, it has to be a part of a particular reality to hold its ground. That anchorage, that experience is emphatically intertwined with the life of the artist. Art is a reportage, it is a reportage of a one point perspective of the artist as he or she goes through life. But unlike less gifted majority of the members of our society the artist is able, through his craft, to beam to the world their unique experiences in pictorial format just as a fiction writer is able to relate their experience through fiction as a metaphor of the real world. Such is the nature of Seemo Sa Boraro 2008. It is a report on the cramped space experienced by public transport users in South Africa. But what is profound about this artwork is that it is not just a vision that the artist as a shaman retrieves from the spiritual dimension or causal realm. The artwork represents the lived-real experience of the artists, Tshepo Mosopa.
Commuting through a train from Mabopane, northwest of the City of Tshwane (Pretoria) he has been subjected to the shuffling, pushing and grunting that takes place in the various coaches of the pass 7am train to town, Belle Ombre and 4pm snell to Mabopane station. There are two ways to indulging viewing this piece. One can approach it vertically from top to bottom or the reverse. And then there is the traditional reading movement of left to right or the reverse of it. The figures are cramped with only their upraised hands holding on at the curling straps above. It is very important that the second paragraph should be revised if the reader has missed the fact that the figures are in a train. In no way does the artist, as far as drawing is concerned, give a clue of where the figures are cramped. It is only the title that that leads one to a positioning of the figures otherwise the viewer is lost if they cannot even read Se-Tswana. But not entirely because they can still appreciate the draftsmanship of Mosopa. Mosopa feels strongly about titling his work in his mother tongue – Se-Tswana.
The tonal values achieved through shading and the almost crude lines of the movement of the artist’s charcoal rendering belies Mosopa’s close identification with expressionism. But Mosopa’s major inspiration can be recalled from the distortion of form that the figures possesses. That Dumile Feni (1942 – 1991) has had such a strong influence on Mosopa. If the viewer does not pick this up, the viewer is blocked from proceeding forward with the viewing of the present piece in its truest sense in that the dark mood of the piece may become cumbersome to deal with.
Dumile, through his art, spoke of the harsh reality of apartheid South Africa in 60s, by the 70s his artistic style approach evolved into a technical-mechanical-dexterity as he exited the cocoon that characterizes expressionism and surrealism twinned in his work and bellied here in Seemo Sa Boraro 2008. Having established that the figures are bound for work and School, one can only suppose that the only point of concentration that keeps these beings going to and fro with the train everyday is the yearn for a better life. When I first saw this piece for the first time the artist has hinted on one fact concerning the use of public transport with regard to the train
‘That the commuters lose their identity once they are inside the train coaches especially those traveling third class. They are subjected to pick pocketing and clothes ruffling as if insignificant, meanwhile they are the power tools, the lifeline of the City that they commute to everyday of the week or the academic institutions they are students at’
Such is the potential energy held in suspension in ‘Seemo Sa Boraro’. It is indeed a tense piece. This is apparent in the somber-grotesque facial features of the people: one holding their bag tightly closed, another thrusting forward from the back with a left arm while the surrounding five figures look on with muted facial expression perhaps meditating on the final destination.
Presently Mosopa points out: ‘People from different walks of life came together, brought by class. 3rd class in the train is the lowest class. Every coach is always over crowded, and it’s getting more and more crowded. In the morning and late after noon, every day, you can’t move…, you’re tired…you feel as if you’re suffocating…, you can’t breathe. The over crowding of people is also a metaphor of how houses in the locations are so squashed together.’
© mmutle arthur Kgokong 2009