Meet Ronald Kegomoditswe, a 20 year old twin who is between the crossroads of the law profession and following his dreams of becoming one of the greatest fine artists to be uprooted from Africa. Born and raised in the sleepy town of Selebi Phikwe, Botswana and the youngest member of a family of 8,Ronald tells shares his story of the including his single mother who raised all her children and showed support from the beginning of identifying his passion.
So Ron, you now define yourself as an amateur artist, tell us when the passion begun
I started at the age of 5, doing art from the tender age of 5, I grew up with people who were good with what they were doing – making, crafting wire cars and moulding. So those guys we were much more into making wire cars because we wanted to play. I didn’t know how to make them. And there was a rule that everyone had to learn how to craft a car from wires. So the first time I tried to make a car, it was ugly it didn’t balance well. So I kept on trying until I did it. And to my surprise I became one of the best wire car makers in my hood.
We usually use to compete then from there I had a passion to draw because in our class there were guys who used to draw but I usually didn’t join them. I used to brag and say ‘you guys I can beat you’ .From there they started to tell me that if you could beat us lets compete. But instead when I get home I would steal my twin brothers drawings as he was better than me at that time. So I will take them to school then they will say ‘okay you know how to draw’ but one day they noticed the trick and said ‘no man you would have to prove yourself’. So I took a pencil and paper and to my own surprise I did a better drawing that was more beautiful than my twin brothers.
I took it from there I entered competitions, even though I never got position 1. I got position 2,3 that on its own motivated me. And my mother was there to support me. She kept on telling to do and that, unlike my brothers, they wanted me to venture into other things apart from art because they did art at school so they say that art is not selling in Botswana. Those are some of the things I went through and apart from that and art school my teachers supported me from junior school to senior school where I got A* grading in art. And people around me especially my Facebook friends are people who motivated me. There are a lot of times when I wanted to quit doing art, and instead of doing art I will do things like writing, reading, also instead of being an artist I wanted to be a lawyer but then again art is my calling you see. It’s my calling.
Let us talk about your support system; you said that your mother was really there to support you. In terms of support what form was it?
It was just the word of mouth. I use to hustle for myself, the material – everything that I needed. But what I appreciate from her is that she didn’t criticize me she just kept on saying continue doing what you’re doing especially because I brought presents at home from school and competitions. So she was happy with that. But because of our background (were not rich you see?) So she didn’t support me financially but her word of mouth was just enough. I got material from the school, the classmates. But there was a time when I was in junior school, I used to not get my Setswana papers from the teacher because every time I finished writing I will turn back the answer sheet then I will draw something so that made my teacher angry. She never gave me my papers and she went to my art teacher and I was banned for 3 weeks from the art lab. However I was still one of the best art students. My colleagues would usually bring me my materials so I could continue my projects.
So basically teachings on your art are learned from school?
Yes, well I got the foundation from school but it was not that much. Right now I watch videos on YouTube, I get skills on how other artists – techniques from other artists around the world. But the person who is teaching me how to oil paint is my role model Wilson Ngoni, he always comments on my pictures, he talks to me and advises.
Are there any other role models you look up to internationally?
I have a problem with international artist but i have to appreciate that I’m learning something from them. But I think that I have to look up to someone who is making it locally first. I believe that in Botswana we have talent so we can produce our own Pablo Picasso’s, our own Salvador Dali. Looking up to someone who is local – especially Wilson Ngoni is good because I can just talk to him and he manages to give me feedback, unlike Pablo Picasso he is no longer here. For example always quote what Wilson Ngoni is saying because he is always there to add salt to his words. unlike those guys, I read a lot about them but the personal factor isn’t there. They are not always there to add salt when I need the condiment. So it is very important for me to look up to someone you who can reach out to directly.
You said that earlier on you have a twin brother, and your twin also does artwork?
He used to but we went to different schools so that thing influenced us not to follow the same path. But he used to and I believe that sometimes he’s the one who usually guides me, he gives me advice, but he is more into performing arts that fine arts.
You said that you wanted to study law, are you in university right now doing so?
I finished my form 5 in 2013, but my points didn’t allow me to go to tertiary that’s why I had to supplement but next year I want to study fine arts, but apart from that I would study law.
Recently, there was a special reporter from the UN who wanted to assess arts and cultural rights in the country. She said that in order for Botswana to move forward, needs to embrace cultural diversity especially in arts and culture. Do you believe in her statement?
I believe in her statement and I believe that the artists in Botswana are the only people that can sell to the outside world. As they say a picture paints thousands of words. So it’s high time we take art and fine artists seriously because yes, as I said we are the only guys who can sell our art to the outside world. Unlike singers, as its difficult because music, especially traditional music- i appreciate that it sells our culture but outside they do not understand the words, but with art they can interpret the painting and make their own statements, adding their views and conclusions to our culture.
There are possibly a lot of younger people that want to get into the art field, and your an amateur yourself in terms of your experience. What is one piece of advice you would give to people in the same pot as you?
For you to be an artist you need to be strong, brave and protective in your own art. You need to know what you want. There are people who don’t have dreams, and those people are the same people who criticize people with dreams so they can lose their hopes and passions and turn into things they never wanted to be, so pay no attention to such people. Know what you want and have principles and goals. Link yourself with the right people who do what you do. For example on Facebook i am surrounded by artists and writers. These people motivate me. Imagine if I was surrounded by engineers or accountants. You know when I post something they wouldn’t enjoy what I’m saying because I’m not talking the same language with what they do. But if I say something about art I know that artists will comment and encourage me. So they should surround their selves with the right people who will motivate them
Doesn’t patience count?
Yes it counts, yesterday I went to Kanye artworks, I met a group of passionate artists there. And those guys for now are not selling anything. One thing that I like about them is they told me ‘Ron, you see that here is the collections of our paintings but we are patient , we will keep painting because we know one day our art will sell. So for now we paint. We cannot give up on our dreams.’