Since he opened his own art gallery in Woodstock in January 2018, Muso Masoabi has come a long way from the talented natural science student he was at the University of the Free State 8 years ago. On what drew him to contemporary art he says, ‘It was more of a calling I guess, in the beginning I didn’t even know the difference, it kind of chose me I didn’t chose it. It was more of a passion to give the world what it doesn’t have. That’s when I taught myself how to paint and be inventive.’
After his success with the Sotho inspired ‘Kabeloamanong’ portrait series and his latest showcase at Design Indaba 2018, the celebrated and self taught contemporary artist spoke to House & Garden about his past, his achievements and shared his creative inspirations.
Which materials do you use to create your art?
Everything I can get my hands on, I have made a painting with a tooth brush years ago when I couldn’t afford materials, and I have painted in different ways using charcoal, oil, acrylic, watercolour, tea bags and more.
Do you have a favourite piece? What is the story behind it?
Yes I have two, it’s the first portrait I made and the second one is a piece I painted in memory of Emmanuel Sithole, who was a victim of xenophobia in Alexandra Johannesburg in 2015. It is displayed at (UCLA) University of Los Angeles Califonia United States.
They are both part of a series that I call “Kabeloamanong” a southern sotho phrase which I picked up in Lesotho, where I was born and where my father was exiled from Port Elizabeth in the 80’s.
What was the biggest obstacle you have faced on your career path?
I wouldn’t really call them obstacle I am a man of faith and I believe that without Goliath there wouldn’t be King David. If Jesus was never crucified we wouldn’t know of him. For gold to be purified it has to go through fire, it’s only a distinction to what is real and what is not. When I started there were many of us who didn’t make it this far, so I am grateful for the obstacles because they made me who I am. I wouldn’t mention them because I overcame them.
What is you biggest art influencer/favourite artist?
Life experience and Martin Masoabi, he is not well known but his work is displayed at the University of free state where he studied his masters. When I was BSC student there I wouldn’t attend classes just to go see his painting he is my uncle and he raised me. When I was young he used to ask me to critique his work. Though he doesn’t really know where I am now or what I am doing, we are both alike in a way and if we meet we get along very well. I hope he reads this.
What are top three interesting places has your art taken you?
I have been invited to UCLA. I physically didn’t make it because of visa requirements but my work did. I was also endorsed to go to Venice Biennale which i couldn’t attend either, but I don’t really complain as long as my work is in 3 different continents. The journey still continues.
If not a contemporary artist, what would you be?
A pastor. I hate injustice and I believe the only place that justice can be found is in God’s Throne. Usually when people ask me which political party would I vote for even though my grandfather (Orapeleng Mosia) is a political veteran who was in the first group to be send to Robben Island with the PAC leaders, I tell them none, I am hoping for the kingdom of God to come soon for the one of men has failed.