Pretoria – With a solid following of over 32,000 Twitter users and arguably the painter talked about in the streets of South Africa, it’s easy to understand why Libani Thaka Sirenje, aka Rasta, describes herself on her Twitter account as “The best painter classified in SA”.
He put languages afloat with his not-so-striking portrayal of beloved SABC news anchor Leanne Manas in October for the TV personality’s 46th birthday.
While the “Leanne Manas portrayal” was leading trends in South Africa and neighboring countries, the Morning Live presenter also joked, “Thank you very much, Rasta. I really enjoyed my birthday! Who is the lady in the photo? She has a very unique look. I love your job, sir ”- flying the streets of Twitter.
Rasta’s brush certainly recognizes no boundaries. He painted almost everyone that matters, from the revered religious Archbishop Desmond Tutu to the man occupying the Union buildings – President Cyril Ramaphosa.
As if scribbling the face of the country’s first citizen wasn’t enough, the brave Rasta also included the shy first lady of the media, Dr Tshepo Motsepe, in one of the portraits.
In September, Rasta painted the mighty Johannesburg preacher and businessman, Prophet Paseka “Mboro” Motsoeneng, and captioned the portrait “Take him to church”.
Rasta painted images of one of Africa’s richest men, Patrice Motsepe, and rocked Twitter.
Even the late apartheid ant defender George Bizos and street genius “Ginimbi” Kadungure were honored with Rasta’s bold brush posthumously.
In an exclusive interview, Rasta showed confidence, saying his mind is never crushed by critics as he has gathered thousands of staunch followers who appreciate his works.
“Some people criticize just because it was Rasta who made a painting. If the same painting is posted by someone, or if I say that I was not the one who painted, then I will say, yes it is better than the work of Rasta. I saw and experienced it. Sometimes people think it’s me, when I wasn’t the one who did (some of the) paintings. For me, I hear my criticisms, ”said Rasta.
“Each of us is criticized. If you listen to Cassper Nyovest when he releases his songs, some say it’s kwaito or hip-hop or Afrosoul… People will criticize anyway. Who am I? Even the ministers or the president, when they give a speech, people then start criticizing. So with the reviews, I just read them, take the constructive ones, and move on.
Rasta, whose father was from Mozambique, said he painted since childhood on the dusty streets of the town of Pumula, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He said his grandmother is the heroine who spotted his talent with the brush from an early age.
“I can say that for 24 years now as a professional artist, I started a long time ago when I was seven. My grandmother from Plumtree, in rural Zimnyama, used to come to Bulawayo, Pumula East, every season when the school closes. She would come and buy plain white fabrics and then I would draw animals, flowers, birds and she would follow up with different colors of yarns and make pretty patterns for sofas and table design fabrics for sale, ”recounted Rasta.
“From there, my grandmother, NaKhebheni, told everyone, including my mom, that this boy was going to be an artist. I think she was also a craft artist because she also made these African mats made of grass with designs. Growing up in school we had no art at Ingwegwe Primary School, but in our free time we drew wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior. I sold my drawings to my classmates and my teachers asked for help with the graphics. So I was a bit of a celebrity at the time.
The young Rasta attended Magwegwe High School, where he had the opportunity to hone his artistic skills.
Rasta said his daughters, Angel, 16, and Angelic, 6, are now following in his footsteps. The self-taught painter said he is not looking for controversy, although it seems to follow each of his works of art.
“I can say with certainty that we were born with it and I am a self-taught artist. Art is my vocation because I was born to make art. Controversy follows me as I started painting public places a long time ago when there was no Twitter or that social media. No one knew me, but I was there. It’s just that my paintings have become controversial. I didn’t push them there.
African News Agency (ANA)