Arts View

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Mar 2022 – May 2022

Oteng Keabetswe

Oteng Keabetswe – Visual Artist

Gaborone, Botswana

Oteng was born at the turn of the century. He is a self taught Motswana artist from Tutume which is within the Central district of Botswana. Oteng currently produces work that falls under the banners of hyper-realism and surrealism.

He is well known for his drawings which he constantly shares on social media and at art shows. Mainly using graphite pencil and paper, Oteng’s drawings depict portraits/figures exhibiting subtle emotions trapped within pencil shades.

He is currently in his 3rd year at University studying for a degree in Chemistry

AGN; When, where and how did your journey as an artist begin?

OK; I can’t specify a time when it all began. At some point I found myself drawing cartoon characters such as ‘Spiderman’ for friends. I recall experimenting with drawing while I was at primary school.

A lot of what I know and how I have been developing has been through self-study, experimentation and fellow artists who have acted as mentors.

AGN; Developing oneself as an artist is rarely easy. Did you feel like giving up at any point?

OK; Giving-up on art isn’t something that has crossed my mind. If anything I thought about giving-up on my studies in order to pursue art more extensively. Art is my sanctuary and happy place.

My parents are not formally educated and have not tried to push me in one direction or another.

They are supportive of me doing whatever will enable me fulfill my ambitions. I’m grateful to have been raised in such a relaxed environment as I feel it has helped me find myself more easily without fear of disappointing them.

AGN; Who would you say is the person that has been most instrumental to your personal development
as an artist?

OK; I would say my secondary school art teacher, Mr Saidoo has been most instrumental in my development. He not only educated me on artistic principles and disciplines but he also introduced me to clients.

AGN; In light of what you now know about the challenges artists face to establish themselves, is there anything you would like to see introduced in order to help lighten the load?

OK; I feel more needs to be done in terms of creating more facilities for artists to be able to exhibit their work and specifically where young people are concerned, more resources put towards training and development would be beneficial. There are many places that seem closed to us youngsters. Often we lack the vocabulary or know-how about how to structure our communications in order to engage effectively.

AGN; In terms of your artistic influences, who do you admire most and why?

OK; Jono Dry is my greatest influence. His concepts and composition are on another level that I find quite captivating.

AGN; Where do you draw inspiration from?

OK; I derive inspiration from my early childhood and everyday life. As a child I was always moving around. I lived with different people and all of these experiences coloured my outlook on life and provide a rich well of inspiration for me to draw on.


AGN; It has been said most of your work are portraits. Why do you predominantly produce this sort of work?

OK; At first it was due to market forces, that is where demand was greatest. Later, I came to realize that there were many more layers and levels to portraiture. There are so many emotions that are portrayed through facial expressions.

AGN; There are numerous artistic styles of which you prefer hyper-realism and surrealism. What is it about these styles that most appeals to you?

OK; I fell in love with how things are and hyper-realism provides a channel to convey this. Reality captured in detail through the artist’s eye and reflected back through a piece of work is quite fascinating. Surrealism speaks to me on a deeper level. I feel it is part of my creative subconscious and allows me to depict that which is not represented in the physical world. I feel happiest after completing a
surrealistic piece. It is the direction I am now gravitating to.

AGN; What do you seek to say through your work?

OK; I’m still finding my voice and what I wish to say as an artist. Most of my work is about emotions. I would like my art to be relatable and a source of comfort for those who experience it.

AGN; How would you characterize art from your region/country and is there a vocabulary used to define any aspects of it that is uniquely its own?

OK; In terms of my region performing arts is more commonplace, primarily music and dance. I’m not conversant with the vocabulary used. Which traditional materials to produce art are most utilized in your country and do you use any such materials in your work?

AGN; Which traditional materials to produce art are most utilized in your country and do you use any such materials in your work?

OK; Traditionally, in the past animal blood and clay where some of the base materials used. I don’t use any traditional materials now but it is something I intend to explore again in future.

AGN; How would you characterize the visual arts scene in your country and what can you share about your compatriots attitude to visual art?

OK; Most people are not that interested in visual art here so I wouldn’t say the scene is very vibrant. Exhibitions don’t tend to attract many people and don’t happen that often. The value of visual art is yet to be apparent to many people over here.

AGN; How do you develop an audience and seek out new artistic opportunities?

OK; Networking through attending exhibitions and using social media are the primary means through which I develop an audience. In terms of artistic opportunities, where personal portraits are concerned I first sought commissions through social media but as I became more established people started coming to me via recommendations.

In terms of my own work, I share them on social media and have sold about 15 pieces to people around the world since 2019. I am yet to devise a more concrete marketing strategy but it is something I plan to do in due course.

AGN; To what extent do you pay attention to artistic developments in other parts of the continent or the world?

OK; This is something I do as I feel it is enriching to gain insights from other places. I am particularly drawn to artistic developments in the West and within the Southern African region.

AGN; What should we expect to see from you in future?

OK; I am keen to engage in collaborations and to put on exhibitions. In terms of exhibitions I would like to do something that is unusual to find in Botswana

Previous ‘Arts View’ interviews are available here; archive

© 2022 All rights reserved - Ri Iyovwaye on behalf of African Global Networks (AGN) - Mar 2022