Meshu records his life story in a book

By: Sobukwe Mapefane
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Maseru- Meshu Mokitimi is Lesotho's most renowned artiste, who has inspired both the young and old from various walks of life, not only through his philosophical approach to life but also through his unique art style.

The biography has on record the most memorable moments and most prominent events in Meshu's life. Through the assistance of Gerard Mathot who is his business partner and friend, the stories told in the book were recorded and finally published as a book.

The biography details his experiences, the lessons he learnt and the challenges he faced as well as how he has come to perceive life through expressing himself as result of the inspiration of love and art.

"A life lived in Love Meshu Mokitimi: How I remember my first 90 years as told to Gerard Mathot" is the name of the wonderful work of art of the globally recognized African Expressionist.

Public Eye Online sat down with the art guru to get insight about the book and to understand what impact art has made in his life as well as the people around him.

"First and foremost I thrive in art and I have a theory that art lives forever but life is quite short, so I know that there will be an end of the road for my life and my contribution to the world of art with my life will assist in the collective human endeavours. Through this I hope to express human love and how humans should learn to tolerate each other on a daily basis as we cannot wish each other away.

"From the experiences that I have captured in the book, people will discover how I have presented love as a channel that is both cheap and productive when dealing with problems that cannot be immediately dealt with," he said.

The book was published on the 18th of March 2016 after close to a year of compiling it. Among the major challenges that they faced was that of the precise recall of past events, as the aged Meshu would mismatch events and the exact years in which the events happened.

"Gerard started recording the stories as I told him a while back but we only started compiling the book last year. I would find that I remember a series of events and then fail to write them down, while sometimes I would confuse dates of when the events happened.

"The process took time but it was fulfilling when everything was set in order because I really didn't want to misquote myself and give information that is not precise," Mokitimi added.

All in all, the manner in which the book was compiled was by way of recalling past events, verifying them and then recording them as they are.

The events entail interactions with his very big family, his involvement in politics after meeting Ntsu Mokhehle, his achievements as a fine artiste, the high profiled people he met globally and what he has reaped from being a lover of art in general.

Because Mathot was the recorder and writer of the prospective events that took place in Meshu's life, he too shared his experiences while compiling the book and what the main inspiration behind putting the untold history out for the public to read was.

"My first point of contact with him was because he is an artiste and I love art. I was also upset that he had to walk around with his art under his arm, which is when we came up with a working arrangement whereby I would help him sell the art for what it is worth.

"As time went by we would get into very productive arguments, where we would share our views about various topics and ultimately I learned that he has a lot of experience that is very valuable.

"In this discovery I also learnt that he played a very influential role in Lesotho's struggle for independence, which inspired me to start recording all the stories he told me. He then told me his stories about his time in prison, his interactions with Mokhehle, his role in the BCP youth league, the times he was arrested and also how he fought for his rights non-violently by the use of words," Mathot said.

According Mathot, for anyone who wants to understand where Lesotho is now, listening to Mokitimi's life story can shed great light as he was there for the most part of the struggle.

He stated that in his 45 years in Lesotho he has been fighting for Basotho and art, something that he will not stop doing.

The compilation of the book started in December 2014 and was completed in June 2015.

The Dutch national further stated that the experience for him of the compilation process was a memorable adventure as they would have coffee at 11,00am and then listen to the stories while recording.

After the session he would go home and write it in a formal context then proof read together with Mokitimi.

Ultimately, he stated that after the compilation they decided on the structure, the pictures that would go in the book and finally they got assistance from Thabang Ella Matsoasele for the editing.

As a message to young artistes that are aspiring to prosper Mokitimi advised that they should not doubt themselves and their work no matter what the circumstances may be, because not everyone will appreciate their work.

"When times are hard young artiste should just be very steadfast, they must be perseverant against all odds and, most importantly, they should never ever doubt themselves.

"Amongst the many artistes that inspired me while growing in the field is a late Nigerian artiste called Twin 77 and Ephraim Ngatane, a South African artiste, I occasionally exchanged work with. The way they conducted themselves and behaved was very inspiring. There are also Eurocentric artistes that I read about like Vango, Picasso and others who I managed to pursue," he said.

Parts of the recordings include how Meshu was introduced to art at 12 years of age through clay moulding of animals with his minor peers. Because his work had more detail, it caught the eyes of many locals.

The work was then presented to an English Anglican Sister who was well schooled in art and showed great interest in Meshu so much that she mentored him by giving him training in basic art skills.

As an 18-year-old he moved to South Africa where he joined a circus and continued to do animal crafts, but because his love for art had grown so much he enrolled in Achimota College in Ghana to study design.

This is where he learnt about sculpture, woodcarving and effigies of Africa in depth until he developed his own unique African expressionist art style that mostly revolves around Basotho culture, which the world now knows him for.

In his journey he came across the likes of legendary American jazz musician Miles Davis, who purchased some of his works during his visit in America.

He has shaken hands with former American President Bill Clinton and some of his work is used as decor hung on the walls of many embassies and government buildings across Europe as well as America.

Through art he has also travelled to places like Israel, India, Nepal, Italy and France where he travelled to exhibit his work as one of the most prolific African artistes.

Above all Meshu's philosophy is intertwined with the strong connection between the expression of love and art.

"Art and love are those human entities that are not costly, that are not necessarily cheap but are there for us to utilize in our everyday endeavours." Mokitimi further stated.


Thuso Green

2016-05-28 05:21:30
Where does one get the book?
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