Meet Itumeleng Motswetla, the visual artist behind “Mandela in Botswana” postage stamps

  • It was a proud moment for me and the people around me, says the artist
  • Her motive is to produce masterpiece after masterpiece


Driven by passion, visual artist Itumeleng Motswetla’s creative skills take centre stage in the latest set of Botswana Post’s stamps titled “Mandela in Botswana.”

Now in circulation, the stamps highlight the significance of the time the late former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, spent in Lobatse in the 1960s during his fight against apartheid. Motswetla won the bid to create two paintings of Mandela after a rigorous auditioning by Botswana Post with two other visual artists.

“My recent work with Botswana Post is definitely one of the biggest milestones in my art career,” the 22-year old artist told Time Out in an interview. “It’s a quantum leap towards the best version of Itumeleng the artist. It was a proud moment for me and the people around me. Throughout the designing process I couldn’t where my talent was taking me.”
Through the postage stamps, Botswana Post signifies the role that Botswana, even as a lowly British protectorate, played in aiding and facilitating the struggle for freedom in apartheid South Africa.

Between December 1961 and July 1962, Mandela sought refuge in a small incomplete house in the Lobatse township of Peleng. The house belonged to the Kanye-born “Robin Hood of Newclare,” Fish Keitseng, a Motswana trade union activist and politician who had left his hometown for South Africa aged 23 to worked in South African mines and eventually recruited into the African National Congress (ANC).

Keitseng is counted among icons who played a crucial role in the struggle against apartheid. His comrade-in-arms Nelson Mandela is hailed a global hero for his immense contribution to the liberation of South Africa and eventually uniting the world through his message of peace despite his 27 years of incarceration on Robben Island and Pollsmoor Prison.

Motswetla specialises in oil painting, acrylic painting as well as pencil, charcoal and recycled art. She works with anything that she can draw creativity from. Her role was to draw two official stamp designs of a younger and an older Mandela while another creative, Onica Lekuntwane, did the graphic works.

Said Motswetla: “Both paintings took me about a week to complete and I did my best to produce the beast artworks. I am a strong believer in client satisfaction and believe I delivered and worked hard enough.”

Being among only a few female artists in the male-dominated field, the Palapye native says she aims to close the gender gap in art. Regarding the reality of being an artist in Botswana, Motswetla support for the craft has yet to grow and reach a peak yet. Pursuing art full time has also taught the young woman what talent and strategic hard work can achieve in the cutthroat industry.

Said she: “I highly value marketing because I have realised that people can’t support what they do not know. It is important as an artist to make yourself and your craft known, to show up at places with your best smile, to knock on doors and to never underestimate anyone.

“Recommendation through word-of-mouth goes a long way. Batswana have been supportive of my craft and I have never felt so overwhelmed by positive emotion. It is our job as artists to make our people discern the true value of art. It can be a form of communication between people to focus on common issues for the betterment of humankind.”

Motswetla grew up at Old Naledi in Gaborone where her mother became her biggest motivator. “I was never fed from a silver spoon,” she recalled. “My mother raised me single-handedly. She worked hard and inspired me to do the same. She nurtured my talent and groomed me into the artist that I am today. She bought me colouring books and paint as a child and was there for my art business when I started early in 2018.”

Most of Motewetla’s artworks celebrate and embrace the beauty of the African woman. The fine artist specialises in oil painting and recycled art working with anything she can draw creativity from. She describes herself as a woman who never stops creating and always gets the job done. Her aim is to produce masterpiece after masterpiece.