The Journey of Watercolourist Segolame Kabo

Kabo’s art is celebrates the human presence and demonstrates her unbridled imagination and unerring technical skill


The year 2014 saw local watercolourist, Segolame Kabo, burst through the glass ceiling into the art scene that has historically been an exclusive boy’s arena. Today she is among only a few female watercolourists in the creative industry and is currently making waves with her works. Watercolour is a painting method in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-based solution. Watercolour refers to both the medium and the resulting artwork.

She explains: “Watercolour works best for me because I am influenced by impressionists like Claude Monet. I look at the light or your glow. The youth on social media are always talking about the facial glow, and I use that as colour emitted.”

This artist’s work is different in that she paints human faces, turning them into living, breathing portraits. As a teacher of art at Dikgatlho CJSS in Kudumatse, which is 42 kilometres from Mahalapye, Kabo teaches the art of perseverance to her art students and people who take an interest in pursuing a career in art.

“Ever since I drew the portrait of my primary school teacher back in the day, I am always thrilled by the impression that I am able to create every time I paint a person. I love it. I can get a person’s personality as I interact verbally with them. And if I am commissioned to create a surprise portrait of someone’s loved one, I need to be told a bit about them so I may capture their aura,” the Palapye native said.

While facial paintings seem to be in abundance, from the nationalistic to replica decoratives and illustrations, Kabo’s meticulously executed portraits offer something more. They command attention for their detail and powerful message. This year, she is looking forward to staging her first solo exhibition either in Gaborone or Maun. The current lockdown is a blessing in disguise for this artist who is currently hard at work producing masterpieces.

“I am still brainstorming the title of my exhibition,” she says. “The name will not be anything political, feminist or discriminatory. I will come up with something that describes contemporary events. I have participated in exhibitions paired with other artists at Bodutu Gallery at Vaal University (in South Africa) and it is my time to go solo.”

Kabo has pursued art from a young age at Serorome Primary School and Palapye Senior Secondary School where she chose to study art. In 1996, she followed art to Molepolole College of Education before joining Vaal University of Technology for her degree in B Tech Fine Art in 2014. While she was pursuing her degree, she started a side hustle in oil painting and watercolour, targeting famous faces in order to build her brand without much ado.

“It’s been three years since I returned home and my brand is taking shape,” she said from Mahalapye where she is now based. “My plan is to offer art lessons to the youth but I need financial assistance. Botswana’s art is still at an infancy stage but people love art. There are talented artists but the market is still underdeveloped. When I was in South Africa, I charged treble what I charge now but I was still undercharging. If we had art education and awareness, maybe people would take art as an investment. I would hate to have to relocate just because art is not much regarded here.”