Thebe Phetogo

1 FEB 2021 – 30 APR 2021

Bag Factory is delighted to announce that Thebe Phetogo (Botswana) will undertake a fully-funded residency at the Bag Factory from 1 Feb – 30 Apr 2021. This residency is part of Art Connection Africa, a cooperation of KfW Stiftung and Triangle Network to foster visual art exchanges, capacity building and informal learning activities within Sub-Sahara Africa.

Thebe Phetogo (*1993 in Serowe, Botswana) is a painter currently living and working in Gaborone, Botswana. He obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art in 2017 and a Master of Fine Arts with distinction in 2019 from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, South Africa. To date, Phetogo has had two solo exhibitions in South Africa and Nigeria as well as participating in several group exhibitions in Botswana and South Africa. Phetogo was a 2019 Cassirer Welz Award finalist, a 2020 Emerging Painting Invitational Prize finalist and participated in the Arthouse Foundation residency in Lagos, Nigeria in early 2020. Thebe Phetogo is also a founding member of The Botswana Pavilion artist collective.

Artist Statement

The current trajectory of my work in painting stems from ideas developed during my years spent as a Motswana artist working from a place of dislocation outside of the country of my birth and the specific positionality that lies therein. The sphere of painting and its vast history acts as a stand-in for history and the world-at-large. From my specific vantage I use painting to locate and build a space for myself within the gaps – both known and perceived – of this history as a subject and participant of the contemporary moment.
Each of us “makes ‘the world’ from the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life; from available data; frames of reference; from the social, the cultural and the ideological”. In other words, it is our positionality that allows us to imagine each of our own immediate worlds, rendering all other worlds secondary. In my work, I endeavour to make the specific “world-version” I carry visible.
A reoccurring subject in my work is found in my blackbody series. The title is adopted from the eponymous concept in physics, whereby a blackbody is “an idealized, hypothetical perfect physical body and absorber and radiator of all electromagnetic energy, with no reflecting power”. The idea of a different origin story, definition and readability for a black body is of interest to me in relation to current figurative painting. The namesake concept exists on a spectrum and in my own adaptation, I take advantage of this malleability and try to visualize the possibilities of this spectrum.