When rain clouds gather…

27th September 2017
LET IT RAIN: Snaps from Charles’s photographic exhibition Source:The Midweek Sun


By Sun Reporter - Reporter

A photographic exhibition titled Maruapula by Thalefang Charles is currently on show at the Thapong Arts Centre gallery until the 4th October. It boasts 30 awe-inspiring images taken over a period of five years. Charles notes that Maruapula coincides with September (Lwetse in Setswana – the month of sick clouds). Pula is not only currency, but also that rain is an integral part of the life of any Motswana. Rain perhaps resonates differently with people, but essentially, it has a personal significance. Most of the images are of veldts, roads and settlements but all capture clouds in different motions.

Like most Batswana, Charles was raised in a village, playing nkgodisa and the likes. From a young age he had to know which side the clouds were coming from because if the dark clouds were rising from Mogatsapoo (south west of Serowe) he had to run home because that would be pula ya matlakadibe (storm). One cannot help but conjure images of a young Charles, beady eyes staring at the sky, shaking at the grumbling of the clouds and running home, chest puffed out, dirty feet making strides to arrive home before the first pelt of rain hits the ground.

“When the thundering storm approached, I had to remember to cover mirrors in the house before the lightening saw its reflection, got angry and struck our house.” He further says that as a small child, rain brought joy and inconveniences. In Setswana traditional custom, when we exchange greetings or pleasantries, we ask about rain. We are a nation that prays for rain. Furthermore, “We come from a history of people who boasted rainmakers – and rain is associated with happiness and prosperity, but lack of it with hunger, frustration and even death,” as Charles states. He says that the title Maruapula, has a literal meaning but each image has a unique story behind it. “I have been following clouds, storms for a while and I felt it was time to present them.” Charles shares that the picture that has special significance is Matlakadibe.

“As small boys we knew that when matakadibe comes, you must run home.” Charles, who is also the author of the book Botswana’s Top 50 Ultimate Experiences, says that that he loves good stories. “A few years ago I discovered that I could retell stories with pictures. Photography is a powerful medium to tell stories. Everything has a story: trees, animals, roads, clouds, places… and obviously, people. The Internet has also brought out the storytellers in us.” He says that the arts deserve support and investment. “I have been using my own money to finance my projects but received help in some.” He further says that artists should utilise the resources at their disposal to boost their profile. “I encourage young people to publish their art through online mediums. I say to young artists, ‘Keep publishing what you already have and compete with your best. Be your biggest critic but don’t let anyone tear you down.”

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