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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Artist visits to work on Family Literacy Lesotho project

Published: November 20, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

<i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

Before last week, artist Peter Maphatsoe had never travelled outside of southern Africa. This week he got a taste of North American culture and shared a bit of his own culture at the same time.

Maphatsoe displayed his paintings in an exhibition in Montreal, Canada last week and has spent several days at Brandeis, visiting classes and sharing his passion for art with the Brandeis and Waltham community. How’s that for an introduction to North America?

The artist has spent most of his life in his native Lesotho and started experimenting with art at an early age. When he was 14 years old, Maphatsoe became the first Mosotho (Lesotho native) to create carvings from the aloe wood characteristic of his country, selling his art on the street to survive.

In 2007, he founded the Children’s Art Organisation of Lesotho to provide materials, instruction and encouragement to local children.

Maphatsoe would soon partner his organization up with the newly-founded Professor Jane Hale’s (FREN) Family Literacy Lesotho.

In an e-mail message to The Hoot, Hale said that Family Literacy Lesotho’s mission is to encourage the “creation of the first children’s picture books about Lesotho in the Sesotho language and put them in the homes of Basotho children.”

Maphatsoe illustrates a number of Family Literacy Lesotho’s children’s books and is the key representative of Hale’s work with family literacy in Lesotho when she’s not there.

Maphatsoe has stayed on campus with Kenny Altidor ’10, who is helping Hale with a children’s book project in Haitian Creole to go along with the project in Lesotho.

While at Brandeis, the now 25-year-old artist has taken part in several events, visited courses in comparative literature, anthropology and studio art, has attended student archery practice, and has eaten on- and off- campus with Brandeis students.

Maphatsoe stopped by the Lemberg Children’s Center to teach children about Lesotho and do a mural with them, visited the Rose Art Musuem with Professor Mark Auslander’s “Cross Cultural Arts and Aesthetics” course and students from Waltham Family Literacy School to kick off the international language component of a cell phone tour of the Rose. He was also the featured guest at a Chum’s Coffee House and displayed his art while offering hands-on activities in the Shapiro Campus Center. He will head back to Lesotho this Sunday after a send-off potluck at Hale’s home.