I work with collages involving mainly the iconoclastic process of uprooting images from mass produced print media and proposing alternative realities through reconstruction of hallucinated images. My work is made with the intention to generate propaganda as a means to reject the certainty of the normal/ the reasonable often presented by hegemonic representations of ‘reliable sources’.
Thato Toeba, 2021.
The word “identity” is definable as the sum total of related or unrelated elements that make up the constitution of an individual, or as the qualities possessed by a person or a group of people that differentiates them from other individuals or groupings.
This single word — encapsulating and encompassing so much — forms a key element to Thato Toeba’s work, with the exploration of identity continuously at the forefront of their design ethos. Toeba is a contemporary artist whose creative expression lives at the site of multiplicity, primarily exploring through digital collage art as well as other mediums within their arsenal of work.
I Love You Brenda, nd.
It Takes a Convent to Raise a Chil, nd.
It feels as though she is somewhat of a historian or archivist at heart; journaling the stark consistencies, and contrasts, between histories already lived and futures yet to be discovered.
Their work — both in the space of art and that of law — is largely informed by her own lived experiences as a Black femme living in Lesotho and the histories it is in relationship with. What I find fascinating about Toeba’s work is its aim to conjure up propaganda in order to reject and rebel against what is deemed to be “the normal”.
You can sense this contrast within the different graphics and imagery that make up the material space of their collage works, including a plethora of somewhat intentional conspiracy theories all designed to be in creative and conceptual dialogue with a wide range of political, social, and economic issues. Toeba and I connected — virtually — to talk through their artistic processes, Lesotho Archives, their religion and its functions, and more, within their work.
The Making of a Priest, nd.
Would you mind introducing yourself to our readers and including a short description of the type of work you do?
Thato Toeba: My name is Thato Toeba, I work in Maseru — where I’m from — as a researcher and artist. I work with collage art involving mainly the iconoclastic process of uprooting images from mass produced print media and proposing alternative realities through reconstruction of hallucinated images. My work is made with the intention to generate propaganda as a means to reject the certainty of the normal/ the reasonable often presented by hegemonic representations of “reliable sources”.
Most of your work is through the medium of collage art — focusing a lot on the human experience. Please talk us through why you’ve chosen collage art as your primary medium of artistic expression?
Thato Toeba: I am currently doing an LLD in international criminal law with the University of Western Cape. My collages emerged as a kind of counter-intuitive impulse to my academic experience and generally as a raised eyebrow to “reliable sources”, having been immersed in legal research and increasingly seeing how much of what is socially obeyed is hallucinated.
For me collage is an effective way to think through the world — my world — and the world assigned to me because it is nonsensical and disobedient to order and it allows for a critique of these worlds to happen simultaneously with fantasies of how they can be reconstructed.
We Will Smoke, nd.
Let’s talk about Lesotho Archives – where did the inspiration to launch this project come from?
Thato Toeba: Lesotho Archives came up because of my interest in the simplicity of being alive in this country (Lesotho). I wanted to find images that represented that simplicity, for me of course, and to kind of induct these images in some algorithmic stream on Instagram (which is my preferred corner of the internet).
As a religious kingdom, Lesotho is very specific about who it glorifies and who it ridicules. Lesotho Archives were meant to disturb these specific assignments while also highlighting the creative genius from our ancestors in a well curated way. It remains an open source for anyone interested in Maseru and its culture — but it is also an ongoing project with unknown possibilities.
Aside from the rich catalogue of your work available on IG, where else would you like to see your work living?
No Dishes Please, nd.
Religion, in all of its different forms and beliefs, seemingly informs a large portion of your work. Is this observation correct, and if so, why is this?
Thato Toeba: Religion, while being a prominent theme in my work right now, is not the centre of it. When I go through print material to source out “characters” for my collages I find that images I connect to and usually excavate, are those which I know, or can relate to. This is the story with catholic iconography in my work. My family is catholic and I grew up catholic in a catholic school with all the catholic rituals performed for me.
I have a complicated relationship with religion but it is part of my conscience even if I don’t agree with it. In a way, the feature of religion in my collages is a fraction of the bigger realisation that the relationship with colonial things is a little more complicated, because all of these things at the end of the day are a sum of my social culture.
What is next in store for you in 2021 — do you have any exciting future plans which we can look forward to?
Thato Toeba: I hope to only rest for the rest of the year.
Things Fall Apart, nd.
Ke Balaisoa Thupa, nd.
Ngoana Parague, nd.
Jesu Kriste, nd.
Swimming Pool, nd.
I Love You, Marry Me, nd.