SWISS photographer Joel Tettamanti this past week held an exhibition to celebrate Basotho culture titled Kobo at Alliance Francaise in Maseru.
He exhibited portraits of Basotho living in the rural areas surrounding the Katse Dam. The subjects showcased different styles in which Basotho wear blankets, hence the title of the exhibition Kobo-a Sesotho word for blanket.
“The portraits focus on a distinctive trait of the community, their covers called Kobo in Sesotho. These covers protect their wearers from the rain and the cold but I felt they offer much more as every pattern is replete with meaning,” he told Xpress People on the sidelines of the event.
European Union (EU) Ambassador to Lesotho Michael Doyle, Alliance Francaise Director Remi Beghin and Morija Museum officials were among the guests at the event.
Tettamanti also said he spent a lot of his time in Lesotho and had been captivated by the Basotho culture hence his decision to capture it on camera.
“I lived in Roma for three years from 1979 as my parents were working at the hospital there. I went back to Switzerland but my father stayed behind and continued to work in different hospitals including Paray Hospital in Thaba Tseka,” he said.
“I often came to visit him and the things I saw kept playing in my mind hence I decided to work on the portraits and that was in 2013. I was captivated by the fact that the colonisers of Basotho people never managed to destroy the culture in the 19th century.
“I did this shoot because I noticed Lesotho is getting modern each day and I felt people with blankets will disappear and be forgotten. It was once a national dress but now it is worn in the rural areas only,” he said.
Tettamanti added the portraits had been well received in Europe as they were found to portray meaningful and simple lives.
“It was an amazing intense week while shooting them but a nice experience altogether as I was not used to shooting portraits especially using people that are not models.
“I was really surprised by the popularity of the images around the world, and fnow they have been published in Germany. People like the simplicity of these images and Europeans want to go back to this simple life,” he said.
He also said there each portrait had a different meaning and gave foreigners different information about Lesotho, adding: “They can be hung on walls as forms of decoration”.