The brave little lion

The brave little lion

Every now and then, one of the stories in the avalanche of bad news gets to me. It was like that with Pinky Mosiane, the murdered toddlers in Diepsloot, and Anene Booysen.

Now there is a new name to add to the litany of horror South Africa is so good at generating: Kutlwano Garesape. This six year old boy saved his mother from a rapist and paid with his life. 32 year old Teselo Dikole has been arrested for attempted rape and murder.

This is the most comprehensive report on what happened, and the most heartbreaking.

“Thabiso was scared but Kutlwano kept on defending me,” his mother Segomotso Garesape told the reporter. “I could feel that the man was pulling up my skirt with his other hand and realised that wanted to rape me in front of my children.”

It is these words that haunt me:

“I picked Kutlwano up and held him to my chest. He was full of blood and his hands were cut as he tried to defend himself. He told me to hold him and I sat down on the railway line and held him to my chest.

“He asked me to kiss him and I did. He then stretched out his hand to his brother.”

As with the others, I felt the urge to express how I felt in images rather than words. I wanted to pay tribute to Kutlwano and his incredible bravery. Initially, I wanted to paint his smiling, dimpled face as a sun. But the imprecision of lipstick and the fact that the smallest miscalculation can ruin a portrait led to a frustrating hour of work last night where I ended up abandoning everything.

This is work in progress before I started from scratch:

Kutlwano fought like a little lion, and he was on his way to the Tau-Di-Rora school – Tau is the Tswana word for lion – so in the end, I erased the portrait and depicted him as a little lion instead.

Thematically, this painting is part of the I will not be afraid of the dark series. The darkness in this case was figurative, of course, as Kutlwano died in broad daylight, on his way to school. The text reads – “the little lion will face the darkness and be brave”. Last night I wrote a more strongly worded piece about how I felt and I may publish it. In the mean time, the painting sums up my feelings.