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Rasta's celebrity portraits complicate our ways of seeing

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Lebani Sirenje, better known as Rasta, is a painter best known for his portraits of South African public figures. (Photo: Sihle Mthembu/ Supplied)
Lebani Sirenje, better known as Rasta, is a painter best known for his portraits of South African public figures. (Photo: Sihle Mthembu/ Supplied)

Rasta sits at the bottom of the stairs on a jungle gym. Tall and lanky, he has to fold his legs like a pretzel to find a comfortable angle. Around him are a crew of friends and collaborators from Hillbrow Radio, where he has found a studio, and the encouragement of empathy for his vision. Most of them sit on camp chairs and are already a few beers deep when I arrive. It's Rasta's birthday party, but the 43-year old seems to be the one least excited about it. They're just setting up the sound when I arrive and before long, the DJ starts playing a house set that kicks off with a soulful remix of N’Dinga Gaba and Sahfee's Summer breeze. 

"I always feel overwhelmed on my birthday because it's not just my birthday, it's also the day I met my wife. It's a day I always like to reflect on, and be with family."

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