When big news breaks, that’s when he gets out his paintbrush! Whether it’s politicians or celebrities, if people are talking about them, he’ll paint them.
Zimbabwean-born artist Lebani “Rasta” Sirenje uses trending topics to attract potential clients, and with his recent portrait of Harry and Meghan, he hopes to catch the attention of the royal couple.
“I thought let me do a painting of them as I usually do with the others – I try to celebrate everyone who has done something. So, I thought that as an artist it would be the perfect opportunity to paint a portrait of these legends,” he tells YOU.
Rasta often gets flak from trolls on social media with many calling him a fraud and calling him out on his botched painting jobs.
“People react when they see my paintings. They don't take them seriously sometimes but it’s my career and I have to make something out of it. I have been criticised so much that I can’t be bothered by it now.”
Before the pandemic, you’d usually find Rasta at funerals and memorials of well-known people, painting a portrait of the deceased in the hopes that the family would admire his gesture and buy his artwork.
Now he works from his studio in Berea, Johannesburg, where he paints every day and uses social media as his marketing tool. But just a week before Valentine's Day Rasta ran out of paint, forcing him to take ask his followers for donations so he could buy more.
When he finally laid his hands on some paint, he decided to take advantage of Harry and Meghan’s pregnancy announcement.
“It nearly took me a day to complete the painting,” Rasta says.
He worked for 10 hours straight and managed to complete the painting in time to post it online while the news was still trending.
“It was a good story because they made the announcement on Valentine’s Day. I thought doing it could help me catch a much bigger audience. I’ve been checking my DMs and people are congratulating me, saying I’ve done a great job, so I’m hopeful it will reach Harry and Meghan, or maybe someone would like to buy it.”
At the moment he’s painting a portrait of legendary South African boxing promoter Mzimasi Mnguni who died recently.
Rasta has high hopes for his portraits, and even though they’re mostly found only on social media timelines, he hopes people will buy them.
“I need my paintings to be treasured in offices and galleries. Or they could be hung in parliament.”
Never say never, right?