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Tjotji breaks barriers

by Lesotho Times

Nthatuoa Koeshe

THE sarcastic, rude and funny cartoon character Tjotji which has taken social media by storm in Lesotho has broken barriers on the continent after getting recognition from some top African cartoonists who uploaded the strips on the Cartoons Africa website.

Tjotji is a typical shepherd-like animated Mosotho character who is well known for his mean, bold and self-centred acts. He was brought to life by cartoonist, creative writer, graphic designer, artiste and academic, Monaheng Mosakeng who started uploading his strips weekly on social media last month under the name Tjotji.

Monaheng is a Graphic Design lecturer at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology and has worked at the college for the past eight years.

“I consider myself as both a mentor and student of design because I learn as I groom the next generation of graphic designers,” Monaheng said.

He said he was overwhelmed to be recognised by the likes of renowned South African cartoonist John Curtis, who is also a good friend of Jonathan ‘Zapiro’ Shapiro.

“I always pinch myself twice to ensure I am not dreaming whenever I think of the feat of being introduced to the Africartoons site.

“When you get thumbs up from legendary cartoonists and when your work is uploaded onto a platform followed by 1, 2 million people, you definitely know that you are doing the right thing,” Monaheng said.

He said he is also overwhelmed by the reception that he has received calling it “overwhelming”.

“These incredible people give me the fuel to continue doing what I do. I am humbled and thankful for the support,” he said.

Speaking of how Tjotji came to life, Monaheng said he was desperately looking to create an iconic character that would take the world by storm but also one that Basotho could identify with.

“As a child, I was always fascinated by Sesotho humour, expressions and gestures and Tjotji is the brainchild of an exaggerated rural Lesotho culture and lifestyle,” Monaheng said.

He said to create Tjotji, he fused sarcasm with rudeness and humour to develop a typical shepherd-like Mosotho character.

Monaheng explained that for him, Tjotji was a calling.

“Tjotji is mean, bold and self-centred. It is funny because I didn’t think Tjotji would be the key ingredient I needed to jump-start my passion and burning desire of becoming the cartoonist I have always dreamt of since I was a toddler.”

He said he had many great ideas but to his surprise, his least favourite, Tjotji gave him the breakthrough.

Monaheng said he would soon create a webpage, publications and branded merchandise for the history-making cartoon character.

Monaheng also plans to soon translate some of the comic strips into English to accommodate non-Sesotho speaking audiences although he fears some of the humour may be lost therein.

“As Basotho always say, ‘Sesotho ha se tolokoe’ (what does this mean in English). However, trying won’t hurt, especially if it means reaching more people across our borders and beyond,” he said.

Born and raised in Maseru, Monaheng started drawing at the age of three and was three years later introduced to cartoon magazine Mad Magazine by his father upon which he started drawing some of the characters in the book.

“I am also inspired by cartoons and comics like Garfield, The Lockhorns, Peanuts, Asterix, Marvel and DC Comics. My parents always reminisce about my love for cartoons even now,” Monaheng said.

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