Former Miss SA Basetsana Kumalo browses through the art created by Cohnwille Swarts in Malmesbury. Picture: supplied
Former Miss SA Basetsana Kumalo browses through the art created by Cohnwille Swarts in Malmesbury. Picture: supplied

Former Miss SA makes Cape teen artist’s day

By Robin-Lee Francke Time of article published May 21, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - A Western Cape teenager who made headlines with his exquisite art last year has just ticked off another box from his bucket list.

Cohnwille Swarts, 19, from Abbotsdale, a small town just outside Malmesbury, became a social media sensation when his arts teacher, Celeste Arendse, showcased his Grade 12 work on Facebook.

Arendse, a visual arts teacher who has been in the profession for 20 years, was astounded by his talent and felt she needed to display the work of her pupil from Schoonspruit Secondary School.

Previously speaking to African News Agency (ANA), Swarts said he has been drawing since Grade 3 and always knew he possessed the talent.

Regardless of the pandemic, Swarts made sure he completed his matric even though he endured more pain than most.

During the nation’s hard lockdown, he lost his mother and prior to his mother’s death he lost his father.

Celeste Arendse has been mentoring and guiding Cohnwille Swarts and could not be more proud of him. Picture: supplied

His talent has taken him on a journey as last year, Swarts had the pleasure of his own exhibition at the Solo Exhibition Festival in Riebeek Kasteel.

Riebeek Kasteel is one of the oldest towns in South Africa and is situated 80km north-east of Cape Town in the Riebeek Valley.

Swarts attends Stellenbosch University, where he is a first-year student working towards a BA in fine arts.

He received a full scholarship, including accommodation.

What’s more, earlier this week, Swarts welcomed one of his biggest buyers.

Former Miss South Africa 1994 Basetsana Julia "Bassie" Kumalo personally met up with Swarts and Arendse to purchase one of his paintings which “spoke to her”.

Proud teacher Celeste Arendse, Cohnwille Swarts and former Miss SA Basetsana Kumalo in Malmesbury. Picture: supplied

Kumalo’s career began in 1990 when she was crowned Miss Soweto and Miss Black South Africa at the age 16. As the country became a democracy, she was crowned Miss South Africa in 1994 and was the first runner-up for the Miss World pageant that same year.

Today, aside from pageantry, she is known as a TV personality, businesswoman and philanthropist.

Arendse said that earlier this month, Cohnwille also made his first TV appearance on the DStv VIA channel to tell his story.

She said Doreen Morris from the show, who contacted her, is good friends with Kumalo. They spoke about Cohnwille and she asked if she could purchase one of his works.

“Doreen called me and I communicated this with Cohnwille and we started setting up a date for when Basetsana could come through to Malmesbury as she was in Cape Town.

“On Sunday, May 16, she came to Malmesbury as she wanted to meet Cohnwille.

“She also wanted to look at all his work and she chose one. The one she chose she said is the one that spoke to her. She also bought the sketch in honour of her mother, whose birthday it was on that day,” Arendse told ANA.

Arts teacher Celeste Arendse, former Miss SA Basetsana Kumalo, Cohnwille Swarts and Doreen Morris with the purchased artwork. Picture: supplied

She said that, apart from the women being inspiring in their own right, they motivated Swarts and told him their stories and where they were from.

“At one point, Cohnwille was in tears because of the gratitude.

“I told him, his mother was taken away, but all these women are now placed on his path to support him.

“For me, as the teacher, it was a highlight of my career as well and having the privilege of meeting those women, the privilege of mentoring and guiding him.

“I am very proud of him and this just opens doors for him. I am really looking forward to what awaits in his future,” Arendse said proudly.

Swarts, a shy young man, told ANA he was extremely grateful and proud that his artwork could be sold.

“What adds to it is the fact that this is a celebrity that bought my work. I am extremely positive about the road ahead for me and only hope for success and my dreams to be reached.

“I also just want my life and story to become a positive inspiration for the youth of today,” Swarts said.

African News Agency (ANA)

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