Today’s Ekoka artist is Joseph Lasarus, a young man in his mid-twenties who was born in Ekoka to Kanemo Lukas and Matias Lasarus. He went to school up until Grade 4. He has two siblings and is married to the daughter of a fellow Ekoka workshop artist, Tate Simon. Sadly, at the time of the last workshop, their only child had died at birth.
He grew up in the Kavango region and this is where her learned woodcarving from a man by the name of Ismael Ndumba so unlike many of the Ekoka artist’s Joseph has made a living off his art before. He sold his carvings at Okahandja where he learned a little English. He is very interested in the art workshops but feels he will need to work at linocutting for a while before he will be as good at it as he is as woodcarving. He likes to carve animals, hippos, rhinos, elephants and also makes spoons and bowls. He also earns money by making bricks, building houses and doing general handyman jobs.
The linocut below (edition 4/60) is interesting in that it documents an observable interaction between animals; it has a documentary or narrative element. An enormous snake, whose twisted body fills up the majority of the page, is about to engulf a small four-legged creature with a very long tail. What this creature might be or even if he is a hybrid animal I am not sure, but Joseph has managed to convey through the positioning of his legs that he is attempting to make an escape, rather charmingly down the side of the page.
While the printmaking medium of linocutting is the most efficient medium for the Ekoka artist’s in terms of monetary returns (high editions mean the chance to sell the image many times) painting is often what captures the artist’s imaginations the most. The chance to use colour and the sensually delightful process of mixing paint and applying it is a truly expansive and enrichening process.
The artist’s are educated in colour mixing and colour theory in order to get the most out of their experience. Here we can see that Joseph has chosen a beautifully harmonious palette comprising mostly of natural earthy tones, yellow ochre, red ochre and sienna which are offset by a cool bluish grey and a cheerful pink spot on the body of one of his cows.
The cows are enclosed in a box surrounded by a zigzag border but on closer inspection this is not merely a design solution – this is in fact a cattle kraal as one can deduce from the markings for a gateway to the right.
Outside the kraal, stylized as symbols rather than objects sharing real space with the cows, are a range of hunting weapons. Here we see contrasted the two traditional lifestyles of South Africa’s earliest indigenous peoples. It is not commonly known that the San people and the Khoi had different survival methods – that the San were primarily hunter-gatherers and that the Khoi, who originated from slightly further north were livestock farmers who supplemented their farming with hunting. This led to a lot of little known conflict between the groups over land and animals.
[for more information on these two peoples click on the link below]