Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ekoka artist: Hendelina Hamukanda

Hendelina Hamukanda is one of the most interesting Ekoka artists and one of my firm favourites. Born in Oshana, north of Okongo, she now lives in Ekoka with her grandmother and her two children. She is in her late 20’s and has five brothers and 3 sisters.
Her workshop report indicates that she has the potential to develop into a very strong artist and is more experimental than the other women artists. In particular she is a very good lino-cutter and enjoys experimenting with this medium. She is determined, focused and enthusiastic with a sense of humour and boldness about her work. She says she feels very committed to the project and she’s hoping to get money for food and soap for her family.
The first work we will be discussing shows some of the most characterful and originally depicted animals I have seen in the works of these artists (edition 6/50). 
I must confess that I do not know what exactly these animals are but it is very clear that they have been carefully observed and rendered. Two bendy trees and a snake form a compositionally strong semi-circular border on either side of which lie a sun and a moon. I find the observation in the postures of the two bottom animals really incredible – it must be remembered that prior to these workshops the majority of its participants had little or no artistic experience and to see natural observational and creative talent emerge from a lifetime’s dormancy is a miraculous thing and a truly wonderful gift.
The second linocut (6/40) is a simple little image but features two more delightful animals. In particular their heads and feet are enchantingly depicted and the one appears to have interesting curly horns (or ears).
I’m extremely glad to have an example of Hendelina’s painting and this is a truly delightful work. Its complexity and variety make for an absorbing and intriguing image.
The dominant figure is that of an extremely happy looking man carrying a long leafy branch on which a small blue spotty parcel is attached. A most amusing and charming detail is that his bottom half appears to have started out as a house, complete with red triangular roof and square blue windows. Directly below his striding legs lies a smoking fire (or possibly a spider) that is attached in size and narrative space to a small hut containing a tiny woman. It seems clear to me that this mammoth bread-winner is on his way home and that this little scene lies in the distance as his destination.
This charming lack of concern for real space reminds me of the intense process undertaken by young children in their drawings. I have watched my little cousin draw pictures of battles, spaceships and dinosaurs and as he draws he makes sound effects, develops stories, kills off characters and introduces new ones; in short the picture plane is a rich and interactive surface in which the process of creation is of prime concern and an all-absorbing alternate reality during the drawing’s execution. This is a characteristic that is sadly lost as the years go past and more value is placed on the product, and its worth in the eyes of others, than the process. Viewed in this way, a more developed style of drawing has actually lost a great deal of depth and is somewhat ‘dead’ or one-dimensional by comparison. This reminds me of the famous quote by Picasso in which he observes that “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”.
There is once again a host of fantastic animals the most delightful of which is a pale green lizard in whose arched back and overall posture, the essence of this little creature is perfectly captured.

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