Monday, February 8, 2010

Ekoka Artists: Tusnelda Kamati & Raima Namupala

Today I will be discussing the last two Ekoka artists from this workshop and introducing the concept of ‘outsider artists’, a term that could be used to describe the Ekoka group – I will be elaborating on this interesting phenomenon in my next blog.

 The first artist is Tusnelda Kamati who is originally from Oshipala where she began her schooling. Her family moved to Ongangola where she attended a missionary school and had to restart the first grade– something she was very upset about. Here she reached Grade 6 whereupon she moved to a trade school that taught needlework and sewing. She became a teacher at Ekoka where she taught pre-school and the first grade to the Quagga and !Kung locals. 
She married and had 10 children of which, sadly, only 5 are alive today
Tusnelda is improving and growing in her art and is very serious about her work. Her paintings are becoming very sought after and her own words on the matter are, “It’s good for me to be serious in a workshop otherwise God would be angry with me.”

Unfortunately I have only one simple lino-cut as an example of Tusnelda’s work. I will track down more varied examples of all the Ekoka’s artists’ work and will be posting them at a later date.

This image shows a very delicate, whimsical technique quite unusual amongst this group of artists whose style is obviously quite raw. The design is very simple and more of a pattern than a picture, formed from the bodies of 5 snakes, geometrically ordered, and two delicately rendered trees. The process of lino-cutting entails that everything that is not to be printed is cut away (the opposite of drawing) and Tusnelda has treated her negative space in a very conscious way – usually there are some lines left within a ‘white’ background and here they all lie in one direction instead of the more common method of allowing them to follow the form of the foreground. I feel this is a clear indication of the seriousness and focus of Tusnelda’s style and is certainly something very unique in her work.

Our second artist is Raima Namupala. He was born in Elundu but grew in Okongo, where he went to school until the missionaries came. He married very young and his first wife and child died; tragically the same thing happened in his second marriage. In 1993 he moved to Ekoka when the government took over the land management and there he met his current wife Maria, who took part in a drama workshop linked to these art workshops. They have three children.

He is happy to be part of the art project and he can feel that he’s improving in drawing, linocut and painting. During this workshop he was very happy to receive his first payment.

Raima has a strong style with a strong illustrative quality. In the image above we can see a wonderfully quirky sense of design in the shape of his tree – a very successful silhouette. There is also an amusing quality in the upward glance of the bird on the ground – wonderfully hieroglyphic in design – at his colleague on the top of the tree.

In the previous blog, which featured Hendelina Hamukanda I raised the point that these artists have had little or no artists training before this point and that they come to workshop with concepts and natural tendencies that any who have studied art – even as a school subject – will have lost.
Artists that create outside the influence of societal influences are termed Outsider Artists by some and their art began to generate interest and appreciation just after the beginning of the last century. 

The term was coined by Roger Cardinal as an English synonym to art brut (French for ‘raw’ or ‘rough’ art), a label created by the artist Jean Dubuffet. A notable South African Outsider artist was Helen Martins who created the Owl House. I will further explore her work in the next blog and discuss to what extent the Ekoka artists fit into this category and whether the term has any worth to begin with.

[for more information on Outsider Artists click on the informative Wikipedia link below]


  1. Nice.

  2. I used to buy handmade greeting cards from Omba Trust in Namibia - I've lost their email information -- can you help me?

  3. Thank you Parker L! I would very much like to link your blog to my next entry! thank you for showing me your work, it is really wonderful.

    Lisa - I have emailed my boss asking for the email address. I will forward it to to you when she replies.