Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hand-inHand Beadworks.

Today I present you with a feast for the eyes in the form of the beaded art cloths created by the Hand-in-Hand project supported by the Omba Arts Trust. 

The artist’s we are currently looking at belong to groups that mostly fall under the umbrella project of the Omba Arts Trust and are Namibian in origin. After Namibia’s independence in 1990 the tourist trade began to blossom with the result that new products, crafts and artworks began to develop within the local San communities. Beadwork has been a traditional craft practised by San women across Southern Africa since time immemorial but it has been given a new life through wonderful projects like Hand-in-Hand.

Most of the subject matter derives from what was once the traditional work of San women – gathering. The vegetable garden created in the community is their contemporary equivalent and of great important to their livelihoods, thus vegetables, as well as flowers, insects, birds and small animals are common themes. 

The work below is by Christina Eises and is unusual in its subject matter – depicted is a man hunting, a subject that is common enough amongst the male painters and printers in San art groups but rare amongst the women. 

The above work, also dealing with the unusual hunting theme is signed Magdalena Eises, so perhaps the women’s claim to the traditional images of hunting is something these sisters feel strongly about!

My particular favourites are this charming depiction of two tortoises in the scrub by Mara Britz and this unusual, slightly abstracted scene with a horse and a bird in flight by Maria Kasube.

And here are a few more exquisite works by Elizabeth Ganses, Katarina Kous and Martha Kavatjindje respectively.

These breathtaking works are all created on a black cloth background which allows the light-catching beads to really sparkle. It takes about a week of fulltime beading to create one of these beautiful pieces.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Broken Arrow Contributors

The Broken Arrow exhibition (which runs until 31March) has been contributed to by many different organisations and project groups. The oft-mentioned Omba Arts Trust is a Namibian NGO whose aim is to help alleviate poverty by creating jobs in the craft sector. They support many arts and craft projects of which the Ekoka project – a textile range created by KBM director Cheryl Rumbak using the designs of the Ekoka San – is one.
(Click on the link below for redirection to the Omba Arts Trust homepage)

Also falling under the Omba umbrella are the Art-i-San products, made by re-settled San communities now living on farms in eastern Namibia. The Donkerbos/Sonneblom farm is the home of Art-i-San, and their beautiful handmade ostrich eggshell and wire jewellery is currently on display as part of the Broken Arrow exhibition. Each bead in this exquisite jewellery is handmade and the income generated from the Art-i-San project is of vital importance to this community.

(Click on the link below to view an article in the Namibian Economist on a successful Art-i-San exhibition)
Also created in the Art-i-San project, and on display in Broken Arrow, are the wire and wooden animals and beaded art cloths I have mentioned. The animals are both by Benny Martin and the beaded cloth is by Bettie Britz.

A large wall in the KBM (features below) is devoted to a stunning installation of linocut art prints, a series of “tubers” (veldt food) by San artist from Donkerblom Farm. We will have a closer look at the individual images at a later stage.

It is heartening to know that the fantastic work being done by the Omba Arts Trust is not up to them alone. KURU Development Trust from Botwana provided the oil paintings on canvas and reduction linocuts for the Exhibition.
“Kuru” is a Naro word meaning “ Do” or ‘Create’, chosen by the founders of the organisation as an appropriate word for the self-development projects initiated for the marginalised San peoples of Botswana. [Click on the link below to view their homepage]

SASI – the South African San Institute – is another admirable, independent NGO who upliftment efforts are primarily focussed on the San peoples of South Africa.
Their Vision: “To support the San peoples to grow and develop to the extent to which they can take permanent control over their lives, resources and destiny and harness with pride their unique heritage.

They in turn work in partnership with the Kuru Family of Organisations-KFO and the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa-WIMSA, and other San organisations. (Click on the link below to visit their homepage)

The Kalk Bay Modern would like to thank the Omba Arts Trust, The Kuru Development Trust and SASI for their contribution.

Monday, March 8, 2010

!Xun artist: Donna Rumao (Broken Arrow)

While reading My Elands Heart, the first publication of the stories and art from the !Xun and Khwe Art Project, I came across an artist whose long narrative was on a subject that piqued my interest. 

Kasiku Donna Rumao, a young !Xun grandmother, living in a family that houses four generations of women under one roof, says, “If I should talk about being a woman in !Xun culture, I will tell long stories.”

And indeed she goes on to tell an incredibly complex tale about a man who took an elephant for his wife and his mad brother who killed her and her child. This story, like most !Xun tales, is incredibly rich in a metaphorical tradition that Westerners may find difficult to access. 
A lot of its meaning is lost on me though, after Donna’s tale, her mother, the grand matriarch of the family explains some details to her gathered grand and great-grandchildren, and the translator. 

Her explanation links hunting meat and having sex with women in the hunters mind, and is a microcosmic metaphor for birth and death and the cycle of life. 

This insight into the life and experience of women in the !Xun culture stayed with me, as did the vibrant smiling face of Donna, from her photograph in My Elands Heart.

This is why when the work above caught my eye at the Broken Arrow opening (and its dreamy colours and atmosphere drew me to it) I was excited to see that it had been painted by the woman who had intrigued me so much.

The work is entitled Red Veldt Food and as one can immediately see, the only red objects to are three tiny nubs on the end of a tree branch at the very top of the painting that is otherwise filled to capacity with hungry wildlife. There is no doubt that what the artist is trying to communicate here is a scarcity of food. 

This is extremely interesting in that many of these artists speak of the old times with great longing and describe a rich, plentiful life living off the land.
I went back to My Elands Heart to see if I could deduce something concrete about Donna’s opinions on the matter and sure enough the life she describes, though good in many ways, was a struggle. 
Her and her mother both agree that, for them, today’s’ life is better, and great-grandmother Lalilu says she is glad her children were born in these times.

Below is a link to Donna’s extract from My Elands Heart.
The works below are further examples of Kasiku Donna Rumao’s work.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

!Xun artist: Flai Shipipa (Broken Arrow exhib)

The first image one sees, walking into the Kalk Bay Modern for the Broken Arrow exhibition, is a painting by the artist Katala Flai Shipipa whom we have discussed in a previous blog. Flai, as he is known, is a !Xun artist from the !Xun and Khwe Project in Botswana, which was founded by the originator of the Kuru Project, Catharina Scheepers-Meyer, and is currently managed by Riette Mierke.
Flai, artist and storyteller, captured my interest when reading My Elands Heart and Memory and Magic and it is in the joining of his two gifts – story illustration – that he particularly soars. His particular style – firm, lucid and communicative – had been etched into my memory and when I walked into the Broken Arrow exhibition it was with delight that I was immediately presented with one of his works.
(To visit an earlier blog about Flai, click on the link below)

Seeing this work felt like a particular bonus for me not only because it is my favourite of Flai’s subjects - an illustration of a San tale – but because it is four paintings in one! Four separate scenes divided by a central cross, much like comic book frames, enhance the story-telling tone and allow for a rich and exciting combination of colours, as his backgrounds are generally dominated by a single bright expressive hue.
Whether this is an illustration of a particular story or merely of a memory of life the way it was before western change I do not know, but it is so similar in style to his story illustrations that I feel sure that there is a lot of information contained within these frames. Below are two examples of illustrative paintings that typically accompany his tales. These are called ‘The Hare and the Leopard’ and ‘The Tortoise and The Falcon’ and they are from Memory and Magic which I urge you to track down as this volume contains five of Flai’s stories, captured by a feat of translating skill involving four people.
While searching the web for relevant websites to link to this blog I was astonished and extremely excited to find nearly the entire content of My Elands Heart, scanned and contained within Google Books! To re-direct to it click on the link below!
This contains fascinating information on all the !Xun and Khwe Project artists and, particularly fascinating to me, one of Flai’s incredible stories, a  relic of a time and culture that is sadly fading away.
[Click on the link below for a short biography on Katala Flai Shipipa]

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kuru Artist: Thamae Kaashe

Thamae Kaashe is one of the Kuru artists that I find most intriguing. When I saw his painting of wild dogs at the opening of Broken Arrow, I felt a strong sense of recognition – this was an artist in the most fundamental sense of the word; his work has an intensely authentic quality that is only produced by an artist whose work process is so engaging to him as to transport him to another world during its creation. The resulting work then has the power to do the same for the viewer and I strongly feel that this is the case for Kaashe.
[For more pics and some biographical info on Kaashe click on the links below]
He is also a very sophisticated draughtsman as one can see in the lithograph print below, entitled Kudu, Ostrich and Hunting Set. The silhouette of the largest kudu is delicately but confidently drawn, and his use of overlapping forms is unusual in its acknowledgement of three-dimensional space. 
Having seen these two images I eagerly searched around the gallery for more pictures signed ‘T Kaashe’ and had my expectations pleasantly fulfilled when a work that caught my eye bore his signature. This print, a depiction of the traditional Bible story of Noah’s Ark, attracted me with its bold and unusual colour scheme and held my intention with the charming and peculiar detail of the scene. 
The swimming figure, which poetic logic tells me must be Noah, is an extremely unusual and amusing addition to the traditional image. He admits that he enjoys making people laugh with his pictures. "Why should I not make people laugh? Anyhow, I think people love the fun in my art," he says. I am much moved at this sentiment, coming as it does from someone who has no doubt suffered and had the pain of seeing his family and his people suffer greatly throughout his life.
The final image I have to share with you is a delicate and beautifully wrought still life, another lithograph print, entitled Stuff in The Shop. The fantasy of the previous works, which Thamae Kaashe is well known for gives way to a simple, earnest drawing exercise is which his masterful grip of composition is displayed. Desirable objects, a bicycle, clothing and multiple electronic devices, including a television, a cell phone and a radio, are carefully depicted, intertwined and brought together with a coiling rope.
He was born in 1971 on the farm Makriel in the Ghanzi District.  He joined the Kuru Art Project in 1992.  Together with the Kuru art project Thamae's work had been exhibited worldwide and has been reproduced in the Kuru Art Calendar and many other publications.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Broken Arrow; Qhaqhoo & Nxabe

This weekend the Kalk Bay Modern took part in South Africa’s biggest art and design expo, the Design Indaba. The Indaba is recognised for its high curatorial standard, displaying and promoting only the best of local creativity. More info on KBM’s participation will be following shortly.

[Click on the link below to view the Design Indaba’s homepage]
In the meantime, back at the Gallery, the current exhibition, Broken Arrow, has provided me with many beautiful and exciting images to share with you as well as a range of new artists most of whom are from the Kuru Art Project in D’Kar, western Botswana. 

‘Kuru’ is a Naro word meaning ‘to do’ or ‘to create’. The Project began in 1990 as part of the Kuru Development Trust and has built a name for itself and its artists, most of whom have exhibited internationally. The project initiators were careful not to ‘teach’ or ‘instruct’ these artists and as such there work is authentic and original, coming from the heart.

The work above is by an artist named Xgaoc'o x'are (or Qhaqhoo) who grew up in the Ghanzi District and joined the art project in 1992. He participated in the Graphica Creativa Exhibition in 1993 [see link below], where the Kuru Art Project won a trophy. Consequently he was invited to participate in the Intergrafia'94 World Award Winners Gallery, in Katowice, Poland and in Ronneby, Sweden and many other prestigious art events in northern Europe. 
The painting below is by artist Nxabe. She also grew up in the Ghanzi District and joined the project in 1992. She has taken part in many local and international exhibitions together with the other Kuru artists and her work often appears in the yearly calendar of the Kuru art project.

I find this particular work enchanting. The colours are beautifully harmonious and her application of paint is interesting in its thinness – in some areas almost transparent. The two doll-like female figures are what capture me the most. There is something about the gentle, curious way in which they inhabit there peaceful, abstract world that is soothingly serene and dreamlike.