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]

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