Friday, October 2, 2009

Abakwetha, plump nudes and whatnot

Being an artist in South Africa in the days before the Internet was a bit like living in a very dark, frustrating vacuum! Access to anything wonderful, new - or even very, very old - in the art world was limited to library visits, randomly few and far between television specials (actually, I think I'm making this up because I can't even remember ONE!) and expensive art journals shipped in from the blue yonder of all wannabe artists' dreams.
The overseas art market pretty much sucked, unless you had vast sums of money to travel overseas promoting yourself. But then (grateful sigh of relief!) the Internet arrived - and I remember 'surfing the Net' (thought I sounded SO cool saying that) in the little IT lab on campus whenever I possibly could, stealing time from even my precious lie-ins to see what was out there. Admittedly, the going was rather slow, and my heart would pitter-patter-pound-pound-pound while each page downloaded in hesitant agony.
A decade later, and I have my very own laptop, digital camera, printer - and lightning fast, 24 hour Internet access: information/stimulation heaven! (There's a darker side to all of this, of course: like mindless distraction.......... and when I type 'plump nudes' into Google Images looking for images of non-skinny women to draw... Needless to say, there would have been a little TOO much for me to draw. Shall I leave it at that?)
And before Layla needs me to put her down for her first morning nap, let me get to the point: I discovered a website created specifically for South Afican artists so they can sell their work at home and - more profitably - abroad. Pounds, dollars and the general American/British/European desire for the exotic African mean there are plenty of buyers out there typing 'African art' into dear old Google! As I said in my last post, my work at the moment is about African mothers - and South African iconographic things in general: i.e. free-roaming, road traffic-ignoring nguni cattle in the Eastern Cape, the modern abakwetha with their ingceke painted faces. So it was with some shock-and-horror (and mild nausea) that I discovered there are thousands of other South African artists out there painting these sorts of thing. In short: I have become a bit of a cliche. Eish... Perhaps the key is in HOW one portrays the subject matter? (I KNOW this is the key, but hopefully those pound-jingling, 'African art' Google-ing buyers will see this too! (Here is the link to my page on this site : -- you'll have to cut and paste it into your web browser ... this ol' mommy brain has forgotten how to add a link that actually works!)