Strange, isn’t it, how sometimes you can sit on a fluffy pink cloud feeling like Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds because you’re being pampered and spoilt by friends and family, indulging yourself to the max with an abundance of food, wine, love and laughter when all of sudden you glance sideways and the fizz goes flat?
Out of the corner of your eye you’ve seen a chink of bright white light and when you turn round further you see that big door to the real world slowly creaking open and you feel the soft, cool fingers of reality touch your cheek. Instinct tells you that it’s time now to pull the release cord on your pretty parachute and float back down to earth.
Don’t get me wrong. Earth is good. Life can be beautiful. Look at N’tola and his mother as they walk back home after the harvest. Mama carries a big pot of freshly dug potatoes that she’ll cook to accompany the goat meat that Gogo gave them this morning. N’tola’s tummy is telling him that he’s hungry so he pulls at Mama’s hand to hurry.
Unlike so many children in Africa now, N’tola has a loving mother to feed him; to make sure that he is safe and warm. He has his Gogo, who sings to him and soothes him if he falls. In the evenings N’tola will sit on his father’s lap and listen to the deep, warm rumble of his voice. N’tola is lucky, but for other children, who live not very far away, life is like an earthquake. Suddenly, it can get all sharp and jagged and very frightening indeed. That is the other side of reality – the part that is not soft and cool, but fiercely piercing and sometimes almost unbearable.
HIV/AIDS has taken more lives than the sum of all wars, all natural disasters, all diseases throughout the history of humanity. The little mountain kingdom of Swaziland has the world’s highest rate of HIV/AIDS. 70,000 orphans. 15,000 child-headed families. Nkandla is not far from Swaziland.
Inspired by Dr Maithri Goonetilleke, who writes with such lyrical eloquence on his wonderfully illuminating and compassionate blog The Soaring Impulse, and from whom I learned about the 70,000 HIV/AIDS orphans in the tiny mountain kingdom of Swaziland, I decided that I needed to make my art more meaningful. To make what I do really and truly sing for its supper. Loud and clear.
As an artist, I’m often asked by people who are interested in my work for commercial purposes if I could please write an ‘artist’s statement’ to accompany any work that may be shown. You know the sort of thing; “My work has an iconic quality, drawing upon the narrative within. The subject matter highlights a tension in the landscape and immortalises the fleeting sparks.....”
My work is not professional enough, nor, frankly, is it good enough to warrant that kind of seriousness of intent, so my artist’s statement is about why I paint what I do, rather than a lofty expression of my philosophy, vision and the creative process. It’s just about how I feel in my heart:
My art is a tribute to the people we’ve met on our travels in Africa. People who have experienced bloody civil war, yet smile with a warmth that reaches the very heart of you. People who have lived under oppressive regimes, yet sing in soaring harmony. Those whose families have been desecrated during onslaughts of horrifying genocide, yet still reach out with love and forgiveness. Children whose eyes light up when given a pencil to take to their little school under the sparse shade of an acacia tree…..
That is why I paint. For me, it is a celebration of life and through my art I endeavour in some small way to encapsulate the essence, the spirit and the strength of the exceptional people I have been so very privileged to meet.
Now, having read about Maithri’s work while in Swaziland in 2006 – he is going there again in April - and about his fellow medical professionals’ unceasing care for these little ones, I can at last show that my ‘artist’s statement’ really, truly means what it says by ‘giving’ my art to those exceptional people who inspire every brushstroke I make. My deepest thanks to Dr. Maithri and to the children of Swaziland for allowing my work to have resonance.
I’m selling Limited Edition Giclée prints of all my paintings here, with 100% of the proceeds going to Maithri’s friend and colleague Dr. Joyce Mareverwa, Medical Director of The Baylor Clinic in Swaziland, who works so unflinchingly hard to save the lives of HIV/AIDS orphans in that little mountain kingdom in Africa. Please help her to help these little ones.
“What a child doesn't receive he can seldom later give.”
P.D. James ~ Time to Be in Earnest.
**If you'd like to take a peek at the prints, just click the Armadillo Studio logo at the top of my side bar.**