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Africa project: Introduction

Updated: Mar 16

Dear art lover,

I would like to take you on a journey to Africa.

In an earlier life I lived and worked a long time – around 10 years - in Sub Saharan Africa. After my return back home I continued working there for another 10 years, travelling from my home base to Africa. While living there I travelled extensively by Landrover. I also read a lot about the continent, its individual countries, its history (Africa is NOT a country!). I got to know the continent well. I loved being there so much. From this love flows a desire to express my feelings about my African experience in paint. I therefore have embarked on a project to do just that.

The geographical focus of the project is the Great African Rift Valley. The landscape, and all that it includes and stands for, or rather: the feelings I experience(d) when present in this landscape, is the project’s focus. Of the different parts of the continent where I lived (eastern, southern and western), the Great Rift Valley area in East Africa is where I lived longest, travelled most extensively, and have been happiest. It is one of the wildest and in my view most beautiful and varied parts of Africa, with its rugged rift faults, endless savannah plains, rolling hills, giant mountains, volcanoes, toxic lakes full of flamingos, bone-dry shrub and desert land as well as lush vegetation, earthy as well as bright colours; and beautiful nomadic people. A feast for the eye. And the nose ......

Simien mountains, Northern Ethiopia

While I set intentions for the painting project, I have no fixed end result in mind. Other than some broad ideas it is still largely a mystery to me what will be the outcome of the project, and even more so what the individual paintings will look like. I will have to feel my way forward and develop my own visual language to express what I feel. This requires keeping an open mind and heart, allowing intuition to take the lead and guide me as the process unfolds. I need to trust that the eventual outcome will flow from this process.

One thing I do know: my approach will be to create abstract of semi-abstract works, by painting intuitively. But this doesn’t rule out more realistic work to emerge as well. Anything can happen.

I am excited about the project because of the challenge it poses. I need that challenge and I love to put my teeth into it. Also, Africa/the Rift is a favourite topic of mine. At the same time I feel somewhat overwhelmed by what I suspect may be a rather daunting enterprise. It is a big project which will take time to develop. While I will gladly take the time for it, I do not know where it will lead me, as it is unchartered territory. And there’s this question looming in the back of my mind: will I be able to pull it off?! But at the same time that is exactly where the challenge and part of the excitement is!

As an important preparatory activity I am investigating what exactly it is that moved (and continues to move) me so much about the continent in general and the Rift in particular. This concerns not just the obvious stuff, such as that the landscape is wild and beautiful. It requires digging into the layers underneath. For one thing, I know the African experience connected me with a part of myself that had remained ‘hidden’ or more in the background. E.g. I discovered how much I actually love (and need) adventure, going into the unknown, beyond the horizon.

I also took up a preparatory photo project, for which I gathered photos of the different landscapes, from my own albums and other sources. This project got a bit out of hand. I now have almost 1500 photos. I put them in six big (A3) sketchbooks. The photos help bring back memories, as I am not able currently to roam the equatorial world, it being thousands of kilometres away from where I live now. The photos also inspire me and give me new ideas. I greatly enjoyed this part of the preparatory process, which has resulted not only in a beautiful and valuable product, but has also inspired me to some spontaneous poem writing, something I had never done before.

Two years back I already set some first painting steps and developed a series of small paintings inspired by Africa called African Laughter. But other things got in the way. Now I am diving back in. I have embarked on the first experimental paintings with the Ethiopian landscape in mind. Above you find one of them. I am also making some revisions to the old series.

Finally, for orientation’s sake: The African Rift Valley consists of two main parts: an eastern rift, which is the most well known part, stretching from the Arabian peninsula and beyond into Africa, traversing Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi; and a Western wing, spanning eastern Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi. The Rift Valley, or the Rift as I call it, is the result of plate tectonics, with earth plates colliding and pulling away, a very slow ongoing process accompanied by earth shocks/quakes, volcanic activity and the formation of hills and mountain ranges with escarpments looking on to valleys. The Rift is not just a crack in the earth, but measuring up to more than a hundred kilometres wide in some places. The Rift is the place where the first man (homo sapiens) is thought to have emerged, some 200.000 years ago.

I am aware that for some this blog post may have turned out quite lengthy. This is for introduction’s sake. Please rest assured that I plan future posts to be shorter.

Future blog posts on the Africa project will be announced on my Instagram account @mariannelindnerart.

I hope you will join me on this journey into the unknown. It is my wish that you will enjoy reading about my process and will be able to learn from it with me. 

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