African Journey: First Steps

Last week I talked about a big new painting project that I started, dealing with my past experience of living, working and travelling in Africa, more specifically in the area covered by the Great African Rift Valley. I took a number of first steps, which concern mostly preparatory work.

As an important pillar of the project I am investigating what it is that moved and continues to move me so much about the continent and my experience there. This concerns not just the obvious stuff, such as that the landscape is beautiful and wild, but requires digging into the layers underneath. This is particularly important for creating the abstract work. For one thing, I know the experience connected me to a part of myself that had been ‘hidden’ before that.

I also took up a photo project - another pillar. This to aid my memory, as I am not able currently to roam the equator, which is 10.000 kilometres away from where I live, and also to help spark ideas. (Thankfully my memory is still vivid, but somewhat less so where it concerns some of the details.) I collected photo’s not only of the more well known Eastern Rift (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi), but also of the Western Rift (Uganda, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi). In total I gathered hundreds of photo's, both from my own albums and other sources. These I put in a number of large (A3) sketchbooks. I greatly enjoyed this part of the process. It transported me back to my past life in Africa, connecting me more deeply with that past of wild abandon and discovery and how it made me feel. It has resulted not only in a beautiful and valuable product, and revived an old travelling wish, but inspired me to do some spontaneous poem writing, something I’d never done before.

Based on my memory and the photo’s I have taken my first steps in feeling my way with paint and other mixed media. I created a small series of 30x30 cm (12x12”) paintings, which I called African Laughter. It is on this website.

And this is just the beginning!

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