My first art exhibition was in Middle School when three different projects of mine were framed and hung on the school’s hallway walls. You never forget that feeling of pride, knowing someone liked your work enough to hang it on a wall for all to see.
Soul Searching is not my first exhibition as I’ve been part of group, solo, juried and non-juried shows in the past. However, The Spirit of Africa and the Diaspora feels like my first “coming out” show.
The four African portraits I painted, managed to take me back 30 years, when a college friend, who grew up in Kenya, introduced me to the Swahili song “Jambo Bwana” on her cassette player while cruising through downtown Vancouver. We thought we were being really cool.
I fell in love with Africa the first time I saw the movie Out of Africa, starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. This was followed by receiving my first A+ mark for an English composition based on the novel by Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness. Not many years later, I found myself traversing the African continent on our honeymoon, camping in some of the most incredible spots in the world.
My hope was to capture that young, free, adventurous spirit in these portraits.
The Maasai warrior represents strength and ownership. He reminds me of an experience where we met a group of local Batu men while traveling the Serengeti. These hunters were on their way into the desert, carrying spears and poison arrows, dressed in business suits while riding their bicycles – some had doubled up. Maasai had taken their cattle the night before and it was time for revenge. The Maasai believe that God gave them all the cattle in the world; hence they were just taking back what belonged to them. However; the park warden stopped them, at least long enough until we were out of sight.
The Maasai bride symbolizes passage and union. She is on her way to marry, a passing from youth into adulthood, to new beginnings. She is also covered in red: beads, cloth and mud mixed with goat’s blood, a color that signifies union.
The two portraits of Catherine reinforce the importance of friendship. Given today’s political climate, with the rise of tribalism in the West, it’s friendship that crosses all borders, languages and cultures.
Come see the exhibit Soul Searching: the Spirit of Africa and the Diaspora if you haven’t already. Even better, if you have time this Saturday, come and take part in “A Taste of Africa” Festival to strengthen our global community in Pleasanton through dance, music, arts and food.
The Independent Newspaper: 'Soul Searching' Exhibition Opens at Harrington Gallery