STORY BEHIND THE PAINTING – Karamu Festivities

I normally do not add vivid colours as most petroglyphs or pictographs are subdued and earthy in tonality, however, we are talking about African festivities! I chose a very classic compositional style (cruciform) and, unlike how I usually paint, I sketched my ladies out on the rice paper first. I thought of all the colors and patterns I witnessed during my trip to South Africa as I applied my colours. Oh what fun… I paid close attention to their placement and the rhythm their undulating bodies seemed to suggest. The sheer carefree attitude these women carry and evoke in us is what I most enjoy about this painting.

These ladies are actual petroglyphs from Zimbabwe and from an unusually large and coherent scene by a single artist. It stands alone on a rock face. It includes at least seventy human figures. Amongst them are some women who have taken off their aprons. Children dance a little apart. Women clap and and provide rhythm and chorus. Present day San women will discard their rear aprons or wave them around when they dance so this panel being one of women dancers and dance choruses seems reasonable. The postures of raised legs, outspread hands, crouched figures and women waving their aprons are not common. Drakensberg paintings will usually depict figures being bent far forward and supporting themselves on short sticks. In these Zimbabwe paintings there is a variety of different forms and types of dance being represented. (Hunter’s Vision – Peter Garlake, pp. 66-69)

 

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