Your work currently involves capturing the Maasai tribes of East Africa. What is your personal connection to the Maasai?
In 2009, I followed in the footsteps of the Maasai. Starting in the foothills of Mt. Longido, a sacred Maasai mountain and walking across the dusty, rocky floor of the Great Rift Valley. We passed many remote settlements; we saw women swathed in brightly coloured cloth, adorned in ornate beadwork, walking for miles across the dusty plains to get water. We came across groups of warriors watching over young Maasai boys herding their cattle and their goats as their forefathers have done for centuries. Our Maasai guide introduced us to some of the communities we passed. These bold and dignified people living in this harsh, beautiful landscape captivated me. I have returned many times to both Kenya and Tanzania, staying in remote settlements; drawing, photographing and absorbing the culture, documenting these semi-Nomadic pastoralists. Their lives are under threat from the harsh physical environment, and the changing world around them; they live a fragile existence. I have seen many changes over the last eight years – the one that has had the most visual impact is the mobile phone, which many Maasai now carry in beautiful beaded pouches.
I give a percentage of the sales from my work back to the communities who have inspired my work, and the funds go towards community projects such as schooling and medical care.
What is your artistic motivation?
In my approach to my work I liken myself to an anthropologist studying, preserving and protecting a people, an environment and an atmosphere. My drawings are often presented as hangings as they are as much concerned with edges as with space: the spaces between the shapes and the layers of paper suggest the interlocking of individual lives within the Maasai community. In other pieces I use the form of the cameo to encapsulate the Maasai culture and heritage, like the impression of a loved one. By placing each portrait in a golden frame enclosed in a domed cover, I shelter a culture and tradition from the encroaching fangs of modernisation that threaten its erosion. I build up an emotional and physical geography of the Maasai through the nature of mixed media within my work, both celebrating and cherishing the subjects of my work.
Just recently, you exhibited at Scope Basel Art Fair and you have a long history of exhibiting at international art fairs. What can you tell us about your experience of these large fairs?
In June 2016 I exhibited at Scope Basel Art Fair represented by Candice Berman Fine Art. We worked well together, and it was fascinating being on the stand to watch reactions to my work, although generally when exhibiting at international art fairs I am not on the stand. I exhibited at the Venice Biennale in both 2013 and 2015, which was a very different experience, as the work was up for six months rather than a few days.
Soon, you will be exhibiting your work at FNB Joburg Art Fair (at The Sandton Convention Centre, 9 - 11 September). What can visitors expect for your contribution?
I will be represented by Candice Berman Fine Art Gallery, at the Fair. Visitors will be immersed in the beauty and fragility of the Maasai. They will be introduced to the Maasai women, bold and beautiful, whom have been inspiring me since 2009. Candice Berman Fine Art Gallery is in the Limited Editions section, thus I will be exhibiting between five and seven large limited edition archival prints, with only 7 prints in each edition. Visitors will be able to see the original mixed media drawings on Japanese and Nepalese paper at Candice Berman Fine Art Gallery – at Riverside Shopping Centre, 319 Bryanston Drive, Bryanston.