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Qoexoa , Gemsbok with beetles and plant. Litho No.9/75 21cm x 16cm. D’kar 1992 .


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Traditional fantasy This small litho depicting beetles, gemsbok and a plant is cheerful and full of fantasy. The figures are put down in isolation from one another and yet they tell a story. The picture invites the viewer to construct his/her own story about the friendly life in the bush and to enter the world of the artist. The image evokes the atmosphere of rock art pictures due to the technique and colors used and the primitive way of drawing. Q’oex ‘oa is a traditional Bushmen, a dancer and healer who is convinced of his spiritual capacities. The Kalahari desert was and is his home. This is clearly expressed in ”Gemsbok, beetles and plant”; a traditional culture facing up to modern times.


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Qãetcao Moses 3 Meerkats during the Rainy Season Qãetcao Moses was born in 1973. His parents are Batswana (citizens of Botswana) who lived in a San community. This San community gave him the name Qãetcao meaning good heart. The San children learned Qãetcao to roam the fiels, setting snares for small animals, pretending to be big hunters. His arts shows his great passion for the veld and the animals. He likes to portray the animals he encountered. He sees his artistic talent as a gift from god, “I could always draw animals. I just can do it”. As his art became know nationally and internationally, Qãetcao was invited to many workshops and exhibitions. In the same way his art had opened his eyes to the wider world, he would like to open the eyes of people to see the Kalahari and its beauty. He is a very precise artist but also likes to work quickly. He loves to experiment with different techniques. His work often featured in the Kuru Art Project yearly calendars. Some years ago Moses left the Kuru Art Project and setteld as an succesful artist in Gabarone.


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Qaetcao Moses ,Meerkats during the Rainy Season. Linocut no. 17/25 50 cm x 40 cm D’Kar 1998.


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Animal Planet “Meerkats during the Rainy Season” is a beautiful tableau of nature that could easily be part of a larger art series of “Animal Planet”. It is full of admiration, drawn meticulously and lively. It is an accessible image of busy animals, meerkats, which during rainy season are waiting to get out to gather food, subsoil under trees. It represents a skillful linocut by an artist who is, above all, a craftsman who sees himself as part of the universe. Iimage and composition, that is what this lino print is all about. A fragment of nature is singled out. Details are as important as the whole. In this linocut Qãetcao and his work fuse together. The picture leaves no room for any misunderstanding of its meaning. It is a sharp image of nature by an artist who loves nature. He has done this meticulously, both in technique and form.


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Thama Kaashe 4 Dancing around the fire Thama Kase, also known as Thamae Kaashe, was born in 1971 on a farm in the Ghanzi District of Botswana. He joined the Kuru Art Project in 1992. Thamae has great respect for his culture and traditions. In his art however, he combines culture and traditions with amusing details. He often depicts people and animals in caricaturist forms. Animals have lost their hideous appearances and now are comical fantasy characters. The caricatures of traditional Bushmen and animals stem from his childhood memories of story telling and hunting trips with his father. Thamae paints stories as he has heard them from the elder San people. “I want to make people laugh? Anyhow, I think people love the fun in my art�. His compositions in black and white and unusual colour combinations were met with great enthusiasm by art lovers.


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T.Kaashe, Xgoe Dance, Linocut 14/35 29 c x 35 cm No date, D’Kar

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Dancing around the fire

Irony It looks like Thamae is telling the viewer a simple, straightforward story. It is about Bushmen performing ritual dances around a fire, using dancing sticks. Hallucinating and dancing at rhythmic music people tell and act out stories. But the picture is also full with humor and self-mockery about the traditions of his people. With the picture Thamae is also saying “check us out!”. In his representation Thamae has chosen for a graceful and creative presentation. This makes it possible for the viewer to have direct contact. Thamae’s work is shown all over the world. It draws a great deal of attention. This has much to do with the fact that at first sight his representations coincide seamlessly with the traditional perception people have of the traditional culture of the Bushmen. Only a closer look, however, will reveal the irony and self-mockery of the artist.

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“Dance around the fire” is a representation of traditional Bushmen culture. It is a rather dynamic and spatial piece of work that stretches the imagination of the viewer instantly. Dancers, fire and bush are framed black,making the happening complete. The figures are drawn simply and expressively by simple lines like in a cartoon, an impression which is reinforced by the black and white.

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Ditro Makwena 5 Dream Plane Ditiro Makwena was born in 1973 and grew up in Ghanzi. He is not a San but took a San woman as wife after his mother’s death and this woman took ace of him in her own community. Unlike most Kuru Artists he was raised in a settled village community . Schools, shops and modern transport have always been part of his everyday reality. His father gave him pencils and paper and encouraged him to draw. He learned to use drawings as a means to express himself. Ditro joined the Kuru Art project in 2005, giving him access to materials and technical assistance. In the Kuru Art project he also could interact with other artists. All this has given him new purpose and meaning to his life. Ditro likes to use words and sentences in his artwork which adds a creative and rather expressive quality to his work.


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Ditro Makwena, Dream Plane. Litho no. 27/40. 39cm x 28 cm. D’Kar 2005.


Magic Spaceship

Message The litho is about a dream ship. Ditro did have a clear intention with it. He did not sketch some kind of ghostly air plane, but instead he drew a festive airplane. The wide round body of the plane must make the suggestion of a friendly and hopeful inside; medical technology, medicines, beds and all other kinds of health care instruments. The round wide body must give the airplane the presumption of this friendly hopeful cargo. But do viewers get this message of Ditro? Has he been able to convey it in this litho? It doesn’t seem so. Most people think that the litho is about a Bushmen’s fascination for airplane technology, sketched in a rather naïve way. Only a few people have noticed the elements of the festive welcome. To many the litho has evoked the idea of a ghost ship. An impression that is reinforced by the use of black and white, which renders the picture a somehow technical, futuristic image. Only when one knows the intention of the artist, one is able to discern his dream of a festive welcome of a plane bringing in all kinds of good.

Contemporary San art

“Dream Plane” is the fanciful representation of a dream of Ditro. It is a magical realist depiction of a possible future just like Jules Verne did. As a youngster he visited once the Sir Seretsi Khama airport in Gaberone, Botswana. One day Ditro dreamt of this visit and this dream is depicted here. Its is about a return of a spaceship receiving a festive welcome, with balloons and flags.

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Dada 6 Kalahari field destroyed by ants

Dada was born in 1934 in Ghanzi and passed away in 2008. She was the most loved and most known of the Kuru artists. She attended three months of school and later worked as a nanny and domestic help. Fluent in five African languages, she joined the Kuru Art Project in 1990 as a translator, where she started to experiment with different art techniques. Dada had extensive knowledge of her peoples traditions and healing practices. Her first exposure to textile art was in Namibia, when an employer taught her needlework and embroidery. She became a worldwide well-recognized full-time artist, who had been awarded several prizes. “I am always thinking about my art. I am thinking and planning new paintings all day. It won’t leave me, even when I lay down to sleep at night, the colours and images keep on coming back. It is then that new paintings are born. I plan them in my head. My prints and paintings are depicting facets of my culture and my world. I like to depict the things


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that bring me joy, like the plants from the Kalahari that can fill an empty stomach when you are hungry or can satisfy your thirst when there is no water to be found. I like to show the women collecting veldfood, the houses we live in and the children who are always present. I like to depict the simplicity of our lives and the beauty that can be found in it, even though we have so many hardships. Sometimes, without me even realizing it, parts of these hardships enter my work. Our lives are changing: old traditions do not count any more and money is getting more and more important�


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Dada, Kalahari field destroyed by ants. Linocut no. 2/12. 30 cm x 34 cm. D’kar 2000.


While the scene depicted is very harsh, a Kalahari ‘veld’ (field) destroyed by ants, looking at the lino cut does not yield any sad feelings. Through the imaginative work of Dada the battleground left over by ants has become a colourful whole of remains of plants and shrubs and sand. The cheerful and warm colours make the picture in its entirety. And it is this entirety which deeply touches. The forms and lines give the viewer something to hold on, at the same time not portraying any meaning. The forms are suggesting dynamism as if ants are eating away through the veld. Simultaneously the image is at rest due to the equilibrium between the vertical and horizontal lines.

Autonomous image One may say that “Kalahari field destroyed by ants” is an abstract piece of art, giving the observer the possibility of making a highly personal interpretation. Without title it would be very difficult to figure out the meaning. But the drawing has turned out well: Dada’s work has turned it into an autonomous image, leaving the viewer the possibility of making a new, his own interpretation. The mastery of Dada of colours, forms and technique has made this interplay of art work and viewer possible.

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Dada 7 Thorny plant eaten by ostrich

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Thorny plant eaten by ostrich, lino cut, 1999 Thorny, spicy and powerful With the lino cut “Thorny plant eaten by ostrich� Dada has succeeded to impress the viewer with a detailed plant cut to pieces. Seeds, fruits and pods of a thorny plant are displayed in clear forms and lines. The detailed fragments with their different forms dominate. The attention is drawn to these fragments, while at the same time one notices the harmony of the picture as a whole. The specific use of colours and the positioning of the three thorny pods produce the structure for the seeds and fruits.


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Dada, Dcaro Dxam, Ostrich Thom, Plant. Linocut No. 9/18. 43 cm x 46 cm. D’Kar 1999.

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Thorny plants are eaten by ostriches. They are spicy and healing. Take for example Devils Claw. It got its name from the peculiar appearance of its hooked fruit an it is one of the most protected medicinal plants of the Kalahari. Knowledge of the therapeutic effects of plants is elementary knowledge for Bushmen, especially for the generation of Dada. With “Thorny plant eaten by ostrich” Dada has made a very respectful image of this plant, important both for Bushmen for its therapeutic effects and as food for ostriches. The colours chosen, the forms displayed and the clear composition make a powerful image, very concrete yet abstract. Because of this effect it was chosen as the cover illustration of a publication by an international publisher.


Dada 8 Mothers and babies under Euphorbia tree.

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Dada, Mothers and babies under Euphorbia tree. Litho no. 46/50. 38 cm x 28 cm. No date D’kar.


Many a person is moved by this colourful tableau of mothers with children under a tree. It looks like peaceful scenery almost like in paradise. It is a naively and sunny drawn image of cheerful mothers with babies, cloth, a hut, birds, insects and plant. It is pleasant to look at, it is uplifting. As the title says, it is the Euphorbia tree, probably the Fire stick Plant. Its branches contain milky latex which is very poisonous and is used by Bushmen to dip the tips of their hunting arrows. The latex is also used to catch birds for food. It is believed to be useful for many ailments (gonorrhea, syphilis etc.) and as a cure for cancer, tumors and warts.

Living environment Like the two other works of Dada this litho is also about nature. But its character is different. The figures displayed are not in proportion, yet the colours, forms and composition evoke the joyful feeling Dada probably wanted to express. But then again we do not know what Dada’s intention was and why she decided for this particular style, which differs from the style in her other works of art. The mother and child figures are very tiny and only a small part of the entirety. Moreover, it is one of the rare occasions that Dada portrayed people. The overall impression this litho print conveys is Dada’s love of nature, a part of her daily living environment portrayed in a hand coloured litho.

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Thamae Setshogo 9 Cari Bird Thamae Setsogho was born during the late 1960’s early 1970’s in the Ghanzi district in Botswana. He grew up on a farm on the edge of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, where his parents worked as farm labourers. Thamae died in 2004. The name Tamai in “Tamai Foundation” is a tribute to this artist. Tamai was his first used name in artistry. Although Thamae never attended any formal schooling, he learned the ins and outs of farm work and the secrets of the wild since a very young age. He joined the Kuru Art Project as a young man in 1991. He was a serious, hard working and responsible person. These characteristics can be recognized in his art where he would strive for perfection and balance through his almost always-symmetrical compositions, and his use of color and texture, as well on linoleum prints as oil on canvas. He was very sensitive to detail and liked to depict small incidences and creatures in


nature. The subject matters he chose to represent were simplified, almost abstract, with often symmetrical compositions. Mostly, he worked directly from memory without any preliminary sketches. He was not afraid to experiment in different media. In 1997, he received a commission to make a large relief wall panel for the Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, Botswana. Since he also loved woodcarving he created a beautiful panel with layers of carved wood combined with paint. During the same year, he also painted a large mural at the “Return of the Moon” exhibition at the National Museum in Windhoek, Namibia.

He had no preference for media, but enjoyed them all. Different from most Kuru artists, he preferred slightly muted colors and did not always use great color contrasts. For subject matter, he preferred animals above all. He took part in a lithography workshop around the theme of the trickster at the Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1999, and participated in an international artists’ workshop in Australia. In 1991, he was awarded Most Promising Young Artist, and in 1992, he received an Award of Merit for drawing and painting at the Artists of Botswana exhibitions. As a result of his participation in the 1993 Graphica Creativa Exhibition in Jyvaskyla, Poland, where the Kuru Art Project received a trophy in honour of achievements in creative graphic arts, he was invited to participate in the Intergrafia’94 – World Award Winners Gallery, Katowice, Poland and Ronneby Sweden. His work was also accepted for Intergrafia ‘94, Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Graphica Creativa ‘96, Jyvaskyla, Finland and SMTG International Print Triennial – Krakow 2003. For Thamae his art was the link between the past, present and future and through his art he had gained recognition as an individual.

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Apart from painting and linoleum prints (black and white, as well as color) he also made several lithographs with the assistance of the Artists’ Press in Johannesburg, South Africa. He attended several of the Thapong International Artists workshops in Botswana and had been to Australia where he participated in another international artists’ workshop.

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Nxabe Cari birds Linoleumsnede 29 cm x 26 cm D’ Kar 2000


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A tribute to nature An uncomplicated image of geese, eggs, and fruits or are they little creatures flying away? All in a beautiful balance of gold and petrol blue colours. The drawing is full of movement while the licks of gold and petrol blue keep the birds together. The picture is pleasantly calm and yet very rhythmic. Composition, balance and colour combination make “Cari Bird” a timeless picture, a true tribute to nature.

Artistry and creativity Thamae Setshogo was a Bushen artist valued for his combination of profound professional skils and great creativy. He always worked intuitively, straight from the heart. This artistic merit is manifest in this linocut print. It represents a naturalist scene: the image relates directly to its meaning. In sofar it is ‘traditional Bushmen art’. The power of this work of art is, however, that it also leaves room for the viewer to attach oneself to this piece of art.


Thamae Setshogo 10 Tee-Thebe (Butterfly)

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Thamae S, Tee-Tebe (Butterfly) Linocut no. 4/13 43 x 26 cm D’kar 2002


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Timeless beauty To many this picture of a butterfly is the crown jewel in the collection of the Tamai collection. It reminisces of a leaded window, due to its division of surface, its composition and colour setting. The print is meticulously cut, with a careful symmetry. Like in “Cari Bird�, Thamae used the tranquil petrol blue color, this time in combination with the yellow of sand and the red of the Kalahari soil. This is a master piece of a true master artist. It is timeless beauty. A picture of butterfly has been transformed into a transcendent representation. Tee Thebe is an art work by an artist who is very sensitive to detail and likes to depict creatures in nature.


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Thamae Setshogo 11 Fish

Thamae.S, Fish Linocut no.4/19 2002 D’kar


This picture of Thaemae is a simplified fish, almost abstract. This makes the figure displayed also imaginary, as from a fantasy world. Drawn in thick lines, standing on its tail wit its claws raised, it is very modern. It is an intriguing and yet threatening image.

Modernity As with most prints and paintings by Thamae, this print has perfection and balance through the almost-symmetry and the use of colours. It is a print from 2002, two years before he died. In the 1990’s and the beginning of 2000 Thamae traveled the world and attended several international artworkshops. It is therefore fair to assume that this brought him in contact with modern arts and artists. The fact is that “Fish” fits very well in the modern western European tradition of lino cutting. But this we will never be sure of this. “Fish” is a linocut print resembling a poster. This characteristic is reinforced by the colours used: black, green and clear blue in combination with a mused natural sandy colour. This made the print very suitable for us to use it as announcement poster for an exhibition of African elephant artworks (paintings, linocut and litho prints, sculptures) in 2008 in Oisterwijk.

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Fantasy world

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Coex’ae, Ennie (C.Bob) 12 Rainbird

Coex’ae was born in the 1940s. She grew up within a family, strongly rooted in the traditions and beliefs of the Kalahari San. She never attended school but people often look to her for wisdom. Her knowledge about edible and medicinal plants is well known in the community. She joined the Kuru art project in 1994. Different from all the other women at the Kuru art project, Coex’ae prefers to depict birds and animals to the plants and pictures of traditional lifestyle. She passionately loves the Kalahari veld with all its creatures and is very perceptive towards the different plants, birds and smaller insects.


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Coxae, Rainbird Linocut no. 52/110 29cm x 25 cm 1999 D’Kar


People grow still when they see ‘Rainbird’ for the first time. Coex’ae has drawn a divine bird, theatrically and unworldly, positioned in the centre, surrounded by what looks like two young ones. There can be no doubt about the meaning. In this sense, this linocut is clearly, what we call, a ‘traditional’ San linocut. It depicts a bird which can only be heard in the Kalahari Desert during rainy season. Therefore it is called rainbird. It is the prophet of rains to come. So, one can imagine the importance of this bird in the Bushmen culture. Unlike other Kuru artists, the work of Coex’ae is rather loose, in use of paint and in linocut technique. The creative process is more much more important to her than the end product. In doing so, the linocut has turned out well. It has given the picture some kind of spiritual and perennial look. It shows Coex’ae’s commitment to nature and the world she lives in. The image is positive: a rainbird and two of her offspring nicely positioned against a black setting full of white dots. The bluish green and golden yellow colours create a serene atmosphere. Coex’ae sees her art as an extension of her culture. Through her art, people can experience her people’s way of life and the world they love so much.

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Coex’ae 13 Korhaen

Coxae, XA’A’ Korhaen Linocut no.10/11 24cm x 20 cm 2006 D’kar


“Primitive, how do you mean?” On a Sunday afternoon, September, 7 in 2008, a social and creative happening took place in the art cinema theatre “Cinecitta’ in the Dutch town of Tilburg. The title of the happening was ‘Bushmen and art’ . Poetry was read, a movie was shown and paintings and linocuts were displayed, all directly related to the culture of the San Bushmen.

Modern Naro San art, a moment of beauty. One of the success factors was the use of Coex’ae’s picture of “Korhaen’. In this graphic art work, Coex’ae has used the linocut technique and paint even looser than she did with ‘Rainbird’. One gets the impression that the final result developed as Coax’ae went along. The composition is less stylized and the contours are less precise. Absorbed by its surrounding nature, the image of the korhaen is nevertheless obvious. It attracts all attention of the viewer. As in many of her other works of art, Coex’ae has depicted a living animal, but in modern style. In fact she has produced modern Naro San art. The colors used are scintillating and modernistic. They are not the realistic colors, but they are genuine African: ink blue, the reddish of the African soil, the deep yellowish green of the bush and the grey blue of the desert sky. All in perfect harmony which gives the linocut serenity, a moment of true beauty.

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The linocut of the Korhaen by Coeax’ae was used as illustration for the flyers, posters and mailings. The title of the happening spoke for itself. It was a great success. Many people attended the program. An most of them were fascinated by the colors and forms of the artworks of the Kuru artists.

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The state of the Kalahari nowadays The peacock wit its beautiful long blue and green tall feathers is the central feature in this linocut by Coex’ae from 2006. She has used this bird as metaphoric representation of nature, beautiful but endangered. There it stands, right in the middle of the beauty and the threats. Contemporary San art

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For many years Coex’ae and her people have been witnessing a continuous and increasing process of destruction of their environment. Bushmen, bush animals, the bush itself, all have to make way for trucks, cars, machines and business in search of valuable raw materials. The common land is being privatized and Bushmen are being expelled from their ancestral homelands. With an illuminating blue and yellow colours Coex’ae tells us the story of her living environment: what the Kalahari was, and how nature and a complete culture are being destroyed. Coex’ae is a true bearer of the San tradition, in every aspect. It hurts her deeply that the San tradition is threatened and dying out. She cries out for it, but she does this in a remarkable creative and modernistic way. The peacock does not show its feathers, of which we know that they are beautiful. Cars are around, are they menacing? We can see some small animals, are they dead, perhaps killed? The filling in of the linocut with deep blue and yellow gold colours renders a serene atmosphere, only to be disturbed by the automobiles. In this book on Bushmen art, ‘Peacock’ is the second piece of modern Bushmen art by Coex’ae. This linocut is less loose in technique and use of colors and more framed. It is as if Coex’ae has deliberately chosen for a more framed form and composition, so we would more likely experience the threats to her disappearing culture and environment.


Coex’ae 14 Peacock

Coxae, Peacock, Linocut no.5/12 26cm x 19cm D’Kar 2006

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Thamae Kaashe 15 They live in holes “They live in holes� is the second artwork by Thamae, born in 1971 in the Ghanzi District. His unusual color combinations and swirling compositions are full of fantasy. His creation are highly valued by art lovers. Thamae loves to amuse us by his work. He creates caricatures of animals coming from the dreams and memories of his childhood. As a small boy he went on hunting trips with his father. The animals they encountered were enormous and frightening. In his dreams they transformed into the caricatures he now likes to represent in his art, and over the years, they have lost their hideous appearances and now are comical fantasy characters.


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T.Kaashe, They live in holes Linocut no. 3/26 45 cm x 43cm D’Kar 2000

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Fantasy world “They live in holes” is one the color linocuts which immediately attracts the eye of viewers. Because it entertains. It is not immediately clear that the linocut shows us a dream world in which the frightful animals from Thamae’s childhood have become comical figures and scenes. It is the combination of sparking colors that attract the attention: deep blue, terra and white produce a modern effect. Especially the white color ensures a light-footed framework and produces calmness in the dynamic picture. There is a lot to see: a hedgehog, a crocodile and kudu’s creep into the cave system. It is both a realistic and fantasy image. The almost picturesque composition is nicely balanced. The crocodile in the middle produces the focal attention. And the kudu at the bottom carries the ensemble. i attracts the focal Middle allows for focus. The kudu mid under wears the whole. “They live in holes” can be classified as new traditional, combining traditional and modern elements both in color and composition.


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Nxabe 16 Puffadder and other veldfood Nxabe was born around 1960 on a farm in the Ghanzi district. Her childhood was joyful, without worries and playing around the aprons of her grandmothers who were doing their daily duties. Very often Nxabe was taken along for collecting veldfood. Nowadays Nxabe is teaching her own grandchildren the art of collecting veldfood. Nxabe joined the Kuru Art project in 1992. She is very talented and has produced beautiful linocut and stonecut prints and etching such as “Desert Insects”. Nxabe loves to combine the unusual in her artworks: snakes, birds, insects and plants. The world of the Bush fascinates her and is very precious to her. Nxabe’s work ranges from ‘traditional’ and figurative to modern and abstract. Her optimistic and joyful disposition shows in her works and makes her work very popular for many different audiences. Nxabe took part in many national and international art fairs.


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Nxabe, Puffadder and other fieldfood Linocut no. 14/27 32 cm x 36 cm D’Kar 1999

Contemporary San art

The golden Bush With “Puffadder and other veldfood” Nxabe has produced a beautiful ‘traditional’ San artwork. She lets us in to the beauty of the Bush and what lives, blossoms and grows. In shades of yellow, golden yellow, black and white, she creates an intense friendly image of a fragment of nature. The linocut is beautifully carved in detail, it is well composed.

Tranquil It is very obvious that Nxabe is fascinated by insects, snakes and their micro life in the Bush. It is the natural environment in which she grew up. It is this fascination that drives her work and which has resulted in this beautiful piece of work. In this linocut print viewer and artist meet, intention and meaning coincide. The composition is beautifully framed by the insects. The shrub centers, embraced by the snakes. A tranquil and timeless picture of the beauty of the Bush.

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Qgam Khãxá 17 Grandmother

Qgam was born in the late 1960s and grew up, like most of the artists from the Kuru Art project, on the farms in the Ghanzi district. He joined the Kuru Art project in 1997. Since then, he has produced beautiful canvasses in oil paint and had made very sensitive line etchings, lithographs and brightly coloured linoleum prints. Through his art, he portrays a deep knowledge of the animals, the ‘veld’ and the traditions of his people. He still has very vivid recollections of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in which he had grown up. Along with the other Kuru artists, his work has been exhibited worldwide. He attended the Thapong International Artists workshop in Botswana in 1999 and found it a very enriching experience. He enjoyed working with different artists but seems not to have been influenced by their styles, which differs widely from his own.


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QGQM, Grandmother teaches children about the bush. Oil on canvas, 61 cm x 92 cm D’Kar 1999


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The painting of Qgam is adorned with a huge grandmother. It is one of the few portraits by Kuru San artists. The grandmother is painted red, the colour of the San, the red people. Grandmother is given a central place, literally and figuratively. In real life this is what San grandmothers are. They learn their grandchildren how to collect veldfood, and what life in the Kalahari is all about. Qgam is an autonomous painter, not influenced by the styles of others. He nicely fits into the tradition of San storytelling, as one can read in the book “Voices of the San” by Willemien Leroux. In this book the author has collected stories, told by the generation of the grandmother Qgam has portrayed. They are stories of a generation that has taken over the traditional tasks and habits of their parents, while at the same time forced to go to work on farms and in mines. “Grandmother” depicts this realism. It is a ‘new traditional’ made on the intersection of tradition and modernity.


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Xgaoc’o X’are (Qhaqhoo) 18 Kalahari Paradise

Qhaqhoo is born in or around 1970. He grew up in the Ghanzi District and joined the Kuru art project in 1992. The creative possibilities, which he was introduced to at the Kuru Art project, revealed a new world to him. His art became a new reality where the images that dwell in his mind could materialize on canvas through careful brushstrokes in simplified forms and joyous colours. Along with the other Kuru artists, his work has been exhibited worldwide. He has no specific preferences concerning techniques and media, although he loves oil paint. He is a very slow worker, but insists on finishing his work to perfection before he is satisfied. He is worldwide honoured for achievements in graphic art and oil on canvas.


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Qhaghoo, Giraffe, Eland,Elepant Oil on Canvas , 49 cm x 49 cm No date, D’kar

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This painting by Qhaqhoo is a tranquil image of the beauty of the Kalahari. It is characterized by simplicity in composition, shapes and colours. It is the expression of a deep yearning for a world in which animals live peacefully side by side. The attention is drawn to the colourful areas with black lines. To some extent these are unusual, yet they are surprisingly interconnected. This painting shows why it often suggested that Kuru art is related to the socalled Rock Art. What we see is a simple, naïve and beautiful image, most appropriate for a children’s bedroom. In this work Qhaqhoo shows his love for the Kalahari. It is a simple, tranquil and harmonious picture. It makes a powerful at first sight. The painting is well done, but there is more. When we look closer, we can see that the composition is nicely balanced. The black bind the areas together. The combination of figurative and abstract is very particular, a combination which also can be seen in Rock Art. The figurative and abstract are not conflicting and render the painting a modern dimension. “Kalahari Paradise” is a very skillful and creative work which we can label as a good example of modern traditional San art.

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Cg’ose Ntcõx’o (Cgoise) 19 Beadwork, bags and belts. Cgoise was born in Kalkfontein in the Ghanzi district, Botswana in the beginning of the 1950s. Like all other artists she has a deep love and longing for the Kalahari bush where she grew up. In her work Cgoise loves to depict the daily work of San women, such as collecting ‘veldfood’ or plants and birds of the Kalahari. A peak of her career as an artist came in 1997, when one of her paintings was included in British Airways’ new corporate image. The painting was reproduced on the tailfins of eight of their larger planes. Through this her name and the name of her country, Botswana, were carried to all four corners of the world. In 1999 Cgoise was selected to join three other Kuru artists and four American Indian artists in a printmaking workshop at the Tamarind Institute in New Mexico, USA. Together they produced a series of prints around the theme of the trickster. For Cgoise this was a great experience. Two of her paintings were selected to be included in a series of new stamps that was released by the Botswana postal services.


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C’Goise Beadwork bags and belts, Oil on canvas, 77cm x 100cm. D’Kar, 2003

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Style suits brightness This piece of art is what Cgoise wanted it to be: to show the beauty of decorative arts of the San culture. Expressively coloured and perfectly in balance Cgoise has depicted decorated bags and belts as they are worn by San women. The painting shows clearly that Cgoise has the talent to convey the San culture in an engaging way. Her style suits the brightness she creates. Many viewers commented that the painting looks “genuine African�. When confronted with the painting, their view was immediately drawn to the total image. Only thereafter the attention shifted to the separate decorative objects of the painting. Cgoise constructs her paintings, and her other artworks such as coloured lino cuts and lithographs, by coloured areas alternated by linear elements. She likes to repeat a pattern. All is in balance, and the composition is bound together by the branch. The bright colours of the festive decorations combined with the muted colors symbolize the beauty of the desert. The well rounded human figures symbolize the bounty of the Kalahari after good rains.

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C’Goise Beadwork, aprons and skinbag, Oil on canvas, 44cm x 57 cm D’Kar ,2004

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The looker affects the sight That the looker affects the sight is granted in most fields of enquiry, but here it holds in a very peculiar way. When visiting D’kar (Botswana) and already familiar with the artworks of Cgoise, we were fascinated by this colourful painting by her. Although its realist title ‘apron and skin bag’ should have rang a bell, to us the painting seemed to result from some kind of new phase in which Cgoise had changed from realistic to more expressionist and conceptual work. Immediately we decided to acquire this unique piece of art for the collection of Tamai. Returned to the Netherlands, we displayed the painting in many exhibitions and everywhere the painting received much acclaim as a modern traditionalist African painting. In the process of writing this book, however, we took a closer look. We wanted to find out what the painting means and does not mean. Embarrassed we found out that al the time we had displayed the painting upside down! It was not so modernist as we thought it was. Perhaps this very subjective interpretation was due to the assumption that an autograph of a painter is always at the bottom? Cgoise name is written unclearly at the top. Or did we only see what we wanted to see and had we looked properly?

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CG’OSE NTCÕX’O (CGOISE) 20 Beadwork, aprons and skinbag.

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Valuable time documents Contemporary San art

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Art and Culture All art is based on the need of individuals to express themselves and to create beauty. This is an individual process and as such the same for every artist. Secondly, the history and culture of any community is part of making art. So, the meaning of an individual piece of San artwork is related to the individual San artist and it is embedded in the San culture. The artworks in this book show both, the individual expression and the culture of the San community.

Sensation of beauty Over the last ten years it was moving to see how individuals experienced the sensation of beauty of San art. Some of the artworks reveal a high standard of excellence caused by the technical treatment and the control of the creative processes by the artists. It is this perfection of form and color that moves art viewers, including ourselves. It produces all kinds


Contemporary San art

of associations, and by doing so it multiplies the pleasure which beauty produces.

Art world The San artworks in this book are clear results of San culture and history. It was a trip to the Tsodilo hills sparkled a process of growing self awareness and inspired San people to use their own creativity: the start of the Kuru Art Project. But more important are the oral traditions and the poems of San culture. They form the art world of contemporary San artists. The tales and poems narrate the periods of conflicts and the loss of land and culture. Modern San Art is firmly rooted in the clash of the San culture with the disruptive powers of modernity. But according to Mathias Guenther, by combining elements of the past with elements from the present, the San artist is also able to prevent modernity from overwhelming the San.

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Diversity of stories

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The traditional San artworks are stilled narratives expressing the love for the Kalahari. Its expressive power resembles the power of the traditional San poems. In some other San artworks we can detect the societal changes and alteration of the lifestyle of San people. New elements of shapes and colors are introduced. In the more modern San artworks modern technology and other colors come to the fore: cars, an airplane and bright colors. Remarkable are some abstract San artworks in which the artist unfolds a pattern or structure of an object. This diversity of types of San artworks reflects the diverse impact of modernity on the San in Botswana and Southern Africa. The intrinsic meaning and motives are a combination of traditional, new traditional and modern themes. A mix of the old and the new modern society. As any other people the San is forced to integrate modernity and its diversity into their identity. The San artworks are narratives of this process. As such they are valuable time documents, of a very old civilization in transition and hopefully not in lost. They are a gift for present and next generations. We have come to the end of our culture trip to the San of the Kalahari Desert and their art work. We hope that we have opened your heart for the beauty of the San art, their stories and their culture. We hope you have enjoyed‌ the touch, the purpose and the meaning of Kalahari San art.


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Tamai: Contemporary San Art  

VAN DER CAMP Ankie. 2012. Contemporary San Art: Storytelling art of the Kalahari desert Bushmen on Botswana. La Mongolfiera.

Tamai: Contemporary San Art  

VAN DER CAMP Ankie. 2012. Contemporary San Art: Storytelling art of the Kalahari desert Bushmen on Botswana. La Mongolfiera.

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