I have never quite forgiven my parents for wresting me away at the tender age of 9 years from my idyllic childhood in East Africa. When I later learned that some of my #LoretoMsongari schoolmates had remained in Africa and appeared to have enjoyed the adventurous colonial lifestyle which I had only been able to watch from my knee-high vantage point, my grudge deepened. And although I always relish the occasions when my big sister recounts her teenage experiences, I tend to assume the caricaturised smile of a psychotic dog: is it smiling or about to rip someone's head off?
But, given that my parents transplanted me from one colonial playground to yet another, I suppose I should lay the grudge to rest. I had after all exacted sweet revenge on them during my teen years in the Arabian Gulf. If they were to learn of the full extent of my debauchery during those troubled years, they'd probably be turning in their graves. But them were strange times, happily for the kids whose colonial parents generally deemed it appropriate, and convenient, to leave their sproglets in the care of nannies, the assumption being that they would be sufficiently monitored. Ho Ho Ho. I am eternally grateful however for having lived my most formative years in Africa. I too could have been born in Egypt like my big sis, but the celestial powers determined that, nay, my encounter with the Arab world shalt come to pass later; first we shalt orchestrateth the Suez canal crisis pre-empting rapid despatch of parents from Egypt.
So you see, my role in creating international incidents has a long history.
The impact of Africa on my art only came to light after I had settled in Malta in 2002. What can I say, I'm a back-burner pot boiler. But it was mostly to do with the Islamic prohibition of figurative representation which I respected during my 90s art career in the Arabian Gulf . About a year after having moved to Malta, I woke up one fine day, looked into my cereal bowl and decided: time to paint African faces. That's the condensed version. But really, it was like a switch flipped in my head. Several decades had elapsed since the time I first started drawing faces while at boarding school in Surrey and throughout my teen period when I continued to channel all my angst into my portrait drawings. But it's like riding a bike..I had not forgotten how to.
Here's one I drew, when I was about 16, of the Unknown Soldier and my father proudly framed and hung it on his bar's wall. He'd often raise his glass to it, his chest swelling with pride. For me. I'd raise my glass too, knowing at times that I was a few shots away from doing the same as the subject of my drawing. Falling on my own sword. A few years later when i was at St.Martins School of Art in London, I almost managed it. It was a near miss. Put it down to my short-sightedness. But it spun me into a series of dramatic life-changing moves whose end product was my four adorable sproglets and a hugely successful art career in the Arabian Gulf. I will elaborate on that later.
In 2004, an auspicious collision of the dynamic forces of Miriam Fiorini, my organiser (bless her) and Wilfred Sultana, a leading light in Malta's yachting industry, brought about the organisation of an exhibition to showcase my collection of Faces of Africa at the Casino di Venezia in Birgu. It was a sumptuous affair. I was emotionally moved by the response of visitors and as the red stickers went up on the paintings, I couldn't decide if I was coming or going. Home that is. Was the exhibition a visual journey taking me back to my heart's home, or was it paying homage to the fact that I had finally found my true home in Malta? Or was I still on the bridge in between? Over 10 years later, I'm still here. There's my answer, I guess. My settlement in Malta after a long nomadic life was to provide me with a stable platform upon which to project my childhood memories. And make sense of it all. Now THAT'S a work in progress!
Quote of the day: "If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing". (Saint Augustine)
#artbloggers #outofafrica #eastafrica #Kenya
image(adulterated) credits: "Return of The Holy Family From #Egypt" by #JacobJordaens