A mother is pictured standing outside her sun-bleached clay hut holding her baby up to the warmth of the morning. Underneath the picture there is a note, “Proceeds from the sale will be given to her family.”
Every picture tells a story but this is perhaps the most tragic to emerge from award winning photographer Stuart Arnold’s recently launched book ‘Maun Mothers.’ It is one of the many photographs, paintings and clay pots currently being exhibited at the Nhabe Museum in Maun under the title ‘Colour, Shape and Light.’
Stuart and two other local artists Roger Brown and Ompatile Sebuelo have put together an exhibition subtitled, “Three creative impressions of Ngamiland” that opened this week and will run until 4 June.
The picture of Lona Kakurura is one of the images from the book, and the accompanying note has attracted attention. People are curious to know more and Stuart reveals that a few weeks after the picture was taken the 24-year-old, mother of three, overburdened by poverty and despair, committed suicide while pregnant with her fourth child.
Her story appears in the book as a narrative to the picture that has 40 women telling different stories of their lifestyles in what is described on the cover as ‘intimate and revealing images from a small safari town in Botswana.’
“My aim is to open eyes and hearts,” Stuart says. The forward to his book explains that as we “rush past everyday scenes the images blur to become a familiar backdrop. But if we take the time to stop and meet the people contained within this anonymous backcloth you can only appreciate our wonderful assorted and complex society.”
The hope is that seeing the images freeze-framed will encourage the viewer to be more aware the next time they pass the same images outside the confines of the book or museum walls.
Prints of Lona’s picture are on sale for P120 and can be brought from the museum or from Stuart’s Kalahari Images website. For another exhibitor, potter Ompatile Sebuelo, the philosophy behind his work he explains is to ‘turn functional objects into works of arts.’ With five years experience in arts, the Okavango International School teacher said that it takes a month for his pots to be made and matured. The pots range in price from P250 – P3000 and the challenge for Ompatile, having turned his functional objects into a works of art, is to find people willing to pay that kind of money for the privilege of owning one.
For 27-year-old painter Roger Brown his love for art has to co-exist with his day job as a pest control operator. His reward for dedicating his evenings and weekends to painting the wildlife and people of Botswana was to be recognised as the Best Upcoming Artist in Botswana during 2010 and 2011 from the Thapong Visual Arts Centre. The Thapong Centre in Gaborone will house the exhibition from 11 June – 5 July after it closes in Maun. By then the three artists will have gone a long way towards launching themselves on the ‘unsuspecting public,’ and Lona’s children will be the richer for the exposure.