There is something special about a seasoned artist’s first opening night, especially one whose reputation has been built solely on credible work. Ann Gollifer is one such artist. Although not a Motswana but a permanent resident, she recently explored what it means to be a Motswana through her recent collection presented at her a solo exhibition, hosted by the Sophie Lalonde Art on the 19th floor of the iTowers. In her exhibition titled Omang, which not only asks the question of who one is but also a phrase referring to the national identity card that all Batswana age 16 and above should carry, she used mainly print to explore the subject.
Young and old art enthusiasts filled the small gallery to view her works and from the diverse audience, one could tell that Ann had successfully managed to be the balance, connecting and appealing to both the mature established artists as well as the youthful contemporary artists. Her exhibition was able to incorporate a poetry show with three young local poets; Thato Angela Chuma, Anita Tau and Nametso Phonchi, something which she did deliberately as she has always wanted to work with young people and specifically poets. “I love spoken word; it is relevant and strong and today’s generation is doing it so well. Visual arts unfortunately are weak as compared to spoken word which is more alive so I just wanted to show that in fact the two can complement each other as both serve the purpose of communicating a certain message.”
The leteisi fabric was the underlining medium used in Ann’s work and she reveals that the works took her a whole year to make. As to why she decided to use just German print she reveals that she likens the fabric to herself; even though it is something foreign, it has been adopted by Batswana as their own. “Leteisi is worn in all important ceremonies despite it not originally being from here. I am not a Motswana but I have been living here for 30 years yet I have been taken in by Batswana as their own. As an artist I am made in Botswana and whenever I travel to other countries to exhibit my works, I am representing Botswana. The significance of this fabric was to ask what really makes someone a Motswana, is it because you are born here or because you know the culture; what is it?” she said.
Her print artworks incorporated embroidered detail to them, a rare technique that only Ann can pull off. She revealed, “Most of the fabrics in this exhibition are overprinted with limited edition linocut prints, specifically for this project. Linocut is a simple method of print making which is employed by schools, grassroots art initiatives and individual artists across Africa and has a history in the representation of resistance to oppression.” The exhibition also featured seven mono prints on paper which she explained as, “the images are inspired by an English rhyme that alludes to a bird, the magpie; ‘one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told.’ In her visual version of the rhyme Ann replaced the magpie with an Indian mynah, a bird now considered a pest as it invades ecosystems globally, usurping indigenous species.
“I have chosen to represent Botswana with a suited male figure, a reference to the Three Chiefs. These works allude to issues arising from current political and economic migrations in Southern Africa involving Botswana at its center, ” she said of the rest of the collection. Pieces such as Homelands, Boloko-The Rhetoric, Nonsense and Delivery man are some of those which stole the hearts of many. Omang will show at Sophie Lalonde until the 11th March.