Sunday 12 August 2012

African music… The soul, the breath of Vanderstraetan’s art

THE spiritual bond between Europe and Africa appears to find expression in Carine Vanderstraetan’s art. While the late German linguist, Uli Beier, describes this bond as ‘ori-inu (inner self)’, Suzanne Wenger, the late Adunni Orisa, sees it in Osun grove.

For Vanderstraetan, who is based in Belgium, the elixir for her visual expression, though contemporary, is African music. In fact, a first contact with her work gives impression of rhythmically strung beads, but indeed, it’s pointillism, a painstaking method of painting in dots.  

Largely rendered in semi-abstract form, Vanderstraetan’s themes strike a balance between her European identity and Africanness. In the last three years, she has traveled round Nigeria to explore this bond. 
Africa, Food for my Soul by Carine Vanderstraetan
In works such as Africa, Food for my Soul, Born With Music In My Heart, Unity and Love, Laidu and Power of Love, the Belgian artist stresses this bond, at the same time, confirming the thin line between cultures, especially, when expressed in abstract motifs. And more instructive, Vanderstraetan employs earth and warm colours to stress the cultural barriers and links.  

You wonder how she gets her inspiration? Vanderstraetan says, “listening to African music is for me a homecoming of some sort, a journey back to my roots.” She continues: "most of my creations are influenced either by African music or the ‘serene’ nature of the continent. I feel a strong sense of belonging and bonding with Africa.”

In the music of artistes such as Beautiful Nubia, Orlando Julius and Rokia Traore, the inspirations for her are irresistible. She says, “after carefully choosing a musician that I’d like to listen to, I often immerse myself in the sounds, and get absorbed in the numerous instruments and all the emotions that come with the music.” 
Translating the feeling into visual content, she finds an energy and intellectual sapping medium such as pointillism to release her emotion.
And nothing should be allowed to escape, so, “in my painting process, I sing along with the music or simply hum the rhythms of Africa, falling into a trance, landing in Africa."

This much reflects in some of the themes, which have stylised depiction of musical instruments. 

For each artist of her heart, she gets an inspiration to produce a piece: Laidu is inspired by the music of Traore and Born with Music in my Heart and Soul is inspired by Orlando Julius. And when she says, Nubia’s music inspired Power of Love; it appears more personal because the musician is her good friend and mentor.
Carine (right) and Nigerian musician, Beautiful Nubia
THE journey to Africa for self-expression started 10 years ago for the artist. Then, she had just begun to draw again after some years of sabbatical, and it was an explosion, from where she found out that black music has influence on her drawings. She was even advised by friends to start using colours.

“So, I started painting,” she retorts. Vanderstraetan believes that Nigeria is Africa’s heartbeat and ‘artbeat’. Therefore, she always insists on visiting the place despite discouragement from friends in Belgium.

That she met most of her Nigerian friends through Facebook, and still holds the country in high esteem, says much about the ‘bad eggs’ in the country not killing her honest dispositions.  

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