From Botswana, an Eloquent Artist

Bokamoso Kumwenda, known to most around her as ‘BK’ is an artist with a rich African heritage who has merged into the Omani art scene in the same manner as her art appeals to the afficionado… with subtlety and charm.

Born in Botswana, a beautiful Southern African Country known for its stunning diamonds and broad savannahs, or plains, Kumwenda grew up in a small mining town in the north central part of the country, one that has since the turn of the century emerged from poverty as a thriving nation with a growing economy. The University of Botswana graduate explained that “My first real exposure to different cultures and people happened when I went to school in South Africa. Attending an international school there offered me an appreciation for both our cultural similarities, and differences.”

That too, is where she was exposed to the different artistic genres through the formal art lessons and painting. “Art attracted me because I learned that within the artistry there is more to it than meets the eye. There is research, observation, discovery, and sometimes the art evolves over a period of time, and can change quite significantly, the end product being more of what you intend it to be originally, and certainly more rewarding spiritually.”

John Singer Sargent’s watercolor portraits have inspired her painting with their, “unique way of evoking tangible emotion as you look at them. I find it fascinating how he manages to paint both tight and loose to capture beautiful moments in time.” He is famed for his ‘Lady Agnew of Lochnaw,’ and is regarded by many as ‘the master of elevated grace.’ Similarly, Albrecht Durer’s 16th century woodcuts, in his still popular ‘snail line’ form, are so intricate, detailed, and evocative that she commented, “Its staggering to thinking that those are made from blocks of wood he carved himself!”

“I’m inspired too by culture, which is why I gravitate to objects that represent cultural and traditional societal influences. Inevitably this does lead to the diversity of so many representations of faith, so I will paint buildings that represent religion and faith such as churches, mosques, and temples, which are always so immaculately layered and beautifully detailed. I love the diversity and serenity they offer!”

A medium Kumwenda has enjoyed for a long time has been graphite – the humble pencil. She shared that, “There is something so intriguing about something as simple and everyday being used to create intricate works of art, and it is by far my favorite to work with. It is also very easy to control and there are generally no surprises within its amazing complexities of monochromic color and shade, and its homage to the concept of the noir, that nothing is ever as clear, in black or white, as it seems.”

“Another medium I love is watercolor. Unlike with graphite, there is no predicting what might happen when you put paint to water, to paper,” she laughed, “That spontaneity and chaos was captivating, yet at the same time, challenged me!” Commenting that she soon learned to let the paint have its way, to do what it wants to do, she has found the results are so often, in her humble and humorous manner, “almost magical, certainly better than I would have achieved had it been up to me alone!”

Last, but certainly not least, she is an advocate of linocut printmaking saying, “It takes patience, a steady hand and a strong wrist, but the hours of carving are almost always rewarded with a beautiful print in the end. I love this genre because there is such a physical element to carving the blocks, yet the work has an almost therapeutic, and certainly a calming effect despite its repetition.”

Pressed to categorize her art, Kumwenda explained, “My art is a mix of many things, from still life, to abstract, prints, and I do like to experiment with the diverse mediums. I ask myself, can the unpredictable watercolor be controlled? How much realism can I achieve in lino-printing? Or how to seamlessly reflect light through the rigidity of graphite? All to push the boundaries, to explore possibilities, and I’ve recently gotten into graphic design too, so I have been exploring digital art. It’s all very stimulating and dynamic.”

Bokamoso Kumwenda says, “My husband Gome, is from Malawi in the South East of Africa, commonly referred to as ‘the warm heart of Africa,’ and home to some of the friendliest people you will ever meet, and we have been in Oman since 2011, another nation of warm, peaceable people, with our ten year old daughter Sophiah Grace and seven year old son Micaiah-Joel. Oman is a little slice of heaven.”

The artist then, brings an eloquence, a diversity of genre, color, style, and artistic resilience, and is yet another expatriate contributing to the rich creative tapestry of the Sultanate of Oman.