Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Austrian sculptor works with Botswana woodcarvers to reveal spirit of the bush

Young birds peer out from their nest, looking around to discover the world around them.
A stork preens in its watery surroundings.

Skimmers glide along the edge of a channel, while a fish eagle dives to retrieve a bream.
These are the images that are evoked by the art of Christiane Stolhofer, whose wood sculpture exhibition is being sponsored by the Government of Austria at the Botswana National Museum’s National Gallery this coming week.

The exhibition accompanies a two-week long workshop where local Botswana wood carvers will work with Christiane to refine their techniques and examine how the natural shapes of old wood found in firewood piles and on the floors of woodlands can be worked to reveal the carvers’ perceptions of their environment, producing objects of beauty and contemplation.

“There is a great artistic tradition in Botswana in the form of making of baskets from natural materials,” Dr. Stefan Pistauer, Trade Commissioner of the Austrian Trade Commission explains, “But wood carving is still relatively unknown, even though Botswana has some of the most wonderful carving wood in the world . We saw in Zimbabwe how a whole new practice of stone carving developed in one lifetime through the guidance and support of the country’s national gallery. That practice has produced world renowned African artists and income for many people.”

Christiane came to Zambia as a nursing sister in 1979 and, inspired by local artists, began sculpting in stone in Zimbabwe in 1983.

A year long trip through West Africa in 1987 exposed her to wood carving and, on her return to Zimbabwe, she began to combine wood and stone in her work.

In a few years’ time she was working exclusively in wood and learning about the indigenous trees that provided her raw materials, growing many from seed and planting them in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

She has spent the past five years in Maun, surrounded by the Okavango Delta’s trees and birds, producing and selling works of art that find their way to Europe, North America and China.

“Christiane’s work is very spiritual,” says Lesiga Segola, Principal Curator of the National Gallery. “Most Batswana recognize this instantly, probably because of our rural backgrounds. We are still very much tuned into nature and have strong faith. That visitors from abroad like her work is an indicator of why they come so far to visit our places of natural beauty and inspiration like the Okavango Delta.”

Participants in the workshop have been selected by the National Museum’s Art Education Department from various locations in Botswana.

Movement in Wood: the Okavango Work of Christiane Stolhofer is on display at the National Gallery, Botswana National Museum, Gaborone from 7 to 19 of September, 2010.

For more information contact: Mr Lesiga Segola, Tel. 3909222 Email: [email protected]

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