Saturday, December 4, 2021

Local Artist Nicola Holgate exhibits ultimate collection

Unconventional rapper Juju Boy, with his black leather pants and a jacket to match, sits absentmindedly on a brick.

A young lady at the busy Gaborone bus rank puts the final touches to a brand new hair style, readying herself for a valentines date, acting oblivious to the camera lens focused on her.

A tall blonde Swedish lady, Ulrica, lazily rests her knee on a wooden stool; and Charlie, old man of Caucasian origins, with his unkempt hair, beard, and squinty eyes gazes into the horizon.

These are just some of the incredible portraits by Nicola Holgate that will be on display starting February 13 at the Sophie Lalonde Art Gallery, CBD.

The exhibition, themed ‘I know you, you know him, he knows her who I know too’ will be the first by a local artist at the new gallery.

“My experience has been that the tone of my Botswana landscape shifts and changes according to the people who move through daily life. Like all deserts you have to zoom into the detail of that tiny unexpected flower growing in the stony ground,” Holgate says.

She says she employs the same approach when observing people.

“You could look right past fascinating and interesting individuals when your focus is too generally. These people become the places you go to. When faced with their absence there is an entirely new landscape to get used to.”

Although she has always been a painter Holgate says this will be her first exhibition.

“For most of the fourteen years that I have been here, Botswana has never really been much of an art scene,” she says. “I have been waiting to see if the situation will improve; to see if the people here could be more aware of the arts beyond music and dance.”

Holgate says Batswana have only just recently been able to understand and appreciate art. She says until the Sophie Lalonde Art Gallery opened its doors recently she has never truly felt like she could fit into other art galleries around the city.

“Sophie (Lalonde)’s gallery is a bit more international. I needed a place that I considered worthwhile,” she says, laughing apologetically. “Sorry to sound arrogant.”

She says it has taken her almost two years to finish her latest collection. “There is a lot of money involved in buying quality material, framing, making sure that your presentation is good and finding someone who is prepared to go the extra mile in terms of promoting and exposing you,” she says.

“I don’t believe there has been anyone in Botswana who has been prepared to do that at quite the level that I was interested in.”

Although she says her painting extends to landscapes and other forms, her first love is portraits.
“I love people,” Nicola says.

The thing about Botswana that took her years to realise, she says, is that the landscape is not only about the rocks and earth or the endless dry vistas; it is also made of people.

“This is my Botswana, my love letter to this surrogate mother. Maybe there is a correspondence to your own experience and maybe recognition will spark for many viewers of this work. At least, I hope so. This is how life is in Botswana, I know you, you know him and he knows her, who I know too.”

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