Sunday, December 3, 2023

Ziki, the artist who gives character to twigs

To make a work of art, you don’t have to incur expenses,” says Ziki Kraai, whose sculpture made from cured twigs of indigenous plants titled, Shades of Yellow, won him the Best in Sculpture Award, at the recent Presidential Awards.

The award ceremony drew a close to the events that celebrated arts and culture during National Heritage Month.

Gladys Kokorwe, Minister of Youth Sports and Culture, had penned the month as a period for celebrating Botswana’s culture and heritage with showcases presented by the Department of Culture and Youth that included performing arts competitions in dance, comedy, theatre, contemporary music and traditional dance.

Kraai’s, Shades of Yellow piece is featured at the National Art Exhibition, which is still on display and running alongside a National Basket and Craft Exhibition at the National Gallery.

“I am proud, as the president went out of his way to promote the arts,” said Kraai, who acted as Thapong Visual Art Centre’s Coordinator between 2005/6.
“It came as a surprise that I was nominated, I didn’t realise it was my Shades of Yellow piece that was featured on the National Arts Exhibitions promotional material till someone pointed it out to me,” said Kraai, who adds that he is grateful for the exposure that this afforded him, as mounting a full exhibition is costly.
He also added that he appreciates President Ian Khama’s initiative that will help artists make a living from their work by selling art to locals rather than foreigner, as had been the practice. The purchase of art by institutions could spur employees to buy their own artwork and children will learn to appreciate having art at home as a norm.

He had invited Sunday Standard to view the complete collection that Shades of Yellow is part of at his home. True to his view that the creation of art need not be expensive, he has used materials that may be free or bought at very low prices.

The twigs from moretlwa, mogwana, mokgomphatha, motsutsujane and moselele trees that he cures by soaking with 10% bleach and treating with linseed oil, dominate his current collection. Ngata is a sculpture that consists of two neat bunches of twigs lying side by side, one painted yellow and the other green. They lie on two slabs of wood, one painted red and the other purple, and that, together, form a rectangle.
“Ngata is created under the principle that there is strength in unity,” said Kraai, recalling the story of a father who gave his son a twig to break in half, which he managed easily. However he found out that breaking a bunch of twigs was harder.

The second artwork, he points out to Sunday Standard, is again, made of two slabs of wood, a green one at the bottom and blue one above, suggesting a fertile landscape during a rainy season taking into account the green landscape and the blue sky. Twigs laid out in a lattice formation run across the green slab.

“Ke mogotlha…” he explains, to my puzzlement, of what the lattice represents. Mogotlha is the Setswana word for a kraal cratch.

“Older people, who have experienced a rural setting, usually recognise it instinctively,” Kraai says, with a smile, “because, Batswana are cattle people. However, younger urban people don’t get it.”

An artwork that the artist sees as the flagship of his collection is one titled, $200 Barrel Oil.
Kraai says he also explores contemporary ideas through his art and shows the artwork that features three rusted cans prickled with nails. “This artwork represents the current fuel crisis. The trinity of cans represents the many views people hold about the issue. Some say the fuel prices have gone higher, thanks to industry speculators. Some suggest that it’s because of the high demand over supply while others reckon that the price hikes are due to the difficulty in tapping oil,” Kraai says.

And an offbeat piece amongst the collection is one titled The Sinking Toilet. “We can’t be straight laced in art all the time,” chuckles the artist, whose piece playfully decries bad workmanship that causes rustic pit latrines to sink.

There is inspiration in the environment, said Kraai, and artists must draw from their everyday experience, using materials that are readily available.

Contact Ziki Kraai @ 71743425 or 3187916


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