There is that visible spark in Maude Brown’s eyes as she talks about crafts and arts of Naro and Dcui artists from D’kar settlement in the Gantsi area.
Occasionally taking a sip on her rich and decorated cappuccino at The Duck Cafe in Maun this past Saturday, Brown cannot hide her excitement at the launch of Kuru arts exhibition following a long break of showcasing new art works due to COVID-19.
“With COVID, nothing much happened, it all came to a stand-still and it is a big blessing that we were able to survive over this time and thanks to Lorraine Potter (Founder Crafted Botswana) this is one of the first major event happening,” Brown explained.
They have exhibited in more than 15 countries and yet Brown, aged over sixty, still get over the moon at an idea of exhibition, “We have exhibited in so many countries and I think the main thing that everyone knows is that the British airways plane wear one of the Kuru arts. It was long time ago but people still talk about it. It was a major thing that happened.”
This week Kuru arts project in conjunction with Crafted Botswana and Travel for Impact is exhibiting at The Duck cafe in Maun.
Passion punctuates every expression as Brown talks about the more than thirty years journey she has had with the artists who have never been to an art school and some never through basic education yet are producing master pieces of art which have reached the world and international audience and market.
“The art and crafts are an outlet for them to re-live their culture and I think that is important for any person to have a way to say who am I, what are the things that I like, what are the things that are part of me and part of my culture! It gives you that outlet and for those people it is really important,” Brown explained.
Kuru art is a community project and at the moment it has twenty artists from D’kar and of late they have introduced beading to cushion work which Brown believes will sell good.
“Cushion covers are easy to carry and that makes them easier gift choices for travellers. You should see the ones on display there, they are so beautiful,” she added before explaining that, “our artists are all locals and living in D’kar and all the beautiful art you can see here are produced by them.”
Having settled in D’kar in 1993 from her home country South Africa, Brown and her husband never wanted to go back after seeing the natural talent of the community, “It is not an art school, people just come in, they are not trained we don’t give them art lessons we only teach them to use the canvas, how to use the paint and then whatever they do is from the heart, they do their own thing and I think that was the success for the project over the years.”
But after so many years of art and sales, what do the artist have to show for it besides displayed arts? Brown admits the artists have received lots of cash from their works, but living in a very poor community means they have to share every Thebe with those who have nothing.
“What I can say is that what I have seen over the years is that the artists have grown with this project, some of them have been there all these years. There are three or two artists who have been there since 1990, they were young guys when we started. If you look in the files of how much art they have sold, it is enormous but living in very poor community like D’kar, the money just runs out,” she explained.
She further added that, “It is very difficult, but it does make a difference, and if you are the only person living there having earned some money and there are so many people around you that have nothing , when you get your money it gets shared out and that is part of the culture also, to share, but it does make a difference and I have seen that it has improved lives of some of the artists.”
Annually, Kuru arts project publishes a calendar that carries art from this community and is popular internationally including in Japan and Holand and this year Brown says they have only printed 300 of those due to shipping complication created by COVID-19.