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Ubuntu portraiture

Art besigye

Could this artist bring his `hardcore of art’ to an exhibition soon?

Henk Jonker, a Dutch artist, musician, and poet who lives in Kampala, believes there has been a major shift in the way people perceive each other all over the world, writes Dominic Muwanguzi.

“It is no longer important that one is white or black. These boundaries do not matter anymore,” he says. Possibly faced with a lot of doubtful listeners, Henk sometimes draws his beliefs – in black and white portraits. His medium is Ubuntu philosophy; the belief that `I am because we are’.

The subjects could be well-known influential figures like Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, Nancy Reagan, and Donald Trump, or regular personalities like his father and mother, wife and friends. These he juxtaposes to create his own sense of the infinite diversity of humanity strung togetherness in humanness.

His style of portraiture like his passion for humanity is diverse. He easily shifts from minimalism to the classic realistic drawing. His earlier minimalistic portraits, he says, were influenced by Edvard Munch, a Norwegian expressionist artist who drew human figures in a loose and nonchalant style that defined them as extraordinarily different from the art works of the day (18th Century).

art trump

In Munch’s drawings, the viewer could see a certain level of freedom that is akin to child-like art. On the other hand, the classic realistic drawings by Henk are no different from the portraitures by many contemporary artists living today. Nevertheless, they possibly are metaphors of his interest in the human face. He considers his earliest work, as a landscape artist, basic and prefers to be seen as a conceptual artist – a genre he considers more serious, requiring creativity and innovation and attractive to bigger audiences.

In any case, drawing well, for him is an obsession or as he likes to say, it is “the hardcore of art”.

“It is like the music scale for musicians. You have to know how to draw to be a good artist,” he says.

That does not mean drawing should be a sweaty affair. Henk could take a day or less to come up with a portrait of anyone. His portraiture reflects the intensity with which he approaches the genre. Combined with his music and poetry, it is clear Henk does not want to be pigeon-holed as painter. The portraits are of people of all colours, race, and social status. They are a figurative representation of living together as family regardless. It is not clear when it will happen, but Henk has an exhibition in mind. Look out for it.

One comment

  1. A picture is worth a thousand words. This art here is worth a thousand and one words. Great art!

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