I recently chatted with South African artist Lynette Swanepoel about her portrait art. Lynette lives about three hours from Johannesburg, on Libanon Farm next to Libanon Mountain which is close to a small town named Bethelhem–“so it almost sounds as if I am in the Middle East, but I’m not. I’m in the middle of South Africa,” she says. Lynette farms dairy cattle with her family and they also have Arabian horses, and plant maize and wheat. Before farming Lynette taught Graphic design at a University for many years. “I wish I had time to just do art, but the farm takes up some time and I also teach visual art at local schools as well as digital photography.”
Depending on where you live, that may seem a bit on the wild side! I also asked her if there were villages nearby. Lynette told me that there are many villages all around her, and that the young man in her portrait(above), “is a South African but from the South Sotho tribe which originated in Kingdom of Lesotho our neighbouring country right in middle of South Africa. We stay near the border. It is also known as the Mountain Kingdom.”
Lynette explained the details in her pastel painting titled Initiation–“Yes. We had to get special permission to attend the final day when they are washed from the clay that covered them and they are dressed in traditional Bashoto blanket. We could attend the end to take some photos. This particular boy (I know him) looked traumatized and not very comfortable. He must have endured quite a lot.”
The next logical question to ask is–What is the young man in your portrait being initiated into?
Lynette says that the “Initiation is part of many African cultures and this particular boy belongs to the Sotho culture. The initiation leads to or gives them their ‘passage’ into manhood. In these tribes it is part of becoming a man. There is however also a lot of controversy around the whole ritual and process.”
I enjoyed interviewing Lynette and thank her for the wonderful chat.