Cobus van Bosch    

From Die Burger
5 February 2011

Freedom struggle of
'bastards' in sharp relief

Liza Grobler

Forgotten Freedom Fighters
Johans Borman Gallery

This exhibition highlights an unusual theme: the "bastards"* of Southern Africa.

Forgotten Freedom Fighters is an ongoing project through which Van Bosch focuses on a group of enigmatic marginal figures and their considerable impact on the socio political history of Southern Africa.

The expressive portraits in oil paint are based on photograpic documentation from archives and libraries. Oil on canvas, the historically respected medium of "true art", has never before been employed so comprehensively to paint idividualistic portraits of this marginalised group.

Van Bosch introduces the viewer to each of the characters through short texts - linking the facial features with history: "Hendrik Witbooi, (!Nanseb gaib |Gâbemab, 1830-1905), captain of the (|Khowesin), was born in Pella in South Africa. He was one of Namibia's greatest freedom fighters and resisted German colonial powers in the late 19th century. He was mortally wounded during a skirmish at Vaalgras in 1905."

The exhibition offers, as Max du Preez mentioned in his opening speech, a more representative historical documentation of our past. After all, some of these personalities were responsible for noteworthy changes in our history. Take Hendrik Witbooi, for example, the man who developed guerilla warfare. This way of making war had been attributed to general De Wet.

Van Bosch's monochromatic palette also recalls the landscapes of the semi deserts in which these people lived. Their faces, proud, even challenging, and are being strenghtened through composition. Weatherbeaten faces which read like maps.

Although the compositions sometimes feel rigid, maybe even formulaeic, the exhibition stays strong as an installation. Various handling of the painted surface - especially the backgrounds - is interesting, but a more daring approach would have attributed much.

Van Bosch is no beginner, and this exhibition is worth a visit by art lovers as well as those interested in the complexities of our country's history.

* Early term for mixed race groups.

 

 



Jakobus Isaak, 2010, oil on board, 18cm x 18cm.



Hendrik Witbooi, 2010, oil on canvas, 50cm x 76cm.



Jan Jonker Afrikaner, 2010, oil on board, 18cm x 18cm.


Uit Die Burger
5 Februarie 2011

Basters van Suider-Afrika se vryheidstryd in skerp reliëf

Liza Grobler

Forgotten Freedom Fighters
Johans Borman-galery

Hierdie tentoonstelling belig ’n ongewone tema: die basters van Suider-Afrika.

Forgotten Freedom Fighters is ’n voortdurende projek waarin Van Bosch die geskiedenis belig van ’n groep enigmatiese randfigure en hul beduidende impak op Suider-Afrika se sosiaal-politieke verlede.

Die ekspressiewe olieverf-portretstudies is gebaseer op fotografiese dokumentasie uit argiewe en biblioteke. Olie op doek, die histories gerespekteerde medium van “regte kuns”, is nooit voorheen op só omvattende wyse ingespan om individualistiese portrette van hierdie gemarginaliseerde groep te skilder nie.

Van Bosch stel die kyker bekend aan elk van die karakters deur kort inligtingstukkies neffens die werk te plaas wat die verband tussen gelaatstrekke en geskiedenis op daadwerklike wyse uitlig: “Hendrik Witbooi, (!Nanseb gaib R|Gâbemab, 1830-1905), kaptein van die |Khowesin, is gebore in Pella in Suid-Afrika. Hy was een van Namibië se grootste vryheidsvegters en het Duitse kolonialisering in die laat negentiende eeu teengestaan. Hy is noodlottig gewond in ’n skermutseling by Vaalgras in 1905.”

En soos Max du Preez ook in sy openingsrede aangevoer het, bied die tentoonstelling ’n meer verteenwoordigende historiese dokumentasie van ons verlede. Sommige van hierdie persoonlikhede is immers direk verantwoordelik vir noemenswaardige verandering in die geskiedenis. Neem nou maar Hendrik Witbooi, die man wat eintlik guerrilla-oorlogvoering ontwikkel het! Tog word hierdie vorm van oorlogvoering steeds in boeke altyd aan genl. De Wet toegeskryf.

Van Bosch se monochromatiese palet roep ook die landskappe van die semi-woestyngebiede waarin hierdie mense hulle bevind het, voor die gees. Die gesigte is trots, byna uitdagend, en word deur die komposisie versterk. Gesigte wat weens die impak van die elemente soos kaarte lees.

Plek-plek voel die komposisies te rigied, miskien selfs resepmatig, dog die tentoonstelling as installasie lees sterk. Die verskillende hanterings van die skilderoppervlak – veral in die agtergronde – is interessant, maar hier sou ’n waaghalsiger hantering van die verfaanwending veel kon bydra.

Van Bosch is weliswaar geen beginner nie en hierdie tentoonstelling is ’n besoek werd vir sowel kunsliefhebbers as diegene wat belangstel in die kompleksiteite van ons land se geskiedenis.