Joshua Strydom is a Zimbabwean artist, photographer and print maker, whose work is engaging differences between cultures through visual vocabulary. While traveling, he is exploring cultures, variety of folklore and traditions, and trying to connect the opposites by mediating through art.
His work is strongly inspired by African cultures, while there is a narrative in his art pieces which speaks about history, mythology and cultural values. Patterns and colors in his prints are often dedicated to the geographic specifics of the culture he is inspired by.
His series of prints, "Dzizi", "Nzou", and "Duiker", is inspired by old Zimbabwean sayings, traditional words of wisdom passed on from generation to generation. The original idea for these prints was to use black, as he wanted to give power to these statements he was presenting, but because he did not want black to be connected to Africa as "the black continent", black was excluded from the color choice. The final choice of color ended up being a mix of purple, red and a little bit of black, which is a color associated with the color of the African soil.
"Dzizi" is telling us behind the scenes story about rebellion and speaking for oneself, while it also explains how it was once thought that owls have horns and they were traditionally considered to bring death. On the top of the picture there is a tree and a climber - this rapresentation is coming from a saying that the fruit on the ground belongs to everyone, but the fruit on the tree is for the one who can climb.
"Nzou" is showing as an image of an elephant. Elephant is a totem animal for some members of the tribe, which means that their ancestor's souls are in elephants, and so these members of the tribe are not allowed to eat elephants. Although the head of the tribe is allowed to enjoy the meat of the elephant, everyone else is not. In the second plan you can see the image of a leopard, illustrating what we can learn from nature in differences between hyenas and leopards - that the numbers can overpower the strength.
"Duiker" is the third print in this collection, also based on old African sayings, all inspired by nature and natural circumstances, especially animal life. Even though the chosen color truly agrees with the stories and meanings behind these art peaces, it is interesting how in reaching this shade, the primary choice had to be excluded from the options, to give space for creativity to bring the adequate solution.
Following series of art pieces is "Anansi ne rwaivhi", which is a story folded in a specific way, inspired by the chameleon and the sayings about the chameleon in Africa. Artist's vision for this piece was to not make it monochromatic, but to show the main characteristic of a chameleon, which is the ability to change colors.
The colors are changing and melting into one another, and variety of saturation and vibration of different colors is present. The images used for this print are images of nature, inspired by the grass, the soil, the chameleons transformations. There is a progression from the last page of the book to the beginning, where while colors interflow throughout the pages, the very first page of the book is merging all the colors and shades at once, presenting this astonishing ability of chameleons.
Joshua is a paper maker and a print maker, he makes paper out of elephant's feces and all of his work requires a lot of time and dedication. His work is mostly inspired by nature and cultures he crosses paths with. The process of eco printing for him starts by taking pictures of interesting occurrences in nature, and then keeping the original shapes from the picture, transferring these impressions and experience to the paper.
Other techniques he is working with are using etching press, silk printing, screen printing, lithography, and others. His recent work is a screen print inspired by a poem about personality of the wind. It is a collaboration with Milena Brkić, during an art residency in Serbia, organized by inspiring change.
From an interesting conversation with Joshua, we discovered how, in art world, some colors are present because some had to be excluded from the palette, while sometimes it is a case of having to include specific colors and trying to find a way for all of them to co-exist in an art piece, like in the "Anansi ne rwaivhi" book.
All the photos are taken from Joshua's site.
About the author
Nina Petrov is an activist, poet, performer and mathematician. She communicates with the world mostly through words, movement and equations, but sometimes also by speaking very loudly. The only truth she could say about herself is that she keeps changing every day, never stops learning and interacting with her surroundings.