by Megan Daly
Since 2017, South African artist Hanien Conradie has been travelling regularly to South Eastern Botswana accompanied by two African Medicine doctors, inspiring the series of works titled Of Gathering Rain.
Distant hills sit behind the flora and fauna of the landscape, while soft clouds roll across the sky. Drips and smears in the ink suggest a light rainfall onto the land. A semi-arid region, the Tswana people rely on sufficient rainfall for their well-being; the traditional practice of rainmaking demonstrating a special relationship with the natural world, underpinned by the belief that human behaviour can influence the elements.
Through her considered and ritualistic approach to materials, Conradie has developed her own specific relationship to the environment. In Of Gathering Rain, she uses soot ink made from burnt plant oils, a practice which emerged after first using endangered fynbos vegetation, an endemic plant family indigenous to the Western Cape which depends on fire to germinate. Using a light touch, the soot ink and water are encouraged to express their natural characteristics. With this approach, which Conradie calls 'conversing' with the matter, the endangered plants are given agency and voice.
Ash as a symbol of resurrection thus became a hopeful symbol in my work concerned with extinction, destruction, and loss.
This conversation extends beyond one between Conradie and her materials. With her animistic approach, she hopes the paintings communicate directly with the land of Botswana as 'objects of power', invoking restorative outcomes where rain falls from the sky, rivers flow and grasses sprout from the soil. With these works, we are reminded of the fundamental bonds between land, water, and humanity; the importance of the local and the indigenous; and the restorative powers of human behaviour in a time overwhelmed by destruction.
Hanien Conradie was chosen to feature in Issue #4 of Radical Art Review, Farewell Earth.
To see more of Hanien's work or to contact her, visit: