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Neglected Old Master in South Africa

Week 2 
by Andries Loots

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Communities  in South Africa are gradually attempting to discover and re-discover much about each other,  including their rich cultural traditions.  It is hoped that a stronger visual arts community will result from this process.
This time of year   nominations are made for the FNB Vita Art Awards. There are the known artists and the upcoming ones all looking for recognition and prestige as  artists and to claim their stakes in the  world of art. Some individuals believe that a nomination or a prize would secure their future ,  open doors for them and at the end will sell their work. New talent is usually sought and found at these venues and at New Signature competitions. In this  search for the " Master " of the 20th century , some artists are overlooked.
jeram.jpg (8635 bytes)   Jeram Bhana is one such artist , who's art is taken up into our daily existence without any recognition.  He works in 19th Avenue in Laudium outside Pretoria . Jeram's great grandparents left the north of India for a new future in South Africa where he was born in 1940 in Marabastad,  a township on the outskirts of Pretoria.

krisna.jpg (11992 bytes)From a very early age he had an interest in Indian history, music and art. This was during the worst times of South African history and there were no funds available for him to study formally in these fields. At the age of six his family went back to India where they stayed for a few years.  This  important event  changed his  future and  made him realize that  art and music was the only career for him.

Back in South Africa he  studied western art as there was no formal Indian art training or institution. In 1959 an opportunity arose to study music in India  and he went back there for the second time. In Bombay,  a city of different cultures and where lots of artist come together,  he was taught by some of India's best teachers. In 1981 he returned to South Africa and settled on a small-holding,  Tollstoy,    outside Lenz,  near Johannesburg  close to where legendary Ghandi also stayed when he was in South Africa.

At this stage Jeram concentrated on pottery,  a craft he started in India during his second trip. The deep inner feeling to create something more three dimensional was always present as  Jeram felt himself drawn to the more traditional culture. Pottery  made way for formal sculpting and he soon became the master of traditional Hindu sculpture which is executed according to strict rules laid down in the mythological stories that portray these images in the Hindu Holy Scriptures .

templeToday Jeram creates masterpieces out of potters clay from which a mould is made and subsequent   casts in a marble and resin mixture. These sculptures adorn nearly each Hindu temple and home in South Africa and there are examples of his work as far as Mauritius and America. After a very successful exhibition for the department of Religious studies at the University of South Africa,   the University decided to buy the complete collection to be on permanent display in their museum of Religious Studies at the campus in Pretoria.

Anybody interested in Jeram's sculpture can give him a call at
+27 12 3742306 in South Africa.
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