Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fishermen of the Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta covers an area of approximately 3.2 million acres, when in full flood. The best way to appreciate the size of the Delta is to fly from Maun to any one of the camps within the Delta. Since the land is so flat you are able to see from the air that the delta, just doesn’t seem to have an end. Myriads of channels twist and wind around palm fringed islands as far as the eye can see.

However there is no better way to see the Okavango Delta intimately, than in a Mokoro or a (Dugout). You are able to glide over crystal clear waters, while watching the wildlife that inhabit the fringes of the waterways. Water lilies, Painted Reed Frogs, Jacanas, Fish Eagles, Hippos, Sitatunga, Lechwe, and Elephants are just a few of the beautiful things you might see on such a trip.

Dotted around the Okavango Delta are a few villages, consisting either of the Beyei, or Humbakushu tribes. They mainly survive by subsistence living which includes, farming, fishing and a little hunting. Some have left their former way of life and have become guides, polers, or are employed in other capacities at the many lodges and camps that are scattered across the Delta.

The introduction of nets many years ago have lead some of them to become commercial fishermen, selling their catch at different villages .Its not unusual to come upon a island by boat and beneath its leafy canopy find a fishermen’s camp, with nets strung between trees ,a smoky fire, old tents, and a battered gas freezer. Some of the fish they freeze but many are just split open, gutted and then dried in the sun.

The oil painting above is one I did some years ago, and sold, depicting some fishermen with new nets in their Mokoros. The perspective of the two Mokoros is not quite right, but that’s all part of the learning curve, I sometimes have a look at my old work and have a good laugh, but even though some are badly drawn, color wrong, composition boring, they have sentimental value to them, and bring back good memories . I have to thank all those who bought my early pieces of artworks even though some were not that great. Each sale was another confirmation that I could actually earn something from my art.

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