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Painters 2013

Margreet Boonstra

Margreet Boonstra had a difficult decision to make. “Why in heaven’s name should I go to Africa to paint?” she asked herself. Months before the Lamu Painters Festival she was vacillating: “once a week I decided I would not go.” Her indecision was based on news reports about Somalia and memories of the national elections in Kenya that lead to violence in 2008. Besides these political roadblocks to traveling, Margreet also questioned how she would be able to translate in paint on canvas the new sights she would experience and the absolute foreign-ness of Lamu in comparison to her familiar life in the Netherlands. Yet, in spite of these misgivings she came and, according to her, “immediately on landing in Lamu, I felt peaceful.”

She admits that her perceptions of Islam have also been rattled. “I found here a respect and dedication to life” among this Muslim community, she remarks. Margreet compares her findings to rural life in the Netherlands generations ago, when people were more dependent on their neighbours and respectful to the older generation. Driving the point home, she describes walking about in Shela village, where donkeys wander and winding foot paths are the main arteries through the town. “I get lost all the time in the labyrinth,” she laughs unapologetically, “but you always find someone who asks respectfully ‘are you lost?’ and they go out of their way to bring you home.” 

In Lamu, Margreet concentrated on the new kinds of light she witnessed. Her palette changed perceptibly to lighter colours, emphasizing the sun’s brightness on the landscape in contrast to the deeper shadows of interiors. But light was not her only challenge. “Lamu is vibrant” she comments. Translating the vibrancy she experienced and sense of connectedness of people became central to her painting goals at the festival.

Margreet Boonstra was born in 1967 in the northern stretches of the Netherlands. She trained in fine arts at the Minerva Academy, Groningen. She is a plein air painter who loves the open space and skies of the landscapes native to her home. Margreet runs a part time school program for kids in which she teaches them the skills of plein air painting.