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'Into Africa' is inspired by the artist's recent travels. Pictured: 'Shepherding Her Young' (above) and 'Unbridled Joy.'
BY AMY MILLIS
FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
New work by local artist Collette Caprara will be on display at the Members Gallery at the Fredericksburg Center for the Creative Arts through Jan. 27. The exhibit, titled "Into Africa," documents the artist's journeys with her husband through Kenya in 2011 and South Africa during two trips in 2012.
Brief narratives that tell the stories behind the paintings accompany each work of art. From these background stories, it is clear that the theme of human connection is central to the exhibit.
"One of the most basic elements of human nature is the desire to relate," said Caprara, who is a columnist for The Free Lance-Star.
Set in the veldts and savannas of South Africa and Kenya, all of her paintings share the common theme of overcoming hardship through interpersonal relationships, from the affectionate caressing of the two zebras in "Zebra Secret" to the exuberant celebration of the children in "The Joy of Freedom."
In Caprara's words, relationships are "a source of joy and energy the foundation for a sense of identity, strength and a sense of peace and being 'at home' in the world."
Community is what empowers the subjects of the paintings to persevere through adversity.
"It is the sense of community among the children that allows them to feel joy and delight in life, in spite of the fact that many had endured the loss of their parents. They may not have video games or 3-D movies, but they have a sense of belonging and revel in simple pleasures," the artist said. "It's relationship and family bonds that allow and move individuals--such as the women cooking in the midst of acres of slums or those hauling heavy bundles of wood--to provide sustenance and resources for life through whatever means is possible."
The importance of relationships is not limited to just the human figures depicted in her artwork.
Caprara portrays animals that interact with each other (as in "Shepherding Her Young," in which a mother baboon guides her infant baboon), and even with the viewer. "Chewing on It" depicts a giraffe eating grass in a playful, almost condescending manner, as if it is toying with the observer.
"Even in the arena of wildlife, it is relationship that ensures existence," said Caprara. "The moms nurturing their offspring, the zebras whose herd instincts transform their vivid stripes into protective camouflage and the cheetahs--which are powerful and lightning-fast, but still form coalitions for support."
A portion of all proceeds from "Into Africa" will be donated to E-3 Kids, a Fredericksburg-based charity that sponsors the Mikindani Royal Kids School for orphans in Mombasa, Kenya.fccava.org
Amy Millis is a sophomore at the Commonwealth Governor's School at Riverbend High School.