Eileen van der Merwe

I grew up on a forest station in Cape Town, South Africa, and went on to study Anthropology and African Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, situated in the Cape Winelands. In 1990 I married a prospecting geologist, and since then the children and I have followed him all over the world. We have lived in a caravan on the West Coast of Namaqualand, a tent in the Kaokoveld in the Namib Desert and have had to deal with being charged by elephants and rhino. I raised and home-schooled our two children for their early years in the most unusual and isolated of conditions close to the shores of Lake Victoria and boarded rickety ferries in Tanzania crossing that very lake. Their sea worthy capabilities were at most times questionable and the family and I usually perched on the top of the Landover during the crossing in the event of a hasty exit. Now, fourteen moves and 5 countries later, I live on the edge of the Empty Quarter, or the Rub’ al Khali, as they call it here in the United Arab Emirates. All of this has nothing to do with painting; except that all these unusual life experiences have been imprinted on my canvasses. The rich desert colours, the vibrancy of the tropical flowers, all my paintings communicate my connection to the land and nature. Each place I have lived came with its own struggles and adjustments, sights, sounds, smells, textures, peoples and culture. Painting is my way of getting to know, and coming to terms with my new environment. It is a constant companion, and one I would be completely lost without!