The soul and art of Hari Lualhati – A Capetown Based artist

I was born on February 12, 1985. At an early age, I’ve showed a lot of interest in art, more specifically in drawing. I remember, whenever there’s a nice cartoon on TV and we cannot afford to buy illustrations/stickers of characters

from those cartoons, I will just draw them on a sheet of paper so I can have a remembrance of them. The same applies on my favourite Disney movies; they inspired me at a young age to draw cartoon characters and made me dream to become an animator at Disney Company someday.   I remember before I get admitted for Grade 1 at Primary School, there’s an examination that we need to pass. One of the tasks was to draw our father. Most of the kids drew stick figure but my figure drawing that time already had volume and so much details that impressed the teachers

I was a quiet and shy type of kid with very low self-confidence, maybe because I was very skinny with big ears. My teachers would often choose me to write down names of my noisy classmates whenever the teacher needs to be out of the room. I often prefer to be alone and just draw or colour.

I have often been chosen to be the school representative for art competitions and luckily, I have received awards; these somehow boosted my confidence. I can say that I’ve been an obedient and studious student during my elementary days. 

I moved to a new school for my high school. We need to be at school by 6Am for the flag ceremony; the school is very strict at disciplining its students. I can still clearly remember, my mom would wake me up early morning for school, my breakfast (which is often times instant noodles) is ready, the hot water for my bath is ready, and my ironed clothes are already. That is why even if sometimes I don’t feel like going to school, I feel guilty for all the efforts of my mom and that I don’t want all her efforts to be wasted. Whenever I look back at those times, I can feel the solid love of my mom towards me; I never felt so much taken care of. My mom would even walk with me on my way to the school to be sure I’m safe because it was very early that it’s still dark outside. I will forever treasure and will always look back at those precious memories. Now that I’m old, one of the things people don’t know about me is that I include instant noodles at my meals every weekdays. It’s because now that I’m living far from my mom, the taste of the instant noodles brings me back to the warmth and love when I was still young. I really love my mom, so much! The last time I visited my mom, I was surprised. It was the first time I’ve seen my mom’s current situation. My sisters were telling me that my mom is starting to forget things but when I personally experienced it, it’s very hard to accept the changes on her. My mom now has Alzheimer; she tends to ask same questions over and over. My sisters also told me that she doesn’t cook anymore, like she forgot how to do it. The last time I was there, she told me I look the same as before that I didn’t change and to my surprise, she started to cook noodles. That moment is something I will never forget because that might be the last time I will see her cook and that might be the last time I can taste a food prepared by her. I watched her cook from the start to finish with smiles in my eyes. After I tasted the noodles, I cannot control myself and run to the comfort room where I burst into crying and I don’t want her to see that. I thank God for that moment, for that experience. Even if it’s unintentional, my artworks when I was in high school are often with theme of “mother and child”. I think it’s because of my overflowing love for my mother. The school immediately noticed my skills in painting and assigned me to be the school representative for art competitions. I’ve also been a part of an artist group in our high school. Every time there’s an event, I would always be assigned to paint the background for the stage. Teachers would also ask me to paint for them as well. I was asked by our principal to paint a mural on the second floor of the school building. For me that is a memorable task because up to now it is still being displayed in that school. The fact that the mural I created is being taken care of and still being appreciated by teachers, new students and visitors of the school makes that project memorable to me. I can say that these tasks have helped me develop my skills even more. Because of the service I’ve offered the school, I’ve been a scholar and saved money. I’ve also been awarded as “Artist of The Year” every Recognition day from 1st year to 4th year high school. During my entire high school, I remained to be a quiet person, not much friends and can only hear me

speak during recitation. I remember, my classmates would always be quiet when it’s my time to speak for recitation, according to them it’s because it’s their only time to hear me speak. I would often hear teachers describing me as a student who is focused and with amiable character and hearing those from them makes me want to continue what I’m doing.

When I graduated from high school, I don’t know how to proceed with my life. My father lost his job and decided to be retired. My brother already had his own family, my other sister was working as a teller in a bank and my other sister was still studying Engineering. I have passed on the entrance exams of Universities but they are all expensive and my sister who was the provider of the family during that time told me that we couldn’t afford it. I was thinking I will just study any vocational course just to finish something and almost loose hope until my cousin informed me about the Talent test for College of Fine Arts in the University of the Philippines; where if you passed, you will be a scholar plus will be able to study at the most prestigious school in the Philippines. I tried my luck, took the exam and passed. I will forever be thankful to God for giving me this opportunity to enter the College of Fine Arts in the University of the Philippines.  During my College days, I’ve seen so many talented students; almost everyone is good at drawing and painting. I’ve also noticed a big difference on my financial status when I started to compare myself to others by the way we dress, the food we eat, etc. They are lucky to have their own family cars as their service to school where I need to use public transportation, they can go to the mall, watch movie at the cinema, party at night, I also envy them sometimes when they can eat lunch at McDonalds while I cannot afford that and has my own food prepared from home (salted egg and rice). There was one time, after class my friends invited to have lunch at the restaurant, I told them I don’t have money for it and ask if I can bring my lunchbox and just eat there with them but that was not allowed at the restaurant. I felt so little that time. But instead of feeling down that I cannot do what other students can do because of my financial limitations, I reminded myself on what am I doing at the University, and that is to study. I suddenly feel shame for being envious towards others, wherein my sister who is the provider of the family, her own money from working at the bank cannot afford to party or watch movie or eat out because she needs to give her salary to the family so we can survive and so that I can study. That brought me back to my consciousness and remained focus at my studies. My major during first year College was Painting, but during my second year, I was advised by my sister who is supporting my studies to shift my major to Visual Communication/ Advertising because according to her, there is no money in Painting and I can immediately find job after I graduated if my major is Visual Communications and I followed her.

I’ve graduated year 2016 at the University of the Philippines – Dalian with Honor (Cum Laude). I immediately work at the Philippines as a graphic artist for a company. My goal was to financially help my family. I consider it a huge blessing to receive a call from an Architectural Firm in Hong Kong and telling me they are hiring me as their graphic artist. I was so excited because with a higher salary in Hong Kong I can provide better for my family. I live alone in Hong Kong and did some designs for brochures and other graphics for the company. When I was in Shenzhen China, I struggle to find people who speak English. I will just go out of my room to buy food and point out the image of the food I want because people cannot understand English. I felt so lonely when I was in Shenzhen, especially during Christmas and New Year (Jan.1) because they don’t celebrate it there.

When I returned back to Hong Kong, I was invited to join an art group. It has become the start of me being active to paint again and started to join group exhibitions. When my love to painting started to blossom again I realized that even if I’m earning a lot of money in Hong Kong, I feel like something is missing when it come to my work, that it is not giving me the satisfaction I want, that I just keep on doing the same things and I want to grow more into illustrating/painting. So I decided to resign and move to South Africa to be an illustrator there. I’ve created some book illustrations for children. South Africa is a beautiful place to live in, it is rich with wild life, beautiful sceneries, and warm people and these made me feel inspired to create art. At that time, I felt that I have enough savings to do what I’m really passionate about and that is painting so I decided to be a full time painter/artist. 

I mostly use oil on canvas.  The creative process starts with conceptualization. Once I’ve visualized my idea, I start painting. More often than not I find myself lost in my art as I go with the flow of passion running through my paintbrush. I call it:  “Love made visible through Art.” I am grateful for the freedom that I’m experiencing as an artist: the freedom

to express myself, freedom to choose the concept, the style, and the message that I can deliver through my artworks. For me, this freedom adds passion to the artist’s creative process that will surely transcend to the viewers of the artwork.  Another thing I like about being an artist is the capability to influence emotions and to touch hearts of the people through my creations.

My greatest achievement as an artist is being able to create all my artworks. The joy and fulfilment it gives me whenever I would finish a piece of art is comparable to the feeling of a parent giving birth to a new-born baby. Every piece is made with love. That’s why I’m glad whenever someone connects with my artworks or when they get featured in a magazine or exhibited locally and abroad or receive an award. Each of my artworks has a special connection with me. They are like my babies. I have always learned something new in the process of making them and each reflects a part of me.

Looking back, I see all artists and artworks that cross my path as a source of inspiration. Since my childhood I have had many art Teachers and other individuals whom taught me so much and I am forever grateful to them. God however gave me this talent and thus it would be a shame not to give Him the Praise and Glory.

I believe in God, that God created everything including all the beautiful sceneries, the expressive sky and all the unique creatures that is why I consider God as my favourite artist. Aside from everything that I can see, the main reason why God is my favourite artist is because of what God makes me feel and that is LOVE. My personal relationship with God is hard to explain. I try to speak to God everyday through prayers and tell God all my desires and sins. God has seen my worst side and knows my ugliest thoughts but despite all of that I can still fell the acceptance, mercy and most specially Love from God. For me, God is Love and there’s nothing more inspiring than that.   

The form of the human body, specifically the naked body, has always fascinated me. I find it elegant, classic and very relatable.  There is also a feeling of “sincerity” that I love seeing on a naked form. These qualities inspire me to use nude figure as my subject matter to deliver the theme, which is LOVE. I can say that all my artworks revolve around love as the main theme. Love has influenced my life in so many ways (which I prefer to remain private) that’s why I have the eagerness to capture that feeling through my artworks.

My artworks are inspired by powerful lessons I’ve learned from life. My creations emphasize the value of life and incorporate elements like nature and animals to show that we are all connected. 

My goal is to create a connection between my artwork and whoever will view it. I believe that we are all connected as human beings and that we share the same emotions. I hope that the audience could see part of themselves through my artworks and hopefully it could bring them back to that triumphant and inspiring part of their lives.

One of the most influencing moments in my art career was when I was told to change my theme and my style of painting. At first it has given me doubts on myself. I questioned myself if this is the right path for me. It brought me back to the core reason why I paint. That moment has reminded me that I paint because I have ideas that I value so much that I want to share to others. If I have to change my theme and style of painting, it will result in a painting that doesn’t come from my heart and mind. So, I only paint themes that I personally connect to and use a style that I feel would express myself the best.

Having exhibited my artworks at different far locations, I often cannot be present at the gallery during the exhibitions. It always touches my heart whenever I would hear from the gallery the great feedback from the viewers. Several times, gallery owners told me that the viewers cried while looking at my artwork. There is also an instance when a husband bought my painting as a surprise gift and sign of his love for his wife as he has seen her eyes sparkle while staring at my artwork. I have also received numerous emails from teenagers telling me how my artworks influenced them. The recent email I received was from a guy named John from San Francisco California. He told me that my art made a big impact in his life that’s why he has decided to tattoo my painting on his skin (he also attached a photo); that is very flattering. 

Whenever I give talks to teenagers at schools, I focus more on the technique and my painting process instead of the theme love. At the end, I would always advise them to paint a theme that they personally love. Life has taught me that you cannot always have what you want and instead of being depressed about something you don’t have, be grateful and appreciate everything that you have. Know that you are where you should be. You are at that situation because it wants to teach you something that you need to know. All our life experiences no matter how ugly or sad has a purpose and no situation we experienced was wasted because it happened to teach us something that only that situation can bring us to that certain awareness. We must continue on following our heart and know that everything will be all right.

HARI LUALHATI

(Artist / Painter / Illustrator) 

“ART OF HARI LUALHATI HAS BEEN CHOSEN FOR ASTROBOTIC LUNAR LANDING”
Cape Town, South Africa 16 April 2021
Cape Town based artist Hari Lualhati has exhibited her work in different parts of the world. Now her work is heading to the Moon. Hari Lualhati has been personally invited and hand-picked to be part of the “THE LUNAR CODEX / ARTISTS ON THE MOON PROJECT”.  The artist’s painting titled “Wholehearted” will be in a time capsule to preserve it for generations and will be sent to the moon by November this year. https://www.lunarcodex.com/gallery-e The project is the work of physicist and author Dr. Peralta.  “I found out that I could send my poetry and stories to the Moon … that gave me incredible joy, and I wanted to spread that joy,” Dr Peralta said.

 

John

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