World portraits: the hod carrier and Masaai woman

Maasai woman and The Hod Carrier oil on canvas portraits by Stella Tooth

Two portraits of people from different parts of Africa with very different lives.

I painted both these oil portraits from beautiful portrait taken by my friend, BBC News photographer Jeff Overs. Both are on show at the Milan Expo: Arte senza confini: soul food from 18 April-28 June 2015. Palazzo Calderara (Town Hall) in Via Garibaldi, 6 – Vanzago, Milan. Italy. Both are now sold.

The Hod Carrier from Djenne near Timbuktu oil on canvas by Stella Tooth

The Hod Carrier was from the mud city of Djenné in  Mali.  Djenné’s story is told through its architecture—towering mud-brick structures. The land-locked country flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries as a hub for trade and Islamic scholarship.  As the hod carrier’s, straw hod is boat-shaped, I imagined that, in his mind, he dreamed of visiting the Red Sea, and so turned the background into the vast body of water he hoped, one day, to see. 

A Masaai woman oil on canvas portrait artwork by Stella Tooth.

It was painstaking work to recreate the beads that adorn the Maasai woman.  Like most poor women in African nations, the majority of Maasai women in Kenya are destined to live a life of poverty and cultural oppression. Typically, Maasai girls are circumcised between the ages of 11 to 13 and soon afterwards married to a man chosen by her father in exchange for cattle and cash.

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