Imibala Gallery explores ‘Promise of Rain’

The ‘Promise of Rain’ art exhibition in Graaff-Reinet features Port Elizabeth artist Bretten-Anne Moolman, who was born in the Karoo and has been fascinated by rain all her life. Here Moolman works on an artwork which forms part of the series
The ‘Promise of Rain’ art exhibition in Graaff-Reinet features Port Elizabeth artist Bretten-Anne Moolman, who was born in the Karoo and has been fascinated by rain all her life. Here Moolman works on an artwork which forms part of the series


A Karoo childhood that aroused a lifelong love of the landscape and an intense awareness of the deep relationships that link people, water and land, brings Somerset East-born artist Bretten-Anne Moolman full circle with the opening of the exhibition Promise of Rain at the Imibala Gallery in Graaff-Reinet.  

The Eastern and Northern Cape were among the hardest-hit provinces in the extended drought gripping much of southern Africa.

In the Graaff-Reinet region, prior to the end of last year, dams had turned to mud and taps ran dry. Since then, some rain has come and that has had an incredible reviving effect on the landscape.

Moolman’s new body of work About Rain engages with rain as a natural phenomenon and its effect on the land as both bringer of life and destructive force.

Selected established local artists will exhibit alongside Moolman’s solo show of paintings and works on paper in various media, continuing the theme of artistic interpretation of drought, rain and water — topics that are so central to life in the Karoo.

Bretten-Anne Moolman’s ‘Farmer's Almanac 1’
A YEARBOOK: Bretten-Anne Moolman’s ‘Farmer's Almanac 1’

“We’re excited to be able to showcase a national artist alongside an opportunity for respected local artists to show their work in an exhibition with an intriguing diversity of expressions of what the promise of rain means,” Graaff-Reinet Imibala Gallery curator Kim Imrie said.

One of these expressions is a multi-media sequence taken by the people of Graaff-Reinet.

“It showcases the suffering of the drought alongside the gift of rain and adds atmosphere, mood and feeling to an already special exhibition,” she said.

The profits of the Imibala Gallery Graaff-Reinet and its parent gallery in Somerset West support the work of the Imibala Trust.

This NPO, founded in Somerset West by  Gaynor Rupert, now also includes schools in Graaff-Reinet.

The flagship programme, Sponsor-a-Child, provides school uniforms for children, enabling them to participate fully in the education process.

Moolman’s formative years were spent in Somerset East on her parent’s farm and later in Graaff-Reinet —  her mother Corinne McKiever studied at the teachers’ training college there and taught at Gill Primary – and, she says, “my most evocative memory is the smell of rain, the sense of relief from the unrelenting heat and dryness”.

“I walked along the leiwater furrows every day and I remember being fascinated with the flow and movement of the water.

“Growing up in a small dorpie, surrounded by mountains and by people closely connected to the land, their intense relationship with water and rainfall as a determining factor of life, has been a major influence on my life and my journey in art.

“I felt embraced and loved by people in that environment, and it is a warm feeling that stays with me to this day.

“In those surroundings, I grew to love nature and its influence in my work came very early,” Moolman said.

Bretten-Anne Moolman’s ‘Earth Circuitry’
THE GRID: Bretten-Anne Moolman’s ‘Earth Circuitry’

For Moolman, Graaff-Reinet is also where her artistic journey began — influenced by an indelible memory of an exhibition at the Hester Rupert Art Museum at the age of seven, her first exposure to fine art, and the book Adventure in Art that she has had since childhood and links her back to Graaff-Reinet too.  

Given to her mother by Dr Anton Rupert with the inscription “in vriendskap”, the colour plates of the book exposed her to the greats of the international art world and the idea of abstraction which has remained central to her work.

Bretten-Anne Moolman’s ‘Dawn Rain’
DAYLIGHT BOUNTY: Bretten-Anne Moolman’s ‘Dawn Rain’

Through abstract interpretation in the Earth Circuitry series, Moolman deals specifically with the effects of rain on land, which activates that land into productivity.

The circuit board is used here as a painterly device to interpret the earth as a grid, activated and transformed by rain.

Also exhibiting in Promise of Rain are Duncan Stewart, Hein Botha, Joanne Reen, Janet Dixon, Curt Martheze and other local artists.

Promise of Rain opened yesterday  at 6pm at the Imibala Gallery at 30 Church Street, Graaff-Reinet.

The exhibition is open to the public until  May 10, from 8.30am to 5pm on weekdays and 8.30am to 1pm on Saturdays.  

For more information contact the gallery on 087-285-4810 or email