Artists in Swellendam: Alida diTekenar

Posted on Wed March 21, 2018.

We’re continuing our quest to unveil some more of the talented artists in Swellendam. This time we shed light on Alida diTekenar. Directly translated, diTekenar means ‘The Drawer’ but really Alida diTekenar is a multi-talented illustrator, painter and creative.

Having always loved drawing (she even recalls drawing in her mother’s hymn book), Alida yearned to pursue a career in animation. She had to opt for a graphic design course after school instead though, seeing as there were no animation schools or courses in South Africa in 1997. Luckily after successfully completing her first year of study in graphic design, an animation course was introduced at the City Varsity Film School. Alida applied and of course, was accepted, making her one of the first fifteen students to enrol in an animation course in South Africa.

After completing her studies she headed to Swellendam, where her parents had settled after she finished school. Alida grew up and lived in various towns and cities all over South Africa during her childhood. A positive experience for her, as she says she “had a lot of exposure to different cultures and people, it had a huge influence on how I see people, to be open minded and not judgmental”. At first returning to a small town was a bit of an adjustment for Alida but Swellendam, with its majestic mountain, peace and quiet, soon captured her heart. Nearly 18 years after arriving in Swellendam, Alida has become one of the best-known artists in Swellendam and one of our town’s proudest exports.

Even though she took a while to adjust to life in a small town she now finds the tranquility a prerequisite to her work.  “When I create I need absolute stillness and peace around me, especially when I start planning a new painting.  Swellendam is the ideal place for that.  You can hear the birds and other nature sounds, very few cars, and next door from my studio, there are some sheep grazing.  Every now and then they talk to each other.  It’s the perfect place to be creative.”

She might take inspiration from her direct environment but her work is sought after internationally.  Alida has done numerous commissions for families from all over the world (we’ll get to her beautiful family portraits in a minute) and has been invited to exhibit at the Salle Gramijn in the Beffroi de Bruges in Belgium (we’re rooting for you to accept the next invite, dear Alida).  She was also commissioned to illustrate the lyrics to one of singer, Stef Bos’, songs after Mr Bos bought a painting from her – one of her fondest career highlights.

Locally, Alida has also excelled, having illustrated for Rooi Rose’s rubric Griet Grondengel and doing the illustrations for a show with herbal guru, Antoinette Pienaar.  One of her more recent highlights was having one of her illustrations which she donated to the Swellendam Hospital Fundraiser in 2017 auctioned off to model and TV-presenter, Minki van der Westhuizen, at the function.

Our favourite work of Alida’s is undoubtedly the very special piece she illustrated of our family and Schoone Oordt staff with Schoone Oordt as backdrop.  Starting out in 2008, Alida worked on it for us three times as our family expanded.  We loved the sense of whimsy captured in her work.

Alida’s style is strongly influenced by animation.  “Every drawing starts off in the way you would draw an animation character, using those same principals and so creating the movement that is in my work.  I would describe my characters as real, yet unreal looking, whimsical with a touch of magic.  A camera can capture something exactly as it is, but by drawing and painting you can add anything you can dream up, making it appear magical!” It’s exactly that magic that makes her work so unique and sought after.

Currently Alida diTekenar is working on illustrations for books, planning a new series for exhibition in 2019 as well as working on her own animation short film – so much magic to look forward to!  All of this and she teaches art classes to children too.  These classes focus on how to remain original and how to develop and follow your own style.

Take a visit to Alida’s studio gallery in Swellendam by contacting her via email at [email protected].  For a little bit of whimsy on a regular basis be sure to follow her on social media at Alida diTekenar.