You don’t need to meet Donovan Julius to recognize the passion with which he approaches his art, his life and his search for justice for humanity and indigenous people. You only have to look at his work – everything is there – vivid and unforgettable.
But if you are lucky enough to meet him in person, then you will find him to be just as vivid and unforgettable. He describes himself first and foremost as a father (two lovely boys, Raphael and Carter) and gives full credit to their mother, Janine, for helping him to be where he is today.
“She believed in me since the first time we met, I was broke, depressed and blamed the world… but she prayed and paid for much of the stuff I needed… on a R800 per month salary from which she had to pay rent and buy food to help me realise my goals – especially when I turned my back on painting…
It was a dark time in my life… and she was the light a flicker of hope … my saving grace…”
Donovan is only 29 but these dark times in his life have no doubt contributed to the work he produces, which is defiantly vibrant. He believes wholeheartedly that the purpose of his art is to act as a message to the people for whom he fights, and whose eyes he wants to open to their potential, and to awaken their pride.
“I truly believe being an artist in such a small community/village like !Xairu will eventually help our people to SEE you can do anything no MATTER HOW HARD OR LONG THE ROAD as long as you keep going and don’t give up…”
As a child he drew on everything with any medium he could lay his hands on: “Since forever me and my cousins always were drawing, from boet en saartjie , dragonball Z characters and gravity. Every blackboard in high school had some kind of Donovan Julius art on it!”
When he works now, the experience for him is overpowering– he describes it as being transported into another dimension, sweaty palms, heart racing , shortness of breath, an adrenaline rush …
“It’s like I’m in a bubble, I can have people around me chatting and what not – but I’m not truly there”. Portraits are his favourite subject: “You look out into a sea of faces and there is so much to read, then one will speak to me – the Oom in the street, the celebrity in the magazine – you have to look, see and understand, then bring the face alive with the all the colours that synchronize with the subject.”
One particular portrait, Piet Ogies, affected Donovan deeply.
For a while, he resisted the urge to paint him – as he knew it was going to be an overwhelming encounter – but … “his khoisan face spoke volumes, the many winters and summers and everything between screamed out at me and I didn’t want to paint him… but the energy was too strong to ignore… I couldn’t sleep for two days… so I had to abide …”
Donovan loves to create beautiful, passionate chaos, and has learned to trust the process and the energy he feel when working on his creations. When asked if he could change the world in any significant way what he would do, he replied that he would swing his magic paint brush and paint everyone different colours – no more race wars – and having been lucky enough to meet him and see his work – I believe if anyone could do that – Donovan could!