Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Can Meet the Artist, Get to Know Him Personally- Fortune Sitole

(I am re-posting this post from many moons ago. Thanks Fortune, for donating a piece for our April event! Thank you for helping us build a school).


We met Fortune several years ago here. Fortune is an artist. If you have ever been to the Venice boardwalk, you know that it is no place to sell your art. It is wall-to-wall people...

One misstep by a slippery, sun-screened skateboarder can wipe out years of work. I read somewhere that Venice Beach is the second largest tourist destination in California next to Disneyland. While that may mean the occasional sale to a tourist, it is still a very difficult way to succeed as an artist. This recent article from the Los Angeles Times explains some of the challenges.

We would see Fortune frequently wheeling in his work, setting up, and settling in for a long, hot day in the sun. We bought this from him...

It looks exactly like the four hundred square foot house we lived in, in New Mexico. The painting cost about forty dollars.

A few years later, we were participants here.

Fortune's booth was two booths away from ours.

We commiserated about the inebriated festivals goers who really had no interest in purchasing anything.

Here is what Fortune says about his work...

"I want to foster an awareness of the conditions suffered by South Africans, who create makeshift shelters by optimizing outside space and leftover materials - metal, tires, stones, etc., whatever they can find to build their homes.

Fashioning my work as homage to my ancestors, family and community, these pieces are a reminder of the day-to-day life in black South African townships. But shanties exist throughout the world and my art actually tells a story of the universality of poverty.

The characters in my scenes are about communities who have overcome adversity and have progressed into the 21st century. Complex dimensions allow a peek down streets at women washing clothes, children playing, girls braiding hair and wandering drunken fathers. Pictures of everyday events, ironically set against the backdrop of vivid dawns and dusks, reflect the darker issues of economic enslavement, discrimination, poverty and hardships.

Shanties are slowly disappearing from South Africa’s landscape. Redevelopment and investment begin to paint a brighter picture for the future of South Africans, an encouraging example for the people of the world who are experiencing poverty today."

I find Fortune's art absolutely breathtaking. You really have to see them in real life to appreciate them fully. They are three dimensional. The work is vibrant.

I am happy to announce that Fortune has moved off of the boardwalk, and into Equator Books.

This bookstore is showing his work through May 30th. If you are in Los Angeles go check it out. Be sure to go on the first Friday of the month for extra  festivities.

If you are not in LA, you can see more of his art here.

How will my adoption impact Fortune? I believe Fortune's art will have an impact on my children. This it what my kids will see when they wake up in the morning...

Maybe it will remind them of where they came from. Maybe it will make them think of their birth mom. Maybe it will make them long for what they have left behind. Fortune knows a little bit about that. His wife and children still live in South Africa. He sure does wish it were easier for them to come visit him. It sure would have been nice for them to see their dad in his big, incredible art gallery opening.

I can't wait to bring my kids to Fortune's studio. It is a magical place. There are coke cans, and soup cans.  There are piles of sand and bags of rocks. There are little cut-out figures lying around, people, dogs, wheel barrels. Just walking in there makes you want to get your hands dirty and create something.  In Fortune my kids will see a man who has worked very hard to achieve his goals. They will see a man who struggled, and is still struggling with racism and persecution. They will see a man who has dedicated his life to fostering an awareness of the universality of poverty. They will see a man generous in spirit. There is a kind of warmth that radiates from Fortune. You can see it in that very first picture. You can really feel it in person.

Congratulations Fortune. We are so proud of you.


  1. I love his art work. I love the use of different materials. And I love how it reminds me of the little houses in Ethiopia.

  2. J, I don't think the link to see his art "here" is working ...

  3. Wow, what amazing paintings! I especially love the last one. Thanks for sharing this incredible talent with us Julie.

  4. I LOVE these! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I remember many moons ago very clearly. His art leaves a lasting impression. Can't wait to see it for real.