By Anne D’Urso-Rose
Cameroon-born artist Efon Elad knows adversity. But, like the manner of folks in his native country, he chooses to approach life as a celebration. Not only life passages, but daily rituals, ordinary moments, scenes of beauty and terror, songs and stories inspire in him a sense of gratitude and jubilation.
Many of the paintings in an exhibit now on view at the MATV Gallery, located at Malden’s Media Center, depict moments of life in Cameroon and West Africa where the artist has lived and travelled as a youth. Other paintings are inspired by songs or Biblical stories, which have captivated his imagination. Still others depict places in his adopted homeland in the Boston area, where he has lived for over 30 years, as well as other places that exist only in his mind or memory.
Well-educated in his native Cameroon, Elad is fluent in English, French and five African languages and is a lover of literature. His career began in telecommunications at a time when telegrams and Morse code were his specialty. A lost opportunity to further his studies in the United Kingdom dealt a crushing blow to his dreams and it was then that he decided to immigrate to the United States. His long journey here has presented a host of challenges to overcome and his life in America has been one of using his wits and talents to survive. At times, he has flourished, working in the construction trades for many years and living a life of financial means to which he was more accustomed. But a downturn in his fortunes occurred in 2004 when he lost his job and his steady source of income.
It was while getting a hot meal at St. Francis House in Boston that Elad met Linda Dolph, an expressive therapist for their art therapy program. She was the person who taught him to mix paints and he began painting in 2008. In his words, “I never looked back. I never looked sideways. I just kept painting.”
The creation of art takes place in his poorly lit home in a housing project in Dorchester, which he calls a “cave,” or out in the open air when he can. He is a prolific artist who has received some local recognition and has had sales of his work. His dream is to have a real studio and to exhibit his work with proper framing and to supply the context from which his artwork has sprung. Elad has much to say about traditional cultures and what they have to offer to our modern perspectives. His deeply felt sense of celebration and gratitude, his respect for “the forgotten cultures of my country,” and his openness to other people, places, ideas and cultures permeate his work.
“Celebration” will be on view through September at the MATV Gallery. Hours are Monday – Thursday, 10am – 9pm, Friday 10am—6pm, and Saturday 10am—2pm. Stay tuned for details about a reception on Thursday, August 31, sure to be a celebration in itself.