Jakupa Sore Eyes
Jakupa Ako: Sore Eyes
According to Australian Prints and Print Making, Jakupa Ako was one of Papua New Guinea’s most successful artists. He was born at Meganagu village in the Bena Bena valley of the Eastern Highlands c.1942. As a cleaner at Goroka Teachers College he began to draw, and with encouragement from staff, began attending classes. Ako returned to his village in 1972, but was soon in demand for major commissions. These led to a scholarship at the Creative Arts Centre at Port Moresby in 1974. As well as paintings and drawings, Jakupa produced appliqued works and some remarkable prints. He exhibited internationally throughout his career and received an MBE for his service to art in 1981. He died in 1999.
The Work of Art
Although this is the only example of Jakupa's work in the University's Art Collection, it is a significant artwork since it tells a very personal story that relates to the artist. In Jakupa's own words, ' I got sore eyes and I was very worried about them so I had to pay K17.00 to a local magician. he took out eight pieces of green bottle and four pieces of brown bottle and then I could see a bit better. I went to Port Moresby hospital to get treatment but they just gave me a medical test and they didn't see my eyes properly. I came back to the Centre with eyes still untreated. I was really worried about me. I couldn't see things clearly. It appeared to be two things instead iof seeing one thing ata time. So they bought me spectacles to help me and tables every morning and then my eyes started to get better and now I can see better than before. This is the painting about me gettering worried about my sore eyes.
The work of art is made from synthetic polymer paint onto board and was created in 1976.
Jakupa's style is very distinctive and is a medium in which a whole range of different messages can be portrayed effectively. Above left is an image 'Science in a Suitcase' created by Jakupa which was used in a campaign to spread knowledge about Malaria in PNG. Similarly, the image on the right depicts a woman making a bilum or grass skirt, an item of clothing which is culturally very important in the region. Jakupa's style represents a non-western form of art with cultural roots in the PNG area that can be used effectively to portray contemporary issues, ideas and much more.
Many years ago an exhibition displayed works of art in the NGV, Melbourne from veterans from the Vietnam war. One such work was a portrait in a similar style to Jakupa's. The artwork showed the effect of Agent Orange and the ongoing side-effects the chemical has with paint streaming down from the veteran's eyes.