Joseph Norah sculpts bronze statue of young Seychellois seafarer at new Praslin Jetty |16 February 2023
It is plain to see for anyone admiring the work of Seychellois artist Joseph Norah, that here is a deeply sensitive child of the islands whose passion for the beauty of his natural environment has burst forth into artistic expression. This is evident both in his celebration of the extraordinary richness and diversity of that environment and in his determination to create awareness of its fragility and help to defend it from the ravages of climate change and other threats.
Joseph Norah’s art was born when he was still very young, forged at an early age from the necessity to fabricate his toys from whatever natural materials he could find in his immediate environment but principally from wood and sand.
Not coming from an affluent family, this spirit of self-reliance at such an early age served him well as he began to follow the path of becoming an artisan working tortoise shell from as young as sixteen years of age, and later, as a renowned and highly-talented artist interpreting the natural beauty of his surrounds into marvellous sculptures capturing the quintessence of the Seychelles Islands’ flora and fauna.
From the immaculate detail of Joseph Norah’s work, it is evident that he holds a deep reverence for the natural world while his inspired artistic ability acquired first working silver, gold, wood, and further with bone carving under the tutorship of famous island artist Tonga Bill and then in Denmark and Mauritius as a designer for the celebrated Trollbeads company, has stood him in good stead when it comes to bringing that beauty to life in his work.
Despite further working with the auspices of famous international bronze sculptor Tom Bowers where he first time met and fall in love with dignity of bronze medium which accompany him in his work until today, and a stay in the United Kingdom working in Bronze Age, a prestigious bronze foundry where he collaborated with great British artists and members of the Royal Art Society, the call of the islands has always brought this island boy back home where his spirit resides.
Joseph explains how creating his wonderful series of sculptures so evocative of life in Seychelles changes and elevates his fundamental sense of self as he projects his spirit into his work, elevating him as he translates experiences across space and time. It is from this deep reservoir of passion and enthusiasm for the world around him that Joseph Norah’s art is born, tempered by his widely-recognised talent and artistic ability to breathe life into his creations, consigning them to eternity with an underlying message to protect them, one and all, from the toxic traits of our modern world.
This theme was particularly evident in Joseph Norah’s much-admired ‘Treasure the Ocean’ side show exhibition at the 2022 Seychelles Biennale. This was not just the artist’s expression of his deep love for his homeland and for the creatures beneath the ocean waves but also a response to the looming threats associated with climate change, for which he remains a tireless activist in line with Seychelles’ Blue Economy’s attempts to preserve the marine environment and the SDGs set out by the United Nations.
Perhaps Joseph Norah’s most significant contribution to the Seychelles art scene to date has been to sculpt a full-size bronze statue of a young Seychellois seafarer to commemorate the lives of all those Seychellois who have been lost to the sea since the settlement of the islands 250 years ago.
This project, the brainchild of local personality Robert Grandcourt who hails from a family of distinguished mariners, was erected on Praslin next to the new passenger jetty at Baie Ste Anne and will long remain as a monument to the seafaring spirit that epitomises the island lifestyle and also to Joseph Norah’s exceptional art for capturing it so eloquently for all eternity.
This artist, who takes motivation from his family, a compulsion to create, and a determination to commemorate Seychelles’ history and heritage for future generations, is proud to state that his art is a symbol of love, beauty, hope, and freedom.