It’s clear that local and international collectors see more in Novela’s work than his extraordinary technique and love for his subject – they see Novela as a good investment.

In the last five years, gallery owners have upped the price of a canvas from a modest R350 to a set rate of R7000. Normally, it’s difficult to put a price on art because the value is not quantitative; it lies in what you, as the public, are prepared to pay. But some art does become a valuable commodity when the demand for it exceeds the supply. And that is what an investment collector looks for – art that will increase in value, that’s why this artist has caught the interest of collectors.

First, the works are special and have integrity and, second, a Novela canvas is fast increasing in value. As a relatively recent discovery, his true worth has yet to be established, so he is considered a good investment opportunity. No doubt his New York will increase his bankability even more.

But what of the man who is painting what one critic referred to as ‘sophisticated and beautiful pieces of African narrative’?
Well, first and foremost, Daniel is a practical man. Asked how he chooses his canvases, he says simply, “They must fit in the boot of my car”. He is also a compulsively creative man who can’t make it through the day without painting.

His refined landscapes are infiltrating galleries and private collections as his special brand of African Impressionism becomes better known. His success is the result of years of hardship in an almost stereotypical story of an artist who would not let go of his dream.
“I was born in Makado but my Mozambican father took the family back to his home in Gaza as National Party politics grew increasingly sinister. I remember so well the wide-open spaces of northern Mozambique, the miles and miles of ploughed land, the farms. There was such a strong sense of community. People knew you, knew your family. There was a sense of belonging. It was an idyllic childhood, the happiest days of my life, and I returned there with every painting.
“Each work is memory of my childhood. A return to the state of bliss. There’s always a woman in my paintings wearing red and blue. That was my mother Elina.
She was everything to me and my art is my life with her. I want to recapture the beautiful simplicity of herding the cattle, collecting firewood and water. It was so peaceful.

“But then I lost my father. I was 10 years old. When war broke out, it become dangerous to live outside the big cities and so my mother sent me to Maputo. I enrolled at the Escola de Artes Visuais but before I could finish I received word that my mother had been captured by Renamo soldiers. By the time I found her, she had beaten so badly she couldn’t walk.
By then the war and famine were at their worst, so we returned to South Africa to my mothers family in Khuma, outside Klerksdorp. There was a different kind of war there – apartheid. It was the end of the road for my studies. I couldn’t speak the language and art wasn’t taught in township schools.”

“I was desperate. I wrote a letter to the Minister of Education in Brazil begging for assistance and was ecstatic when the department responded. Sadly, they needed documents I didn’t have, so that was the end of it. I was devastated. I wanted to study so badly. I still have the letter. But it was over, so I went to work in the local Indian store.”

“I would paint at night – always those memories of Mozambique. The same scenes I love to paint today, except my canvases were smaller. I’d sell them outside Shoprite Checkers for a couple of rand so that we could by food. I was married to Frangely by then and had two little children. She’s always been so supportive of my painting. She knows if a day goes by and I haven’t held a paintbrush in my hand, I feel the day was wasted.

“Then I heard about a monthly craft market in town and I started selling there.
I stopped working to paint professionally. It was hard. Many nights we went to bed hungry and often we’d travel somewhere to sell my work and land up with no money to get home. Through it all the need to study never subsided. I just couldn’t shake it. Then I met Dr. van Zyl, the Campus Director of Vaal Triangle Technikon. He referred me to Amareza Buys, head of the Art Department, and she enrolled me for a national Diploma in fine art.
I can’t explain the joy of returning to study.
“But money was tight. I still sold my paintings outside supermarkets but it wasn’t enough. My exam results were always blocked because of unpaid fees.
I won a bursary in my second year but I still couldn’t cope. One day outside Game, I met a man who would become like a father to me – Les Lategan. He believed in me to the point where they settled all debts so that I could focus on my painting. I haven’t looked back.”

Les, a local businessman, is still one of Daniels greatest fans. “How can you not believe in a man who tells you, ‘I’m going to be a great artist’?”

Daniel was able to produce larger canvases that testified to his increasingly refined and sophisticated technique.

“My technique evolved a lot through my studies but my subject matter remained the same – memories of that happy childhood, open fields under the endless sky, the Africa that was mine when I was a boy.”

Since his graduation in 2000, Daniel has exhibited regularly in Gauteng and recently completed a successful tour of Europe where he sold 60 paintings. In September 2006, Daniel had his first exhibition in New York at the Sankaranka Art Gallery, which is owned by Gambian-born Saihou Saidy, whose passion is to showcase African art.

“While I am all African, my style is not typically African. I gravitate towards Impressionism, particularly John Constable, Trevor Chamberlain and Richard Schmid. I also admire South African artist Adrian Boshoff.”

In the run-up to his departure for the States, Daniel was working steadily to finish the 25 pieces due to the Sakara Ranka Gallery, as well as painting several commissions for private collectors. As we photographed one of his new works, he smiled and said quietly, “Be careful how you handle that, it’s still wet.”

Newhomes Magazine (Issue 5)
Written by: Elizabeth Donaldson