Coex'ae Qgam, known as Dada, probably born around 1934 in the Ghanzi district in Botswana, was one of the most remarkable artists that ever came out of Africa. What made her art even more noteworthy was its place in the world. Here, for the first time, a representative from the oldest human voices on earth, those who could only speak to us through their rock art and ancient artifacts until the last decade of the 20th century, started using a language we could hear.
Dada was proud to be one of the San (or Bushmen) people. These first peoples of Africa are most likely also the oldest people in the world, the last most direct representatives of our common human ancestor. When Dada then put her brush to the canvas for the first time, she not only communicated the images in her own mind of her love and intimate relationship with the plants, the trees and insects of her beloved Kalahari, but she spoke for all humankind, reconnecting us with what we have lost. But also with what we would otherwise never be able to understand.
When the Kuru Art Project was started in 1991, the San peoples' voice started to transcend the vast open gorges in communication between them and the many people who had begun to move into their areas. Even though the San learnt to speak the many languages of the new settlers who had fast started to shape their destinies, deciding what they should eat, what they should wear and where they should live, there was so much more that the San knew but did not have words for. The images drawn by Dada and her small group of co-artists in the village of D'Kar became the first counter-voice, the first reflection of the inner being of the San people of today, reaching across the borders of Southern Africa to all of their previously isolated and barely surviving little groups. Their art amplified their longing for their old way of life, their incredible knowledge of nature and the variety and abundance that the harsh Kalahari has in its food store; their wonderful harmonious way of living with each other and their environment, the knowledge of the mythological cycles and seasons they conformed to as they hunted and gathered. This visual language represents the most ancient and truest voice coming from deep within the human soul, something we can subconsciously connect with. Dada's art and that of her fellow artists gives us but a glimpse of the mystery of our own purpose.
Therefore, when Dada was chosen as the African Woman Artist of the Nineties, few people grasped that this recognition was not only for her artistic skill, but also for her knowledge of ancient wisdoms and for her voice of resistance to what was done to her people and to the earth.