“I leave you my portrait so that you will have my presence all the days and nights that I am away from you.” – Frida Kahlo.
When Annalene Lindeque joined the police in the early ‘90s to draw identity kits, she didn’t even begin to grasp how meticulously drawing suspects would one day help her to draw the most beautiful portraits. Saffa Mag had an interesting chat with Annie, as she is fondly called by her nearest and dearest, about her life and art.
She was a little girl when her dad, Hannes, one day told Annie to draw a horse. He came from a Zimbabwe farming background and was the oldest of seven brothers, who were all artistically inclined.
The end result turned out to be quite good and she started developing her art. In high school she took art as a subject. After school Annie went to the University of Pretoria to study Information Design, but in her third year she decided to cease her studies. “It just wasn’t for me. I loved all the practical work, but the theory was boring and too academic.” She joined a design studio but when the computer age started, Annie lost her job. It was the early ‘90s and she saw an advert for a police face reconstruction artist in Port Elizabeth and applied. She landed the job, and off she went.
“I had a heavy suitcase with a selection of template transparencies of ears, noses, mouths and elements you need to build a face. A victim would then choose from these templates and once I added it together, the sketching started.
“Looking back, it provided me the perfect opportunity to study faces and, once I attended anthropology and skull reconstruction courses, it became easier to draw faces from different cultural backgrounds.”
A few years later she was promoted and moved to George. At the same time she started drawing the ID kits on computer. “I worked with many rape victims who saw their attackers at close range. While it was a part of their healing to tell me their story, it did have an impact on me, and I knew that I had to get out.”
In 2003, after an eleven-year career in the police, she packed up and went overseas for a new adventure – au pairing. The journey took her to England, Australia and America. In each country she worked, Annie tried to keep her passion for the arts alive.
“I would get involved at the kids’ schools and paint the décor at school plays or attend art classes.” Europe, with its art exhibitions, cafés and culture, helped to get the creative juices flowing. “The funny thing was that I started going back to my African roots and created very interesting art pieces with the golden thread of Africa through them.”
After doing trips to Egypt and the Cayman Islands, Annie came back to South Africa and joined the team at a well-known Sabie Sands lodge. The owner was an artist in her own right and Annalene started drawing animals. “At a private lodge your game drives offer an opportunity to spend time with the animals and it offered me an opportunity to study their behaviour.
“I loved working and being able to spend time on my art.” Unfortunately, she contracted malaria, ended up in a hospital and couldn’t return to the bush. Having gone through an ordeal Annalene decided to spend time on her art. “For income I painted murals in nurseries, baby rooms and anywhere anybody wanted one,” she laughingly says.
It was, however, not enough to pay the bills and she responded to an advert in a newspaper for a graphic designer.
“I had no graphic design training, but I guess my portfolio landed me the job!”
She says layout is a different kind of art but works according to the same principles and disciplines of any other art project.
When the Covid pandemic hit, Annie used lockdown to return to her big love, drawing. “I received requests to draw loved ones who passed away and it just came naturally.”
One day someone asked her whether she would draw their fur child which died, and Annie took on the project. “Losing your fur baby is an extremely emotional process, almost like losing a child. When the piece was done, I posted it on Instagram and suddenly I received more and more assignments.”
When her own fur child died Annie ventured into assisting animal shelters by fostering pets. “Once again I experienced how emotionally attached people get to their animals.”
Since then, she has drawn so many fur babies and portraits she has lost count.
“I love what I’m doing but have started to create unique art pieces and hopefully will soon have enough to do an exhibition”.
For the time being she is happy being a graphic designer by day and artist in her spare time, but secretly hopes one day she will be able to follow her passion.