15 Aug

Katrine Anker-Nilssen chats to Ali Akal, a talented painter who loves a good challenge

Ali Akal was born in England to two creative parents, but moved to South Africa as an 11-year-old in 1982. “I married into a vibrant Lebanese family, and am a mom of three teenagers – one being my husband,” she laughs.

Growing up in a generation without TV, cellphones or Facebook, Ali was always drawing to entertain herself. “I was given a simple watercolour painting set at a very young age, and the rest is history.”

Prompted by her high school art teacher, Ali studied fashion and textile design at Technikon Natal. She graduated in 1993, and went on to work at David Whitehead’s in Tongaat
until 1998.

“Starting a family, I stopped working. But painting was something I could slot into my busy routine. Over a simple cup of coffee with a friend one day, I agreed to do a small commission – which was the beginning of where I am now,” explains Ali, who is inspired by anything with colour, fabrics with designs, travel, friends and family.

“I love capturing moments that are often unnoticed, and portray them on a canvas with as much colour as possible. These paintings always end up being the most inspiring and so appreciated by the viewer,” says Ali. “Each painting can remind people of certain memories or events in their lives. It’s so rewarding handing over a commission and seeing the buyer’s response.”

Family life is full of unexpected challenges, but Ali says taking one step at a time is the best way to deal with that. “When it comes to painting, I love being commissioned to do a challenging subject matter.
The result is always new and exciting.”

Simple things make Ali smile. “My first cup of coffee in the morning, eating chocolate in any shape or form, and of course painting with lots of colour. Life is boring without colour!”

Everyone has a bucket list, and to see the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam one day is at the top of Ali’s. “I also hope to keep painting as much as I can,” she says. As for advice to other women doing it for themselves, Ali says “Believe that things are possible, and keep life creative whether it be in your personality, your working environment or family life.”

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