4 Questions with Lize Beekman

Musician and artist Lize Beekman shines a light on mandalas, and shares with us the beauty and intricacies of the artform. 

Hi Lize, could you introduce yourself to our readers? 
I was born in Cape Town, South Africa on the 22nd of July, 1974.  I went to school here and then moved to Pretoria for formal studies in Light Music for 3 years. I now live in Melkbosstrand outside of Cape Town.  
You’re one of Africa’s leading singer-songwriterswe’re wondering how you got involved in art! Why Mandalas? 
Yes, the story of my life up to age 36 was all about writing songs and melodies and performing, but in 2012 this changed drastically. My soulmate fell very ill in February and in April – we were alone on a farm – she took her own life by shooting herself.  The world stopped for me. I was traumatised and overwhelmed with grief.  In the months that followed, I found movement and sound around me unbearable and this took me into a period of silence. I couldn’t listen to music, write, or sing, so music also went silent.  In August that year, there came a night that was a critical point and I struggle to this day to describe what I experienced... it was like something inside me surrendered. There was a release and it felt like I was dissolving.

In front of me on the table was a piece of paper and a pen which I picked up and without any thought behind it, I started drawing. I made no decision about what to draw… it literally just ‘showed up’ as if from nowhere. I became very aware of my breathing – it was deeper breaths than before, and it calmed me.  So I kept drawing. Day and night, weeks, months… I never stopped. After 6 months of drawing, I learned from a friend that that which I was drawing had a name and that it’s called ‘mandalas’.  I had no knowledge of mandalas before then and at that time I didn’t take much notice. I just kept on drawing and painting…it was flowing out of me constantly. This lead to friends organising an exhibition which lead to more exhibitions and people from all over South Africa and abroad started buying my mandala artworks. In 2013 I agreed to do one television interview which led to many people struggling with grief, pain, or trauma contacting me and asking for help. This lead to publishing my mandala-colouring books, amongst other things. To this day, every day, I stand in awe of the journey and the miracle unfolding. The story of my life changed radically. Music did find its way back through the silence, but visual art is more present than the music.
How were you first introduced to Mandalas and what are the potentials you see in them as an artist? How did you develop an interest in Mandalas? 
My ‘introduction’ to mandalas I already explained in the previous answer… I started drawing Mandalas intuitively without any knowledge of the word or the art form. For a long time it was like a ‘space’ for me in which I could heal, grow, and learn, and so it remains to this day, but it also became a ‘space’ of joy and for that I’m grateful. Over time my mandalas became more and more detailed, the sizes vary between the smallest of 6cm in diameter to up to 1, 2 meters and I find the mediums I can use unlimited – from very fine ink pens, acrylic and oil, pencils, mosaic, paper, canvas, wood – and I also embrace whatever medium draws me in at any given time.

What is the significance of Mandalas to you personally and how do they reflect the African culture? 

For me personally, Mandalas were the life raft the universe gave me when I was lost at sea and I embraced the space in the circle with no pre-conceptions, ideas, or knowledge of mandalas as an art form. Even when the word ‘mandala’ came into my field of awareness, I did not seek to study the history, origin, or any factual information and concepts regarding the subject. This way it remains a space of freedom and whatever arises can flow onto the page boundlessly. If anything, I guess, my story would be a point of study for any person who seeks to delve deeper into the significance of mandalas.

When I observe other people colouring mandalas, I find that they show more freedom, calmness, and creativity. I’m not a psychiatrist, so I can merely speculate as to why this is. I think that in other colour-in pictures people are more involved with their minds and they ‘move’ from conditioned mind-patterns like a leaf is green, the sky blue, a strawberry red. With mandalas – because of the symmetry and patterns and the ‘newness’ of each one, there are no rules and this ‘allows’ them to be free. The balance and freedom in a mandala speak more to the inner true self where there is an abundance of joy and peace. I believe this is true whether you create mandalas, colour it, or even just look at it. The mandala is like a doorway out of every day, mind-based living that dominates most of humanity.