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Every Picture Tells A Story

Every picture tells a story for Hethersett artist Jo Cole.

Jo’s paintings reflect scenes and memories from her African past.

Jo was born and brought up in Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia as it was previously, and has also lived and worked in Botswana and South Africa.

The bright skies and open spaces of the African plains have been her inspiration and are featured in many of her acrylic paintings in a style she describes as “contemporary” and borne out of her experiences and feelings.

Jo only took up painting seriously a year ago, having previously just dabbled with ideas. She attended a number of courses run by renowned artist Nicola Slattery and was struck by her style and originality.

“I found that I enjoyed working with like-minded people and I suddenly realised how much I enjoyed telling stories through my art,” she said.

Now Jo, who paints under her maiden name of Jocelyn Jacobson as a tribute to her parents who encouraged her artistic nature, is gearing up for the first exhibition. She will be opening her home and studio to visitors in May as part of the Norwich Festival.

Jo’s stories come from her heart. Some feature episodes and acquaintances from her own life and others from national events that have touched her such as the heart-rending murders of Victoria Climbie and Damilola Taylor.  Most of her paintings, however, feature her native Africa.

Jo’s parents came from Manchester and Glasgow and moved to Zimbabwe to seek out a new life on a tobacco farm. After leaving school, Jo spent over three years hitching around Europe, including a year in the United Kingdom before returning to Zimbabwe where she was a tour guide at the Victoria Falls.

Jo moved to Salisbury (now Harare) where she and Rob were married and for the next 10 years she worked in the import/export business. Meanwhile husband Rob studied towards his Chartered Accountant exams despite being in the territorial army where he was expected to spend six weeks in the army and six weeks working as an articled clerk with a firm in Salisbury (Harare).  Eventually they emigrated to South Africa for 5 years and then to Botswana for 10 years after which the Cole’s decided to make a life-changing move to England with their 2 young children.

“We wanted to give our children stability and Africa wasn’t a very stable place. Our Zimbabwe passports had been taken away by the Mugabe regime and our work permits for South Africa were due to run out and Botswana only dealt in two year contracts,” Jo said.

So they travelled to the Manchester area and lived at Southport where they had relatives.

In November 1997 Rob found a job with Norwich Union and for the last 10 years they have lived in Hethersett.

Jo undertook a creative textile course at Norwich City College and also art lessons with well known Hethersett artist Jean Larner.

“I struggled with watercolours and Jean suggested I try acrylics. I wasn’t happy with what I was doing but found the new medium much more to my liking. “

Jo then took a course in Life Coaching which she says helped to put things in perspective and concentrate her mind on what she wanted to achieve. Now she is full of ideas and looking to sell her colourful work: “I would love to see my work hanging on people’s walls.”

“I paint from my emotions and most of my paintings tell their own story. Africa is still in my blood. I’m sure at some point I will paint British scenes and tell British stories. That will be the next step on my artistic journey,” she said.