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News - Ons Mense
Monday, 25 January 2016 22:37
Untitled Document

Jeanette Smith, the Faerie Glen-based artist Katanya, did not see Christmas. She passed away at 2:10 am on 14 December in Die Wilgers hospital’s oncology ward with her husband, Douglas McKinnon Smith, at her side.

Artist Jeanette Smith (Katanya) in June 2014 at the exhibition she held in Zwavelpoort
Photo: Elsabe Retief

Shortly before her death, Jeanette wrote The Bronberger a reader’s letter which was published in our November 2015 edition. In it she said: “Well, what can I say about my health at this stage? My lifespan is apparently very short; they say I should think in terms of weeks and not months.”

“This makes life difficult in planning anything for the future. I would love to organize yet another exhibition, selling my paintings half price to the public, but it depends how I will feel by Christmas this year and maybe have it in the new year if God will spare me until then.”

Earth Angels

Douglas said that Jeanette had exceeded the doctors’ prediction of her life expectancy, but then she went quicker than anyone expected at the end. He said that the staff at Wilgers’ oncology unit and those on the ward had been unbelievably supportive.

Jeanette was diagnosed with breast cancer about ten years ago. The treatment was successful and she was healthy until three years ago when she heard that the cancer had returned. It metastasised to her liver.

When she heard the sad news, Jeanette spread canvasses all around her studio and began a frenzy of creativity to express every emotion and thought she had inside of her in the time she had left with us.
Jeanette exhibited these paintings in Zwavelpoort in June 2014. At that stage she worked on a series called ‘Earth Angels’, which was inspired by the experiences she was going through.

Jeanette’s last art exhibition was held on 27 September 2015 at Schlaraffen Club in Menlo Park, after she was told that her cancer has progressed to such a degree that she might not see Christmas.


The opening speech was done by Estelle Kovacs from Unisa, who said that “a dream about a little girl named Katanya inspired the name under which Jeanette became known as a painter. The word ‘Katanya’ means ‘pure spirited, extremes in fortune and spirituality, very versatile, idealistic and intuitive, and to use ability for humanitarian reasons and not for self-glorification’. A fitting description,” Estelle said.

“Katanya, as an artist, is out there, bold and sassy, she is not shy . . . she puts all her feelings out there for all to see, feel and contemplate.”

Other examples of Katanya’s art

The guest artist at the exhibition was Jeanette’s friend, Jessie Brien, and three of Jeanette’s talented students also participated. Jeanette advertised her art classes in the Bronnie for many years and Douglas said that Jeanette kept giving the classes as long as possible.

“We honour life when we work,” Jeanette used to say. “The type of work is not important; the fact of work is. All work feeds the soul if it is honest and done to the best of our abilities and if it brings joy to others.”

One of Katanya’s paintings of horses

Douglas said that Jeanette was a born teacher and found teaching mature students most fulfilling. He also said that Jeanette helped people in more ways than just teaching them how to paint or draw. A case in point was the semi-blind girl she taught and her joy in seeing the girl’s self-confidence improve.

Jeanette will be sorely missed by her students, many of whom struggle to accept the fact that she is gone. Douglas said that he was prepared for her death in the sense that he was privileged enough to go through the whole process with her; each doctor’s appointment, every chemo session and hospitalisation. Still, even expecting it, the end leaves a tremendous void, he said.

Douglas and Jeanette had 28 years together. Jeanette also leaves four sisters, one brother, many godchildren as well as innumerable students and friends behind.

Dr Jaco Kruger conducted her funeral service on 21 December at Wapadrand Gereformeerde Kerk.

Jeanette’s remaining artwork may be viewed by appointment. Call Douglas at 012-991-8483 or

The late Katanya, Jeanette Smith, at her last art exhibition on 27 September 2015

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