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Jahan Maka

Canadian (b. Lithuania)

Jahan Maka
Map of Manitoba, c. 1980
oil and pencil on canvas
Canadian (b. Lithuania)

Jahan Maka, who was born in Lithuania, immigrated to Canada in 1927 and changed his name to John Thomason. He first worked as a miner in Sherridan, Manitoba, and in 1942 moved to Flin Flon. In 1968, he began to paint, and was strongly encouraged by his godson, an art student at the University of Manitoba, who supplied him with painting materials and brought him to the attention of others in the art world. Though he had changed his name to John Thomason over forty years before, he signed his work with his given name, Jahan Maka.

Maka’s subjects often feature historical or figurative images related to Canada, as well as those of his Lithuanian heritage. His painting style is characterized by the use of vibrant, expressive colors, and his rendering of architectural shapes shows more concern with describing spatial relationships between things, rather than literal arrangements that adhere to rules of conventional perspective.

Jahan Maka continued to paint until his death in 1987, and today is one of Canada’s best-known self-taught artists.

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