top of page

Walter Battiss

Artist 148

Walter Battiss The identity of Fook Island’s King Fook Island

Walter Whall Battiss (1906 – 1982) was a South African artist, who specialized in abstracted painting and is known as the creator of the quirky "Fook Island".

His was inspired by rock art, especially San painting. This indigenous art form would influence Battiss’ work throughout his life.

Battiss did a lot of pioneering field work, research and publication on rock art. With his book “The Amazing Bushmen”, published in 1938, he helped to bring rock art to the attention of a wider public.

In 1949 he befriended Picasso who would have an influence on his already quirky style.

The focus on today will be on Fook Island.

This "island of the imagination" was a materialization of Battiss' philosophy for which he created a map, imaginary people, plants, animals, a history as well as a set of postage stamps, currency, passports and driver's licenses.

He created a Fookian language with a full alphabet as well. This utopian 'island' was a composite of the many islands he visited.

In Battiss's words, "It is something that does not exist. I thought that I would take an island – the island that is inside all of us. I would turn this island into a real thing ... I would give it a name".

Fook was a result of his fertile imagination as well as his opposition to the

Conceptualist Art movement of the 1960s and 70s.

He believed to the contrary that all art exists in the now and this he argued to represent with Fook Island, which was always in the now and always an essential part of reality.

Born from a hunger for a different and more simple and unspoilt kind of society in which to live, the concept presupposed an area or community with a unique and independent identity. Battiss created ‘fooklore’, stamps, and the Island’s own currency – and thus attracted Fook Island ‘citizens’ include Norman Catherine and Esmé Berman.

Battiss's Fookian Driver's License was accepted in America and his Fookian Passport has official stamps from Australia, Britain and Germany. A Fookian banknote was also exchanged at a Rome airport for $10.


bottom of page