Jahan Maka (1900 – 1987) was born on a farm in Lithuania in 1900. Although the details are unclear, his family lost their farm during WWI, and Maka left for Canada in 1927, hoping to make enough money to return and buy another farm. The Depression thwarted his plans and he worked as a labourer in the Prairie provinces. He eventually settled in Flin Flon, Manitoba.
Maka’s friends recalled him as a bit of a loner, introspective, but sociable with his close circle of friends. Maka began painting at age 68, improvising with his own products like commercial enamels, airplane paint thinned with lighter fluid, appliance touch-up paint, wax crayons, and carpenter’s chalk. He rebuilt worn paint brushes with hairs from his own moustache and painted on walls or doors of his apartment when he ran out of canvas. Motifs that he wanted to recreate, like forests, were carved from wood or linoleum and stamped onto the canvas or board. Later a family member encouraged him to paint and supplied him with professional art supplies.
Art critic, Michael D. Hall, holds Maka in high regard as one of the great symbolists.