January 18, 2010

Feather paper cut and drawing.

A guinea fowl feather in pencil; a guinea fowl feather cut-out, backed with cheese cloth, dyed in tea, and a poem by Isak Dinesen.
If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a colour that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?

Isak Dinesen is the pen-name of Karen Blixen, best known from the film "Out of Africa". She was a formidable writer and had a farm in Africa. She was also twice nominated for the Nobel prize in Literature, and a Danish baroness.
Often I reread her work, my favorite being "Out of Africa", knowing that I am attracted by the romance of the period. I grew up in post-colonial Africa and there were then still remnants of those bygone days. For a child, it was a happy place to be, full of adventure and discovery. I recently read "Dark Star Safari" by Paul Theroux and he describes his travels from Cairo to the Cape in the new Africa, with its hunger, disease and inability to help itself. Fortunately, not too long ago I had read "Africa Trek" by Alexandre and Sonia Poussin,  who travel by foot from Cape Town to Cairo, which off-set the starkness of Theroux's novel and focused more on the generosity, kindness and laughter one also meets in Africa. Africa, Africa, Africa, when will I stop dreaming of Africa? My dreams are just dusty memories.

I too have traveled from Cairo to the Cape, though certainly not on foot, but there were buses, trucks, ships and trains involved. I did it in increments, visiting one or two countries at a time. However, I carelessly appear to have skipped a bit like the whole of the Sudan and Ethiopia. Just don't know how that happened, but I do know enough to have an opinion on Africa. I also know much has changed. In cases for the better, but in much I think things are worse than before.

Still when I decide to draw a feather, it's no wonder that I choose a Guinea Fowl feather because my drawing is an escape of the times we live in. I see too much hardship around me these days, and indeed I find it difficult at the moment to see much pleasure in daily life, so I draw and paint and relive memories. All I need is a pencil, some paints, some paper, and since recently an X-acto knife, to travel to Africa.


  1. Elza - i LOVE these! Did you create these feather drawings?

  2. Your paper cuttings are unbelievable. You must have so much patience!



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