February 27, 2010

Seydou Keita, Mali photographer,

One great discovery I made while researching Mali was the photography of Seydou Keita. A personal discovery that is, because this pioneer photographer had already been discovered. I used one of his photo's for the above illustration, and sketched it on copy paper, of all things. The young woman's stance, with her foot on the chair, her wide skirts and especially her arms and hands fascinated me.

February 20, 2010

Keeping it tidy.

Frankly, the drawing has nothing to do with what's on my mind. I just drew this big, old crab for my 6 year old niece to send to her in reply to the pretty card she sent me showing off her new talent in writing in cursive. 

Drawing, writing and reading are my methods to not have to think about the sorry state of affairs in which we find ourselves. During the week, it is part of my job; in the weekend I force myself to find ways to distract my mind for else one might lose it and that would be very untidy.

There has been a little bubble of an idea floating peacefully along in the back of my mind for many years. Never really acted upon. Never used for any purpose. Sometimes surfacing, often not.
Last weekend, when not even drawing could still my restlessness, I suddenly sat down and wrote the outline of a story and since then I have been collecting facts to which I can attach my fantasy and a new diversion was created.

Main character: Sophia Mumms, adventurous, young traveler of limited means in a post-WWII world, embarks on a journey that takes her to Mali and beyond.

Now I had to discover how she would travel (cargo ship), what she would eat; where she would sleep; who she would meet and most importantly what would she find herself in the middle of (murder and theft)? A story needs excitement, an intricate plot, subplots and some romance. So I have found myself looking for answers to many the questions I have. Although I have traveled extensively in Africa, my interest has always been East Africa, and now I am discovering the West through names like Dakar, Djenne, and Timbuktu; people like the Dogons, Fulani and Tuaregs, and a 2,500 mile river, plied by river boats and pirogues, forming the back-bone of the first part of the story. 

In my travels on the web, I stumbled on Sophia herself. I found this marvelous blog by Sophia, Djenne Djenno. This is not my Sophia, but a modern day artist, and life adventurer who runs a hotel in Djenne, Mali. There are such amazing people to be discovered, that one hardly need write fiction. Reading her enjoyable and interesting blog I am strongly reminded of Isak Dinesen and her time in Africa.
listening to: Miriam Makeba - Africa, Nawang Kheechog - Rhythms of Peace, Joe Cocker - Ultimate Collection.

February 9, 2010

Dancing strings.

Not quite sure what to make of this. It took me far longer than any of the other projects in my little art book. When you turn the page and the strings are taunt, it gives a very different effect. But still, it is as if they are alive, doing whatever they please. I have noticed something else about my book. It smells of a very nice perfume. I had not noticed this before even though my nose has hovered above the paper for many hours. 

February 7, 2010

Holy Rosary Convent, Edenvale, Gauteng.

This week I found myself looking for my primary school on the Internet. I was clearly drinking from a full cup of nostalgia and I was not alone, because the next day there was a nice fat letter amongst my mail from my primary school friend, Paddy. She too, was looking back. Birthday's tend to bring this on.
There isn't much to be found about our years at Holy Rosary Convent but I did discover things I did not know. 
The order was established at Killeshandra in Ireland and the sisters were sent to Africa as missionaries. First to Nigeria, but later in the 1940's, as the order grew, also to Transvaal (now Gauteng), where they started a school in Edenvale, to support their missionary work in Vereeniging, where the Sharpeville Massacre took place in 1960.
As I remember it, our classrooms were, at the time in temporary buildings under some tall pine trees. While I was there a new building was built behind the brick schoolhouse in the photo.
So much for the history, because what captures my interest are the women who were our teachers. They were such a mystery to me, in their crisp white tropical habits, of linen and cotton, and when it got colder, unbleached woolen cardigans. I can still imitate their soft, Irish lilt and belt out the Irish songs we were taught in music class. They formed a little Irish island in the middle of the African veld.
After having seen Walt Disney's 'Sleeping Beauty" I could never escape seeing Sister Mary Gemma as Flora, the strong, benevolent leader, Sister Mary Genevieve as Fauna, sweet and timid, and Sister Mary Teresita as Merriweather. Although my relationship with Sister Gemma was the strongest as we corresponded for many years, well into my adulthood, it was however Sister Teresita who fascinated me most once I was well out of her reach. She was all too slap-happy with her ruler or pointer, and when angered, her face would redden from her collar up to her coif, and there were times when I feared that she would erupt like a volcano and I would see molten lava spouting out of the top of her head.
Regardless of Merriweather, I had a wonderful time and still think I was fortunate enough to get an excellent start in life because of the good, though somewhat old fashioned schooling at HRC. (We called ourselves Hot Roasted Chickens). When I left for high school I had already had a year of Latin, a nice little foundation for math, had read Shakespeare, Dickens and many other great authors. I had been taken to musicals, eisteddfods, and learned song (can't say I learned to sing, but that had to do with my own limited abilities) and dance. I could write bread-and-butter notes (check this link if you like entertaining, etiquette and the finer side of life), knew which knife and fork to use at an elaborate dinner and walk up straight and elegantly. 
None of these skills are particularly helpful in the life I live now. Manners are not really required much these days and tableware has been reduced to a single fork. Long, newsy letters on fine stationary have been replaced by emails and Latin, I believe is no longer required in any academic direction. 

We cannot prevent change and progress, but we can regret the loss of some of the finer things in life. Therefore, Paddy and I are going back to writing letters (even though the first one Paddy wrote got lost in the mail from South Africa to Arizona). No more quick exchanges zipping along the web, but letters that take longer to write, longer to arrive, but are sure to be savored longer by the recipient.
Listening to: Appalachia Waltz, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Mark O'Conner.

February 2, 2010

Open doorway in Rome.

I think this is what they call 'noise' in photography, but I took this picture a long time before I had heard of 'noise'. It was also the time when you had one roll of film in your camera and you used it under whatever circumstances you wanted to take a picture. A high ISO would give more noise, be more grainy. This picture was taken under low light conditions and I had to open the aperture. Still, I have always liked this picture taken through an open door in Rome.
Camera: my faithful Minolta, which is gathering dust now that I have gone digital.


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