Musings on art and life.
I’m using some of my time off to do some writing.. and thinking. Naturally, the thinking came first. On Friday morning, as I flew over the Irish sea, then bussed from Dublin to Galway, I got to reconsidering a project I did many years ago on “A Sense of Place.” It’s not always an easy concept for me to grasp. I do, most of the time, have a very clear idea of where I am in the world, but I have always struggled with my lack of “roots”. Not far outside of Athlone, I decided that it might be a nice idea to start relating to the disjointed parts of my life within my writing, not to try and change the way I see my history (I wouldn’t change it if I could), but to map it out in terms of other people’s art.
Stop number one is Johannesburg. The artists below were all found using the site Everard Read, Johannesburg.
The city itself is not particularly picturesque, although from my distant memories, it did have some pretty spots. As city’s go though, it does still have a thriving art community, evident in the lists of artists on the above websites where I was spoiled for choice. Thea Soggot caught my eye, with her lovely figurative drawings. She uses damp earth from the Magaliesberg mountains to paint intimate portraits with sensitivity and skill.
Phillemon Hlungwani’s prints are wonderfully rendered examples of rural life in South Africa. Working mostly in lino, dry-point and charcoal on paper, he uses his work to express and explore everyday life and the journeys we undertake as part of it. A spiritual man, Phillimon often features trees in his art as representations of his connection to them as a place of worship, ritual and prayer.
I haven’t lived in Jo’burg for about 20 years. When I think about what a span of time that is, it boggles my mind. When I think about the moves I’ve made since then, it boggles even more. I remember visiting the theatre for the Christmas panto, and going to see a ballet once, other then that when I lived there the city centre was often a “no-go” area. When I last visited, I found much had changed, some parts for the better, others; not so much. I was glad to come across this article about the emerging art scene in Jo’burg; once a city firmly in the grip of social and political turmoil. While I no longer only identify myself as South African, there is still a large part of my personality that was developed there. My love of art was instilled in me through murals and graffiti seen around the city, and the ability artists have of addressing social and emotional issues through their work. Looking through the list of artists on Everard Read has shown me how far the South African art world has changed since I last lived in JHB, and I’m glad to see it.
The work of these two artists reminds me that in my writing, I’m not bound by my geographical location, and this aspect of my past was a step in a journey to better cultural understanding. I’ve come to believe that I was not meant to have a sense of my own place in this particular city, but I can revisit my childhood province whenever I like; through their sensitive depictions of landscape, or the reminder that art can be created with the very earth itself.
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