Vegans, prints and ancestors. News Update October 2010

The weather has been mad and we all been suffering from various respiratory ailments. The doctors all blame it on the muck that gets blown this way from the highveld. The world cup seems like a lifetime ago (we loved every minute of it, except for when Paraguay played, we have pledged to NEVER ever darken the borders of Paraguay, it is permanently on the families black list). We have replaced the fabric flags on our cars with custom printed stickers, and even miss the vuvuzela’s serenading each other across the valley.

We spent part of the world cup school holiday slack packing in Kosi Bay. Slack packing is divinely... slack. You hike from one accommodation spot (bush camps and lodges) carrying only your lunch (prepared for you), camera and swimming kit. A guide is provided, so you don’t even have to think where you are walking. When you arrive at the next destination supper, hot showers and a proper bed await one (your personal belongings are ferried to each camp for you). The dune bush is incredible to walk though as are the beaches (mostly all to ourselves except for the odd palm nut vulture and families of bush pigs). We asked for local mostly vegetarian food and the food exceeded expectations. Casava, spinach and peanuts, madumbi and bream caught in the traditional fish traps, heaven! While there we admired some garden furniture made from recycled plastic (no it is not clunky and the designs are nice), will last for 20 years plus and needs no maintenance. We have bought some and now have comfortable chairs and tables at strategic points around the garden. To get a price list and pics contact Billy Bond at

On the food front we are turning towards being vegan (described in a book as the vegetarian’s cousin, the Hezbollah like vegan). Giving all animal protein (you have no idea how awful milk and butter taste when your system is no longer used to it) a miss has been enabled by two books “The China Study” by Colin Campbell and “Eating Animals” by Johnathan Safran Foer. The one looking at the diseases of affluence and the other at the ethical and environmental implications of industrial meat production (both are available from The final nail in the meat coffin was driven in by reading that Bill Clinton has also come to the same conclusion (his daughter’s wedding was vegan). An illuminating piece of trivia is that Americans eat ¾ of 1% of all the edible foodstuffs that are available on the planet (South Africans, judging by our waistlines cannot be far behind..)
On the green front things have been busy... At the start of winter we put in a beehive and last week harvested our first frame of honey... most exciting. Simon and Mark were kitted out in their bee suits (Simon had to use soapy water to get his gum boots on). We ate so much in the evening that we all had trouble falling asleep from the sugar rush. Our fruit forest has expanded with the addition of plum and jaboticaba trees as well as a very special black fig grown from a tree cutting that was in Jan Neethling's home fifty years ago in Pretoria and then moved to his place in Midrand, and now continues here in the Lowveld. We have discovered that we can put reject prints through the shredding machine to add to our compost, and are pretty sure that we are the first print studio that will be growing food from print waste! On the waste subject we have discovered a locally made unbleached toilet paper that sells for less than the unsound puppy print version that we used to use. It is made out of sugar cane waste and is a much sweeter option.

We have started to make our own dog food; the reason for this being dark hints from various sources that dog food is well, made partially out of dogs. It is also damn expensive and has a hefty footprint. We bought a huge pot and once a week cook up a mix of veggie scraps, yellow mielie pap, regular mielie pap with a dash of oil and a clove or two of garlic. This is served with a little topping (cooked separately and frozen) of mashed chicken necks, liver, sawdust (from the butchers saw) – they give it to you for free, eggs, milk and cheese scraps. The dogs love it and seem to be looking better than they did on the vet’s provisions.

In terms of transition towns we have been involved in setting up The Lowveld Community Exchange System.The launch of the exchange and our first day of trading on Saturday the 4th September was a great success. It was quite strange getting to grips to trading without money and to telling people that no they could not pay cash for the goods on the table but that they could join the exchange and then take the items by going into virtual debt. Simon and Maru had an ongoing game where they build mud villages and used lucky beans as currency, so Saturday had tinges of a light hearted game for us, although we went home with some very real delicious lemon cordial and trays of seedlings. The idea is to stimulate trade within your own community and it is fascinating how it challenges ones approach to money and value. Take a look at the CES website to find an exchange in your area (Cape Town has a large one, but they are all over the planet now).

Since we last wrote we have held another monoprint workshop (Fred Clarke is now competing with Josie Grindrod for our frequent flyer programme) and we will be having another one towards the end of October. The workshop was attended by Jo Fensham, Fred Clarke, Laura Batchelor, Colleen Alborough, Mandy Conidaris and Kate Tarratt-Cross. The workshops are always a stimulating mix of people and we enjoy them immensely.

Since we last wrote Willem Boshoff and Kim Berman have signed their new prints. Colbert Mashile and Karin Daymond have been working in the studio on monoprints. Colbert’s work was exhibited recently at I-Art in Cape Town and Karin’s prints will be available on the website shortly. At the moment Sibonelo Chiliza is working on a series of botanical prints. Watching Sibonelo work is entrancing. His observation and attention to detail is mind blowing and Tamar needs her glasses to see what he is doing. It is the first time that we have had a proper botanical artist work with us and it is humbling. Sibonelo drew some plates for our neighbour, Roger Fisher’s definitive book on clivias and after seeing his work we invited him to make some prints. We will let you know when the work is editioned.

The studio has been in a bit of an exhibition mode (gearing up for our 20th anniversary next year) and have held a successful exhibition at North West University and Aardklop (Christina Naurattel and her team are brilliant). The exhibition will open soon at The Grande Provance Gallery in Franschoek and will then travel to The Association of Arts in Pretoria early next year. I-Art held an exhibition of Colbert Mashile’s monoprints in September and we are happy to be getting such great coverage.

Mark had a brilliant four days (mad) days taking part in the Fabulous at Fifty celebration of fifty years of The Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque (USA). It was a real gathering of the clan and Mark did a presentation on the workshop as part of the Tamarind international spread as well as a mono print transfer demo. An exciting mix of printers from Berlin, Mexico, Finland, the UK etc were there as well as the artists Jim Dine, Ed Rusche, Ruth Fine and June Wayne. Print and art did not get much of a mention on the social side, instead their inherent obsessiveness turned to organic vegetable gardening, which was the hot topic of conversation.

Tamar finished a large embroidery commission in June for a client in Cape Town and is continuing with her series of smaller panels (80 x 215cm), which will hopefully find a gallery to be exhibited in one day.... Tamar is also working on a new series of sculptures.

The most exciting news on the family front is that Tamar’s sister, Petra had her DNA done recently at Wits and their maternal line is East African!!! Tamar now has what she hopes is not a too romantic version of events based on the slave trade to the Cape having been supplied mainly by East Africans where an early White male ancestor was milling around. Petra has written a fantastic piece in Mahala about it all.

If nothing else having a Pygmy blood line finally explains the sisters short legs. Petra also gives info about getting the test done yourself, just brilliant for those of us whose fingers are worn down from doing desperate ancestry searches on the Internet.

News updates from 2009