Rabbits, trees and 648 prints, News Update December 2007

Greetings from the Lowveld, which is lush, green and sub-tropical. Just right for a South African end to a year that has disappeared rather rapidly. Can one blame time flying on global warming? Or is it just age catching up with us? Gone are the days when it took ages for your birthday, Christmas and the school holidays to come around, now they flash by, leaving one somewhat bewildered.

Since we last wrote we have planted 160 trees (promise… come and count for yourself), bought solar geysers for the workshop, guesthouse and Judith’s house, and have managed to source decent South African grown coffee (next challenge something to replace what Lindt offers). We have also read Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” about living off produce grown at home or within a 100-mile radius of her Kentucky home. We are trying to follow her example…Mark has been researching water turbines to generate electricity, luckily for us, the irrigation canal looks like it will be able to supply us with a large portion of our power needs, hopefully by the time we next write this will be up and running. Tamar is optimistically hoping that soon we can call Eskom and ask them to remove their charming poles and transformer.

Simon and Maru’s menagerie has expanded to include two rabbits, Lily and Thabethie, who have been housed with Simon’s quails. Thus saving the quails from suffering from early onset Alzheimers (they must be the mostly happily bored fowl species in the world). Tamar’s varied attempts to get them into the oven or fed to the kid's school’s hawks have failed, loud wails of “Noooo Mummmyyy… Simon and his friend Max caught a bucketful of the teeniest kurper fingerlings from Witklip Dam and these are being fattened up in his fish tank to be released into our dam when they are better able to cope with the kingfishers and cormorants. On the gardening front, Simon sold loads of arum lilies during the grade four entrepreneurs day. Maru was his marketing agent and secured many orders for him. The kids have added cacti to their list of obsessions, this after visiting the garden of a cactus nut in Nelspruit. Frans has a huge baobab growing on the pavement outside his home (germinated and planted by him in the early 1970’s) and has managed to create a beautiful garden that is in total denial of its geographical location!

The python update possibly verges on what one could call a “rural legend”. Our neighbours', Oom Danie and Tannie Bets, are the proud owners of three ostriches, two males and one female. A few weeks ago we noticed that the female was not in attendance at the morning dog and ostrich race that happens each time the kids walk to catch their school lift. We thought how sweet, she must be sitting on eggs, somewhere in the macadamia orchard. But things seem to have taken a sinister turn. Another neighbour informed us that a python has taken not only the female ostrich but also a blesbuck. On noting the missing ostrich an inspection was done of the two meters high, close span fence that surrounds the property. No cut wire, no holes… anywhere. But Stoffel (the son) did note what he at first thought was a Telkom pole lying at the bottom of their farm. Driving a bit closer he saw that the pole was, in fact, a huge python (he didn’t elaborate on whether it had a rather large bulge). Missing ostrich and buck accounted for? We have been trying to establish whether pythons can down an ostrich or not. So far the Internet has been of no use and so we have lodged a query with some experts to see if they can provide a scientific perspective on this. We await the news… meanwhile, we are keeping a close eye on the kids!

On the adventure front, we have discovered Mariepskop. It is probably the largest Afro-Montane forest left in South Africa. What makes it even more fabulous is the fact that it was restricted area due to an insane Airforce base (David Goldblatt would have a field day with his camera) that is now being absorbed back into the bush. The Dept of Forestry and Water Affairs have chalets that you can hire (R 199.85c low season, R299.85c high season) per night, sleeps five…! There are brilliantly trained guides who know everything about the indigenous trees and flowers and who also know the hiking trails. Giant yellow woods, strangler figs, slopes covered in clivias, orchids in the canopy, rain mist…. As a nation, we can count ourselves really lucky to have places like this where we can escape to (and unlike Kruger and the Cape beaches you can have the whole mountainside to yourself…) Call the Forest Station at 015 793 2581 to make a booking for a chalet and guide.

In the studio, we have completed printing and assembling 648 “prints” (fifteen editions) for William Kentridge. Sarah Dudley and Ulrich Kuehle were with us for six months and made it all possible. With Mark, Leshoka and Syneth and Sarah and Uli in the studio we worked out that not only are we the only people tearing up minute bits of hand-printed paper to assemble the prints in the whole continent of Africa but that we are also probably the biggest gathering of Tamarind graduates working together. Uli and Sarah have just left for Germany, accompanied by a fine Swazi Dancing Queen sculpted by Acan Masuku of House on Fire fame. We are going to miss them a lot and wish them well wherever the jet streams take them next. The Kentridge prints are currently on exhibition at The Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. Robert Hodgins, who broke his hip during the interval of William Kentridge’s The Magic Flute is recovering well and has signed a new suite of prints that he worked on with us. Check them out at https://www.artprintsa.com/robert-hodgins.html.

In between the Kentridge marathon, we have also completed a new Conrad Botes print “Foreign Policy”, there are only a few copies left…

Before it is suddenly all over, we wish you a peaceful, SLOW and relaxed festive season and break!

More news from the studio