Green lightning or change? News Update December 2008


Change seems to be in. On the weather side, we have had loads of fantastic rain and the garden has transformed into a green paradise, at the moment just about everything that can flower is flowering and the birds and frogs are as close as they can get to amphibian and avian heaven. The lightning storms have been spectacular and have included some green lightning (eye-witnessed by Maru, Simon and Mark), promise it is not due to all the homegrown veggies we are eating!

Judith's retrospective exhibition at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg has been a huge success. The opening was massive (about seven hundred people) and the subsequent walkabouts were also in demand with about two hundred people turning up. Seeing her work together in same space, spanning just slightly more than their lives was quite something for Tamar and Petra (who flew in from NYC with her husband Ausbert). It was amazing to see visual aspects of one's childhood all beautifully curated and lined up on a wall. It was also an incredible experience for Simon and Maru to see part of what their Ouma has created.

Politics has changed and has started to get interesting again. We are much relieved at the exit of Mbeki and Dr Beetroot and hope that South African will use their brains and not other parts of their anatomies when they go to the polls next year. Msholozi is the name given to an illegal settlement (plots being sold for R 50 each) over the hill from us. This is not what we want from the next government and yet we are skating rather close… hopefully, COPE (one rather hopes that political parties in a thriving democracy do more than just cope) will be able to set us on a course of having a real opposition to keep the ruling party in line. The madness that has led America seems to have also changed. Let's hope that Obama can lead his country away from the political and environmental mess that it is in. It was a close call; a moose killer with a fragile grasp of geography would have been worrying to have in the White House.

The crime in our valley seems to have calmed down (for the meanwhile) and the police have shown that they are up to national standards by being totally incompetent. The only arrest that was made in a spate of robberies lasting five months was when a woman spotted her stolen quad bike on the back of a bakkie, she then called her husband who was able to intercept the bakkie and arrest the occupants of the bakkie with a ... paintball gun. We have just finished reading Johnny Steinberg's book about the South African police titled 'Thin Blue", his analysis is succinct and well worth reading.

And the rand is rapidly turning into small change. Following the trends of the rest of the economy, the art market has also taken its knock, although one would not think so with Damien Hirst's auction. Like the housing market, the international art market has been a bit loopy over the last few years. We are most relieved to have just paid off the bond on our property when we bought six years ago, our neighbours thought that we were mad paying what we did for our property, now you would be hard pressed to buy an apartment in White River for that amount.

We are also pleased that we have been able to continue to publish work by such fine artists. Since we last wrote we have launched a number of stunning prints by the following artists:

Judith Mason, Sam Nhlengethwa, and Anton Kannemeyer. We are ending the year with Helen Sebidi in the studio (it has been a while, she started work on a print about fourteen years ago which we still have to complete….).

Mark has set up a book binding division (in the upstairs storeroom) for the studio and with the help of a book Leshoka bought in the USA has fashioned a plough and a lying press out of old printing equipment and some superwood. The first edition to be bound on the new equipment is a beautiful book by William Kentridge, based on a flip book and titled "Breathe". It has been suggested that we could go into passport forgery if the economy really goes sideways. Mark has perfected that old embossed printed on fabric text thing.

In October we got the sad news that Coex'ae (Dada) Qgam had died of cancer. Tamar worked with Dada at the Kuru Art Project in Botswana and subsequently on various projects, including  Qauqaua . She was one of the Kuru artists that Mark accompanied to work at Tamarind in the USA in 1997. We will miss her wicked sense of humour, vision and tenacity.

On the environmental front, shopping in an ordinary supermarket continues to be more and more of a challenge as we keep deleting non-local, processed, heavily packaged and not organic off our shopping list. We are mostly vegetarian now (every now and then a craving for boerewors, sheshebo and pap gets too much and we cave in) eating meat about once every ten days. And we feel much better for it (as does the wallet, 20 lamb chops cost nearly R 200 at the butcher a few days ago). Reading, "Eat your Heart Out" by Felicity Lawrence (Penguin) has taken Simba chips off the list for us as well as cereal (studies show that mice fed the cereal box plus milk, sugar and few raisins actually did better than those fed the cereal, milk, sugar and a few raisins). Farewell, coco pops and niknaks. Our shopping trolley is not the only thing changing; our cleaning cupboard is also looking a bit different. We have replaced bleach and Handy Andy etc with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda for household cleaning (if you want recipes let us know and we will email them to you). After a few months of this regime (get the mix right, Tamar never did chemistry and was surprised the first time she tossed the bicarb and vinegar together….) our house is as clean as ever. Bicarb also replaces fabric softener brilliantly. A quarter of a cup added to the final rinse means fabrics are easy to iron and do not have that horrid synthetic perfume. Now to find something that works really works to replace washing powder.

Body care has also come under the green spotlight and here it is easy to go green, be healthier and support our local economy. Toothpaste has been the hardest adjustment (Colgate is just so lekker!) but we are hardcore so have switched to Enchantrix peppermint toothpaste, we think it is better than their fennel and clove variety. For soap, moisturiser, shampoo, body butter etc we have switched to using the Victorian garden range (local, petrochemical, paraben etc free with organic ingredients also) and a pleasure to use The Victorian Garden. Seeing as we are pushing all these brands we have also read a fantastic book called "Bonfire of the Brands" by Neil Boorman, with true Brit humour he tears his obsession with brands apart. Buy it; it is an excellent antidote to the Christmas consumer frenzy.

Viva change! Let's just hope it is for the better.

With best wishes for a slow, local and peaceful holiday season.

Mark and Tamar.