Friday, August 31, 2007

jumbled ramblings

Yesterday it was a busy day in arty-fartyland. First of all Mr A-F had a birthday, (suffice it to say middle age is a long forgotten dream, this is now the real macoy!)

So there was the usual "I'm special and can't lift a finger today" paralysis that sets in, while the rest of the family scurry around waiting hand and foot on the recipient of the "Birthday treatment." (Over the years, this has become a sort of divine right granted to those of our family having a birthday, but I must say, Mr A-F has it down to a fine art.)

It usually entails a tray of coffee, a vase of flowers, and assorted gifts being brought to the recipient, who generally languishes in bed while all this is happening. The family gathers on the bed for the opening of the gifts. These are a motley bunch (the presents, not the family!!.......we-ell actually........) and include a decent gift from the grown-ups and other adult kids, and assorted little treasures (such as chocolate, waterproof camping matches, etc) from the pets, cars etc.

Then there is generally a disgustingly unhealthy fry-up for breakfast, involving bacon, eggs, sausages and any other edible stuff which isn't green or nutricious, and we go about our day.

At night, the star of the day gets to nominate their favourite food, and we all gather for the Birthday Dinner, at which, again, the star gets to sit around and not feel obliged to help, wash up or do anything more energetic than chewing and grunting with pleasure ocassionally!

This time of the year is VERY HARD WORK because between July and October so many of us have our special days. ( We are very excited about the new little one who will be included in this bunch soon, she is due in 2 weeks time!) Then we get a breather till December, when there is another batch, althought most of these live over the hills and far away, so to speak.

No wonder we have hardly any energy left to make a big fuss about Christmas, which is an entirely more low-key affair in this family!

Yesterday, Mr A-F was at home, and so accompanied C, K and I on an outing back to Red Location Museum, the Anti Apartheid Museum, which I told you about recently.

I had to drop off some paintings there, for an Art Awards entry, and so it was the perfect opportunity to revisit this amazing place. I spotted some fascinating old anti apartheid posters.....

(excuse the horrible picture quality, the lighting was poor but flash glazed the glossy surface, so i had to do slow shutter speed, hand held) These were produced at the height of the repression, and anyone caught with this sort of poster would have been in serious trouble, free speech was NOT encouraged! (The man being pulled in the cart in the second one is PW Botha, who was State President at the time, and under whose draconian leadership the repression reached new heights)

and also a couple of community made quilts, which I thought you quilters out there in blogland may enjoy.
This is a large piece, about 3 m x 4 m in size. I love the way the corrogated iron shacks are depicted in the panels across the top. (Click for bigger view)
And this is in a room dedicated to showing the artworks done by children as part of a wonderful art project. It consists of embroidered and beaded panels.
It is very apt that these are communal works, because, as in any place where a group of people are victimised, they tend to close ranks and form a tight-knit group, and in townships like red location, this is very noticable. The community spirit is very strong, and the people often tend to work as a group rather than as individuals. (This is a generalisation, of course, but there is a strong contrast between the more affluent suburbs, where people live isolated lives behind high walls, and can live for years next to people they have never met, while in the townships, generally everyone knows and looks out for their neighbours.)

Then in the afternoon, we went to book the hospital for the impending birth of grandchild#2.
I was blown away, things have really changed for the better since my kids were born!

Ethan was born in Zimbabwe, under really bad conditions, so obviously it depends where you are, but the St Georges hospital here has double suites that look like 5 star hotel rooms, where mom, dad and baby all stay together.

When K was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, 30 years ago (hee hee yup, the BIG 3-0 is looming....) she was whisked off into a large room full of little cots on trolleys, with rows of little tightly wrapped pastel pink and blue bundles, identifiable only by the name tags above them. I was stuck in a ward with 3 other women, and she was brought to me for feeding once every 4 hours, and Max had to visit only at rigidly appointed times, and see his daughter through glass, being held up by a nurse. Any of the pink blobs would have done, it would have been hard to tell the difference!

By the time #1 was born 2 years later, (this is confusing, he is actually #2, but due to a play on words between his name and how it sounds in Afrikaans, his nickname is #1) we were in Port Elizabeth, and things were MARGINALLY more enlightened. I was still in a ward of 4 beds, and husbands still had to stick to limited and rigid visiting hours, but the babies were allowed to stay in little cots next to the mother's beds, and be fed on demand, instead of to the rigid 4 hourly schedule of the other place. This meant dads had an opportunity to get used to holding the babies before they arrived home.

It all sounds like something out of the dark ages, compared to the new setup....long live progress!

Monday, August 20, 2007

gotta love Africa...........

As you know by now, we put up with quite a bit of stuff here that is not ideal, like the crime, the power failures etc. But then there is the other side of the story. Where else can you be lying in bed on a Sunday morning, sipping the first cup of coffee, and see that it is a typical winters day, warm and sunny outside, (OK so I'm waxing lrical here, it is not TYPICAL but we have had an exceptionally warm winter this year, with more warm days than cold wet ones!), so you think "I'd like to see an elephant today." No problem, get dressed, throw some cameras in the car, grab some cooldrinks and munchies, and 70km later, you are here...........

This is Greater Addo Elephant Park, and we are very lucky to have such an amazing place on our doorstep. It is a huge National park, which has recently been enlarged by incorporating many satellite private parks, so that now it runs from the coast, through coastal bush, mountains with fynbos, wetlands, and arid bush with predominantly succulent plants. It includes 7 distinct biomes. According to the blurb on the Greater Addo website "The Eastern Cape of South Africa is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. It is host to The Addo Elephant National Park and many other private Game Reserves. These malaria free alternatives for the Kruger National Park all offer the "Big 5" ( Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard )and due to the enormous expansions now includes a marine section with seasonal whales and sharks. ( "Big 7") " We headed for the old original section of the park, which is home to the famous Addo Elephant. It is a distinct sub-species of the African Elephant, one of the characteristics is that, unlike its Northern relatives, the Addo elephant females do not get tusks.

Well, I'm afraid I just don't get the 'big 5' mentality! We can get just as much of a kick looking at these trees at the reception office!
On the left is the cabbage tree and on the right a black and white photo of a Cape fig. They send roots down their trunks, which in turn fillout into trunks when they get to the ground, until a massive clump of tree eventually forms.

(You can click on all the pix to enlarge them, I upload small to preserve the limited allowance of KB I have left before I have to pay to upload!

Then into the Park we go........
And round the first bend, a warthog family is rooting around right next to the road. (Next time you feel ugly, just be grateful..........but they are SOOOO cute!)
Speaking of NOT the big 5, how cute are these little guys, who happened to be at the first waterhole while we were watching the zebras? The three striped field mouse and weaver bird were competing for the same crumbs.
The Zebras are so lovely, I have always had a passion for horses, and these comical horses in pyjamas are very endearing, with their sociable habits and stunning markings.

We drove on and came across quite a few Kudu. The males and females hang out separately, the females are so elegant,
and the males just AWESOME with those beautiful curling horns. They have really gentle faces, despite the hardware! Max was over the moon, because he had one as a pet when he was growing up on a farm, and they are his favourite antelope.
There were so many that they even formed a backdrop when we were photographing the interesting anthills!

We came to a lookout point on a hilltop, where, if the idea of lurking lions didn't bother you (see signon phot below!) you could get out of the car and walk around.
We were busy taking general panoramas of the view, and as you can see, playing with the zooms on our cameras which are really great, because to the far right of the bend in the road, on the edge of the picture, you can see a tiny light dot which is a clearing in the bush.
When we zoomed in on it, it was not a tiny dot, but in fact large enough to house several elephants!
We noticed that they were heading along through the bush towards an approaching car....
Ah, he has spotted it and ground to a halt, not yet realising how lucky he is about to be! At this point we are lamenting the fact that if we had just spent a minute or two longer photographing the Kudu, we might still be down there in time to see the elephant up close! But as it turned out, it was great having this grandstand view of the whole thing unfolding before us.....
Another car arrives, and they are treated to a huge family of elephants strolling along right in front of them, and into the thick bush on the other side.
From our viewpoint, we could follow their progress through the bush,
and out across the cleared firebreak, where a group of kudu decided to follow them.
Max whipped out the map, and from our lofty perch, we were able to guess that they were heading for a waterhole, and that if we went on one of the loop roads, we should get there at around the same time, so off we went and BINGO!
There they were, up close and personal!
We spent a wonderful time watching the huge group and their antics at the water. By this time it was mid day, and HOT, about 35 degrees (we were baking in the car but it was worth it! )
While the elephants satisfied their thirst at the waterhole, this little baby needed a drink from mom.

We saw just how useful and versatile those trunks are:

for drinking...
slurp up water, and pour it into your mouth.
For cooling down, spray it all over yourself...Or you might prefer mud, stomp around to stir it up then spray it over you, it dries to a crust which kills parasites and prevents others from latching on in the folds of your skin.
and to avoid sunburn, suck up dust and spray it onto your wet body, forming a natural sunblock!
Then of course you can use it to delicately pick delicious leaves off thorn bushes...
and to fondle friends you want to greet!
Then just to round things off, on our way home we saw a big Southern Right whale swimming along in the bay...... all in all there's a lot to be said for living in Africa!

Friday, August 17, 2007

check this out

Blog Catalogue (see link in sidebar) has come up with a worthy challenge....
The goal is to get a record number of bloggers writing on the same subject, so September 27th is Anti Abuse day... how about joining in and making it a really worthwhile and thought provoking day, when bloggers across the globe are informed and challenged to make a difference. The cool thing is that the topic is so broad, because there are all types of abuse that need to be addressed, and each of us has certain topics which we are particulaly passionate about. Imagine if we could all impart some of our passion for our area of concern to a huge audience of fellow bloggers worldwide? What abuses freak you out? Animal abuse? Abuse of power? (as in corrupt politicians, bosses, teachers etc) Abuse of women and or children? Abuse of the planet? Abuse of the legal system?.... The possibilities are endless, so please consider joining up, and thinking about it, so that on September 27th we can produce a worldwide protest against many kinds of abuse.
You can follow THIS LINK to find out more.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

out of control..........

Well I need to explain my long absence from blogland....and to do this I need to show you some pictures, but first I have to issue a warning....if you are the sort of person who gets nauseous and rolls your eyes thinking "get -a -life!" when you see people going ga ga over baby stuff, please scroll quickly down to the next heading.....(PS until 3 years ago when I became a granny, I was FIRMLY in this category)

Ok for those who have strong stomachs and have opted to stay, C arrived from her spot in a dusty portion of Northern Africa, complete with ENORMOUS bump where her sylphlike tummy used to be.... so naturally we have had to re-acquaint her with the wonderful world of 1st world shopping.
Let's just say that the restaurants in Port Elizabeth are noticing a sudden upturn in their turnover, and are wondering why.
And of course there are several baby shops in town .... so we HAD to go and see what they had. I need to remind you that when Ian and C sent us the scan of our new grand-daughter, we were threatened with broken knee-caps if we bought her anything PINK.
Well, it started out fairly well, we found some adorable red stuff, how cute is this cotton loop jacket with ears on the hood?
but the rot set in when we came across the set in the middle, with the pink dots and stripes......
and while I was VERY good and stuck to orange (I mean WHO could resist those bellbottoms??)........
......C had a rush of blood to the head and got these! But what is even more scary than that is the squealing and oohing and aahing that went on when we found all this stuff, it was positively revolting! We almost had to go for another coffee to recover our dignity! As C said, we are TOTALLY out of control....(we won't even mention the amount of chocolate we are getting through!)

Anyway as you can imagine we have been having great fun. But there has also been some horrible damage done to the credit card in another area, because K and I have discovered a TREASURE. There is a second hand bookshop nearby which we stumbled across, and it specialises in collectable old non fiction books, including some of the ones about the development of Port Elizabeth which we have seen in the reference section of the Library. They are like hen's teeth, so we were ecstatic to be able to take a deep breath and buy them. I won't bore you with all our research yet, but it is continuing apace!
In the midst of all this, Max and I popped down to Port St Francis to check things out and our friendly seal was hanging around right next to the jetty.
I am delighted with the way my knee has responded to the surgery. I was so missing our sunrise strolls, so this morning I begged and pleaded and after making a strong cup of coffee for him, finally succeeded in booting Max out of our nice warm bed to go for a walk with me.
It was worth it, look at this ship being caught by a ray of sun, way across the bay.
I love the way the sun glows on the buildings as it rises.
If you follow the progress of my art blog, you will remember this tree, which I did for a commission recently.
We spotted a lovely one this morning, it is the indigenous Coral Tree known as Erythrena Kaffra.
If you check my side-bar you'll see a new kid on the block....Max has started blogging and is already TOTALLY addicted! It is hilarious when we go for walks, stopping every 2 seconds to take photos. We get very little exercise, it could hardly be described as power walking, but we do have fun!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

An Interesting Detour....

By now you are aware that detours and unplanned side-tracks are an integral part of life in the arty-farty household!

This one started out in the usual fashion.... we were mooching around on Saturday morning, feeling lazy and laid back.... Max suggested we take a drive to see the flamingoes which hang around the wetlands to the North of town. He went and took photos recently while I was recovering from the knee op, and promised to take me there when I was more mobile.

It was a bit tricky, they are really shy and the minute they spot you they move to the other side of the water, so we were on telephoto. But the wind was HOWLING, so we were being buffetted around and it was really difficult to hold the camera steady. So the pix aren't great....

Anyway, as you can see, in the background is one of the "black locations" into which our black population were forced to move, in the bad old days. Due to grinding poverty, despite the new freedom to live wherever they like, for many of them the reality is that they will never afford to leave these places. But it is not just that.... you know that old axiom that there is no place like home... no matter how humble that home may be, and strong caring communities have grown here, bonded by the mutual experience of hardship.

So Max and I were chatting about all this as we drove along, and the next thing, we came to a corner I have often seen but never turned.
So we spontaneously decided to go that way, and next thing we came across the sign for the Red Location Museum. Well, the rest, as they say, is history!!

To give you a bit of background, this museum is a place I have been wanting to go to for a while. Red Location has popped up in our ongoing Richmond Hill research, because it was the place that the people who lived in 'The strangers location' in this area were resettled to in 1903. The Museum was conceived as a project to "serve as stimuli for upgrading the destitute living conditions in the Red Location shack settlement, while celebrating those who fought to end apartheid." It does this by attracting foreign tourists on the one hand, and supplying a venue for local communites to interact with educational, art cultural activities. It has won multiple architectural design awards.

So here are some images. It is an incredible place, and these pictures do not even begin to convey the impact that being there has on one.

It is set amongst the shacks and stores, some very old ones are still evident.
Inside, a very high outer shell contains various smaller spaces,
such as an area depicting the history of red location, an art gallery of photos, an auditorium,
and very striking rusted corrogated iron "sheds 5 or 6 m tall, used as individual display areas. These depict various aspects of township life, and also of the struggle against apartheid.
The most striking of these is the room which commemorates the hanging of Vuyislie Mini, a member of MK, the armed wing of the ANC who was hanged in 1964, along with 2 others.
When you enter, the wall facing you has a huge photo of him, and hanging in front of his face, from the centre of the room, are 3 nooses. In the background, you hear him giving testimony at his trial, about refusing to give evidence against his friends in return for amnesty.
The rest of the walls are covered floor to ceiling with boxes, bearing the names of those killed by the government for their anti apartheid activities, in all cases the inquests found that no-one was to blame for their deaths. It is a very moving and powerful display.
Around the outside perimeter of all these inner sheds is a photo essay depicting the "Langa Massacre" which took place in 1985, when a mob was protesting and Police decided to use live ammunition to quell the riot. What makes it really hit home, aside from the huge photos and witness testimonies, is the soft sound of weeping issuing from small speakers positioned all around the wall, so that you really feel you are amidst the mourners at the mass funeral, whew!

It was a sobering, thought-provoking experience. But again, as with the South End Museum, there is also an over-riding sense of dignity and a lack of bitterness, so that it is not an overwealmingly negative experience, but one leaves feeling hopeful.
I think, to be fair, one needs to point out that it is a very one-sided display, because it concentrates on the heroes of the struggle, so it shows some of the evil done by the apartheid regime, without showing any of the atrocities which were perpetrated by the freedom fighters.
However, since that was always the part we got to see in the past, this does bring a balance by telling the other side of the story. I just think it is necessary to see both sides together to get a real picture of what this country has been through.
And it is my fervent hope that everybody would learn enough to realise that the sort of atrocities committed by either side are never acceptable or justifiable.... given the current crime situation, I think there is a long way to go before there is an acceptable level of respect for human life in this country.