Monday, February 23, 2015


Three years ago, while travelling through Namibia, a very tall man took these photographs of a Herero woman, selling her wares next to the road. He brought me one of her lovely little dolls.

On saturday, racing through the boot sale on my way to set, I found these two beauties - judging by the fabrics used, from the seventies.

And finally, after seeing women dressed like this in Swakopmund when I was last there many years ago, receiving a doll and finding two more, I did some research on the Herero people.

This is not the place where I wish to rile against other nations, imperialism or colonialism. The history is there to be found by anyone who is interested. I was ignorant and now I know a little more.

I have been beset by a new passion lately - early 1900's African postcards. In my eagerness to explore, many collectors that I have come to know over the years have loaned me pieces from their own collections to study and scan.
Above, an old photograph of two Herero girls.

On my web travels, I came across the breathtaking work of Alfred Duggan-Cronin, an Irishman who worked in South Africa from 1897-1932.
And also some beautiful contemporary work by Jim Naughten.

Anthropologist Dr Lutz Marten said: 'Wearing the enemy's uniform will diminish their power and transfer some of their strength to the new wearer.
'This is in part assimilation to European culture, and also in part appropriation, a coming-to-terms with, and overcoming of history and the colonial experience,' he said.
Speaking about the clothes Herero women wear, he said: 'A correctly worn long dress induces in the wearer a slow and majestic gait.'

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


City of walkers. You can stand on any street corner for a while and  just watch the people passing by. People are walking and laughing and talking and carrying and pushing and pulling.

If it has wheels, you can move it.
You can rest in a doorway or follow the girls with their
bright sun umbrellas.

The colours. The light.

The thunder in the distance.

The swishing of a woman's skirt.

You watch and you listen.
You melt into the pot.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Have you lost something?

A strange pair we make - walking, bent over, scanning the veldt. Concerned people want to help us find what it is we are looking for. How to explain the thrill of finding fragments of a distant daily life? 

On a ramble three weeks ago, I found a particularly intriguing shard of porcelain - the letter "O"...
Exactly one week later, I found the entire plate at the Milnerton Market. That's the kind of synchronicity that makes one gasp.

Tunstall, England, 1890's.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Curcuma Longa.

The name is a caress.
In all the years that I've been growing Turmeric from rhizomes, I've never had a plant that bloomed.

But look!

 It snuck up on me - the buds are shy and initially only visible from one side.

After a day or two, as if that wondrous bloom was not enough, from each furled green bract popped a fanged yellow dragon.
Hermaphrodites I am told.

I can't wait to see what happens next...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Let me count the ways.

The names of the Karoo towns are spelled out in white stones upon the hills. Not only the names, but also slogans: DRA WOL. Wear wool.
For this is sheep country.

Many have come this way, then left again.

At sunset we crossed the Orange River and passed some locals drinking cocktails on the bridge.
Later we had a cold beer under a loquat tree at the Bethulie Hotel, bats flitting and swooping through the leaves above us.

It was very hot and during the night it rained.
I had forgotten how much I like this warm summer rain and the smells and the sounds that go with it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Yugo Stores.

Sunlight soap, paraffin, lighthouse candles, mielie meal and marshmallow mice. The smell is a combination of these things and it transports me straight back to childhood summers, when my mother used to take us to buy slip slops at Dups - the ones that only came in blue, with little fish shapes pressed into the rubber.

The same shelves covered in gift wrap. Bicycle spares, plastic dolls in cellophane, razor blades, enamel mugs, zam-buk salve in tins, lifebuoy soap, vicks cough drops and tokoloshe salts.

Opened in 1946 by Archie's parents, long gone now. We left with a red enamel dish, stoney ginger beer and a small glass bottle of coca cola, ice cold.

56 4th Avenue

Sunday, December 21, 2014

While we were out.

The past few weeks have been relentless. Long hours and constant demands, with every day bringing it's particular problems. Coming home - sometimes in the dark, to a moody valley.

Noticing that others had visited, I watered when I could.

Every week six days of sweating and swearing and heavy lifting.
Trucks full of furniture, smoke and mirrors.
Schools, churches, bars and hospitals.

We had very little time to ourselves.
A quick ginger gimlet, the stroke of a paw, trying to keep up with a glut of tomatoes - sharing them with the starlings. Glimpses of lives very different from mine.

I had to remind myself, sometimes, that I am very lucky.

While we were out, a beet grew and grew and grew.

A fairy tale beet, a show bull of a beet weighing in at 940 grams.
Head and shoulders pushing out of the soil.

Once slaughtered, yielding a slice of moreish cake.
The beetroot is there in every bite, dark and earthy.
Cinnamon and poppy seed.

It's good to be home.