Monday, March 29, 2010

While You Were Sleeping

The things you never saw, my child. If I told you about them, you’d shake your head and maybe laugh a little. The things you will never know, my child, if you knew them you would struggle to reconcile that knowledge with your own set of memories. The things you don’t remember hearing, and will not recall, even under hypnosis or regression therapy. You don’t know it, but they make you who you are.

You never saw me, watching you as you slept, with the soft blind-dampened light winding bent rays around your tousled slightly sweat-dampened hair. You never saw the tears well up in my eyes from the overwhelming sensation of love for you as I saw you on your back with your relaxed fingers flickering occasionally. You never felt my hand, unable to stop itself from wiping the loose fluffy locks from your brow, though slightly afraid that you would wake up. But almost hoping you would, so I could see the wide-eyed searching in your expression as you left a dreamless sleep for a world where everything is as strange as fantasy.

You won’t remember me making up songs, and murmuring them into that soft seashell curl of an ear, your hot red cheeks and the clicking of your lips searching for the teat of an absent bottle. You won’t know about tucked in blankets, forehead kisses, or the awed stroking of your uncalloused feet. And how I repeated words and phrases for you as you smiled, drooling little opaque milk bubbles, in the hope that you would repeat them to me.

You won’t remember any of these things, but they are part of who you are, and part of who I am to you. I have never forgotten those moments, my child. I love you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Blog What I like

There have been people put to death for it. People blown up, followed, beaten, intimidated and silenced. In some countries, a blog entry is akin to barrels of gunpowder under the houses of Parliament. Writers and journalists are an army whose quartermaster’s store is the local internet cafĂ©, or the strength of the passwords on their own PC. In a world where some people choose the internet for anonymity to dupe and confuse, there are those who choose it as an instrument of truth.

Ouch. Truth. Is it relative to the size of your guns, prisons or courtrooms? Is it formed out of passion or fact? (Or both) Well, the internet is a chaotic fence with every possible opinion to the right, left or straddling the middle. But what is important is the freedom of choice. To be able to choose to write, and to choose to read. Both have merit.

Imagine if blogs were controlled by the State. You’d write about your holiday and have to add something about the way government has created superlative leisure infrastructures in holiday towns, or that there were toilets available for every second person in the endless QuikStopz along the way. A birthday party post would include a small praise poem, intoning the magnificence of some obscure department for allowing the population to go forth and multiply.

Look, this blog is never going to have much substance to it. It’s about images, feelings, senses and random obscure metaphors. But if I choose to talk about the gulf between rich and poor, sick and healthy, educated and illiterate, I will. As long as there's a Declaration of Human Rights and our own SA Constitution I will write. Even if those documents did not exist, I would write. I will write and make an effort to acknowledge heroes- sung and unsung, and to encourage heroism within.

I like this sentiment, the title of Steve Biko’s famous work:

I Write What I like.

I am no Biko-sized activist, but… I blog what I like.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

On Being Awesome

I nearly forgot to tell you! My life is changing shape. It’s a bit tricky to put down in one entry, but you’ll get the general idea. My job is changing shape. I’ll still be involved in environmental issues, but this time as part of a new project. Last November, my friend Sally-Jane, or pinkhairgirl, started talking about a road trip. I thought that sounded like a good idea- a holiday, maybe a week, being crazy.

We talked for ages about it, and, with my other friends Andre and Yme, it has turned into this: The Awesome Road Trip. ART.
It went from being a crazy idea to being a crazy reality. An awesome reality. See, what it is, is a series of road trips into the country, to explore communities, meet people, and also to test some technology and look at environmental/green initiatives. What we do with this is then write, both for blogs and other websites and other media, and take photos and film what we do. We’re intending on creating a collective of creative thinkers and environmentally aware writers, photographers, filmmakers, social media users and pretty much anyone who has a skill to add to the project, and the passion to join in. The aim is to highlight ways in which local communities and individuals are creating a positive impact in sustainable development, and to demonstrate how technology and social media can be relevant and of benefit to everyone in this country.

So tomorrow we leave for the first Awesome Road Trip. It’s a pilot, really, to find out what needs to be better framed in our direction, and also to create a pilot for a TV series we aim to create. We’ll all be blogging and writing, and Andre will be taking loads of pictures. He’s a locally renowned photographer, and an incredibly good guy (with a passion for gadgets and esoteric things like bandwidth). Yme will be writing, too, and giving us some techie advice. He’s also very tolerant about being urinated on. Ok, that was only once, and it was a child, so he couldn’t be too cross. Then there’s Sally-Jane. She’s going to be all over the place, talking to people, finding out their stories, and exciting everyone with her energy and also her resilience. Pinkhairgirl has an amazing story. You’d like her. Her two piglets are coming, too!

Then there’s me. What do I do? Well, I’ll be there to turn some of what we see into words, too. I’ll be formulating a bigger idea along the way. I am hoping to turn this into a project which allows me to work on it most of the time. I’ve already started negotiating with my office to let me do it, and they are quite excited about being associated to ART. We’re heading up the Garden Route, through some of the most beautiful places this country has to offer, and will end with a Tweetup in PE. A Tweetup is a meeting of people who are friends on Twitter, which is where this all began. We’re hoping to do some mad things, meet some interesting characters, and also make some valuable connections for the project.

I can see you are a little skeptical, perhaps thinking *cough*mid-lifecrisis*cough*. Nah- it’s going to be done in such a way that we use whatever skills we have to create work for ourselves, but also to highlight local communities, and, ultimately, to engage in social empowerment. So we’re taking a huge leap of faith, but already we have some sponsorship- places willing to let us stay, some phones to test, and lots of other interesting rapidly developing ideas. If you are on Twitter, follow us on @AwesomeRoadTrip. You could also keep an eye out for the rest of us. @Squidsquirt @andrevr and @MajorProblem @pinkhairgirl There are others involved, too, but we’ll tell you about those as we go along. Our website is aaaalmost back to normal after a slight hitch, so do check that out, too. I’ll let you know how it went…

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Nightclub Years

Same crowd. We were friends, in as much as reeling around and back-slapping could be described as friendship. They were around the same age as me, maybe older, but that could have been the effects of years of what we called fun. She worked at the club with me. She was a celebrity- in the way that people aggregate around such larger-than-life personalities. We’d work all night, go out to breakfast, make space for the hotel buffets by vomiting in the gardens of the neat blocks of apartments in Sea Point.

Her cupboards? If you looked inside, they were a nightmare. Everything was black. All of it. So how she managed to select clothes is a bit of a mystery to me. We’d dance when we had a break, or once the bar was closed at the club. Sniff poppers and fall over each other, pissing ourselves laughing. Total freedom and debauchery, with no sense of a future beyond the sneaking suspicion that a hangover would have to be dealt with by drinking even more.

So flash-forward. I no longer worked in a club, and she vanished into a world of smoking-toe-injecting horror. She was maybe thirty when her heart gave out. I can still hear her laugh, almost sense her in the room.

The other guy? He was harder to relate to. I was friends with him, but never quite relaxed around him. Mainly because he was fucking insane. He hit me once, and I had my guard up after that. One night at the club, he fell down the stairs, and his shoe came off and broke.

I’ve lost my soul! He cried. I’ve lost my sole! And we laughed till the tears dripped off our faces.

Flash forward. He got into even heavier stuff, injecting shit, and contracted HIV. I bumped into his brother, and asked how he was doing. Dead.

And why did I not go that way? Why didn’t I also end up in a Dutch prison for drug smuggling, or with a small group of people wiping the tear-snot off their haggard faces onto the sleeves of their leather jackets at my funeral? I have no idea. But I am amazed that I got to be older. Not frozen in time. I have had children, known love. Incredible, and I don’t deserve it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Found Objects

If you’re walking along the beach (or in the woods, for that matter) and you come across a branch, curling upwards, beckoning towards you like the grotesque groping tree nymphs of the Wizard of Oz- Ok, I’ll reel it in a little- then you have some choices facing you. Some people would haul it home to burn as firewood. Some would drag it to their garden, set it up as a feature for the ground cover to tease. Others still would maybe leave it where it was, as if touching it would upset some delicate balance in biodiversity, and result in the irreversible desertification of the entire planet.

All of those are pretty damned fine things to do with a piece of wood discovered by surprise while out rambling.

Here’s what I would do, at least, at this point in time- I have done all the others before. I’m not an artist. I’m not someone who can translate creative beauty in his mind to strokes of paint or massage wet clay into life. But I have to be a sculptor right now. And my medium is found objects. There probably are stores selling real or even synthetic gnarled bits of wood, but I have to find them, turn them upside down until they look like wry-faced camels, or pouting senators, and put them on display. I surround them with other detritus abandoned by people or the elements until something interesting or practical is born.

I harness clouds with their don’t-blink galleries of faces and gesticulations, and wrap them around mountains made naked by unseasonal rains. I take imaginary photographs of creatures reflected in rippled pools. I scoop up the bleached bones of things that used to prowl or leap, and make towering Lego skeletons. I dress all these in plastic and wire, and shade them with rust and decay.

You might think this is a precarious life, waiting, searching for something to catch my eye, but it isn’t. It isn’t about the object, it is how you see it, and how you relate it to the objects and environment. If you look hard enough, the landscape, in miniature and in entirety, shifts and has a Sybil moment of undiscovered personality. I’m staring, staring, staring. Into skips full of rubble. Curled lines of driftwood and shells which bracket the sea. Landfills and gutters, magpie’s nests and beaver’s dams. And slowly, slowly, slowly… I’m seeing things in a way I have never seen them before. And I’d love it if you could see them, too.

*Disclaimer, for the literally minded: I don’t dig through piles of crap for a living. Nor do I have a house full of rubbish, with crayoned signs labeling it art. Also, I am not calling people trash- this isn’t about a person or people either. This is a metaphor. Thank you.