Wednesday, October 29, 2008


After studying the Lukasas I pondered over other artworks that incorporate symbols. One of my favourite paintings is Klimt's, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which was sold in 2006 for $135 million, the most ever paid for a work of art. There is an interesting story behind this painting which you can read at David Apatoff's blog, Illustration Art. (Click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page.)

Owusu-Ankomah from Ghana paints striking pieces with bold naked figures almost disappearing into the background of adinkra symbols. You need to see these paintings enlarged for better effect. Each Adinkra symbol represents a particular concept or proverb. I won't go into all the meanings now but one of the more common symbols which you can see in this painting is the bird walking forwards whilst looking backwards. It means one has to understand one's history before one can move forward. Click here to see more.

Aboriginal art from Australia is brimming with symbols. From the very first time I saw one of these pieces I have been in love with aboriginal art. This beautiful work was painted by Alec Baker. He has painted symbols representing rock holes and flowing water. Women are sitting near a waterhole after collecting wood. The arched shapes are shelters.

This embroidered piece is a healing work in progress by South African fibre artist, Karen Wentworth who is influenced by the runes from her viking heritage. Click here to read the featuring post.

Tribal Rugs represent a wonderful way of preserving the history of wandering tribes who possess little written tradition. Notice the demarcated placement of the hands, forehead and nose, at the top of this Barlouch prayer rug. See more here.

"Could rugs and carpets be a form of Rosetta stone, using hidden icons, symbols and patterns?" - Conan Brooks

This huge sculpture was constructed from rock slabs sewn together with steel cable . Chris Booth is the sculptor but Fiona Clark collaberated with an artwork within the sculpture, by carving symbols acknowledging the indigenous people of New Zealand.

I couldn't leave out the incredible symbols found in Egyptian art so I am including one of my collages which incorporates ancient walls of Egyptian symbols.

If anyone is interested in the meanings behind the symbols on this Lukasa, click here.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Last week a friend of mine remarked on all the perfect happy-happy blogs that continue to be happy, day in and day out with never a hair out of place or a glitch in the works. She wondered if those bloggers were really happy all the time or whether she was the only one who was screwed up.
This got me thinking. I know I am guilty of trying to keep my blog a positive place to visit. I've written many posts about how content I am, carving away at my totems in the courtyard with the sound of the stream rushing by, birds twittering, monkeys visiting. Yuk, cloying isn't it?.....but those peaceful times I write about are usually when everything is going well and I am brimming with creative energy. However, there is an ugly side to living in South Africa. The truth is I live in fear a lot of the time. Fear for my daughter who drives home alone at night, fear for my husband who has had death threats for speaking his mind, fear for my elderly inlaws who would have little chance against the intruders who have almost broken their door down several times and fear for myself especially when my husband is away and there is only one pair of ears to listen for thugs who might break in during the night. Armed thugs are a reality here. We have to barricade ourselves in to stay alive because these people have no respect for life and will rape, torture and murder at whim. Not even children or the elderly are exempt.

We are often shocked by the violence in this country. My best friend's husband was shot in cold blood leaving a wife and 5 children to battle on without him. Our beloved Dr. Bhamjee was brutally murdered during her lunch hour in her own surgery. My G.P.'s mother was beaten and left for dead by a group of men at 8.00 a.m after waving goodbye to her son from the garden gate. The son of a friend of ours was murdered whilst he was working his shift in the family hotel. A young matriculant who was studying for his last exam on the beach in front of our beach cottage was stabbed to death for no obvious reason. My step niece was shot 7 times by 5 thugs in front of her tiny children and left for dead. These are only a few of the incidents that have happened to people we know. There are millions of victims that we don't know . Victims of every race, colour or creed.

Perhaps we do need to share some of the negatives in our lives to balance all the positives we write about...or should our blogs be our sanctuaries where we unwind and escape to. I wrote about how my teenage daughter lost her battle with cancer and also my husband's recovery from this disease...and it worried me for days that I had shared too much information. Should we keep our private lives private or do we share our worries and benefit from all the feedback we get from the bloggersphere? I lose myself in my blog and the dozens of blogs I read. They uplift me and generally I come away feeling inspired. Last week Denise from grrl+dog shared her story about discovering a lump. Her journal pages during this period in her life are deeply moving. It is posts like these that make me feel so proud and grateful to be part of a blogging community such as ours. ......And yet I still worry that I am sharing too much.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I'm just getting over a lull and now enjoying the storm. It feels like all my senses are sharpened. My idea book is filling....I have sketcher's cramp in my hand...... not that I'm moaning, mind you. I'm loving this flood of ideas and inspiration as well as abundant gifts from friends and family. My mother inlaw insists that I  buy a few lottery tickets because this is obviously my lucky phase.

Every time I leave the house I seem to discover something I've been searching for. (This has happened 3 times within a week.)
On Monday I found the first Lukasa I've ever seen face to face and I've been floating in a mist of euphoria ever since.

A little history on Lukasas. These wooden memory boards are used by Luba kings, diviners, geneologists and court historians in the Congo. The Lukasa is a memory aid, a means for evoking events, places and names which assist in initiation ceremonies. According to the book I have, A History of Art in Africa, "It stimulates thought and instructs in sacred lore, culture heroes, migrations, and sacred rule". "A configuration of beads, shells and pins coded by size and colour on one side refers to kings' lists. Beads may stand for individuals, a large bead encircled by smaller ones perhaps representing a chief and his entourage. Bead arrangements also refer to proverbs and praise phrases" as well as migratory paths and roads.

Now, on with the story......

Coming out of the bead shop I noticed a new shop next door filled with eye catching artifacts. A magnificent shield from Afghanistan, several unusual scrap metal sculptures, many African carvings ................and two beautiful Lukasas. I think my heart stopped beating for a moment and way deep in my foggy brain a voice insisted that it couldn't be what I thought it was.  Then my heart kicked into overdrive.....because it really was a Lukasa now nestling in my hand. I was looking down at the ancient history of a particular tribe.....there .... in MY hand.

It just so happened that I had enough cash on me to buy one of the Lukasas but when hubby saw the look on my face he said "Look Babe, this doesn't happen've worked hard and you deserve it." and then the dear man rushed off to the ATM.  So now I am the beaming owner of two Lukasas :-)

The next time I go I'll take you all along for a browse. On this occasion I left my camera (will I ever learn?). The shop is simple with carefully selected items, obviously chosen for their aesthetic beauty....but what I haven't been able to get my head around and I'm still puzzling over it two days later is the fact that in one corner amidst the stunning artifacts, was a small rack of very sexy red and black lingerie. I stopped in my tracks feeling slightly confused. Wha???

Sunday, October 19, 2008


When we deliver totems to the KZNSA Gallery in Durban we usually make a day of it.

The Farmers Market is the first stop before going on to the gallery. (see previous post)

Some times we have brunch at the Pavillion which is our favourite Shopping Mall but this time we gave it a miss considering we had snacked ourselves silly at the market.

See the upper domes to the right as we slow down at the stop street. I think its quite impressive...if only I can get a better photograph.

Next stop, the KZNSA Gallery shop for a quick browse.

There are always many artworks to put a smile on one's face .

The Zulu-Lulu raku busts (above) in particular. Read more about them here and here. I took this photograph for Leanne who creates the most enchanting clay whimsies and Don who makes quirky clay characters that put a smile on my face.

Don't you love this giant mosquito made from cooldrink cans?

We drove home via Essenwood Road where some of my favourite old Durban houses are situated. It was quite an exhausting day so I was pleased to get home for a soothing cup of ginger chai.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


We were up at the crack of dawn to go to the Shongweni farmers market about 30 minutes drive away.

The first thing we notice every time we go there are the dogs...everywhere! Walking, sniffing, begging, yapping, lifting legs, perching on laps.....

..........sitting on tables,

........pulling, nudging, entwining leashes, tripping up their owners..........

......a veritable doggie festival.

Though it sounds like chaos, it isn't. I've only seen one dog bare it's teeth. The others are pretty amiable.

It is quite the event with over 90 stalls selling fresh breads of every discription, dozens of different types of sausages, cheeses, pastas, stone milled flour, smoked duck breasts and trout, biltong, danish pastries and so much food that the the air is filled with the most tantalizing aromas.

There is much to look at, from Nguni skins to sandals made from car tires....

Christmas decorations made from wire and glass beads....

Some of them made on the premises.....

Paintings, ceramics, jewellery and life sized giraffes made from tin.

At the end of all the meandering, tasting and shopping we sat on hay bales to sip coffee and watch life stroll by.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Dynamism of a Dog on Leash by Giacomo Balla

Since the cat post was so popular I thought I would do a dog post for dog lovers. There are so many amazing artists out there that it was quite a challenge choosing my Top Ten.

Lucy , by Marci Forbes.

Lucy is constructed from discarded milk containers, cardboard tubes and newspaper. Click on Lucy to see more papier mache hounds.

This spectacular dog pulling on the leash is by Patric Farrows.

These humerous tin sculptures are created by Lucy Casson.

And now for something a little more serious.

Dogs of War by South African artist, Willie Bester.

Mosaic sculpture by Deborah Halpern.
Wire knit sculpture by Sarah Jane Brown.

Geoffrey Gorman works with juniper branches and found objects to make his intriguing sculptures.

Acme animal fun metal art "Good Dog Gone Bad" by Don Gidley and Sue Parker.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Cat by Patricia Bannister

I had no idea how popular cats were until I walked into a little book shop with shelves piled high with cat books of every discription. Gift books, coffee table books, reference books, story name it, they had it! Apparently they sell thousands of cat books to cat lovers every year.

We are Siamese Cat lovers. My daughter's cat was particularly beautiful and very quirky. (We love quirky). Suri Cat insisted on presenting daughter with gifts. In the day time it was quite amusing when she dropped a shrew, a cricket or a bird at her feet. Of course they would be released immediately. Then the gifts became a little unnerving. Locusts, bats and snakes were brought in. Even then it was quite endearing until the gifts were left on the bed in the middle of the night. Not so endearing!

The found object cat above is by Leo Sewell.

This spectacular Mosaic Cat from Pompeii is for Theresa Martin who has just returned from Pompeii. Go and have a look at her photographs of her trip to Italy.

I love this quirky Scrapyard Cat by Cat Bishop......

..........and Cactus Cat by Jon Buck .

This photo mosaic by Glenn Dickins was made out of hundreds of small cat photographs.

The piece de resistance....Cat Armour by Jeff De Boer who creates suits of armour for cats and mice. A cat's armour takes anything from 50 to 200 hours to make. To see what goes into the making of a Samurai Cat, click here. and have a look at the mouse armour while you're there.

The beautiful Suri Cat.