For a good while there, after making a woman and 3 children, the glaring absence in the family was the husband character. Now this wasn’t a particularly intentional situation, I just didn’t get around to it. You must make all the toys before you can play with them and I have made a lot of things in and around this house. For my narrative, the husband is so central; the reason the house and the lifestyle exist at all, that is wasn’t necessary to have a physical character to represent him. This is the structure of many privileged homes. The fact is many husbands and fathers are absent while they work to afford the bodies that stay at home. That stay at home in this kind of home. So that’s a different story, because thinking about the people who should be a permanent presence in this kind of house made me realise that of course, there had to be a maid even before there had to be a husband. The Maid, a counterbalance to the Madam.
Let’s face it, very few women of any race would be living in a house this size, managing the sheer volume of “things” inside the house, not to mention looking after the needs of three children without help. The notion that this help would be provided by the husband is not an impossible one but in Africa, it is rather improbable.
And oh, my goodness, how can I begin to unpack the complexities of the Maid vs Madam relationship. I am totally daunted.
I have been not only a Madam myself but have also been a child in a home that employed Maids. I say Maids because there is that too. One may have one Maid for many years, but most homes will have a history of many women who have filled this role, who have worn the household uniforms. These women who in a broad sense may as well have been one person. A person who sits on the fence between employee and family member. A person whose background will have so many similarities to those who came before her and those who will follow. Backgrounds that included poverty and lack of opportunity, husbandless homes of their own and children who miraculously take care of themselves. This common background that goes without saying. Backgrounds that are inconvenient and awkward to think about let alone genuinely care about as well.
That’s not to say that there are no instances where a Maid and a Madam have done well at an arrangement that is comfortable and fair, at least, as fair as possible. In my experience however, this is not easily done. Particularly when both sides have been anaesthetised by “how it’s always been done” and the very many implications of that, from both sides.
Then there is the child’s experience of being cared for by a Maid. That added layer of mother fat, that friend, that slave, that possession, that adult authority. That rock or that hell. All the while, never really thinking about her children that are probably never seen. The children that wear your old clothes and play with your old toys. The children that are out of sight and out of mind.
I don’t present a maid in this house with any clever message in mind. I’m not inclined to offer any advice or solutions. I simply present her as pivotal must have figure. A conversation we need to have.
Anyway, others have written about it better than I can. I attach some links on opinion and research pieces I have found online below. You will notice many common themes.
Speaking of, a writing workshop will be held with the house as a stage on the 11th April at Greatmore. It will be hosted by myself and Maire Fisher.
On seeing the Facebook advert for this event, Gill, an ex-South African living in New Zealand contacted me. She told me how she uses images and objects to do a form of spiritual counselling focused on evaluating your relationship with your God and Dream work; a method of psychological counselling. She explained that she would like to try working with the house for herself. Not physically obviously, being so far away but via images of it. She enquired about the maid which I have mentioned in an earlier post, so I shared images with her featuring this character.
She sent me two examples of how she worked with the maid images and the image of the kitchen featured in the invite.
The first piece is a prayer, using the trick of imagining herself in this kitchen; the sights, sounds and smells as a reflection on her life. The second are thoughts about the maid relationship drawing parallels with a disconnected relationship with God. I think they are very interesting and for me, an affirmation that this house has value as more than just a toy. Thank you so much Gill.
I present you with the maid here today, I made her as beautiful as I could. I intend no offence, these are simply memory images of how it was and still is. How do we talk about this? How will our children talk about it? What is the future of this relationship?
The following downloads are Gills work, the first "email" is an explanation of what she does and thoughts on using the house in her work, the second and third: "Prayer" and "A maids tale" are her writing work using the Kitchen image and the Maid images below.
If you are unfamiliar with Máire Fisher and her novel "Birdseye" see a review in the link below. A story of a family living in a very familiar False Bay setting, from the view point of Bird, a young girl.
Máire immediately had a vision of writing into the doll's house when she first saw it. I think the idea of a writing workshop with so many details to draw from is truly inspired and I cant wait to read stories conceived from the viewpoint of others.
The idea ties in exactly with my own urge to collaborate with others on stories. Over the past months, I have loved seeing how different people react to the house. It evokes something in everyone. A grown man confessed to fond memories of playing in a dolls house as a child, a child asked me "what is a dining room?" an American visitor to my studio and I cried in each others arms.
I have added a new character to the house that I will reveal in a further post. A character that invites a whole new conversation. A very Southern African one. A version of this character lives in Máire's novel too, an important person in little Bird's life, as is true for many South African children past and present. The Maid. The other woman, the other mother in our white homes. A woman with a secret life and longings children don't wonder about in their possession of this woman.
Stay tuned for pictures of her, I made her as beautiful as I could, as these women are.
Back to the point though! If you have ever wanted to write, or are already writing, consider spending a magical morning with Máire and the dolls house in the setting of an Art Exhibition. You will be surrounded by art above and beyond the doll's house itself, including work from 2 other artists. Certainly, there will be enough visual stimulation to inspire novels.
Residency Show, 5th April to 12th April 2018 (note: date change)
Please save the date to visit our group residency show from April 5th to April 12th at Greatmore Art studios, Woodstock, Cape Town. Im hoping to be announcing other little happenings in connection with this show during this period, so stay tuned!
You are also invited to the opening on the 5th April at 6pm. I hope to see some of my people there!
After almost 18 months of making my dolls house, its finally no longer this thing in my head, what a relief not only for myself but for those around me to see what I've been aiming for...I've had a lot of head tilting puzzlement to contend with. Not helped by my mumbled explanation because I really didn't know what I was doing either. So now, here it is, this massive creation that happened.
Its been really interesting to witness how people respond to it. The most recurring reaction is this natural tendency to "dream into" it. This term "dreaming into" is something I heard from my friend Dain Peters, a practicing psychotherapist.
I have been aware of the therapeutic aspect of a dolls house my whole life, having lived in my own as a child. So this lovely phrase resonated for me. Of course, this is exactly what we do in play, this dreaming and enacting. (I had a giggle watching this grown man bending arms and legs of the mother doll, wanting to find a natural position for her to sit, This, his first time "playing" with a doll of any kind. "She looks too stern!" he says, tilting her head a little.)
He told me of a Doctor J.L. Moreno who came up with the concept of psycho drama. A practice that has been used for individuals as well as entire communities to understand and process trauma or conflict. The concept involves role play, story telling, and witness. This allows the protagonist to step back and view their own story from all sides. To analyse actions, thoughts and choices connected to an event or a problem.
Is this not what a dolls house allows also?
Our conversation led on to to all the details and layers in our lives and homes, these things that when represented in a dolls house allows the illusion of a reality. We dreamed together about the personal life this woman in the house may have, and the glaring absence of a male figure...because I haven't made one...yet.
The image of a bunch of letters tied with ribbon came up. Personal things; letters, jewelry, papers.
A treasure box in the house, things you wont or cant immediately see. What a sweet layer that would be .
The idea of course stuck and manifested in a little video complete with historical background and appropriate sound track. But there is a problem...I broke the law! of copyright that is. Due to the music the video was rejected by both Facebook and Instagram. so disappointing!
After hours of researching this rather dry subject I have managed a compromise. I have uploaded this video to YouTube and they have allowed it but with restrictions. Be warned, the video may not work on all devices, probably not on a cell phone or ipad but may work fine on a laptop or desktop PC. Also, it may be riddled with adverts. Ce La Vie. At least it remains as I intended.
The song in question is a sweet and poignant one, originally written for a screen play in 1945, it was put on the map later by Ketty Lester who sang it in a gospel style for the first time and gave it a whole new lease on life. This is the version I chose. It has been covered by so many others; Elvis, Tom Jones, Allison Moyet and many more in between and since.
The love letters themselves were written by famous people. Some surprising and some we all know about, like Beethoven's "immortal beloved" The copied letters (including Beethoven's) were written by Burt Reynolds, Winston Churchill , Zelda Fitzgerald, Henry Ford, Johnny Cash and Jimmy Hendrix. What a motley crew.
I hope you manage to view my offering and enjoy it. I know! its very sentimental but very much speaks to my own life and mood.
The love letters
My family and I are contemplating our futures after living in Botswana for more than 15 years; preparing to pull up those roots and hope like hell there is a good place to put them next. In this frame of mind its so comforting to get a message like this from a friend who knows exactly what its like:
"It's such a complicated business this leaving thing and sadly it's the price us white Africans pay for wanting to stay in the continent we were born and brought up in but will never feel wholly at home in. But at least you are going back to the country you have a birth right to - sadly I can no longer do that and nor would I much want to.
The difficult thing about any leave taking is who you leave behind and the state you leave them in. When you tell people you're off you get a selection of reactions ranging from the smug "aren't I lucky, I don't have to do that (yet)", to the slightly desperate "oh my god I wish I were them" with every possible emotion in between. As soon as you announce your intentions you become aware that you, and only you (apparently) are responsible for shaking up the status quo. Friends who you thought absolutely loved the place suddenly announce how much they hate it and, conversely, acquaintances who couldn't wait to be off suddenly exhibit a hitherto unnoticed patriotism akin to nationalism.
And what of you? The person leaving? Whatever you say in your pronouncements to friends and foe alike, you'll upset or please someone depending on a whole load of stuff going on in their head that you're not even privy to.
And the trouble is, it's easy to say it doesn't matter and it's just about you and your nearest and dearest. But it's not that simple. Because we aren't all islands much as we would sometimes like to be and it's at times like this that we realize we DO matter to some people and they matter to us but that there's also a whole load of people we couldn't care less for - and the surprising thing is we don't know which category they all fit into until that final wave goodbye.
So to sum up? You're in for a rough couple of months as you teeter on the brink of your new life and you may have to accept that your friends and acquaintances need to hug goodbye and say their piece and convince or reassure themselves that they're ok and you're ok and because you're who you are, you have to let that happen however hard it seems.
Does that help? Probably not. There's no easy way for this to play out. But you WILL survive and the day WILL come that you know you made the right decision and that some people were behind you all the way and others just drifted away..........and that's an incredibly valuable thing that not everyone gets a chance to take forward."
I have been quiet for a long time! Lets just say life has been particularly interesting of late. So...I did finish my last commission; done, dusted and delivered. I broke a few of my own rules with it, mainly in that I worked from a photograph supplied by the model, which I never usually do and wont lightly do again. Mostly because it lacks my "style" I suppose and feels a bit unauthentic And it feels more like a collaboration than an original work...but it was a satisfactory result anyway. So, all good.
July 2015. TJ Dema, a local poet and performance artist. Portrait commissioned by Regent Insurance Agents. The first part of her poem on "Dreams" included. Oil on canvas,
h: 1600mm x w: 8000mm
As a part time social media manager, specifically Facebook Pages, I have had to explain the workings to many, Some businesses would like to have a Facebook Page but are not Facebook users themselves at all. I have attempted to make an info graphic; it may just bee too much info though!! I hope its useful. Click here to download.
"Woodshedding (© 2009 by Thomas Dodd )
There is a phenomenon that Jazz musicians refer to as “Woodshedding” which is when a player realizes he needs to improve his skills, so he retreats from the world of playing gigs and locks himself in a room (or woodshed as the case may be) until he gets it right,or has a breakthrough in his skill/creativity level. This piece of mine certainly represents a woodshedding moment in my journey as an image-maker (and of course is specifically ABOUT woodshedding) and it remains one of my favorite (and most popular) images.. Someone asked me once what the formula for success was and I answered "I don't know, all I know is that I do the best with what I have and what I can get - I am NEVER satisfied and am constantly trying to do better..." I continue to strive for more Woodshedding type breakthroughs, and I hope that all of you have these rare and euphoric "Eureka" moments in your lives from time to time as well! "
Struggling to bond with this lady, so I lost the hat and gave her a hair cut. I guess she is just going to be what she is in the end...
If you had to imagine colour, specifically the 7 chakra colours as a volume equalizer, the bottom beginning at the base of your spine, the top ending at the crown of your head, how tuned in would you say you are? My math is rounded off in the percentage bar.
Second layer of oil, focusing on putting skin on her face..she is kind of scary, witchy....The only upside to the current heatwave is that the paint is drying fairly quickly..maybe too quickly. How hot is it out there?!
My work process seems to be continuously interrupted at the moment with annoying but important issues. Yesterday was hijacked entirely with a last minute visit to Home Affairs in Lehurutse, over the border in South Africa. Its that time again when permits and passports need to be renewed, but working between two governments has its frustrations, neither have the same concerns or the timing of the other, plus lost applications etc. There are those of you who will know what I'm talking about!
Oh, and our baby has now reached the age where he needs grown up documents...I must confess to a sense of humor failure, never a good idea in a government office....I blame the 40 degree heat, the inability of the photographer to take a photograph of a white face that was acceptable (the camera set with harsh flash in blinding sun light) ...and the fact that it has, so far required 3 visits, grrr.
ANYWAY...back to my purple lady...A progress update image with a reminder of the poem that lead to this piece (at least, the first half of the poem) .
So nice to move on to oil paint, much creamier and delicate to work with. The glaze coat layer has dried to a lovely finish to work on...long way to go however and patience required with letting the oils dry!
So one way or another, getting back into the groove of the new year, new school term, preparing for trips and travels; I had a week where I just could not get back into the studio.
Its funny how a wide range of thinking and musing can suddenly come together and say, this is what it is, DO THIS.
Last year I began thinking about colour, wondering how I could make a range of works about colour in a figurative format. I couldn't clarify the thought though; I mean the WHY, WHAT of it all. I started here and then put it all aside: I have been calling it "Yellow Girl"
At the same time I made a new friend online, an artist based in the UK, making historical works, mostly battle scenes and the like. Initially our conversations were based on the technical aspects of oil painting, something I am learning about. Then one day in a conversation about the kind of subject matter we would like to paint, he said to me, "My customers tend not to be in touch with their 2nd Chakra" Hmm I thought. Interesting problem.
Many weeks later I stumbled upon an article on the 7 Chakras and learnt that there are colours associated with each: 1 to 7, root to crown. That was a bit of an ah ha moment. A potential hook to hang these images from. I also stumbled upon a poem that made it clear, my next painting will be Purple!
My last set of "works in progress"seemed to be enjoyed, so I will do the same with this painting, here's hoping it turns out well!
Happy New Year to one all! I know! its already 8 days old but my New Year begins now.
I would have to say that 2014 was a challenging year to say the least, chock a block with extreme highs and lows. As you all know, that kind of year, while not easy, is bound to lead to growth; and it has! Ending the year with an online course to sort out my understanding of the business end of my artistic practice, has at the very least left me with a to-do-list of impressive proportions and I LOVE me a to-do-list!
I'm absolutely longing to get back into my studio, having spent allot of time on my computer with this course and tackling the biggies on my list, like this website. Check! (pats own back) ending the year with a week long yoga course that was both excruciating and fantastic. This in preparation for my next adventure (more on that in a moment)
Spring cleaning my studio, people, summer in Botswana means I have mud caked implements thanks to wasps, ten different kinds of scary spiders and gecko poop everywhere! A clean slate is required.
Some immediate highlights of the year to look forward to will be kicked off with a Solo Exhibition of our fabulous Ann Gollifer's work. Be sure to NOTE: Opening event on the 12th Feb and open to public from the 13th. Sophie lalonde Art Gallery, itower, CBD, Gaborone..... I know its going to be wonderful.
YAY! I'm so excited! I'm off to India with a dear friend (yep, sorry for that lovely Husband) for a week in Bangalore! I have not been off the African continent for 20 years people! On the agenda is yoga, heeaavy breathing, delicious
Ayurvedic treatments and (obviously) I have high expectations of the shopping!
And thus beggineth 2015. Lets do it!
PS: The world is going mad..yes...Lets not go to the dogs ourselves, lets be mindful about doing things that make ourselves happy in order to spread some joy. The timing of assaulting our peace of mind with events like the Paris shootings yesterday, at the BEGINNING of our year, is not by accident. Chins up people!
I have come believe that growing your career is like driving a car. The car will go where you eyes are focused. If you are distracted by the side of the road, you might just end up there!
It was so interesting and inspiring to meet some of our local artists at the ART ATTACK this weekend. The Humans of Gaborone page has several great photos and quotes from a few of them:
Image: Velias, painter.
Sold! and Sold! Thank you so much to those who came to the ART ATTACK this weekend, it was great catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. I'm delighted to have sold 2 out of 4 pieces, not a bad result. Thank you Ann Gollifer and Sanitas for hosting the event, I look forward to the next pop up in the new year.
I will be offering a 60% + discount on the following paintings this weekend, at the Sanitas @Linnaeus Art Attack. Crisimoose Special! 2 days only. Besides myself, there will be a bunch of local artists there, so do pop in and catch a bargain. On sale: Tree: Look up, About the hair 1 & 2 and The good shepherd hair Saloon.
Researching history as the starting point to my current *big* project keeps sending me down rabbit holes that can take me days to emerge from. What to do with all this information!? I keep reminding myself, at the core of it all is people; my primary obsession. How hard can it be? RIGHT? On that note, have you checked out my side project? (sadly neglected when hermit working) Based on the "Humans of New York" phenomena. PS: I'm always happy to share any great Gaborone moments you catch yourself, share your pics to this page and I will gladly feature them:https://www.facebook.com/humans.of.gaborone
I have spoken about this before, the subject of receiving feedback on your work as an artist. It comes in many forms and flavors and can a result in a myriad of feelings about your self and your own work. I have been confused, devastated, irritated, pleased, flattered, amused and more, of course, from all of those moments the best result is some sort of growth and the worst a wound needing licking for way too long.
But every now and then someone takes the time to have a whole conversation about how they see your work, why and what they feel about it; be it good or bad, that guarantees the outcome of growth and the experience of gratitude, one of the best feelings in the world.
Yesterday I received this message, of the best feedback I have ever been given. I hope they don't mind my sharing it.
I admire your work. Your technique is mature and sure and you capture a message in every face and in this case, in the pose and drape of the body.
Your water colours set a professional standard and some of the works we have seen on many exhibitions in Botswana cannot compare. This remains a very illusive technique and many paintings are lost because of overwork. Yours are "clean" and the beautiful harmony of painted and unpainted surface, used to emphasize the mood or expression, is never compromised.
I know this is acrylic and I thoroughly enjoy the pose of his lanky body and the contrast between this well clothed body, the rich texture of his suit, and the sparse setting of the room and him sitting on a building block. It does not matter that he is a celebrity as the picture is more than the person.
I write this as I have the perception that artists, like in all arts, appreciate why people enjoy their work. It will be sad if they buy it just because they can. I travel every year just to visit one or other exhibition. I love it. Realism and portraits are making a huge come back in Europe except perhaps in Germany. But with some tweaks, or what will be the point of growth.
Hopefully, we will in time acquire one of your water colours. We will take good care of Juju boy.
I'm so pleased and delighted to have sold Juju Boy to a local company, that decided to use their budget on a local artist. So encouraging! Thank you and well done Regent!
I'm a painter, scribbler, emerging artist, amateur photographer, searcher.