Hermanus in the Western Cape, South Africa attracts many tourists for whale watching. Even in season (June-December) it can happen that there are days that you hardly see any and other days it’s a joyful sight seeing them play as far as the eye reaches. Yesterday, virtually the end of season, they were very quiet but just before I went back to Stanford I could make a few shots and added together with photoshop it looks like real. And I realize now that many (commercial touristic) shots of whales nearby a beach are manipulated ….. Best is to go with one of those whale watching boats and a telelens mounted on your camera to obtain a nice close-up.

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Sometimes I hear people tell me that “… you say what you think” and with that telling me not to believe one word of their stories. Thinking, saying and doing are three different entities in our existence and getting to know each other and building up true lasting friendships has everything to do with the ability of not only opening your mind and your heart but also showing that ‘thinking’, ‘saying’ and ‘doing’ are one despite our dark secrets. Come to think of it; we’re all ‘split personalities’ and I am not an exception. We all have an ‘alter ego’ and this realization goes back to the early days of humanity and religion. There has always been ‘good’ and ‘evil’; a ‘God’ and a ‘devil’. In South African cultures there is the ‘Tokkelossie‘ or tokoloshe/tikoloshe (‘uthikoloshe‘) which represent the ‘evil’ and since everybody thinks that he/she is a good person the influence of a ‘Tokkelossie’ has to be avoided at any cost; going that far that some people believe that once put your bed on stones the ‘Tokkelossie’ does nog have a chance to pollute your ‘good being’ during your sleep.

Who am I; a ‘good’ or an ‘evil’ person? I think we all have both and some of us have more ‘good’ and the other more ‘evil’ although not many ‘evil’ people will admit that they are. And than we also have to define ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Is, for example, a mother who steals bread to be able to feed her children an ‘evil’ person? Pretty sure that there is a large grey area in which ‘good’ and ‘evil’ overlap each other. Who am I to judge?

In the recent past I published some photoshopped self-portraits. Here I publish three of them. The first picturing who I think I am; the second how others might see me and the third how I see my true self in (which?) mirror.

Remember me going to the Graduation Ceremony of the pre-primary school in a nearby location (township) in South Africa? Well here is what I distilled from the few hundred pictures I made. It’s about children and the joy people have despite severe poverty. And also about a community leader as one of the many who made it all possible. There is not much written history about the different tribes in South Africa and certainly not much from books is known to people in communities like this. But they inherited a story-telling culture and history flows in one or another way from generation to generation. Not the history of facts but a history of ancestry and spirituality. Due to influences of modern times the cultural heritage is threatened with ‘uprooting’ leaving people without knowledge about their cultural background and without hope, without future….

Virtually every day I picture flowers in our garden. Me and Yvonne are privileged to live in an area with a year-round floral display. Most of the pictures are erased while they are still on the memory-stick of the camera; some of the others by second thought on my iMac. Flowers are natural art; especially when you look more closely. It’s fascinating! And it’s not only the flowers …….


Yesterday afternoon we went to the graduation ceremony of the pre-primary school in the location (‘township’) near our village. It’s a privately funded school and supported by all parents and others of the little community named Die Kop (= the Head). It’s also one of the best pre-primary schools in South Africa and seemingly the provincial and national government are not aware of this or keep their eyes closed… Anyway once there I took the opportunity to make some pictures and ‘guided’ by one of the previous pupils of the pre-primary I had a ‘grand tour’ and I can assure you that more ‘privileged’ South Africans should do the same. It’s an eye-opener!!! Meeting people who are able to make something our of nothing; experiencing great true hospitality ….. so much different from the stories especially tourists are told. The organization Food for Thought (more info via: food4thoughtstanford -at- gmail.com donations are always welcome!) has invested quite a lot in this community during the past 10 years and it is one of the relatively few projects in the Western Cape with a sustainable character. It’s in places like this where the seeds of the future of South Africa are germinating. Education is important and so unfortunate that this is so much underestimated by many people in this country. But this is not about politics; I just want to introduce you to a colorful community and silently hope (probably against all odds) that one day more people take the first step to a mutual beneficial understanding… Click on thumbnails for enlargement and get an idea of a ‘portrait of a community’.

Starting from scratch is what I like. When I started this blog (see ‘About’ page) and this ‘new career’ at the age of 61 I never thought to make a lot of money out of it. Let’s see where it all leads to, was more the idea. Yvonne, as always supportive, wasn’t sure about it either; neither was she with her own jewelry. Starting a business is always some kind of a gamble. I did it in the seventhies with dealing in second hand goods between England and Holland and when the market went downhill I got a job (PR) in Bath, England and there I was asked by a Dutch mayor newspaper as a journalist and started for the first time a very serious career that lasted for more than 20 years as a free lancer. Everybody in my surroundings declared me for mad for there was nothing more than dry pieces of bread to earn in that profession. And that is true but also a challenge to do it different. And I did, with patience and living soberly (=understatement…) and it took 7 years of battling against all odds before I got the more profitable assignments. Well to make a long story short; I stopped (at the end of 1999) just in time (before the Internet took over) with 30 well paid free lancers working for me. But retiring at the age of 48 is not in my blood and we both decided to take on the challenge to move from Holland to South Africa. Without the idea of what to do over here we bought a small neglected farm in the Klaas Voogds area near Robertson in the Western Cape where we discovered that the weed overgrown cactus garden was a historical one created by South African cactus pioneer and amateur botanist Marthinus Malherbe and one of the cacti dated back to 1910. Without any market research, botanical knowledge, business plan or whatever we decided to restore and extend this garden; just for our own pleasure. When that was on the rails and inspired as we were by the story-telling culture of our neighbors we also created a maze (well the 10 hectares needed to be filled up….) with story-telling objects as orientating points towering above the hedges. What did we know about mazes and thanks to this lack of knowledge we created a truly unique hedge-maze which was not only the largest hedge-maze in the world but also consisted a cactus labyrinth and did not have a central point but several story-telling areas where visitors were invited to find their way to the next visible one somewhere in the distance…. Later we added near the cactus gardens a Philosophers Garden and a hiking trail. The concept was unique and a cactus garden with an outdoor collection of over 2500 different succulent plant species from all over the globe attracted a lot of merely overseas visitors. VIPs of the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ on a botanical tour in South Africa were unanimous in stating in diverse publications that ‘Soekershof’ was by far the best garden visit they experienced in South Africa. A reporter of the Sunday Times (UK) headed: “Best Garden in Western Cape” and notorious Irish landscaper Diarmuid Gavin (involved in Chelsea Flower Show) stated in public “Now I know where South Africans get their ideas from for their submissions to the Chelsea Flower Show”. But … it was not the success we hoped for. We hopelessy misjudged local tourism politics that does not like to deal/promote attractions initiated by foreigners. That we had to battle five years for a proper road sign was the least of all challenges; that the local tourism bureau liked to distract visitors to go to other (locally owned businesses) and provided wrong road directions was a severe problem and costed us dearly (modestly estimated: R 1-million in 10 yrs). And it was 7 days per week hard working. We were glad last year when on a Sunday afternoon a couple came in with interest in buying and 4 days later it was all settled at the attorney. We did not make money out of it neither did we have a loss except when we start to count our own invested time…. We bought a nice house in Stanford and a precious collection of succulent plants we took with us is growing nicely in our new small garden. We decided after the move to take one year Sabbatical and we loved all of it including the flight to Europe (hadn’t been there for 11 years) and Americas earlier this year. We needed a break for sure but also knew that we couldn’t sit down for the rest of our lives; even when we can afford it. Yvonne started to make her jewelry; earrings, necklaces and rings of sterling silver with objects made of South African Earth and crushed rocks (natural glued with plant material) and Swarovsky gems added. The latest collection made in co-junction (advice) with The Little Gem in Hermanus which shop also has the exclusive regional retail rights and also takes care for nationwide distribution. Although only in the shop for a few weeks the jewelry sells quite well (she is already ordered to produce a second larger range). Silly enough we understand that South Africans don’t like to buy locally made but people from abroad like to buy ‘Made in South Africa’…., well this is only a first impression but also supported by several retailers we spoke with in the past months…

In my career as journalist I learned to work with photo equipment (ended up with Minoltas, Canons, Hasselblad and Pentax 6×7 plus all lenses, filters, etc.) and I sold it all with the business. It was late 2007 when I bought a Sony snapshooter (Cybershot 7.2) to make some pictures of our garden for online marketing etc. Made thousands of pictures with it and you can see them on our FB-page (still garden related). If you scroll back to September of this year and earlier you will see the pics we made with it and since the purchase of present equipment you will see an increase in the quality of the photographs if I may say so myself. I am still educating myself with Photoshop and have to find my way in it and think it might be different directions: First pictures as is; second cartoon-like (photoshopped) pictures; third pictures with added graphics (see also yesterday posting) and fourth (and most challenging): photoshopped pictures that look (on first sight) as is. And this last ‘speciality’ of which you also see an example on top of this page, has caused some interested parties to pop up. Well one assignment is in and the second will be discussed later today. And there was an email enquiry coming in from a gallery-owner with galleries in Dubai and Marseille (for the graphical ones) but I’ve put that on hold; I’m not that far yet. Like to take it step after step.

In chronical order here an example of each:

I’m not a graphic designer neither do I have the ambition to become one. But I love graphics for it can add a dimension to a picture.

 

The first image (imaginary) is that of the small ‘location’ (also named ‘township’) “Die KOP” just outside our village. South Africa is a Black & White country with some grey areas in between. Die KOP consists of approximately 40 to 50 shacks and five different families live there peacefully together in good harmony. There is no decent sanitation within this location and water has to be collected a 100+ meters away at the pre-primary school (fully privately funded and exploited by NGO Food for Thought in co-junction with parents of the community). People live of occasional jobs and seasonable work and are happy with what they have although there is ambition to make more out of it.

The second imaginary is that of a self-portrait or self-reflection. There are always more sides to a story and the same applies for humans (who tell the stories). I’m not an exception and looking into the mirror every now and than is not a bad habit. And I like colors and nature. Graphics (in this case manipulated natural objects/photographs) in the background can emphasize the idea behind it. I must admit (again) that I’m not that good in it but at least trying hard….

Passport masks in Africa were used before the modern day passport was invented, to identify which tribe or country people belonged to when moving across Africa. All the different tribes and countries identified themselves with their own special colors and symbols often incorporating birds and animals. Mens and womans masks differed. Most masks originate from Central- and Sub-Saharan Africa.

This image is, excluding the passports, the portrait of the Afro-African and the landscapes in the 4 corners, compiled out of 18 different (transparent) layers for the desired background.