Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane

... but I will be back again.

Tomorrow I am off, on holiday, to... guess? That's right! South Africa! It's been nearly four years since I was last there, so I am looking forward to it. Enjoy your holidays, look after yourself and I will see you back here in the new year.

(Image by Jeremy, yes that Jeremy, as seen on The Wren's blog.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jurgen Schadeberg

Here's another great photographer: the Father of South African Photography.

Jurgen Schadeberg
was born in Berlin but later moved to South Africa in 1951 and worked for Drum Magazine, where he took iconic photos and trained others to do the same. From the every day scenes of township jazz, to well known figures like Walter Sisulu (and my favourite, Miriam Makeba).

And, perhaps his most famous photograph: Nelson Mandela, free.

Schadeberg left South Africa when Drum was banned. He worked as a photojournalist in Europe and America, and taught at schools in London and New York. He periodically has exhibits of his work, and you can keep track of when and where those are here.

(Pic of Jurgen Schaderg and his wife Claudia)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Celebrate on the Rooftops

I am an avid reader of both Kim Gray's blog and Sarah's at Babazeka. Apparently the two of them are friends because I've been impressed with a wedding they both recently attended.

I was impressed for a few reasons. One, the bride had sewn her dress and her bridesmaids', and still had time to sew napkins from shwe shwe! These matched beautifully to the Wola Nani shwe shwe bowls from Babezeka.

That brings me to the second reason I was so impressed: it was a wedding in downtown Johannesburg! For my non-South African readers, Johannesburg is a typical old city in that it suffers from urban blight and is sadly not the happenin' downtown that you would imagine. The fact that this wedding was held in the city is fantastic, and that it was on the roof of a building is just lovely!

My congratulations to the bride and groom, and I say well done on a ballsy and beautiful approach!

(Read more and see more at Babazeka and Kim Gray)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Guerillas in Johannesburg

I recently became aware of a movement that is gaining worldwide momentum, called guerrilla gardening. People who find that their local government is neglecting public spaces like those along roads or in public parks and so on, take it upon themselves to garden there... sometimes going there in the middle of the night to plant something beautiful (using great phrases like "munition" for plants. Quite delightful).

I often read a blog by someone in London who is very involved in it, Richard Reynolds. I kind of remember (I find out about them reading nytimes.com one day, in this article) that he got started by gardening the flower beds in front of his apartment block, because it had been neglected. And then he got into trouble for doing it (and the saga continues, you can read more on his blog).

Anyway, I bring all this to your attention because he was recently in Johannesburg, passing on info about his tactics. He met with some local guerrilla gardeners, who showed him their work along the M1.

It seems that people are planting indigenous plants, and thinking about water usage. I know that when I lived there, local municipalities were quite good about keeping public areas attractive, so hopefully South African guerrilla gardeners will not have too much work to do. Richard managed to find somewhere to do a mission, however, while at the Hector Pieterson Museum. He found a little time to plant seeds in an earth strip that points to the spot where Hector was shot (for more info on Hector Pieterson, read this). He planted sunflowers, which I think is rather fitting considering how far we've come since Hector's time: sunflowers for the darkness which we've left behind but also because there are people who care enough to make the effort of taking care of space that they share with their neighbours.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Faithful to Nature
is a glorious resource of organic goodies... cosmetics, clothing, aromatherapy materials, food, and more. Sure, this isn't art and design but this is so fabulous I had to share it anyway.

The proprietors, Chris and Robyn, started the company after returning from abroad to South Africa, and wanted to create a place where people could get wholesome products for themselves, their families and pets that was good for them, and the earth.

My personal faves from the site? Hempton's Rosehip and Hemp Salt Scrub.

Traverno Soap Box Collection

Blue Sky Organics Black Table Olives

They deliver everywhere. There are tons of option, go get yours now...

(As first seen on the Babezeka blog)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Awards and Accolades

The Design Indaba
bunch have done it again! The Brit Insurance Design Awards 2009 has nominated the 10 x 10 Project, in the architecture category. It is amongst other great projects from 2008 in many categories, including the Shepard Fairey Obama poster in the graphic design category...

... and the Aesop Stores and Branding by March Studios and Aesop (my apologies for my graphic design bias in choosing nominees to share!)

These will all be shown at the London Design Museum next year (great museum, if you're into design in any way, get yourself there).

Back to the 10 x 10 Project. The idea is to challenge the starchitects from around the globe to help build new homes for the millions of South Africans who call informal settlements home (in a six-metre square space that is usually available in the existing townships, and in a R50000 or 3300 pound budget). That means that someone who lives in a building made from corrugated iron sheeting, newspaper and other make-shift materials could have a home that is less vulnerable to fire (a large problem in informal settlements), wind resistant, and more heat/cooling efficient. Depending on the architect, some of these ideas were tackled.

One architect who met these environmental challenges, and more, is Luyanda Mpahlwa. His design is created by timber beams and filled in with sand bags. This creates walls that are less vulnerable to fire, keeps the wind out, keeps moisture out, and are probably bullet proof, too. It is also possible for the inhabitants to be able to build the two-storey homes themselves after a few days' training (pics below, a house in process of being built, and then the projected end result).

The other upside of this is that the architects ended up building a street of 10 houses each.

I read about the Project on the Creative Review's blog, which ran a great, and more detailed story here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sweet Moments

Wedding photography by Italy-based South African, Joanne Dunn.

And also shots from Italy. Wow.

Lucky Kim Gray gets to work with Joanne in January. Watch her blog for more. (All shots from Joanne's website.. hence the little black top right corner.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Let the Good Times Roll

Sorry I was so quiet last week. I had some posts planned but then hit technical problems and didn't have the time to fix them. Thank goodness for the weekend! So here is something I've been wanting to share with you for a few days, at least...

Darkie Clothing
was started by the idea of recycling. Themba Mngomezulu was inspired by his mother, who sold used clothes... he then did similar stuff himself, growing his Darkie brand into something quite huge, including 2 collections a year, made in the Darkie factory.

This season includes these looks:

... and you could always go retro, with some looks that originally debuted when the line first began.

But my favourite are the logo and wallpaper. Sweet.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Weight of Things

Coming up in George soon (for those in South Africa), is an exhibit at 47 Market Street: artspace called Dorisduct. It features the work of sculpture Angus Taylor, and of Rina Stutzer, whose media are paint and pencil.

The artworks on show deal with, amongst other things, the animal as conveyer of meaning, and related notions such as baggage and the 'the weight of things'. Motivated by the title, both artists, Rina Stutzer and Angus Taylor give their individual and slightly satirical viewpoints on the Human Condition. Mediums include oil painting on cast metal sculptures.

Taylor has an interesting website (navigate at your peril!), and it starts with a statement: "… there seems, these days, to be some type of hierarchy in art where the seemingly conceptual genres (which may often be related to the emperor's clothes) are more highly rated than those works which are successful both in terms of concept and technical execution … The type of art that I appreciate enchants and fascinates me with the execution and the concept behind it. "

Find images of his work on the web is a bit tough, but I am intrigued by what I've found. Wish I could be there in person to check it out!

I am equally enamoured with Stutzer's work... she doesn't have her own website, but I found these.

So beautiful and inspiring.

Here is the official info from the gallery on the two:

Rina Stutzer

Rina was born in Vryheid, KwaZulu- Natal in 1976 and completed the BA (Fine Arts) and MA (Fine Arts) degrees at the University of Pretoria. She has been a part-time lecturer in painting and drawing in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Pretoria since 2000. Rina has won a number of awards, including the Bettie Cilliers-Barnard Bursary for excellence in painting, the New Signatures Art Competition: People's Choice and the first prize in the Ekurhuleni Fine Arts Award Competition (2007). She has participated in a number of group exhibitions since 2000 in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Stellenbosch and Potchefstroom, as well as the Soan Studio in London.

Angus Taylor

Angus Taylor (born 1970) is known in South Africa and abroad for his powerful, often large, works of sculpture, characterised by outstanding craftsmanship. Taylor is a graduate of the University of Pretoria which bestowed an Alumni Laureate on him in 2005.

In 1997, he founded his own undertaking, Dionysus Sculpture Works, where he casts his own and other sculptors' work. In addition to numerous solo and group shows (the last Solo exhibition was in October 2008 at the Everard Read gallery in Jhb), Taylor is predominantly involved in national and local government as well as private sector large scale commissions. Characteristically, Taylor currently incorporates large pieces of granite in his work, which he sources from locations such as Belfast.

I'd love to see this exhibit. If you're in that beautiful area, be sure to check it out, it's open between December 11 and January 15.

Friday, November 28, 2008

To Buy or Not to Buy?

A while back I was watching a show on TV (Deserving Design, this episode), and noticed that the room that was being decorated was similar to mine but oh, so much better (*cough*cough* the attention being paid to my apartment while I am at school is sadly lacking, I am afraid to say)! Sandy browns, sea blues and dark woods. AND A ZEBRA SKIN CUSHIONs. Or, at least, ones that kind of look like it. Fake, yes, but the stripes just look superb in that room.

I happened to mention it to the right person, my wonderful friend back home who is an interior designer. She then asked if I would like a REAL zebra skin cushion.

Hmm. A good question. I am, as you probably already know, trying my best to live in an ecologically sound and responsible way. What would the implications of a real skin on my couch be? Also, would it upset me to see it? A few years ago I thought I would become a member of Peta . I take this seriously... however, I also believe in balance. I believe we are stewards in this world, and should protect it but with the imbalances of how we live its not as simple as condemning everything that is not in tune, at first glance, of that principle. I do eat meat. But not a lot. That kind of thing. Balance.

I didn't join Peta because I read an article on their site, which misguidedly spoke about how elephants were being killed unnecessarily in South Africa. Perhaps it is a presumption of mine, but surely if this is their business they would know that elephants eat about 5% of their body weight a day, and the largest weigh up to 6 1/2 tons (these are facts I found online. They might not be too accurate but the point remains: an elephant will push over shrubs and trees while eating. And they eat a lot). If elephant herds grow too large, they can decimate their environment, and that impacts other animals in that environment. Sometimes culling is the only way forward (even though it is not the best. If there are no other homes to move elephant families to, what do you do?) I don't see Peta running reservations to take these animals in.

Okay, okay, venting done. Back to the cushion. My friend suggested I take a look at African Gameskin, a skin supplier who participates in government approved animal herd reduction programs, and a company that actively works to reduce unemployment by employing people in previously disadvantaged areas. This I can consider. I liked the zebra skin on a handbag, it had the same brown color I wanted but I'm not sure I can live with real zebra everyday.

As much as I understand the need to cull, I don't eat zebra meat. It doesn't make sense to me to have the skin of something I would not use other parts of, it seems a waste. Perhaps I am not making complete sense because, of course, even if I eat chicken I don't use the feathers from that bird, but do you see what I'm saying?

I looked at a cow skin cushion and love it. The right colors and the right approach.

I've placed my order. Turns out that the cowskin cushion I'll be getting is not that similar to the one on the website, but that is part of buying from an enterprise that is based on the needs of the ecosystem, and not the market (it's the brown one in the image below). Perhaps I am convincing myself that this is okay, but I think that in this way I can support fellow South Africans and also keep being a thoughtful steward of my environment.

Do you have any ideas on this? I'm open to hearing ideas.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Weather Outside is Frightful!

Ah, as the skies get dark early, and the weatherman threatens snow flurries daily (not yet!), winter is upon Boston. We have had a few days of January weather (it is usually not so consistently below freezing for so long until the new year), and my slippers are wearing thin.

I got them a few years back at work in the wonderful tradition of Secret Santa (I didn't work long enough in SA to enjoy the traditions of work celebrations there). They are sheepskin, and I wear them without socks, so that my skin can soak up the oils from the wool. With heating drying out the air, I need all the help I can get.

Luckily I recently saw this posting on the Wren's blog, about her boyfriend Jeremy's slippers (don't you love the sheep on the banner!?). He and his mom have been making them for years, and now have them available for all of us on etsy. Yippeee! I don't think mine will make the end of winter.

Anyone need a Christmas gift idea? Jeremy can make yours custom for you.

(Photo of Boston from flickr, by cgc0202)