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Waking up to the nightmare

E and I are inside a flat I’ve never seen, but we seem to have been renting it for many years, arguing with the owner over his decision to cover the beautiful old floorboards with white tiles. He pretends not to understand my argument; insists that it’s not my decision, but his. He has already tiled the kitchen, and a large pile of tiles at the door leading to the living area demarcates our stalemate. I get angry, and shout: “I’ve been an artist for thirty-five years and I know what I’m talking about! Tiling the whole flat will look terrible, it’ll look cheap, even if it’s costing you a lot of money.”


Believe me when I say I was not this ecstatic when my dream-landlord threatened to white-tile my world.

Although I immediately feel remorse at my outburst, I continue to threaten finding a new place for us to stay if he continues the tiling job.

E and I decide to leave, suddenly aware of how shabby our home looks, how neglected and sad. The sash windows all seem to be stuck; some panes are broken.

This image romanticizes my dream poverty , but I couldn’t resist.

A Window In An Old Derelict Building In The North East Italian. Royalty Free Stock Photo

Now we are walking the streets of Melville, a familiar dream territory of mine. There is a particular house I always stumble upon when I’m dreamwalkng these streets, a house that is positioned in such a way that one has to enter it in order to proceed, as it blocks all access to the side roads surrounding it. Oddly, this house seems to retain a sense of privacy despite the human traffic that passes through its passage and lounge and kitchen to get to the other side.  It is a beautiful house; each dream reveals more details: narrow horizontal windows positioned to capture the sunset; tall cabinets with drawers that open to reveal exotic displays of shells; floors tiled in reclaimed wood in forgotten hues of grey.

As we rush through this house of allowed memory, I pause at the kitchen window, drawn by the movement of a kayaker in the distance, slowly moving his craft through a molten gold sea. Then remember that our landlord did promise to leave his beautiful vintage folding chairs for our use, if we should return.

hope garden furniture-chairs.

I have several of these wonderful authentic replicas (no,in this case it’s not an oxymoron) of French café chairs in my garden, designed and manufactured by the intrepid and very talented Capetonian designer, Adrian Hope. I envy him his surname.


present tense

Today, the present tense woke me up in a nightmare.  I fear that all hope has deserted me. I have no idea how far this news story has spread, but at the moment, as I type this, the fragile fabric of our South African democracy is being stretched to its limits. One of our well-known and much acclaimed artists, Brett Murray – Biography ~ Brett Murray.- appeared in the South Gauteng High Court today to defend his right as an artist to freedom of expression as the ANC took him to court over his controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma. His alleged crime was to create a satirical portrait of our president in the classical pose of Lenin, with exposed genitals. Counsel for the ANC sought an urgent interdict to find the painting ‘unlawful’, and asked the full bench of judges to order its removal from the gallery and all public internet sites. Unfortunately, ANC’s Advocate Gcina Malindi broke down during proceedings, and the matter has been postponed indefinitely, so while this window of (legal) opportunity still exists, I’d like to share the image with you.

The Spear (painting) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Murray is a respected and revered anti-apartheid artist, with all the accompanying struggle cred that inevitably accumulates as a result. (Check the web and his website for more info.) This, however, is not enough to satisfy the power-hungry ANC elite that runs our country at the present; drunk on power and corruption, they resort to the race card at every opportunity. Watching the court proceedings this morning – and the build-up over the past few days – have left me drained and angry.

But maybe there is hope after all: Tselane Tambo (daughter of struggle icon Oliver Tambo) tweeted: “So the Prez JZ has had his portrait painted and he doesn’t like it. Do the poor enjoy poverty? Do the unemployed enjoy hopelessness? Do those who can’t get housing enjoy homelessness? He must get over it. No one is having a good time. He should inspire the reverence he craves. This portrait is what he inspired. Shame neh!,”

Viva Tselane, viva! I say.

I don’t want to stay stuck in this hopeless energy for too long. Who cares that I feel like an exile in my own country? I’m still privileged, whichever way you look at it. Inadvertently, I did benifit from apartheid policies, even though I was too young to vote the Nats into power, and even though I used my first vote to vote against them. None of this matters it seems; to my goverment, I am a white colonial, imperialist racist who doesn’t give a damn.

Problem is, I do. I am an African first, a South African second, and I don’t give a damn about what colour I am, or you are.

I would love to move back into my old, permanent home I love, and give up the sad, neglected flat.

Tomorrow, I’m going to start afresh: a big clean-up of my studio, re-arranging my oil colours in neat rows, refreshing my inspiration.

I have to believe that art has the power to educate, empower, heal, inspire – and speak truth to power without fear of retribution.

Work – Willemien de Villiers.

A luta continua

Comments (2)

Had to put up on my Facebook page and tweet this as well Willemien. Have been hearing of your president and wondering/ worrying about the state of things there.
I am totally with you in believing that “art has the power to educate, empower, heal, inspire – and must be able to speak truth to power without fear of retribution” as you say!
Wishing you all over there the energy and spirit to overcome this…my heart goes out to all!

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