Five of Six

Oh, man! Yikes, one week to go until my performance piece at the artSPACE durban Gallery! My installation is completed and I have delivered it to the gallery where it will be installed on the afternoon of 29th October, just prior to my performance. I am so AMPED! You know when you are at a funfair, and you gave gotten into a rollercoaster car and the safetybar has locked you in? You are aimed at the sky, clacking up that seemingly endless steep incline. That feeling of panic, fear, exhilaration and anticipation as you reach the peak and start tilting downward, facing that virtually 90 degree drop, straight down! Oh! Here comes gravity! There is a split second when you experience a moment of complete and utter calm… and then…release…and the rush as you hurtle downward, all control surrendered to the momentum, and the moment, and the purity of uncontrolled, unrestricted experience. This is what it is like to be a performance artwork. Gary Oldman describes that moment so well in a movie called The Professional (1998).

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I like these calm little moments before the storm. It reminds me of Beethoven, he says. Granted he is playing the role of a sociopathic policeman bent on trying to exterminate a very young Natalie Portman, but you get what I mean about those calm little moments before the storm. I think it is really going to be something to experience…not just for the viewers/audience  but also for me. A totally unique experience for all involved!

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And as much as I am looking forward to it, I am also really exhausted. However in saying that, I have found that functioning on nervous, exhausted energy is a good thing in a performance. One week of fasting left too, which I have to admit has been brutal! I have really experienced the toll when I have had to exert myself. When I have gone for runs I have especially felt it; heavy legs, like lead and jelly, all at the same time. Just no gas! Plus I have gone down two belt notches, 40RTY days is a long time! This combination of exhaustion and fasting, and the force of will to see the performance process through to the end, is what pushes you deep, deep within yourself, to that place you need to be in order to put yourself wilfully through something like this. There is a reason they say one must suffer for one’s art and nowhere is this more literal than in performance or body art.

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I have written in my posts before about my belief that the artist must have solitude. It is nice to see that I am not alone in this belief. May Sarton, the poet, writes about solitude in her aptly titled, Journals of a Solitude, and she really just expresses it so beautifully which is why I wanted to share her thoughts with you, dear reader.

In an entry from September 15, 1972, Sarton writes:

It is raining. I look out on the maple, where a few leaves have turned yellow, and listen to Punch, the parrot, talking to himself and to the rain ticking gently against the windows. I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my “real” life again at last. That is what is strange—that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet I taste it fully only when I am alone…

She considers solitude as the birthing-place of self-discovery:

For a long time now, every meeting with another human being has been a collision. I feel too much, sense too much, am exhausted by the reverberations after even the simplest conversation. But the deep collision is and has been with my unregenerate, tormenting, and tormented self. I have written every poem, every novel, for the same purpose — to find out what I think, to know where I stand.

This is so me, and my life and my art…

Suzanne Vega is another artist who writes wonderfully about solitude and that is how I will end off, with the lyrics of her ode to solitude:

Solitude Standing

Solitude stands by the window

She turns her head as I walk in the room

I can see by her eyes she’s been waiting

Standing in the slant of the late afternoon

 

And she turns to me with her hand extended

Her palm is split with a flower with a flame

 

Solitude stands in the doorway

And I’m struck once again by her black silhouette

By her long cool stare and her silence

I suddenly remember each time we’ve met

 

And she turns to me with her hand extended

Her palm is split with a flower with a flame

 

And she says “I’ve come to set a twisted thing straight”

And she says “I’ve come to lighten this dark heart”

And she takes my wrist, I feel her imprint of fear

And I say “I’ve never thought of finding you here”

 

I turn to the crowd as they’re watching

They’re sitting all together in the dark in the warm

I wanted to be in there among them

I see how their eyes are gathered into one

 

And then she turns to me with her hand extended

Her palm is split with a flower with a flame

 

And she says “I’ve come to set a twisted thing straight”

And she says”l’ve come to lighten this dark heart”

And she takes my wrist, I feel her imprint of fear

And I say “I’ve never thought of finding you here”

 

Solitude stands in the doorway

And I’m struck once again by her black silhouette

By her long cool stare and her silence

I suddenly remember each time we’ve met

 

And she turns to me with her hand extended

Her palm is split with a flower with a flame

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What I Did (part 2)

Last Thursday (10/12/2015) I had to do the singularly most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I had to bear witness to my Mother’s passing…her death. Tomorrow I face the next toughest thing…attending her funeral. These are the words I hope to say about her there.

 

Johnny Clegg wrote a song that I think best encapsulates, in a few words, my mother: it is called: 

 The Great Heart

 

The world is full of strange behaviour

Every man has to be his own saviour

I know I can make it on my own if I try

But I’m searching for a great heart to stand me by

Underneath the African sky, a great heart to stand me by

 

I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart to hold and keep me by

I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart under African skies

Sometimes I feel that you really know me

Sometimes there’s so much you can show me

 

There’s a highway of stars across the heavens

There’s a whispering song of the wind in the grass

There’s the rolling thunder across the Savanna

A hope and a dream at the edge of the sky

 

And your life is a story like the wind

Your life is a story like the wind

 

My mother was a person who loved and cared too much if that is possible. I believe this is because she had the greatest of hearts. My mother cared and loved more than anybody I know. She had the greatest of hearts, and she had to. Life was rarely kind to her. She had terrible things happen to her but she always kept going and she was always hopeful. She was immensely strong like that. She was a fighter. Testament to that is her 15 year battle with a chronic disease. 15 years!

She was also the most spiritual person I know. She rarely went to church. She believed that you did not need some building or set time to worship because God was always with you. God and my mother had a very personal and special relationship and I believe He is getting a real earful from her now that she is with Him.

I will always remember the times when she was at her happiest though:

At 21 Dawson Road with her boys; Dave and I, and a house full of people; family, children and animals

And then later in her life when she was with her girls on the Bluff, with Kelly and Kiara.

My mother raised three families, and at Dawson Road, virtually an entire neighbourhood. Despite the tragedy of the early death of the love of her life, my father, that house was always full of joy. So those are the memories I will keep in my heart.

I would like to share just one of many with you. When we were children, on Fridays, after a long week of work she would still rush home, cook up a batch of burgers and popcorn and load her car (generally a Volksie Beatle) with us and the neighbourhood children, and off we would go to the local drive-in. On the Fridays that the weather was bad or nothing exciting was showing we would turn our lounge and dining-room into a movie theatre, projecting the movie onto a sheet stretched across one wall. The children would be on pillows and blankets in the front with the adults on chairs at the back with my mother the projector-operator. The house was always packed with children. They all adored her.

I am sure that you all have some special memory of my Mom too. Those are mine.

In conclusion, I want you to know that I think my mom, despite all her suffering, left this world happy. In the end she died surrounded by her 3 children knowing she was loved. She drifted off to sleep with tears in her eyes and did not awake again.

Go and get some well-deserved rest, mom, and I will see you again when it’s my time.

Thank you for everything and say “hi” to Dad..

I love you.

And thank you all for being here to mourn the passing of this great heart, my Mom.

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50 Shades of Grey And Then Some

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So I have seriously grey hair. Hell it’s so grey it’s silver! I started going grey in my teens and never stopped. I was often called “Hi Ho, Silver” or “the Lone Stranger” by my rugby team mates. I began going grey in my teens, and then exponentially in my 20’s when I went completely vegetarian. Apparently a B12 deficiency makes hair turn grey. Who is at highest risk for this deficiency? Well, vegetarians and vegans, since B12 is normally derived from animal sources.  So for me to start going grey very early kind of makes sense since I do not eat animals. Richard Gere is a good example of the same kind of whammy which hit me, he being a vegie also.

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At one stage I used to put highlights in my hair (when I was dancing at the dance studio) to minimize the sheer greyness of my hair or I would keep it really short. However a few years ago I decided to own it and now wear my hair long and all Gandalfy!

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The oddest thing is happening though!  The other day a young girl asked me where I had had my hair done. Apparently there are teenagers and twenteens now paying to have their hair coloured like mine. They want to have granny hair! The question is why are they doing it? Well, grey hair has recently gone from dreaded to desired, as celebrities, models, and young women head to salons to be silvered. It is fast becoming the symbol of indifference to beauty standards.

 

Below: Super hero Storm

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Let’s hope it encourages older women to embrace the grey! There is the problematic idea that men look distinguished with grey hair (although this is changing as men are being targeted as consumers too now) while women look old and frumpy and…well, grannified! The stigma around grey hair is gendered and favours the masculine much like most things in our societies do. Women have, in fact, been encouraged to hide their grey hair for as long as youth has been a prized cultural possession. And this started way back when.

Women in ancient Egypt apparently used to cover their grey hair with a dye mixture made of oil and the blood of a black cat, while the Romans relied on a mixture of ashes, boiled walnut shells, and earthworms.  So I think the fact that women want to own grey hair is awesome! AND let me tell you it looks stunning! I am sad that women, when reaching a certain age, lop off all their hair and colour it to death. It is their choice of course, as it is their hair, but I wish they would enjoy what nature is giving them for free . The scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis, is one of the older women who are embracing the grey, as is Helen Mirren, and I think it is awesome! Don’t call it grey though, call it silver, hell, I do! Rock those silver selfies, ladies!

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Just hash tag grannyhair and take a look for yourself.