Two of Six

As I write this Icky Thump month has begun. Yep, that’s right: Halloween! And outside it is cold and rainy! In October! One wonders how much it must suck to be a weatherman these days! Can they even forecast the weather anymore, other than saying that Winter will probably be colder than Summer? We were warned that there would be no Spring rain this year, a pretty safe bet considering that we have been experiencing a severe drought for the past three years. Water restrictions, the whole end of times scenario, but, yay, we are having great Spring rains and no more drought and water restrictions. So sorry, weather guys, glad you were wrong in this case. But the rain has brought some seriously cold weather with it. Well, I mean, seriously cold for a semi-tropical region, 15 degrees celsius…in Spring! Weird!


Anyway, so yeah, spooky weather for the spooky month, which brings me to my spooky topic: the play that may not be mentioned! I recently saw a movie that had Glenn Close playing an actress who was playing Lady Macbeth. The opening scene of this Merchant Ivory film, Heights (2004), features Close as a stage and screen actress of renown, is very powerful. Her character is giving a master class in Shakespeare to a group of Juilliard drama students who are acting out a scene from the play that may not be mentioned (Macbeth). She is so incensed by their passionless performance that she charges up onto the stage to give them hell. “These are fiery people!” she screams, referring to the play’s characters. She laments the lack of passion she sees in their performances and then more broadly, in the world. “We’re not passionate people, we’re tepid voyeurs!” she says of humanity. Isn’t that so true of this social media-obsessed world we live in? She ends the class by telling the students, “And, for Christ’s sake, take a risk sometime this weekend!” Close really gives an amazing performance in the movie as well as delivering some really memorable quotes:

“Shakespeare’s worst is still better than anyone else’s best.”


So why the strange traditions and superstitions associated with Shakespeare’s Macbeth?  The tragedy of Macbeth is considered so unlucky that it is never called by name inside the theatrical profession. It is referred to as that play, the Scottish play or the Bard’s Play. These are all euphemisms and reference the play’s Scottish setting or Shakespeare’s popular nickname. According to a theatrical superstition called the Scottish curse, speaking the name Macbeth inside a theatre will cause disaster. The theory goes that Shakespeare actually included actual black magic spells in the incantations of the witches (see Act IV, Scene 1):


SCENE I. A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.


(Thunder) Enter the three Witches

First Witch:

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.

Second Witch:

Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.

Third Witch:

Harpier cries ‘Tis time, ’tis time.

First Witch:

Round about the cauldron go;

In the poison’d entrails throw.

Toad, that under cold stone

Days and nights has thirty-one

Swelter’d venom sleeping got,

Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.


Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch:

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.


Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Third Witch:

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf

Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,

Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,

Liver of blaspheming Jew,

Gall of goat, and slips of yew

Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,

Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,

Finger of birth-strangled babe

Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,

Make the gruel thick and slab:

Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,

For the ingredients of our cauldron.


Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch:

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.


Hell! Just reading those lines is enough to make a believer of me of curses and bumps and thumps and slithers and all icky things of the night! Love Shakespeare:)


Anyway, speaking about strange and unusual…again: I have just completed the second week of my fast in preparation for my performance artwork in 4 weeks times. I mentioned to a good friend of mine that I had been doing research on military conscription for my Masters dissertation and had found it a little disconcerting. My research has been bringing back a lot of memories of my time as a conscript, and my experiences in the military; some good, many bad. As I put it to her, it’s kind of like finding all of a sudden that you are still scared of the bogey man like when you were a child. And this, made all the more unreal by my fasting. Ghosts of my past haunting me…

I am going to end off by recommending a really fun Halloween movie. It is good for adults and children, and is hilarious! And it also has three witches in it! It is called Hocus Pocus (1993) and is a Disney film. Yep, good clean fun!


It has all the creepy and the scary without resorting to the blood and the gore and the just plain nasty! And that, dear reader, is my post for this Halloween:)


PS: Is it weird that I find SJP (Sarah Jessica Parker) seriously hot as a wicked, child-eating witch? Far more so then as Carrie in Sex and the City.


The Artist and the Academic and Everything In-between


I went to a showing of Vincent van Gogh’s work on Saturday as part of the Exhibition on Screen series. As I have mentioned in a previous post, to see these great artworks displayed on an immense movie screen is quite sensational and something I certainly recommend! The showing was quite biopic in nature, highlighting the fact that Vincent was not some lunatic that painted in insane bursts of divine inspiration but was an educated man who grappled with the demands of being and artist, both on a technical and conceptual level. If anything they stressed the fact that painting is an arduous task hence the word artwork! The timing of the showing was quite serendipitous as only the day before I had completed 5 days of lecturing for the university I attend (my Masters) and by whom I am also employed.


Above: Cynthia, our model for figure studies

Below: a student’s work


This is a copy of the email I forwarded to my students this morning:

Hi students

To those who attended the past workshop. well done, and thank you for your enthusiastic participation! I am sure you will agree that it was well worth your time. To those who did not I am saddened that you could not. I realize that our lives are very demanding but if art is truly your calling then sacrifices are required. However, unlike very few other things your rewards will be a hundred-fold if you do make those sacrifices, and I know of what I speak, having gone through the same process myself as a past student.

The venue itself was very inspirational (a heritage site in its own right – the old beer hall). We had a live model for three days as study for drawing and painting exercises. We attended the opening of an exhibition at the City Hall in the Durban Art Gallery. We had amazing lectures from Lawrence, Yvette and Cate as well as the amazing Doung Anwar Jahangee, on his personal philosophy of an “architecture without walls” ( and practising artist, Themba Shibase ( A truly stimulating, inspirational and intense week of art in every form.

OK, moving on: So your first assignments have been completed and assessed and you are now faced with a whole lot of new challenges due in August. To feel exhausted, overwhelmed and a little emotional at the moment is quite natural, I promise. Take a break, a short one. Catch up on all the things you have neglected while frantically making art: watch back-to-back episodes of Game of Thrones, spend time with family and friends, clean up your home/room/studio. Then get back on the horse! Start your processes again.

Finally, one can feel disheartened after a workshop and see only failure in the feedback received from the marking lecturers. Remember, however, that there are only more successful and less successful artworks not failures. The marking lecturers will have provided a lot of positive criticism and advice, learn from them. The critting process is not only a marking tool but also a teaching tool.


Above: the Beer Hall Gallery space

Below: my demonstration table


These workshops are seriously intense experiences and simultaneously seem to last an eternity and yet are over in the blink of an eye! They are almost-overwhelmingly stimulating, stressful and joyful, again all simultaneously!  To add to all of this, xenophobic attacks were taking place not a kilometre from us in the city centre, these arguably sparked by the Zulu king’s comments on foreigners in South Africa. At the height of these attacks in the city of Durban, when 4 people were killed, we were evacuated from the premises and sent home. The attacks were not unexpected and reveal a long-simmering tension between impoverished South Africans and entrepreneurial immigrants trying to make a living at a time when the unemployment rate is 25.5 percent. When I hear this reasoning I want to retch! What pathetic excuses we make for our behaviour; religion, politics, self-defence…any excuse will do. The fact is we are selfish, self-serving, self-involved parasites who consume and are of little value to this planet and this existence.


Above: satirical commentary by the artist, Zapiro

Humanity, what foul things we are! It is only art that reminds me that we as a species may have some sort of saving grace. I straddle these worlds of the artist (swany), the academic in the form of both lecturer and the student (Andrew Swanepoel) and then as inhabitant of Durban, South Africa (Andy) mired in my humanity.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet voices my disgust:

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how

infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and

admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like

a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,

to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—

We are capable of so much, all that Hamlet lists, which makes the horror show that we are that more terrible. Perhaps it is this that Vincent saw in his terrible skies above dark fields of corn and sleeping towns and it was this vision which drove him to utter despair and finally to death, an abdication from the species which destroys such a beautiful world.