Posts Tagged With: Sally Scott Art Studio

Taking A Breather

It’s the end of December 2022 and I’m taking a pit-stop on the marathon I’ve been running since March 2019, when a pandemic hit and turned the world on its head.

Since that time, I have built up an online teaching business, (using my years of studio teaching as a springboard), sold my home and moved myself, lock, stock and barrel to Kwazulu-Natal, a province that does not feel like a natural fit for me, but one that is closer to my family. It was a pragmatic move, based on my age, the fading light of Grahamstown and the feeling that my work there was done. It was a sensible move, one that would hopefully make my son less anxious about me living so far out of the way. It was also a move inspired by my desire to see more of my children, grand-children and siblings before I am carried away in the wind. The decision was also largely prompted by my desire for a new challenge, to bring my years of creative experience together in the form of healing art retreats in the beautiful Kwazulu-Natal Midlands.

So, I made the big step, I stuffed my life’s possessions into a warehouse in Howick and myself into a small cottage in Curry’s Post. I invaded my brother’s space and have had to re-learn how to co-habit, something that I gave up on 23 years ago. Many of my things are still in boxes, which are stacked up around my bed, under cupboards and any other corner that will have them. It has been chaotic, difficult, challenging to say the least, but it has also been invigorating and exciting living on the edge of this crazy, scary precipice that I have forced myself onto.

There is no turning back and only one way out of this unsustainable situation, so I have taken the plunge, have bought a piece of land in one of the most beautiful parts of the Midlands and am doing what I never thought I could do…building myself a home and a new studio, on a limited budget at a time when building costs are soaring and the world in general and the country in particular, are feeling more politically, psychologically and economically unstable than they ever have before. But I am doing it, regardless of the madness. I am reaching for my dream on the other side of the canyon and though I might be feeling like I am dangling over dizzy heights, and the darkness of the chasm below me is terrifying, I am keeping my eyes upward and forward towards the light and the view on the other side. There is no other way but to focus on the dream, believe in myself and the life I know I can create. 

The site for my new home and art studio at Old Halliwell Park

As I look towards 2023, I know that it’s going to be another busy year and that the going could get rocky, but I am bracing myself and taking things one step at a time. I am enjoying the process, as stressful as it might be and am visualizing the day when I can sit on the veranda of my new home and watch the horses grazing in the fields beyond. I am just so grateful to all those who have reached out to steady me as I traverse the divide between what was and what is to come.

Before I get up to continue my journey, I remind myself to be kind to myself, not to judge myself too harshly, for it’s not surprising that I am feeling a little all over the place. As I pause in this moment of reflection, I remind myself to breathe in, exhale and remember to breathe again. It will all work out. I can feel it.

Categories: Background, Drawing, Fibre Art, Inspiration, Landscapes, My Studio, Uncategorized, Workshops | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

A Move To Kusane

The sounds of The Penguin Café Orchestra filter through the air. I am wrapped in a fleece blanket and outside, all is cold and grey. Above the music, I hear the steady raindrops falling on tin roof and through the window, I see the Karkloof valley shrouded in mist, with only a hint of the ridge beyond visible. The rain has been relentless over the last week and all my once plump, Eastern Cape succulents have gone ominously purple and black, like a toe that has lost its blood supply. 

Looking out over the Karkloof Valley, shrouded in mist

I have been here a little over 6 weeks now and am comfortably settled into my new rented home, a two bedroom flat on the ground floor of what is known as The Barn; a stylish green, steel structure, surrounded by rock gardens, filled with an abundance of shrubs, aloes and birds, all lovingly cared for by my brother, who lives on the upper floor. The view from our perch up here on the hill, is breathtakingly beautiful. Its sweeping expanse across picture perfect farmland, edged by the moody blue Karkloof mountains, expands both mind and spirit. 

The view from The Barn Photo: Anthony Stidolph

It is the perfect place to sit and rest a weary body, for it takes one’s mind away from the heaviness of the world and opens up a sense of possibility for a future not yet seen. It stimulates the creative spirit, which in my case has lain fairly dormant for the past two years, as I have struggled valiantly to keep my head above water in the face of the pandemic and a world in total chaos. I, like many people whose businesses were impacted by the pandemic, have worked really hard during this period of recalibration and my mind and body are tired, made all the more so by my recent decision to relocate from the comfortable and familiar surrounds of Grahamstown/Makhanda to new pastures in Kwa-Zulu Natal. 

Although I have been toying with the idea of relocating for the past few years, my tentative efforts to make it happen in 2019 had all but fizzled out, when news of the pandemic loomed large on the horizon. In fact, when the total lockdown became a reality, I was extremely grateful to still be ensconced in the familiar comfort of my much loved home and not locked up, with my possessions in boxes, somewhere on the road between two worlds. It was a relief to have had the decision for my future taken from me, and it was clear that I needed to stay where I was, so I used the time to develop my class material and take my courses online. I was perfectly content, making the most of every day, in the sunny Eastern Cape. In fact, so content was I to remain in my nest, that all thoughts of moving had faded to the distant recesses of my mind. It was somewhat of a surprise, therefore, when, late last year, on a drizzly November afternoon, I received a call that was to be one of those defining moments of my life. An estate agent, asking if she could bring someone to view my house? I hadn’t seen this coming and despite all my previous, theoretical talk of wanting to make a move, I certainly hadn’t been prepared for it actually happening. I was in a bit of a daze, but in a space of 24 hours, not only had my home been viewed, I had signed and accepted an offer. 

Fast forward three months and here I am, looking out into the mist and wondering how I got through it? Moving a home and art studio at my stage in life is a major undertaking;  a little like uprooting a well-established oak tree. It’s not something to take lightly, it requires special assistance and the ground in the new location needs to have been well prepared. Looking back, I realise that I have been sub-consciously preparing for this move for quite some time, with numerous visits to the farm, this beautiful piece of paradise, imagining myself living here, talking about living here and wondering how I could make it happen. Incredulously, in a space of three months, not only have I been uprooted, I have been successfully transported and transplanted into the fertile Midlands soil, and this soft soaking rain of reflection is exactly what is needed to settle and get my bearings.

Moving forward into the next chapter of my life Photo: Anthony Stidolph

It’s a big step to have left the security of my previous life, but I am glad I have done it and am hopeful that the foundation I have laid over the past twenty years in Grahamstown will stand me in good stead going forward and that before too long, I will see the new shoots of creativity emerging. Like any good painting, the canvas has been prepared and is now ready for some action. The empty space that lies before me is daunting, but a few outlines have been roughly sketched and in my imagination, I can see the way that things could develop. This is not to say that the picture that emerges will work out the way I envisage it, for as any artist knows, paintings can take on a life of their own and it’s our job to listen and follow. The plan, therefore, is not to force anything to happen, but allow the story to unfold.  

My side of the deal is to remain calm and steadfast, to listen for the inner promptings whilst being alert to potential opportunities. I know it will take courage to take new ideas forward, for not only am I in a completely new environment where very few people know me and I know just as few, I am up against the societal narrative that says I am of an age when I should be retiring. But, I also know that I am a free, creative spirit and can rewrite the script to become whatever I want it to be. From this perch on the hill, looking back, looking forward, I feel like my real work is only just beginning. Of course, I may be naive in this regard, but only time will tell.

There are definitely advantages to being young, particularly that one has energy and that one thinks life will go on forever, but the gift of age and maturity is that one has wisdom and experience on one’s side, aided by a deep and firm foundation from which to launch to the next level of the story. What this level should look like varies from person to person, but irrespective of how one chooses to live, this stage of life allows one to let go of all that is no longer relevant and work only with that which is essential. It is a time of distillation.

So, now I find myself in that liminal space where what was is gone and what is to come has not yet revealed itself. It is an exciting place to be, for in it, anything is possible.  

Categories: Background, My Studio, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 37 Comments

Picks from the Pinboard

Driving up the hill towards my house this morning, I noticed that the thick carpet of purple Jacaranda flowers covering the verges of the road, are starting to fade. As I turned the corner and pulled into my garage, I was thinking about my university days, and the saying that when the Jacaranda flowers came into bloom, if you hadn’t started studying for exams, you had left it too late. (It was the stuff of nightmares!) Which prompted me to ask myself, as I opened my front door, what date it is, for the signs are abundant that not only have the exams been written, the students have all left town. I’m wakened to the fact that December is here and I haven’t done a blog post since April! It’s definitely time to catch up!!

So here I am, preparing a post in which I will share some of the creativity that has been born in my studio over the past seven months. We’ve been busy, my students and I and it’s been a particularly productive year.

Today’s selection has come from the participants of my Drawing Classes, all adult beginners who are rapidly overtaking their teacher. I am immensely proud of them and eternally grateful for their support. Their regular appearance in my studio each week, is the pulse that keeps me alive and everything else functioning smoothly.

We’ve had a good time, as I’m sure you will see from their drawings!

If drawing is something that you would like to do, perhaps this is the time to sign up? We would welcome you to our group and I am happy to keep you a place. Classes will resume towards the end of January 2019.

In the meanwhile, I’m gathering images for my next post, which will feature some of the work that I have done this year. I have been extremely busy and have lots to share, so will attempt to get it all together before the Jacaranda flowers completely disappear…

Categories: Drawing, My Studio | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Art Journaling Workshop – April 2016

My posts have been a bit sparse this year, and I apologize for that, but with less than three months to go until the opening of our sibling exhibition at the National Arts Festival, my attention has been elsewhere. However, to keep me sane and balanced I have kept a selection of Saturday mornings open for group creativity, and in February this year we had the first of my Art Journaling Workshops. It was great fun and for those who attended, light relief from the pressure of work and everyday living. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning and an opportunity to fulfill those New Year resolutions “to be more creative this year”.

So what is art journaling, apart from being the latest craze to have hit the Western world?

Advert poster for workshop 3

First and foremost Art Journaling is a fun opportunity to relax and indulge in a bit of ‘me’ time.On the surface of it the process may appear to be child’s play, with fingers in paint, dollops of glue, snipping paper into pieces whilst playing with collage and pages of colourful writing, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is frivolous or meaningless, for below the surface of all this activity run currents of serious thought and great depths of meaning. The process is extremely therapeutic and the themes that participants explore, vary from personal issues that need to be dealt with, to experiences that want to be celebrated. Anything and everything is suitable subject for exploration, so family history, spirituality, miracles, faith, travels, adventures, observations, opinions, personal experiences and poetry are all fertile ground to explore.

The beauty of journaling is that it adds another dimension to the written word and offers a space where one can make one’s thoughts visible through drawings, paintings, scribbles, sketches, maps, photographs and an assortment of techniques that add impact to the imagery and allow for variation in colour and size of fonts and text. It’s a tactile process and allows for a sensory connection to the work. The direct, hands on creativity allows for insights to develop as the pages unfold, which often inspires more writing and desire for visual translation, and so the story goes…

Each designated Saturday morning, students arrive at my studio, enjoy tea and snacks in my abundant indigenous garden and then get down to work or play, whichever way one looks at it. They work on ‘pages’ that will eventually come together as a book, or they work in old books, breathing into them new life.

Our next Art Journaling session will be this next Saturday 16th April 2016, so if you are interested in joining this band of happy creatives, please contact me and book your place. There are only a couple of spaces left!

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The Streets of Grahamstown

Two nights a week, when others are putting their feet up after a long, tiring day, the lights go on in my studio as I see cars pulling up outside my garden gate. I am ready and waiting to welcome these hard working Grahamstown souls, who after a long day in the office, have made the time to come and learn to draw. Some of them are relative newcomers, whilst others have been with me for several years. On a Friday morning the process is reversed, as the curtains get rolled up and the sunshine spills in upon a group of retired ladies who loyally arrive in time for tea and some creativity. Most of my students have had little, if any, prior experience of drawing, but have answered a calling to see what they can do.

For me it is a very rewarding experience to guide them through the process and watch them grow and blossom. It is for this reason that I am sharing a few examples from our latest series of works, where we have been looking at the buildings of Grahamstown and learning how to draw them, using mainly ink, wax resist and wash. Some have gone on to explore using mixed media and chalk pastel.

Now Grahamstown is known for many things; it’s excellent university and schools, its many churches and law courts and of course the National Arts Festival. However, for me the most outstanding thing about Grahamstown is the quality of its people. Warm, friendly, generous and supportive, Grahamstown people are interesting. In every corner of this little city they are out there learning, teaching, sharing, educating the nations youth, whilst extending the universal knowledge base. I thrive in this atmosphere of positivity and love my life on the edge of it all, for though my studio may not be a part of a grand institution, the fact that it has thrived for nearly fourteen years, says much about the people who reside here.

Categories: Drawing, My Studio | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Come Journaling with Me

Spring is here… and with it comes a brand new workshop!

Advert poster for workshop 2olweb

The Art Journaling workshop brings together many of my interests, and promises to be a rich and rewarding experience. Like most of my workshops, this one has had a long gestation period… from the time I first got the idea to the moment I was ready to share it. There’s a great saying that “Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working — Stephen DeStaebler, and this has certainly been the case here. So it was with great joy and an enormous amount of relief that I opened the doors of my studio today and invited in nine very enthusiastic ladies for a morning of creative fun.

After months of dry, windy weather, that brought with it a swathe of devastating bush fires that smothered our city in smoke, yesterday saw us wrapped up in winter woolies, battling against the elements of gale force wind, ice and rain. This morning, however, I awoke to blue skies and the promise of a sunny day, which was a relief, for it’s always much better to have sunshine when going out to play! We had a wonderful day and I look forward to the next gathering in a little over a month.

There are four sessions in this introductory phase, which should be enough time to cover the basics. Throughout next year, I hope to continue the course, exploring new themes and techniques on a monthly basis. Anyone interested in joining us, should contact me for further information. I will be bringing you updates as we go.

Categories: My Studio, Workshops | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Recent Work

One of the best things about going away is coming home.

After a few days exploring the antique shops of Port Elizabeth, and a couple more roaming the hills of the Winterberg, I open the door of my art studio and feel my heart soar.  The break has done me good and now I stand in the doorway looking at the artwork on the wall as if I’m seeing it for the first time.  I am satisfied with the four large aloe paintings that I have been working on for the past six months. Tomorrow I must sign them and take them to the framer and then work must begin on the exhibitions I have planned for 2015.

I reach for my camera in order to record the moment.

Looking across the studio to the four recently completed commissioned artworks

Looking across the studio to the four recently completed commissioned artworks

The desert scenes in my art studio

The desert scenes in my art studio

Scenes of the Okavango Delta and the Eastern Cape

Scenes of the Okavango Delta and the Eastern Cape

Two recetly completed paintings of Asante Sana, a nature conservancy in the Eastern Cape

Two recently completed paintings of Asante Sana, a nature conservancy in the Eastern Cape. Each artwork is 60cm x 98cm

My most recent work, two aloe paintings, scenes from the area around Grahamstown

My most recent work, two aloe paintings, scenes from the area around Grahamstown. Each artwork is 60cm x 98cm

These four aloe artworks will soon be on their way to Cape Town and though I will miss their company, I am happy to know that they have found a good home.

Categories: Landscapes, My Studio | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

Building Castles

Every once in a while, I am delighted to come upon a rebel with a vision; one who just knows what she wants to do despite going against the grain of my best laid plans. The person I am thinking of came into my drawing class four years ago, anxious and unsure about her abilities. For the first few weeks she would arrive at class and hover at the door of my studio, not sure whether she had the courage to come in, and I had the feeling that if I let her slip through my fingers, she would sprint back down to the gate and disappear into the night. She had just come through a difficult period of her life and was venturing into the unknown world of the arts in her brave attempt to heal.  Despite her fears, she stuck with the classes, and gradually over the years has found her way back to her lovable self, a responsible yet mischievous rebel, who is now full of sparkle and confidence.

Lisl Griffioen

Lisl Griffioen

About a year after Lisl started the classes, she announced to the evening group that her daughter Anna, who was then 6 years old, wanted to know when she would be good enough at art to be able to draw a castle. Until she could draw a castle, Anna doubted whether her mother had any talent. So, the castle and all that it represented, loomed on the horizon for the next couple of years, and from time to time, we reminded her of her challenge, testing to see whether she felt she was ready to accomplish the feat. She would laugh, shake her head and say no, not yet…but one day.

Then at the beginning of last year, after a frustrating evening of drawing  red peppers and oranges, she suddenly announced that she was ready. The castle was to begin. Before the evening was up, she had sketched her daughters’ castle and planned exactly what she wanted to do.

Lisl's sketch for Anna's castle

Lisl’s sketch for Anna’s castle

Construction began the following week, and through the weeks and months that followed, we watched with interest as first the landscape and then the castle began to materialize. We laughed affectionately with her as she threw herself into the task of creating a castle that would meet her daughters’ approval. Piece by piece the walls and turrets went up, the windows came down and then went up again. Throughout the process she watched herself and her response to the challenge, noting where she felt she was tight and interested to see when the colours flowed with ease. It soon became clear that the process of building her castle had become one more step on her road back to herself.

Construction of the castle halted a couple of times, whilst Lisl valiantly tried to conform to what the rest of the class were doing, but these forays never lasted long and soon she would return to her castle. Unfortunately, due to multiple responsibilities and a heavy workload, Lisl had to miss quite a few sessions over the past few months, but whenever she has appeared at the door with her bright and cheery smile, laughter has always followed as her castle makes its appearance. We have all become so used to seeing the work in progress, watching her persevere with stoic determination, that it’s got to the point that it’s difficult to imagine her working on anything else.

So we were all a little thrown last Tuesday evening, when the final piece of glass was inserted into the window frame, and a year after it was begun, the castle was declared complete!

Anna's Castle

Anna’s Castle

So now we wait to see how Anna responds and whether, as a nine year old, she even remembers why she wanted a castle? Does it actually matter? The important thing is that her mother heard and honoured her call, and in so doing, healed and learned a whole lot more about herself. We, in turn, have had lots of laughs and have enjoyed being fellow travellers.

I suspect that this castle in it’s gilded frame is going to become a symbol that represents a whole lot more to Anna than what she originally intended.


Categories: Drawing, My Studio | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Heritage Day to Remember

Heritage Day, ( 24th September) is a public holiday in South Africa and in cities and towns around the country many people take the opportunity to come together, wearing their finest traditional outfits, to celebrate their heritage. From all the images in the press, it is a very colourful affair, Africa being renowned for its magnificent traditional dress.

This year I had no plans, in fact, it’s a holiday for which I never have any plans, largely due to the fact that I’m not quite sure which heritage I am supposed to be celebrating. South Africa is a complex society, and my place in it, a little ambiguous. I am a third generation white Zimbabwean, who has spent ten years living in Botswana and the larger part of my life settled as a citizen in South Africa. I am of European descent, with my ancestry hailing back to the Orkney Isles and United Kingdom. There were Vikings and Scottish kings in the mix, as well as several Rhodesian/Zimbabwe farmers. So what heritage should I celebrate? In my own private way, through my art and through my teaching, I celebrate them all, and in the mix of it I emerge as the person I am today.

So, when my good friend Themba Mchunu, a final year Masters Drama student at Rhodes University contacted me to see if I would be at home on this auspicious day, I was delighted to hear that he planned to visit me. I decided to bake some chocolate cakes to celebrate his visit.

From posts on his Facebook page, I had deduced that he and the cast of Impethuko would be busy most of the day, as they were putting on a special Heritage Day performance at the community hall in Rini, Grahamstown East.


A little later than expected, I heard hooting at the front gate, and guessing it must be him, went out to greet my guest…. only to see that it wasn’t just Themba, but he and the entire cast who had come to pay me a visit! Arms filled with refreshments and buns, they filed into my lounge and we launched into a festive and hilarious evening!!!

We ate, drank, laughed and talked and I learned more about their history and involvement with the group. They explored my extensive garden and then came into the studio to view my work, which for most of my guests, was a completely new experience.

The cast of Impethuku gather round my studio table to view my artwork

The cast of Impethuku gather round my studio table to view my artwork

After giving them some background information and explaining the meaning of my artworks, we entered into an interesting, animated discussion that spontaneously developed into a playful, high energy performance, with my artworks being commandeered as the costumes and the props. I haven’t laughed so much in a long time. The group’s playful antics just kept getting funnier and funnier, ending with a theatrical exit from the studio.

Click on the images below and you will see what I mean…

The most moving part for me was listening to the group sing to me as they wound their way across the lawn and back into my lounge. There they continued to sing, with one of the group now pounding on my Djembe drum, all of them moving in time to the rhythm of their music. Then, still singing, down the stairs they went, bade me farewell and disappeared into the night.

Later, sitting alone and  looking out across the sleeping city, I reflected on the events of the day. I was completely overwhelmed by all that had happened, and couldn’t believe how something so special had come about so spontaneously. It was the best Heritage Day celebration that I could have asked for, and never in my wildest dreams could I have planned something so meaningful. I felt deeply honoured that this talented group of performers had shared so much with me and realized with that spine tingling delight, that this is why I love living in Africa. The unexpected is always just around the corner. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but when it’s good, it can be absolutely amazing. It’s the adrenalin rush that keeps us living on this continent.

So thank you to Themba and his team for showing me that I do belong here and have been accepted. The memory of this day will live with me forever.

Categories: Inspiration, My Studio | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

An African Spring

“Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working” – Stephen De Staebler

With the appearance of the first green leaves of Spring, I realize it’s time to get back to work. With only three and half months until Christmas, there is still much to be done, so I venture into the studio to think about what to do next. Should I make some fish, or plan a workshop, or make a new wall hanging or start a new painting? I tidy up and make a cup of tea, and sit in the glorious morning sunshine to think. The Coral Tree is in full bloom and the Black Headed Oriole is busy, it’s beak deep in the nectar, stopping occasionally to warble it’s watery call. Next to the call of the African Fish Eagle, I think it is one of Africa’s most beautiful sounds. I am feeling the first stirrings of inspiration, so I get up quickly, walk across the lawn and back into my studio.

Then I hear pandemonium. My gardener, who has been clearing the bush at the top of my property, has chanced upon a Puff adder, sunning itself on the warm dry grass . The gardener, who has a slasher in his hand, is wildly gesticulating, telling me the snake has a girth the thickness of his arm. I tell him not to hurt it, but to watch where it goes, while I dash off to phone a local snake catcher, who I am hoping will be able to catch and relocate it. Soon our Crocodile Dundee arrives, but by the time he has reached the spot where the snake had been sighted, it had retreated to it’s hole, which I have now come to believe is beneath the trunk of a large overturned tree. The reason for my thinking is that my Scottie dogs have worn a path around the stump in their efforts to flush out whatever lies in there. The fever pitch of their barking suggests that this is no ordinary rat, which leads me to thinking that this fat snake has probably been there a long, long time, as I’ve heard this hysterical barking before.


So, I have to trust that the snake is used to the dogs and that it will leave them alone should their paths ever cross.

And then I try to get back to work, but it’s late and I’m distracted and it’s time for an evening walk.

When my gardener returns a few days later, he continues clearing the grass, but this time he takes a smoke pot, which he believes will scare away the snake. I tell him to be careful, to watch where he puts his feet and to take care not to set fire to the dry grass. He assures me he knows what he’s doing. A few hours later, I see him sitting having his tea, but up there on the hill, I see billows of white smoke and hear the sickening sound of a bush fire. I run to see what is happening, and to my horror, the top of my property is on fire. Hosepipes, buckets and a fire engine later, we have the fire out and everything under control. It took me the weekend to recover from the shock.

So, today I had good intentions of getting back into the studio, but before I could even get there another crisis had hit. The gardener had stood on the rake and the prongs had pierced through his foot! When I found him, he was writhing in agony with the rake still firmly attached. I was horrified and rushed to call the doctor, who instructed me to pull the rake off, no matter how difficult it might be.

So, with his foot soaking in antiseptic, I scrabbled through my cupboards to find something to bandage him up. After a cup of tea, some antibiotics and painkillers, he declared himself healed and I sent him home to sleep. I meanwhile needed a stiff drink, but opted instead for a brisk walk around the block.

With the sun setting on the horizon, I found myself wondering where another day had gone?

But then there is still tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the day my muse is sure to come.

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Categories: Inspiration, My Studio | Tags: , | 6 Comments

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