Posts Tagged With: Sally Scott

COMMON ROOTS : DIFFERENT ROUTES

In two weeks time the sleepy hollow of Grahamstown will be rocked by the National Arts Festival once again. This  year I am joining forces with my talented siblings, brother Anthony and sister Nicky, both accomplished artists, to bring what we hope will be an interesting exhibition of our work. We come from a big family of pioneering stock and have had an amazingly rich, though somewhat off-beat upbringing. There is much that I could tell you, but will leave it to my eloquent brother to explain a little of the background to our exhibition…

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“Artists Anthony Stidolph, Sally Scott and Nicky Rosselli grew up in a large family of seven children in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). While they were all still relatively young, their father, an experienced airline pilot and free ranging spirit who had served with distinction in various bomber squadrons during the war, suddenly decided that the life he had really been born for was that of a farmer.

Acting, as he invariably did, on such ill-thought out impulses he quit his job, cashed in his life savings, bought a battered old Land-Rover and proceeded to relocate the entire family, lock, stock and barrel, to one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Zimbabwe’s Nyanga Mountains.

Although the area proved ill-suited for agriculture and the farm was never a financial success it was a wonderful place to grow up.

Bordered on the east by the great wall of the Nyanga mountain range, the landscape seemed to possess an uplifting, transcendental, almost spiritual quality; it’s beauty penetrated the soul. Every now and again, in life, one comes across a place which for some mysterious reason exerts a deep personal attraction and the farm did just that for all three children.

It provided them with some of their richest childhood memories and would go on to play a pivotal role in their subsequent artistic, spiritual and emotional development. It was here that their love for nature, for places still regarded as wild, came from.

Moving to South Africa, albeit at different times and in pursuit of slightly varying goals, the three siblings mutual passion for landscape would continue to nourish and sustain them, each, in their own way, endeavouring to observe and capture the scenery that has inspired them over the years without pretence or posture.

Always something of a humourist, Anthony would choose to go into the field of political cartooning, where he worked for The Witness newspaper under the nom-de-guerre “Stidy” for almost 26-years, while his sister Sally’s early interest in batik work would later transform itself into a distinguished career in Fabric Art (and, in turn, pastel work) which would see her win several international awards for her innovative pieces. Nicky, very much the family afterthought, also inherited her mother’s artistic genes (the other four family members chose to follow more scientific paths) establishing an early reputation as a highly talented and original  artist and etcher while, at the same time, opening and running her own Art Gallery with her husband John.

Over the years which have followed, Anthony Sally and Nicky have continued to regard their art as a form of self-examination, providing not only a reflection of the physical world without but the secret world within. For each one, art is not only a vocation to be expressed but lived as well.

Employing the notion of travel as a metaphor for living, this joint family exhibition serves, then, as a both a record and a re-evaluation of three journeys that began from the same starting point in another country many years ago. Although their roads may have diverged and detoured along the way, Anthony, Sally and Nicola’s lives have remained linked by a shared passion and a common ancestral background.

As such their work is infused with a certain homesickness, a longing to connect and get back to a place – or places – that exemplify their early ideal of happiness.

Intensely personal and reflective of their continuing bond with the earth, the artwork bears out TS Eliot’s poetic statement on how the end of all our seeking is to arrive back at the beginning and know the place for the first time…”

Anthony, Nicky and Sally in Botswana 1972

Anthony, Nicky and Sally in Botswana 1972

The exhibition will be officially opened at 5.30pm on 29th June and will thereafter be open daily 9am-5pm  30th June – 10th July. The artists will be in attendance.

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Categories: Exhibitions | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Double Vision’

On the evening of Thursday 5th November 2015, the doors of Mogalakwena Gallery, 3 Church St., Cape Town,  opened for the viewing of Double Vision, a fibre art exhibition featuring the work of Odette Tolksdorf and myself . The opening was part of the First Thursdays, Cape Town programme, and because we were blessed with warm, balmy weather, the crowds thronged the streets and we had a really interesting mix of people coming through.

Sally Scott, Gina Niederhumer and Odette Toksdorf at the opening of 'Double Vision'

Sally Scott, Gina Niederhumer and Odette Toksdorf at the opening of ‘Double Vision’

For those who weren’t there to enjoy it, I have included some of Odette’s works and a gallery of all the work that I have on show. We were fortunate to have Gina Niederhumer to open our exhibition and have included her opening words below:

“When Odette phoned me about a month ago, to ask me if I would open her and Sally’s exhibition I was at first shocked that she asked me, after all these artists were already famous and were part of that crowd that I looked up to and admired from afar while I still marveled over log-cabin patterns… I am immensely honored that they asked me to open their exhibition. Both artists have resumes as long as both my arms…prestigious awards to their names…their work is held in public and private collections – locally and internationally…and their art-works appear in many publications …most recently in Elbe’s new book Craft Art in South Africa.

Sally Scott and Odette Tolksdorf are amongst a group of a few local textile artists who have put South African Fiber Arts on the world map.

There are certain parallels to their biography…both have lived elsewhere for much of their formative years…Odette in Australia, Sally in Zimbabwe…both are internationally exhibited artists and both are teachers of creative workshops for over thirty years… both work with needle and thread amongst other things… and they are friends.

While each one developed their own style and working methodology…here in this exhibition they joined forces to give us a glimpse into their practice.

I will first speak about Odette, as her work is exhibited in the first room.

Odette, beside being a prolific textile artist, is also a Quilt Judge and these past 15 years has been the South African representative and co-coordinator of the World Quilt and Textile competition which is held annually in the USA.

She has also for the last 15 years, organized cultural art and craft tours to South Africa, together with American textile artist Nancy Crow and Canadian artist Valerie Hearder.

Odette’s fiber art is known for its vibrant colours, it’s geometric shapes…intricate textures… and has a linear quality about it. Her work starts often with a traditional pattern which she then distorts and adapts to fit her design concepts.

Her surroundings frequently provide the prompts for her work. …a trip to Morocco becomes Lost in Marrakech…which hint at the intricate networks of Medinas and Souks…which invite one to get lost in while absorbing the colours and shapes of the place…next to it is the work Endless Migrations which is based on rumination around friends leaving the country…and the coming and goings of people in general…all over the world… in one direction or another… like the flow of water…the circles representing the endlessness of this pursuit…given the present situation in Europe with thousands of refugees making their way through different countries in search for a safe place and a new start, this work could not be more current.

'Endless Migration' by Odette Tolksdorf

‘Endless Migration’ by Odette Tolksdorf

As a graphic graduate, Design is a strong element in Odette’s art. This is quite evident in many of her works…such as the piece Isihlalo – the Chair, which is based on the woodcarving of a back-rest belonging to a Zulu-King…. Raw Wall based on traditional Yoruba house decorations…Re-mix Africa…a lighthearted play on words referring to the watershed exhibition Africa -re mix…where Odette mixes Kimono shapes with African wax prints with a variety of textures, such as Cuba cloth, and Bark cloth…linking different symbolism and agendas.

'Re-mix Africa' by Odette Tolksdorf

‘Re-mix Africa’ by Odette Tolksdorf

Odette’s latest works, Breath I, II and III is unusual perhaps in its soft watercolor feel…but then on closer look it is again indicative of her way of responding and processing her surrounding…as by her own admission, she was seduced by the material when she found that wonderful organza and thought of a way to use it. An artist will always read any material or subject matter through his or her own lens of seeing the world…in this case, turning layers and layers of translucent textiles into a meditative study on light and breath…offering a though provoking reflection on the repetitiveness of the sewing process.

Breath, Breathe and Breathing Series by Odette Tolksdorf

‘Breath, Breathe and Breathing’ Series by Odette Tolksdorf

Double Vision …the title of this show….refers to an eye condition, Wikipedia informed me… (I could not resist) whereby the eyes when looking at a single object, see it twice, the effect is like squinting.

I like this title for the Sally and Odette’s exhibition, as it not only points in a humorous way to two artists having different views, but it also reminds us that there is always another way of looking at things. That there is the actual artwork the viewer sees when entering the gallery, and then there is the story behind each work…the story that triggered the work in the artist as well as the ‘threads’ that are spun in the viewers imagination while looking at the work. Nobel Peace Laureate Eric Kandel, speaks of the beholders share which completes the process between artist and viewer.

Which really tells us that something is happening to us while we are viewing an artwork…and the thoughts triggered have less to do with the actual work then with our own inter psychic realities …such is the power of art.

Thus in a way, art lets us look into both directions…the outer world and the world within us. I find this especially the case in Sally’s piece Surrender. While the trigger for the work might have come from Sally’s experiences, it has universal appeal, as we all can identify with the need to let go of things, thoughts, ideas that might be not only be counter productive but actually harmful. This is especially true, when we have been hurt, and have allowed the woundedness within to create an armor that we hope shields us, but it actually separates us from the world, and ultimately from living live fully

When I look at Surrender, I see the threshold that allowed the other works to surface. Art and healing go hand in hand. Nietzsche already said, that when the soul is in distress, art comes as an expert healer and sorceress, turning difficult thoughts and emotions into something that can be looked at, and talked about.

The titles often give further clues to the meaning behind the work…Axis Mundi….the tree of life….Towards Infinity…a continous search for the self…Synergy acknowledging the different elements that strive for wholeness…

The vivid colours in many of the pieces give the works a celebratory look…a triumphant transition of the souls search and healing process after the work Surrender. The repeated almond shape of the Vesica Pisces, which presents itself in much of Sally’s work, speaks of her continued search for unity and balance. Vesica Piscis, the place where two equal circles overlap and create a third shape – a liminal space – is at the root of sacred geometry… I understand Sally’s repeated use of this shape as a search for the essence of oneness

vesica pisces jpg

Sally runs workshops for community projects and university students, teaching embroidery skills, drawing, journal writing and her hugely popular Red Shoes workshops, which are aimed at empowering people through helping them find their own creative voice.

Sally is not only a teacher and lecturer and a leading figure in the textile world, she is also a landscape painter and wildlife activist.

Growing up in what sound like a magical time on a remote farm in Zimbabwe, her love for the bush is evident in her photographs and paintings. Here in this show, in the three framed works showing photographs of barren landscapes over which hang little Travel Bags combine her love for remote places, traveling and needlework. It is again the search for oneness that I see in it.

Click on the images below to see Sally’s works on show:

While both artists focus on their respective tasks and work with the same medium, needle and thread, their artistic output, copious as it is, is quite distinct from each other. While Sally works with her own hand-dyed fabrics and thread onto black cloth and frequently includes text and found objects in her work, Odette’s clear lines and textures as well as her choice of strong colours, on the other hand conjure up a light filled high spirited Lebensfreude.

While ‘double’ refers to the two streams of artistic output, ‘vision’ here speaks less of the actual mechanics of our eyes, but rather it refers to the farsightedness in both artists as they impart their skill and knowledge through their teaching, ensuring the spreading of a wellbeing through creative empowerment.

The departure point for this exhibition might have been one goal, one vision for the artists ….being friends it is also likely that they discussed ideas about it while they worked towards it…the resulting body of work though speaks of separate paths. Needlework techniques acquired over a life time of individual practice… meet here, as Sally and Odette share some of their work with us … thus giving the viewer their gift of double vision….which lets us …while seeing transformations of their experiences – contemplate our own. Thank you.”

Gina Niederhumer

Cape Town, November 5, 2015

The exhibition remains open until 18th December 2015. Please visit and enjoy!

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Dancing in Limpopo

One of the things that excites me most when traveling through Africa, is having an opportunity to watch traditional African dance. I am enthralled by the expressive nature of the dance, the uninhibited passion, colour and movement, which for an artist of any genre, provides heaps of inspiration.

So we are still on our travels through Limpopo and Petra, having been the cultural officer of Limpopo for many years, is the perfect person to travel with, as she knows so many good dance groups and is always able to introduce me to dance that I have never seen before. This province has a rich cultural heritage, so is a particularly good area to find amazing dancers with beautiful vibrant costume. On my last visit in 2009 I saw great examples of Tsonga dance, images of which are still clearly etched in my mind.

A swirl of fabric during a traditional Tsonga dance

A swirl of fabric during a traditional Tsonga dance

A Tsonga healer dances up a storm

A Tsonga healer dancing in a village near Tzaneen

This trip, Petra has arranged for us to visit a dance group in the village of  Mamaila, home of kgošhi (chief) Rhapahlelo. She does not know much about them, but was very impressed with their costumes when she saw them at a cultural festival some months ago, and has decided that this would be a good time to find out more. The leader of the group, Sarah Machete, is here to meet us and leads us to the local school where her group are all assembled.

Sarah Machete, a teacher and member of the dance group

Sarah Machete, a teacher and member of the dance group

We are introduced to the group of women, seated in colourful array upon the school chairs and are told that we are now in the company of the Kopanang Fighters! They are VaBirwa wa Raphahlelo, a Northern Sotho group, closely related to the Lobedu of the rain queen Modjadji fame.

I smile at the name they have given themselves, but looking at this group of fiercely proud Northern Sotho women, it certainly seems to fit. I sense that I am amongst empowered African women, who have identified a dream and are following it. The ladies are eager to share their story and Sarah recalls how it all began.

To begin with just a few women in the village got together to practice their traditional dance. They had no costumes and really just danced for recreation. Sarah, who is a teacher, used to see the group on her way to and from school. They encouraged her to join them, but Sarah says that she resisted, thinking “no, I am a teacher, I cannot do this dancing; this is for the illiterate women.” She also believed that she was too old and that her legs were too sore. However, she was persuaded, joined the group and found that the exercise was the best thing for her. Then they heard about competitions that were being held around the country and were encouraged to take part. Their first attempt failed, due to them not having proper shoes, so they went to a local businessman and performed in front of his shop to draw customers and he in turn bought takkies for the whole group. They took part in several more competitions, and though they didn’t win any prizes, they looked at those who were winning and made the necessary adjustments to their performance and dress.

The group began to grow as more women wanted to be a part of this positive and empowering initiative. Their costumes evolved from one show to the next and soon became the colourful uniform that it is to today. Despite the earlier disappointments, the women never gave up and after a particularly successful event at the Meropa Casino  in Polokwane, were soon winning all the prizes. Since then they have traveled far and wide and have performed at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, the State Theatre in Pretoria, at Parliament and even Robben Island. They have brought out a CD of their songs and dances and frequently receive requests to perform at important events. I am impressed by the group’s perseverance and determination to succeed and I now completely understand the significance of their name. These women have every reason to feel proud.

Their outfits are a colourful blend of Tsonga and Northern Sotho traditions, given a modern twist.

Click on the images below to get a feel of how feisty these ladies are!

It’s been a fun, interesting and inspiring morning and to crown it all before we leave, both Petra and I are presented with beautiful beaded head bands. I treasure my gift and will use it to remind me never to give up on my dreams.

The end of a happy morning, Petra and I are presented with beaded gifts

The end of a happy morning, Petra and I are presented with beaded gifts

Categories: Inspiration, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Marks from the Past at Makgabeng: Part 2

If you would like to read Part 1 of this series, click here

It’s Saturday 7th December 2013 and Petra and I have left the Makgabeng Lodge en route to our meeting on the mountain. We are heading in the general direction of the plateau, when Petra confesses that she is not absolutely sure where to go, but knowing that she is strongly intuitive, I spur her on, trusting that we will find our way. As we get closer to the sandstone cliffs, the red sand on the track is getting a whole lot softer and deeper, and Petra engages low gear, puts her foot down and we swerve and grind our way to higher, firmer ground. After taking a couple of wrong turns, we are confident that we are now on the right track, and as we make our way up through a gap in the hillside, we leave the valley behind.

Approaching the Makgabeng Plateau

Approaching the Makgabeng Plateau

As we reach the level of the top of the ridge, the landscape opens up to a completely different scene. Hidden beyond the rest of the world are small farm plots, scattered amongst the most spectacular, imposing domes of layered sandstone rocks. I feel that we have entered a sacred space, a place only known to the few who live here, and maybe a few lucky researchers who have been up this way to view the jewels that it holds.

An agricultural Eden on top of the Makgabeng Plateau

The Makgabeng Plateau

In every direction there are incredible mounds of rock

In every direction there are sculptured rock massifs

Not sure which way we are going, we make a stop at a homestead, situated at the foot of an impressive mountain peak. Fortunately we have found Jonas’s relatives who soon show us the way to his house at the base of the Thabananthlana peak. He is ready and waiting, eager to show us his playground amongst these spectacular rocks.

Jonas's family live at the base of the peak of Thabananthlana

Jonas’s family live close to the peak of Thabananthlana

Twenty minutes later, squatting on my haunches under a rock overhang, I am completely immersed in a world of trance dances, shamans and n/om (understood to be similar to chi or the life force).  For the first time, I am getting a fuller, clearer understanding of what these finely executed paintings on the rock wall above me, are all about. Suddenly it all makes sense, and as our guide, Jonas Tlouamma, describes the transfer of power from the dying eland to the one who drinks the blood, I am with him and can imagine this power he speaks of. He is mesmerizing to listen to, and speaks of these trance events with a passionate and eloquent  conviction. I realize how fortunate I am to be sitting here with him, as Jonas knows these hills intimately, having explored every inch of them on foot, and being largely responsible for finding and documenting most of the many hundreds of San, Khoekhoe and Northern Sotho sites that remain in this area. He worked for many years alongside Ed and Cathelijne Eastwood as they gathered information that culminated in the writing of their book Capturing the Spoor. Jonas is a master storyteller, but it is his vast knowledge of the area and it’s previous inhabitants that is the most impressive. He is passionate about his work and clearly enjoys sharing what he knows. I am enthralled and so grateful to him for making this such an adventure.

Jonas explains the meaning behind the beautifully executed San rock art

Jonas explains the meaning behind the beautifully executed San rock art

San rock art in the Makgabeng Plateau

San rock art in the Makgabeng Plateau

The animal on the left emerges from a crack in the rock, which according to Jonas suggests that it comes from the spirit world.

The animal on the left emerges from a crack in the rock, which according to Jonas suggests that it comes from the spirit world.

What makes Makgabeng such a remarkable rock art site, is that it has good examples of three clearly identifiable layers of history, with visual documents from the San, the Khoekhoe and the Northern Sotho all in the same area. In many cases they overlap and interlock, making it all the more fascinating. When inquiring about who came first to this area, I am told that the San arrived first, then the Khoekhoe, but that there was a long period of overlap and interraction, shown by the fact that in some cases the San art appears below the Khoekhoe and in other places it’s on top. The Northern Sotho arrived some time later.

This is the terrain in which these hundreds of rock art sites are hidden

This is the terrain in which these hundreds of rock art sites are hidden

After listening to Jonas’s account of the San, whose delicately painted works are fairly well known and recognized, I am eager to see what other sites there are and whether there is any variation to this theme and style. We walk a short distance over flat expanses of rocks and descend into a shady stream bed, before climbing up a steep and overgrown pathway to a well hidden overhang. As I push past the last bush, I gasp not only for breath, of which I am extremely short, but from amazement at the scene that lies before me. A rock overhang covered with white drawings. This I am told, is a Northern Sotho female initiation site. The drawings are predominantly white and have obviously been executed with fingers, as the lines are much thicker than those fine line brush paintings of the San.  Much of the imagery in this and other sites appears to connect to female fertility, with the women’s aprons in various forms featuring very strongly.

Jonas explains the meaning of the symbols at this predominantly Khoekhoe rock art site

Jonas explains the meaning of the symbols at this predominantly Northern Sotho rock art site

This rock overhang contains clear finger painted images of women's aprons

This rock overhang contains clear finger painted images of women’s aprons

Making our way down through thick bush after viewing the viewing the Khoekhoe artwork

Making our way down through thick bush en route to the next site

We return to the car and after a short drive, park in the bush and follow Jonas through the dense undergrowth. I am entranced by the beauty around and above me, particularly the towering rock face that looms overhead, and am completely unaware that we are within metres of a major South African rock art site.

We are about to enter one of the most amazing overhangs that I have ever seen

We are about to enter one of the most amazing overhangs that I have ever seen

Before I know it, we have entered a cool rock overhang and Jonas has seated himself at the base of a frieze of dramatic protest art. He is watching for my reaction, and all I can say is ‘Wow!!!’ I have never seen anything like this before and take a moment to let it sink in. The graphics are incredible, with trains, railway lines and station intersections, along with wagons, people on horses and men standing rigid with shoulders hunched. The lines are thick, suggesting they were painted with fingers and the white pigment stands out in stark contrast to the ochre red sandstone walls.

Jonas relaxes beneath a frieze of Northern Sotho protest art

Jonas relaxes beneath a frieze of Northern Sotho protest art

A detail of the train taking the captives to jail in Pretoria

A detail of the train that has taken the captives to jail in Pretoria

Petra listens to Jonas as he explains the meaning of the artwork

Petra listens to Jonas as he explains the meaning of the artwork

A depiction of Boers, with a woman and child

A depiction of Boers, with a woman and child in the mid section

The overhang viewed from the far side

The overhang viewed from the far side

So who painted these images and what are they all about?

Jonas tells us that this mural is the work of the Northern Sotho or the Hananwa and documents the story of the Maleboho war of 1894. During this period, the Boer republic under Paul Kruger was in need of land and cheap labour for the mines, so in order to force people off the land and into the mines to earn money, a hut tax was instituted. Chief Maleboho, leader of the Hananwa, refused to pay, and Kruger gathered his forces together and attacked the Hananwa.
For many months Maleboho was able to hold out against the Boer forces, despite increasingly vicious tactics, which included the seizing of Hananwa cattle and the burning of their houses.
When it became clear that it was necessary, Maleboho headed to the hills for safety, but eventually hunger and thirst forced him to surrender and Maleboho and his men were loaded onto a train and taken to Pretoria, found guilty in a military court and jailed. In 1900 the British forces took Pretoria and in recognition of Maleboho’s valiant fight, he and his men were released and their land returned.
The whole story is documented on these rocks, beginning with scenes of armed men on horseback firing their weapons, and ending with Maleboho and his men being locked up in a Pretoria jail and the train leaving them behind. Central to the scene are railway lines going off in various directions and a very impressive train, which has so much movement it’s quite riveting to observe.

The telling of the story is very powerful and I sit there in silence for a while trying to absorb it, when Jonas suggests I have a closer look to see if I can find something else of interest. I inspect the wall, feeling the pressure of trying to find something I cannot see, with Jonas smiling knowingly in the background. Then to my delight, I see it! Beyond the layer of strong white marks of the resistance art, lie the tell tale delicate lines of the San. Men with bow and arrows, domestic animals which look like sheep and cattle, and the unmistakable stripes of zebra.

Fine depictions of animals, painted by the San

Fine depictions of domestic animals, painted by the San

San drawings of men with bows and arrows

San drawings of men with bow and arrows

I am completely blown away by this mountaintop gallery, and feel so filled to capacity that I can understand why it’s not possible to visit any more sites today. With almost a thousand sites to see, there is plenty of reason to return here someday.

We bid a fond farewell to our guide and teacher, the one and only Jonas Tlouamma, and criss-cross our way back across the plateau before descending into the valley.

On our way home, before leaving the village of Senwabarwana (previously Bochum), Petra pulls up alongside some deserted houses. This place, she tells me, is the original leper colony, started by Lutheran missionary and nurse, Helene Franze, over a hundred years ago. The houses are all empty, but interestingly have all their doors and windows in tact. Nothing appears to have been tampered with, and as we walk around from house to house the atmosphere is so eery and full of sadness that it forces me to wonder about the poor souls who once lived here, locked away from the outer world. One wonders what stories they could tell upon their cold cement walls.

The deserted leper colony at Bochum

The deserted Helene Franze leper colony at Senwabarwana

So here we have one more layer of history. I have so much to think about as we wend our way home, but one thing is clear that these layers and layers of silence have left me wanting to know more.

Surely if we can access and acknowledge the past, we can appreciate and live more fully in the present and make better informed decisions in the future?

Categories: Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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