Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Krotoa




During the Site_Specific International Land Art Biennale I contributed my performance poetry to the Fences  project of artist and cultural activist Erica Lü
ttich. She discovered the story of Krotoa, also known as Eva, and she and her Boitumelo Sewing Project knitted a beautiful and richly colourful cloak worn by Mokhema Hlaganani, who played the part of Krotoa. 
Interesting to note is that Krotoa worked in the household of Jan van Riebeeck from the age of 11. She served him for about 10 years until he left the Cape in 1662. She was the niece of Autshumao, also known as Harry die Strandloper. Seeing that she could speak several languages she was appointed as interpreter, emmisary and negotiator between the newly arrived Europeans and her own people, the Khoisan. She was related to royal Khoi family and this made her even more desirable as a pawn for Van Riebeeck. She was highly regarded as someone with great diplomatic skill and a knack for intelligence gathering, and this while still only a teenager. (She is also known as being instrumental in the emergence of the Afrikaans language).  Although she was the first Khoi woman to marry a European, Pieter van Meerhoff, and the first Khoi to be baptized as a Christian, she was always more at home with her own people. Another Khoi interpreter, Nommoa, accused her of being a traitor to the Khoi. One can only imagine the conflict of loyalty and identity she was experiencing. Toward the end of Van Riebeeck's stay in the Cape of Good Hope he started to doubt Krotoa's intentions and fidelity to his cause and believed she was passing on strategic information to her own people so as to turn them against the colonists. Because of this struggle with her identity and belonging, and possibly for other reasons she was lead to drink and other behaviours that the biased tellers of history would make us believe. The last 5 years of her young life she spent incarcerated on Robben Island. 
Why her story was not known for all this while: her blood runs through some prominent white Afrikaner families. 
The piece I conceived consisted of five poems  - "Fences" dealing with the Colonialist/Ownership/Safety theme and the other four poems, "Vir Krotoa", "Vir Sara Baartman" (written by Diana Ferrus), "Aan Ingrid" and "Street Woman"  inspired by women who were challenged and/or scarred by man-driven societies. 
By the visionary hands of Erica, she brought Plettenberg Bay's neighbouring communities together to participate in various art projects, including the rigging up of the fences used as part of the performance. Kudos to Erica for the inspiring and heartfelt work she does! 

Two years ago I wrote In die Grond en Blom skyn die hoop - a poem touching on woman's strength, her eccentricity and hopefulness. When I came across Krotoa's story, I thought back on this poem and saw how well the words fitted her. I re-wrote certain phrases and tweaked here and there for the poem to become:


Vir Krotoa

sy het vele warmgebakte kranse ontdek langs die woude
het hul gevul met klippe, voetspore en uitgekapte wense
die dou lek sy vroeg-oggend van die boegoeblare
en vee haar wange met die sagte son wat deur die skeure breek
sing sy alomheen die liedere wat resonant oor die vlaktes aanrol
'n vrou soos hierdie mag nie stilbly

hoor hoe haar stem deur klip en geskiedenis breek
sien hoe sy vrouwees bevry
deur met grond liefde te maak
in haar skyn die hoop
wat nog by ons mense spook

en so bly sy opstaan, 'n ware vrou,
gevul met drome en verwarring
sy doen haar daaglikse pligte
met grond onder haar naels, borduur sy die kontinente aan een
sy is alleen, net sy en haar haar tong
praat sy vir die onthalwe van ander,
maar nooit vir die onthalwe van haarself
prinses die een dag, 'n pion die ander,
haar identiteit verskeur en verkrag
'n vrou soos hierdie word maklik misverstaan

hoor hoe haar stem deur klip en geskiedenis breek
sien hoe sy vrouwees bevry
deur met grond liefde te maak
in haar skyn die hoop
wat nog by ons mense spook

en so het sy oor die berge met haar aardsvlerke gevlieg
nakend soos net die veld en lug daarvan hou
leerken sy die laaste helder paaie van oorlewing
dra vuur en klippe aan om die laaste vestiging te bou
waar lug nog diep ingeasem kan word
en grond diep gegtrap kan word sodat groen lewe
uitrys uit water en klei en 'n nuwe wêreld aanbreek

hoor hoe haar stem deur klip en geskiedenis breek
sien hoe sy vrouwees bevry
deur met grond liefde te maak
in haar skyn die hoop
wat nog by ons mense spook

soms verloor sy haar kop, maar nooit haar hart
sy druk haar lippe en bors ferm teen die aarde
voel die vibrasie van minerale krag
grond is bly om te voel hoe diep hierdie vrou haar spoor trap
'n vrou soos hierdie kan nie stilbly
in haar skyn die hoop
wat nog by ons mense spook


Photos taken by Erica Luttich

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Earth Pods



Photographer Werner Strauss has recently sent a few pictures he captured a few weeks after the AfrikaBurn festival of Kim Goodwin's wattle structures, The Earth Pods. With the photos he sent us a very moving letter expressing his gratitude for our contribution to the festival. It really touched both Kim and I to receive the words and images from Werner. 

It is the first photos we have seen with clean and clear space - no tents or costumed merrymakers in the back or foreground. 
Sun, shadows and textures perfectly captured.
Thank you Werner for this gift.

I have been penning down several bits of writing inspired by the Earth Pods but could not get anything off the ground. With the arrival of these photos something just clicked and the poem started to come together:

with hands we make things
of the earth
and for the earth
we weigh
we measure
we lift
we bend
we pull
we stretch
we hit
we weave
make nests for our creativity
and so the Earth Pods have risen
they have come to life
and stand on their own three feet
independent and strong 
slightly ruffled by the wind
but never blown down
a wee bit stirred by the onlooker's wonderment
but never collapsing
lightly rustled by questionings of what they are
but never limited by any speculation 
they be anything the sky wants them to be - 
deep ocean creatures
bustling microbes
alien spacecrafts
the sound of kissing
seeds picked from our souls
restless fertility
a tolbos tumbled by the winds
the fingerprints of the gods
nests for our wandering souls
fruits from the spheres
temples
silence
wooden syllables spelling poetry in the sky
moving filaments seen on the insides of our closed eyes
the mating dance of desert wind and sand

sssssshhhhh

listen, they are singing with
the vocal cords
of
forsaken trees
hold them in the blink of your eye
they are treasures of the earth





Thursday, 8 August 2013

vlugteling

my naels byt ek met 'n ritmiese onsekerheid
die sweet korrel tussen my borste
ek is vlugteling uit die stad van Woord
ek deins met onafgemete tree
val oor ongelykhede in die kobbelstrate
tuur terug oor die afstand van my vlug
my lot, my lot!
Woord lê in puin
my tong verklip tot stilt...

refugee

i bite my nails with a rhythmical uncertainty
the sweat beads between my breasts
i am a refugee from the city of Word
i stumble with unmeasured steps
trip over the unevenness of the cobbled streets
i gaze back over the distance of my flight
my fate, my fate!
Word lies in ruins
my tongue petrifies to silen...


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

vir die onthalwe van nie verstaan

vir die onthalwe van nie verstaan
voel ek woorde aan jou
trap ek die verhoog met my lyf

tou draai ek om my hande
drink uit leё koppies woorde
speld veiligheidspelde aan 'n swart hemp

sit voor 'n sonhelder sak vol nartjies
skil een na die ander se ronde koppe af
om die soetsappige vlees teen my honger tong te lê

vlos ek my tande sodat jy my mond kan aanskou
borsel ek my hare om die borsel te herhaar
lees ek uit 'n boek met wit blaaie in persies geskryf 

stapel ek klippe op in 'n wankel hoop
gaan sit ek langs die ou man met die wynglas
wat hoop ek kom sit nie langs hom nie

die alleen druppel rooiwyn lê sy fossiel-lyf
teen die holte van die glas
tilt dit na my mond en proe gis en stof

vingers van sop lek my tong
bodem van bord val op my spoeg
die roosmaryn stik die brood

die mond van die tygerberge tuur soos 'n grot
my tong troos ek met druiwe
dood gekook in suiker

die vrou wat jou afloer uit haar donker oё
groet my met haar lyf
die kop van my regter skouer ruik na jasmyn

Monday, 5 August 2013

Ode to Garlic


Oh Garlic, what homage
can we bring you
and your graced state
of bulbousness?
Packed tightly into
your little white dome
we want to break you open
and spread your cloves like
shining white pebbles onto
the shores of our meals.

Oh, Allium Sativum,
brother of Onion, Leek,
Chive and Shallot,
you turn my mouth
into a warm hearth.
You who have grown
rich and full in
the dark soil of the earth.
Proud should the lily be
that you are part of her family.
  
When we peel you
your skin breaks into
the fine wings of a white butterfly,
flitting and refusing to be taken hold of.
When we crush, bake and chew you
you suffuse the walls, 
our skin, tongues and throats
with you pungency.

Your strength does not
lie in size or weaponry;
it lies in the way you smell of the sea,
of the suurbossies on the dunes
of the dark moist corners of the Tsitsikamma
and of soft, curled-up young ferns.

I grow impassioned with
the spirit of you.
With your unavoidable presence
no long-fanged demons
will walk through my doors.
If the Egyptians invocated you 
at the ceremony of taking oaths
and the Greeks piled you onto cairns of stones 
at the crossroads for an offering to Hecate,
then I can take a hold of you,
smear you on my forehead and temples
and beseech the poetry of you
to land upon my tongue. 

As much as you try
you will never be
insipid, tasteless,
dull, boring or bland -
you hold too much excitement
and urging energy of restless underground wells.

I go to the market,
enticed by onions, potatoes,
ginger, squash,
coriander and mushrooms,
yet I am never satisfied
until you lie with your orbicular lightness
in my basket.
  
Stuffed in olives,
crushed onto pizzas
grilled with prawns
sliced into pickles
blended with pesto
concocted with green beans
mixed into hummus
brewed in soups
fused with pasta
alchemized with butter
and
united with olive oil - 
you are herb and spice,
fruit and vegetable,
fire and lily,
gold and silver!

Hail the garlic crushers
for theirs is a divine deed.
Releasing the bulb’s bitter-sweet juices to all of the world
might just dismantle all arrogance,
melt all iciness 
and  
break down all pretense. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Verrukking van Klank

Performing with Morné van Heerden at the Kindlewood Soirée in Johannesburg.

vlugtig vlieg die ritmes uit ons vingers
en draai ons in 'n kolk van ekstatiese malkoppigheid
totdat swart en wit,
spier en hout,
ek en jy
een word
die dans ons vasboei
die melodie ons in hegtenis neem
en die wispelturigheid van die sikloniese ritmika
ons verewig gevangene hou
in die verrukking van klank

 exuberance of sound

flightlily the rhythms fly from our fingers
and we turn in a whirl of ecstatic madness
till black and white,
muscle and wood,
you and me
become one
till the dance shackles us
the melody takes us captive
and the moodiness of the cyclonic rhythm
ensnares us forever
in the exuberance of sound

Saturday, 3 August 2013

ontmaskerende koorstigtelikheid van klank

ons vingers
skud die
sweet van
die klankekoors
oor die
gate van
ore wat
die toevoer
is na
die ondergrond
van julle
siele
die kwiksilwer
in die
buis van
julle monde
breek oop
met die
druk hitte
van die
ontmaskerende koorstigtelikheid
van klank

unmasking feverability of sound

our fingers
shake the 
sweat of
the sound-fever
over the
holes of
ears that
is the
subway
to the underground
of your 
souls
the mercury
in the
tube of
your mouth
breaks open
with the
pressured heat
of the
unmasking feverability
of sound