Category Archives: photography

The tree of life – Woodstock

wall 1 in progress - all my little helpers

About two weeks ago I had a conversation with the man whose house I was painting about why I do what I do – why travel so far away from home, why decide to work outdoors – in short, why is some random girl from Canada painting his house?  What’s in it for me?

The thing is, right now it’s not really about me.  When I left I had a pretty good idea of the kind of work I was going to be doing here.  Before we went out to find a wall, I had a solid plan for the first wall I was going to paint.  As a side note, in Woodstock that process involves walking around and asking people if you can paint their house or shop – what a nice change from dealing with permits and paperwork in Vancouverland. My plan, as always, involved portraiture.  I don’t think I’ve ever painted a wall with anything but a picture of a person, regardless of medium.  But in this case, that wasn’t really an option.

in progress

It’s Thursday and I am painting a forest of trees growing from his front stoop.  There’s another one, a big one, on his side wall, overlooking a patch of bare earth where eventually a garden will grow.  It’s Thursday and he is fasting.  Like many in this community, he is Muslim – and for religious reasons, was not going to be ok with faces on his wall.  So, he asked me if I could paint him a tree.  Ok, I can paint trees.  I’ve been drawing them for years, but never put one on a wall before.  So, a drastic last minute change of plans.  After all, he has to live with my work on his home every day until he moves out or paints over it.

We’ve talked quite a bit as I work, about how in situations like this, yes I am painting for myself, but even moreso than that, it’s about giving back to a community that has welcomed me with open arms.  Woodstock has its problems, some of which are very similar to problems in the DTES back home, but on a completely different scale.  And like Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, the sense of community is so very strong.  There is more tangible hope here.  Yes, like in many poor neighborhoods, gentrification is increasingly becoming a reality – but here there are also positive changes coming from within.  Write on Africa/ A WORD OF ART has been curating and organizing mural installations in and around Woodstock for the past two years, and when you walk through the streets you can feel the pride that people take in their homes, in their neighborhood.  The children are playing in the streets and going to the gallery every day for open art sessions.  They crowd around me as I work, singing and asking a million questions and helping me paint the wall.  On the second day, we all write our names at the base of the big wall, and the older kids and adults join in – a community of roots nourishing a tree of life.

This is why I do what I do.  Why I am here, halfway around the world, painting a strangers’ house.  Because I believe in the power of art and creativity to effect positive change.  I believe that if you give love and respect to a community, it will be contagious.  I believe that I – that we – can help change how people see themselves, their surroundings, and their place in the world.

Complete

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Painting in Khayelitsha

had to abandon this one.

Our wonderful new friend Juma took David and I out to Khayelitsha for the day to paint a couple of pieces on the walls of a children’s centre.  Khayelitsha is a township that was established in 1985.  It’s about a 20 minute drive from the city centre.  Cape Town is such a strange mix of first world and third world existing in such close proximity.  The townships are overwhelmingly huge, way bigger than i imagined.  Wood shacks and small houses for miles.  Beautiful people living very hard lives.  Puts things into perspective.

I was working on the side of a creche and the woman whose yard I was standing in took issue with me standing there.  Community politics, nothing we could do about it.  Unfortunately this was as far as I got before I had to pack up and go.

The source image for this work was taken by Pavement Specials in Woodstock during I ART SA.

Some pictures I took while I was painting.  All the kids wanted their picture taken…

David painted a lovely piece while we were there….here are some pics on his blog.

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The Cape Town Adventure Begins

I have no words for how amazing and magical this place is.  I’ve been here two days and have already completely fallen in love.  I start painting a big big wall tomorrow, with David Shillinglaw and Freddy Sam.  We have many many big plans for the next month, and I’m really excited!  I will write more later…here are some pictures of the awesomeness thus far.

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