Into the New Year

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Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516), Ship of Fools, fragment of a triptych. Musée de Louvre, Paris.

Dear friends,

Contemplating The Ship of Fools could well serve to alert us to the follies in our own lives if not the world at large at a time when all our good New Year’s resolutions have dulled away.
Bosch’s work speaks to us as freshly as it must have moved people at the turn of the 15th into the 16th century. People then stood with their minds and habits, thoughts, rituals, beliefs, expectations and realisations of life half still enslaved within the feudality of the Middle Ages and halfway into the era of modernity which is our own.

The ship of fools is very much alive in our time, adrift on the ocean of general intemperance, fanaticism, pernicious and evil intents, little fat clowns playing with intercontinental ballistic toys while watching the latest massacres and drownings in high definition.

We all know or feel that our world has come to an end in its present form and that the process of major reforms has already begun. These adjustments will be painful for all of us, in particular the ruling parties, and will invariably be met with subterfuge to derail the process of change.

There is no time for turning back. The time has arrived to be bold and brave. To fight the good fight where it counts: on the battlefield of personal commitment, never giving up on the dream of creating a world for all to thrive in.

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It is a fight worth fighting.

With love to all of you from
Colleen and Walter
Stellenbosch, 10 January 2017

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Cape Town’s Waterfront on a sunny winter’s morning

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The Waterfront in Cape Town is a working and truly walkable harbour.

 

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Tugs in a row.

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The ferry to the once infamous, now famous island.

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Another more powerful tug.

 

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A relatively recent addition to the entertaining elements with Table Mountain as a backdrop.

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Heroes of the struggle, crowded out.

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Nobel Square – the bronze statues of the four South African Nobel Peace Price recipients (from left to right): Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.

Albert Luthuli (1898-1967) President-General of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1952-1967. He was awarded the 1960 Nobel Peace Price “for his fight against racial discrimination”. Luthuli House – the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg – is named after him. – Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu (born in 1931) received the Nobel Peace Price in 1984 for his “role as a unifying leader figure in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa”.  – F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela  both received the Nobel Peace Price jointly in 1993 “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa”.

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Tutu – a representation of His Grace Anglican Archbishop emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu. A man without fear and with numerous honours bestowed on him, he too has raised his compelling voice against corruption and licentious spending of public funds by government officials.

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In the Watershed – a new home for African craft, art and design. – Spinning and knitting. The winters are cold enough in South Africa to make woollen garments highly desirable. South African wool and Mohair is of a supreme quality and now Alpacas have been introduced and are flourishing, almost as sumptuous as cashmere.

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These so-called “Colonials”, originally from West and Central Africa are very much in demand.

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Satirizing colonial officials or expression of new class consciousness? There is always a kind of humourous ironical smugness present in these figurines.

 

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Ardmore ceramics in KwaZulu Natal have opened a whole new world of elaborate and decorative ceramic crafts popping up everywhere.

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Elaborate jewellery is traditional and creates real treasures using, over and above glass beads, fibres of all kinds and wire work, creating rich embellishments.

 

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A jolly little steam train …

 

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… doing tours all all around the Waterfront.

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Music, formal and informal, ethno bongo, Jazz and vocal …

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… buskers and concerts, it’s all here.

 

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Jazz and Cape Town are synonymous – the talent overflows.

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“Tavern of the Seas”, Cape of Storms, now a place of real Good Hope, this waterfront development has elevated Cape Town from being a large town to a cosmopolitan city on a manageable scale.

With best greetings as always from
Colleen & Walter

Stellenbosch, Sunday 12 June 2016

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Heritage Day – a walk up Lion’s Head

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Sketch of Zulu warrior by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, 1913

Tuesday was “Heritage Day” – so called to remind us of our cultural diversity and with that to remind us of our unity as a nation. People with Zulu ancestry are celebrating the remembrance of Shaka Zulu (c.1787-1828), once king of the Zulu nation. Others are proposing this day to be called “Braai Day” the South African term for “Barbeque”. What does the rest of the country do? It’s a holiday, all right, and most Capetonians are taking to the hills. And so we did – a walk up Lion’s Head, a landscape feature from a certain angle intimating a recumbent lion with head held up high. Devil’s Peak on the East and Lion’s Head to the West, form the shoulders of Table Mountain.

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View of Camp’s Bay and the Twelve Apostles from Lion’s Head, the Western coast of the Cape Peninsula.

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Gaby insisted on this walk and off we went.

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View of Robben Island with Seapoint in the foreground.

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Signal Hill on the left, Cape Town harbour and City centre in the middle.

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Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain from the slopes of Lion’s Head.

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Resting here …

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…  seeing the trail so crowded, we resisted the final assault. 

“Shaka Zulu Day”, “Heritage Day” or “Braai Day” – they all address South Africa as a conglomerate nation. Zulus, Xhosas and Sothos the main tribal contributors to the mix, Khoihkoi and San salting the earth, the coloured people as the element of bonding, the Afrikaner people, themselves a conglomerate, as the main driving force, the British as administrators, Asians, Jews, Germans, Portuguese, Greek and many others as artisans, traders, cultivators – a vibrant net of cultures, attitudes, prides, languages and feelings of wanting to be heard, seen, to belong and be part of the whole. All these were represented on our walk up Lion’s Head on Heritage Day.

With love from
Colleen & Walter
Hout Bay, Friday 27 September 2013

The End of History

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Living in Betty’s Bay for the moment, living in bliss for a while, where the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans overlap, and where at this time of the year, whales, sea otters, porcupines, baboons, leopards, francolins, guinea fowls, mongoose and a myriad of birds share sea and land with us, there is not much of an edge right now for history to be considered, at least the end of it, one would think.
But then, apart from living in bliss (whatever that might be, but it sounds good and it is, of course, true), we do read a lot, watch films every day, tune into Aljazeera and are on the edge of the continent, connected to the world.

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Overberg landscape in winter between Villiersdorp and Caledon.

“The End of History” – Francis Fukuyama’s essayistic thesis* that with the fall of the Berlin Wall our ideological evolution had come to an end and would herald a new age of liberal democracies and free flow of market capitalism around the globe.

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This thesis according to Ralf Dahrendorf and others gave Fukuyama his 15 minutes of fame (Andy Warhol). Yet, there is still something to be said about the end of history. History as we know it, is punctuated by wars with a beginning and an end. The borders have become diffuse. There are no clear beginnings or ends. Is there a civil war in Syria? Drone attacks – do they qualify as instruments of war? Who is waging what kind of war against who? Borders within are diffuse as in Egypt right now. There is a great confusion in the world about where we are going – ecologically, economically, ideologically – there are just too many battle lines. We are beleaguered and fighting on many unseen and formerly unheard of fronts: you thought banks and their CEOs were looking after your money and the common good? You thought rhinos, elephants, leopards, seals, whales or unborn babies were safe in environments best suited to them? Killing people with nerve gas is not okay, but killing them with bombs and grenades is? You thought the scramble for Africa was over? The exploitation of her natural resources has just begun! And the Pope resigns. Somehow it seems, mankind has lost the plot.

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A Station of the Cross stepping up to PilgramsbergRegensburg/Lower Bavaria region. A main gathering point for pilgrims on the road to Compostela.

Maybe not. Maybe we are just overextended or neurotic as a species, vulnerable and not accountable for our actions. It is all very confusing. Yet, there is so much greatness in the world in all spheres of life and not often enough spoken about – the unsung heroes of daily life. The so-called great conquerers of old have played their part and make for bad role models. What we need now is a measure of sensibility, greatness in small things. Modesty. Unpretentiousness. Humility. Respect for all forms of life on this planet, including our own and that of others. Co-existence will be the new history. History as we know it must come to an end.

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Mosella at Remich/Luxemburg.

With love as always
Walter & Colleen
Betty’s Bay, Saturday 24 August 2013

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*Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the last Man. Free Press 1992.

Mutually beneficial communities

Our children are questioning the wisdom not so much of our institutions but of our ways of living together as human beings on planet earth. We live, they say, wastefully and could share with each other so much more of our talents.

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Coastal road near Gordon’s Bay on a winter morning in August.

How true is that and how so very naïve. Much of what we see and hear of, daily, are the results of manipulations by people exerting power and people who willingly or forcibly collaborate. Two examples: the classical one of how power with a broad sweep of suppressive tactics is abused to preserve the privileges of the ruling class: the so-called democratic election in Zimbabwe. 

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Strawberry fields near Stellenbosch very early in August.

The other: a well-known farmer in the Robertson district widely respected by his own staff and the community at large is targeted by the executors of a political agenda which publicly declares to bring democratic rule and governance in the Cape Province to an end before the next elections in 2014.

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Welgevonden community living outside Stellenbosch.

A case against this farmer is construed, the courts are invoked and the press and his overseas business partners are instructed even before he himself is made aware of it. Why? His labourers did not participate in last year’s politically orchestrated labour unrests in the Western Cape. Smearing this farmer’s image with the ugly brushstrokes of apartheid days, again is part of the ruling party’s drive to discredit the opposition’s governance in the province.

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A mutually beneficial community of bovine and egret interest. Pausing for a midday rest.

Our children are disturbed not only by the corruption of our institutions but of our minds as people who helplessly stand by, allowing all this to happen. And of course, they are not really naïve, they are looking for answers but do not seem to find them in the political arena. They want to spend their energies in living a life of mutual benefit. They want to receive but they are keen to contribute of their own outside the bounds of party politics, race and gender.

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Strand beachfront early in August.

With love as always from
Walter & Colleen

Betty’s Bay, Monday 5 August 2013

Where people live – shacklands along the N2 into Cape Town

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The shacklands on the outskirts of Cape Town, along the N2, are bit by bit transformed into uniform dwellings. Often commented on, photographed and published about, their transformation or the lack of it, has long been used as a political football or, as happened just the other day at Cape Town International airport, to make a stink. Shacklands are a people’s manifesto – breaking free from the limited comforts of their rural traditions and seeking to integrate themselves into the complexity of life in the city, even be it on the fringe for a while with its own restrictions, discomforts and potential dangers. Shack fires from overturned braziers, paraffin stoves and most of all, unattended candles, happen all too often devouring neighbouring shacks in minutes. All then is lost, if not lives, the bare necessities of living. Comes winter, flooding occurs in the lower lying parts. In summer, the heat inside can become quite unbearable. But there are also some pros among the cons beside a lack of modern sanitation, you pay no rent, the structures are easily erected and extended, and there is the community at large with many neighbourly hands to share any burden. As you whizz past theses shacklands on the highway, you spare a few moments to consider where people live.

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This red house has been standing here for at least half a century.

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Table Mountain and Devils Peak backdrop.

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Rurality maintained. 

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Some mod cons.

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Clean lines – transformation and uniformity achieved.

Betty’s Bay
Tuesday, 16 July 2013
Colleen & Walter

Eudaimonia … being in good spirits … happiness

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Many things bring about a sense of well-being.
One of them is a walk on the beach.
To be near the sea, from where we all once came.
Happiness is …
I don’t think happiness is … some thing or other.
Or if, then a composite thing, having come, being brought together.

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Sometimes we view a thing and it makes us happy what we see.
Happiness is a momentary thing. It does not last. And fade it must.
It sinks into memory and there it feeds the fabric of our soul.
Sometimes we call it beauty, what we see.

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The experience of beauty, of happiness, of being in good spirits, the experience of “eudaimonia” as the ancient Greeks called it,  transcends your being in this moment into an extended realm of your self, the joyful otherness of things.

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And the experience drifts into your memory, adding colour to your soul and arouses in you the thirst for more.

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In the end you cannot distinguish anymore between happiness and sadness, they flow into each other, being happy and sad at the same time. The horizon of your self widens to contain within it sea, mountains, shore, the cityscape and sky beyond.

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Happiness is seeing the artist at work.

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With love from
Colleen & Walter
Betty’s Bay, Monday, 29 April 2013