Sunday, 21 April 2013


I’ve had this t-shirt for about twenty years.

It was screen printed and hand painted by Tori Crampton who made and sold a bunch of t-shirts while she was still at Rhodes. I haven’t heard any news of her in years but hope she’s still doing her thing.

I loved mine and just about wore it day in and day out at the time.

I do get attached to my clothes.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Her songs and spells

And an attempt by me when I couldn’t find the words...

I’d asked a friend for something to put up on my fridge and the line she gave me was a play on the expression ‘to play or keep your cards close to your chest’ or not to tell others what you are intending to do. The image she created was of a card player holding her cards close to her chest, but holding them face out. Of someone guarded and secretive, yet bold and open.

But I couldn’t find any words to do with cards so I chose songs and spells instead – something revealing, something compelling. And something to suggest her contradictions – her many selves, the rarest of which being the most expressive and inspired, and perhaps the best...

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Gently walk

A bit of fridge magnet poetry to capture something of a day’s rambling – and scrambling – over the mountain.

The poetry is by my fellow rambler that day.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Planting wishes

I bought this for my niece who has grown beans and helped plant herbs and bulbs, and picked tomatoes – and, having recently moved into her new home, will soon have a garden to grow.

It’s a handmade greeting card which when planted grows into a bunch of mixed herbs. The card is made from waste paper and embedded with seeds, and the design is printed with water-based ink.

It’s made by a local company called Growing Paper and you can see a range of their other paper products at

She can plant it with all my wishes that it’ll soon grow into a thriving pot full of basil, wild rocket and thyme.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

My Mecca

Far, far south – and far away from everywhere – this ‘Mecca’ was built by Helen Martins in the tiny village of Nieu Bethesda in the dusty Karoo.

It has little to do with Makkah, the holiest city in Islam, a place she’d never visited. But it has everything to do with my own ‘Mecca’ which isn’t a place at all...

In 1945, ‘Miss Helen’ began building her ‘Mecca’, transforming her home using cement and wire, pieces of glass and plastic, and finely crushed glass which she used to coat the brightly painted walls and ceilings. Later, with the help of assistants, she built over 300 sculptures in her garden of owls and camels, and other animals and figures, almost all facing east.

I can only imagine how laughably crude and strange – and maybe even a little nightmarish – her fantastic creations must have seemed to the conservative Christian villagers, inspired as the sculptures and murals were by the Bible but also by the poetry of Omar Khayyam and the work of William Blake.

Under Apartheid, her collaboration and friendship with her assistants, especially Koos Malgas, a farm labourer from the so-called ‘coloured’ community, only added to her own Afrikaner community’s disapproval and mistrust.

Although the reclusive ‘Miss Helen’ had little to do with the villagers, once a year she would invite them into her home, every mural and all the mirrors and brightly coloured windows illuminated by dozens of lanterns and candles.

However, in 1976, at the age of 78 she took her life. No one knows for sure why she did it. Her home, known as ‘The Owl House’, fell into disrepair but in 1996 became a museum and national monument, and is now visited by the curious and appreciative from around the world.

As a teen, I was deeply moved by Athol Fugard’s play The Road to Mecca which is based on the life of Helen Martins and had been drawn to ‘The Owl House’. But, finally getting to visit years later as a student teacher with a group of teens, it wasn’t so much the place that inspired me after all – it was the imagination, determination and hope of the untrained artist behind it.

And, of course, the hours and hours of creative activity which transformed her home and garden into this unique ‘Mecca’...

You can read more about Helen Martins and 'The Owl House' on Wikipedia. And about The Road to Mecca at And if you'd like to find about more about Nieu Bethesda: