Thursday, February 18, 2010


It didn't seem strange. I was there for a reason. Even though I barely knew his dad, it was right that I should be there for the funeral. It was a low-ceilinged house like those ones built in the 70s in Lusaka - complete with oatmeal and mustard tiles in the kitchen. You know those tiles, the kind that someone must have found beautiful once - a collage of several vomity looking surfaces that together sort of make up a set of mushrooms or roosters. Or wild horses running, their manes all stiff and jagged, like they've been coated in a lot of hairgel.

I remember thinking, huh - they still have the same decor.

But in reality, I have never been to this house. Nor did I ever meet his parents. This old flame of mine. Let's call him Gavin. But here, in this crisp and detailed world, I have come to mourn the passing of his father. His mother is distracted, her hair unraveled. But she says she is pleased to see me. There are ducks on the lawn and everything is tranquil.

And then, the weird thing. His girlfriend.

We hug, but there is nothing left of the old passion that used to lock our bodies together. Just a gentle warmth and that funny kind of ache you get for what could have been, but its ok that it didn't be.

She, though, is pissed off. She seems to actually hiss at me. I think,
huh, how weird. what's she worried about.

Then she turns into an octopus.
Seriously. A huge, pale, throbbing octopus with winding tentacles and a luminous, translucent head. Her eyes are terrifying but kind of seductive too. One of those restless milky tentacles wants to wrap around me. Wants to drag me down to where she is, this place of jealousy and rage.

I wake before she gets me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Room of One's Own

It was not an impressive building from the outside. It stuck out in the landscape, like a tired figure with a slight limp. One of those structures that should have been knocked down but no-one could be bothered to do it. Or perhaps it meant something to someone and there were plans for its renovation. It looked as if it had staggered forward, but caught itself before it fell.

Who was I with when I went inside? I don't remember. I had company, I'm sure. Or were they straying on the path, telling me to go on ahead, bored with my interest in sad old abandoned places.

The door swings open to a world of bright light, high ceilings and a vibration, the sound of a cello, struck once. I hear wings flapping. A huge triple volume room, flinging the eye upwards to a wooden level like a loft. I climb the staircase that seems to be strung from cables but is solid, and lifts me gently up. Once on the level, more like a big shelf really, I tiptoe over to the window and look down. I expect an outdoor view - the bluegums in the distance, fields, cows. Instead - another room, the size of the one I just walked through. Curious. The place is bigger than it seemed.

Look down on the remains of an old pottery. Sealed bags of clay, stacks of powdery greenware, and packets of mysterious powders and glazes, spilling onto the shelves. Something has cranked alive in me. Like an old Lister motor that takes a while to spark, I am now chugging with excitement. My heart is whirring like a toy windmill.

Looking back, behind me, the warehouse-like room I entered now seems anything but a run-down derelict building. It's a treasure house, its vaulting white walls are crowding with images, projections, possibilities, sculptures, pots spilling out stories.

Next thing, I am flying - no, zooming with a zipping noise, first on cables that are strung about the ceiling (A great theatre this will make, this is where you'll hang the lights - wahaay - woohoooo! Steady on) I am truly flying, even out the window now, and loop back in, figures of eight, tight circles and swoops. Fantastic.

I want this place. Its broken concrete where the weeds grow through, its sagging bags of clay and glazes, and its mysterious way of materialising another room every time you look through a window.

Someone appears. A sort of estate agent type of someone. They tell me that William Kentridge has booked the place.

How much will it cost to secure it for myself?

R25 000 a month. I understand, deeply, that this figure is not how much it will cost, but how much it is worth to me. I understand the difference.