From our studio window we watch a small boy nimbly scale the fence, and inhabit the garden. His absorption is complete as he sets about filling his pockets, with the green fruit (“erik”) of the plum tree, first his front pockets, then the back until his jeans threaten to give into their load. Pausing occasionally to sample his wares, tugging at the higher branches, until he has feasted and can gather no more, without hurry, and completely unaware that he is being watched, he disappears again.
Beyond the studio, the restless surge and hum of the world. The Bosphoros bringing spring storms, and a world immersed in deep colour, purples and greens that start to find their way into the new paintings…
Finally settling back into the quietude of my Bosphoros studio after a couple of months working in South Africa, and then another of orientating myself back on Turkish shores. Finding myself with a lot to absorb, and integrate; preparing for new work to come.
Three weeks spent in the international Thupelo artists workshop at the Bag Factory, Johannesburg, places my feet firmly back on the ground of my home land. Each day we gather early for breakfast, before setting about our work, free of any of the distractions that might ordinarily keep one from one’s studio practice. It is a privileged space where the emphasis is on the working process, one’s own, and the witnessing and sharing of others. And we are privileged to be sharing the space with the studios of Sam Nhlengethwa, David Koloane and Pat Mautloa, art stalwarts of the struggle years, who lend warmth and gravitas to the flux and flow of the workshop. The historic Market Theatre, bastion of anti-apartheid activist theatre, and also incidentally, the venue for my very first solo exhibition “Going Home” (1992) is just round the corner. As we walk our daily ten minute walk, to the studio through markets, past Pep Stores and “Killer Prawn”, only sometimes resisting the allure of potato samosas and the haberdashers and shoe shops of the Oriental Plaza, the street names remind us that we are indeed in the company of good artist souls; the sharply observant contribution of the 60’s writer Can Themba, and the sweet and feisty singer of whom he wrote, Dolly Rathebe. After the workshop, In Cape Town, I will start the search for a singer to take part in “Ek se^” the public performance piece I will be staging as part of the Infecting the City public arts festival. More about that in another blog…
But back in my Bosphoros studio what remains of Johannesburg? A city forged of mud and earth and human hearts; glittery and strange edifices, that angle and climb across a depth of sky; trees made of clouds and clouds made of trees; walking in Fordsburg and the growing familiarity of the neighborhood mosque and its visitors. At street level at night, missing drain covers and missing people.
Recollections of the Bag Factory, a busy cave;, my happy collaboration with long time close friend and fellow painter, Jenny Parsons; witnessing the quiet containment and intricate pleasures of our fellow studio artists, Igshaan and Lerato, and working alongside another stalwart, the indomitable, Helen Sebidi, “Mama Helen”as she is affectionately known. Not forgetting the jiving energy of the Fela Kuti studio next door, or Benan’s beautiful hard won portraits, Akirash’s body painting project, Fiona’s ( also our youtube documenter) quirky bioscope. And too much more to mention here.
Now back home again in Istanbul the muezzin calls me outdoors into the evening light of a rainy Tarabya, threading his call with the colour of ripe plums.