2021 was the year that I spread my wings and began a journey to connect with my inner artist and come up with an idea for a body of work for my Masters Degree. Except, instead of feeling inspired to create I found myself in a creative block which had me heaving at the thought of picking up my camera.
I tried to force this out of me by fighting it, but eventually surrendered and put everything down, signed out of social media and decided to go inward to connect with my intuition and see where it led me. “To the Ocean we go”, it said, and I went freediving at any given opportunity. Learning to Freedive has shifted a depression that was clouding my way of seeing. In between the sound of the waves, I had a deep calling to return to the Karoo. This doesn’t really make too much sense as my life has been so intrinsically intertwined with the ocean, but I longed for the quiet open spaces and the golden evening light of the desert.
Whilst visiting Kim Goodwin, a South African sculptor who lives up in the Midlands, we sat outside on his verandah underneath the grapevines sipping tea with honey and eating homemade rye bread, I told him about this strange yearning. It was there in the lush green of the KZN midlands that Kim invited me to the Tankwa Artscape and my heart screamed YES.
The Tankwa Artscape is an artist residency that happens once a year at the Stonehenge Private Reserve on the edge of the Tankwa Karoo National Park. Artists who have been through an application process are given 10 days of accommodation, food and support at the Tankwa Tented Camp and their mission is to come up with a piece of site specific work in this desert space which remains on the farm. Artist residencies are a way for artists to step out of their ordinary life and create in a new place without the disturbances and triggers of everyday life. These programs happen all over the world but I couldn’t think of a more inspiring place to create than the Tankwa.
My original role in the program was to photograph portraits of all of the artists attending the residency. I landed up doing a lot more than this, but for the first time in a very long time I felt inspired to take photographs. I was up before dawn most mornings to catch the light and photographed the starry skies into the night. The artists who attended ranged from a sound artist, to dancers, to a specialist in charcoal drawing, a performance artist, a photographer who happens to also be a taxidermist, to a potter and a land artist who is an expert in casting metal. Being around all of that creative energy was infectious and it was so good for me to be witness to the creative process in others. Connecting and conversing with other creatives is so vital for any artist. We had deep conversations about the change that happens to consciousness in the wilderness landscape, the painful History of South Africa and the vulnerability that is required to be an artist.
I opened my eyes in the Tankwa again. I picked up stones, looked up in wonder at the Milky way, ran my hands through the ground and studied the mountains. This ancient lakebed, which is a visual confirmation of the history of the Natural world, shifted something in me, and I am very happy that I answered that deep call as I found healing and a group of wonderful humans to add to my life’s tapestry.