Friday, August 28, 2009

Exhibition in the Attic

My exhibition "Art in the Attic" in Darling started today. You will find the info on the right hand side of this blog. Of course it means one thing: I am back in Darling, "the little village we know so well"! The countryside is now carpeted all over with lovely arum lilies. From Lelieblom Farm I received a very large bunch for the opening day, and I have started drawing them on small canvasses. For the next few days I will sit and paint arums in the well-lit attic. I have finished a large painting of arums recently and 5-year old granddaughter, Morgan, is showing it to you. Now that I know how to spend my time in Darling, more paintings of arum lilies will follow.

Arum lily is scientifically known as Zantedescia Aethiopica, but this flower has many other names too. I grew up with the name 'varkoor'. In a very old little rambler's guide I also found the following names listed: Calla, pig lily (the flower resembles the ear of a pig), white arum, trumpet lily, Lily of the Nile, varkblom, varkblaar, Mothebe (Sotho language), iNtebe emhlope (Zulu).

This plant has some medicinal value and is also edible. A heated leave can be applied to sores and insect bites. The best way to heat it is by pressing it with an iron. In this way it acts as a poultice. What I did not know was that the young leaves are edible and can be cooked like a vegetable. Mmmm, any volunteers out there?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Coffee in Langebaan

What is more relaxing on a clear lazy day, than drinking good coffee in Langebaan, the town where the sea is "everywhere"! In my painting the sea is behind me and the people on the left are walking away from it. I visited Langebaan 25 years ago as a place I have never heard of before. There was a type of general store but this row of informal eateries was still in the future.

There is still one problem for the strollers and for photographers, though : This pleasant corner of Langebaan is car-friendly and not pedestrian-friendly. Everyone seems to park right where they need to be, at the ATM, in front of the restaurants and so on. The people doing watersport or just going for a walk, will even park right on the beach. I mentioned photographers having problems, because as an artist I just did not paint the cars, some of them right in the entrance of shops!

Once the road here is closed off as as pedestrian walkway, the little shops in the arcades and all the coffee places will be discovered and visited. A nice thing to do between walks along the beach and next to the lagoon would be to dine in one place and have coffee at another, then browse along to see the gift stores. Delivery vans could be allowed in for an hour early in the morning........Let us learn from Newport, from Charlotte Amalie, from Veli Losinj and remove the traffic from this pleasant corner of Langebaan!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Bride and the Sea

Strandkombuis at Yzerfontein on the West Coast, is renown for beautiful weddings. No wonder! Yzerfontein has many acres of pristine white beach. A wedding can take place on the sand, maybe in the 'long-shadows-hour', shortly before sunset. And afterwards in the disappearing light, guests can enter the beach shelter for a feast to remember!

A lovely venue! Now add a striking bride! Melissa Madore, a tall, dark-haired French-Canadian beauty, met Tiaan, a South African who has spent much of his youth in Europe, when they were both lecturing in Taiwan. Melissa came to live in South Africa for a year - it became five years! Where to get married? Being such seasoned travellers, they had plans to marry in Kenya where they once had a holiday. Not very practical if you have to transport all your guests including Tiaan's newly-born nephew over there!
In Melissa's own words: "I still very much wanted a beach wedding. Then we looked at Strandkombuis and we both fell on our knees, thinking: 'This is it! This is the place!' "

All the guests, including the bridegroom and his best man, wore white. The chairs had white cotton dust covers and a white tent-type shelter with a flower-covered arch was ready for the ceremony. Then Melissa appeared in a sensational dark blue dress with lots of frothy white lace echoing the sea and the foamy waves. Striking and original! I did not want to paint the wedding photographs and used three different photos to work out a composition where the bride looks down onto the scene from the dunes higher up.

Friday, August 7, 2009

West Coast National Park

It was still not high season for the flower display on the West Coast when I decided to enter the West Coast National Park for a drive, to experience the scenery and stop for good coffee. Odette, Odille and Oswald halted me and demanded to know exactly where I thought I was going! In case you did not know, ostriches are polygamous. Several females will lay the eggs in the same nest and make turns to keep them protected by day. At night the male will take his turn in keeping his future brood warm with his luscious plumage. The brownish-gray plumes belong to the females while the males are black&white. There are many areas in South Africa where ostriches are domesticated and used for their eggs, eggshells, plumes, meat and skin, but our ostriches live in their natural habitat in the wild and are protected.

Soon there will be hundreds of visitors per day to this reserve with its many bird species and its endless carpet of flower species, its seaviews and lagoon views. There are special birding spots, whale watching, mountain bike trails, hiking trails and picnic sites. Geelbek Restaurant in the park offers an information centre. The West Coast National Park is part of the greater West Coast Biosphere. There is a section for watersports and sailboats. The great tranquility of the Langebaan Lagoon is guaranteed by the exclusion of angling and powerboats. Mmmm, that is why it always seems like such a perfect hideout there......the only sound the lapping of the water and the gentle staccato of the cleats.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Storm at Langebaan

I have been asked about the storm that I have mentioned in the previous posting. We have a great storm or two on the West Coast virtually every year, and they often make the national news. They are so much worse because they happen in winter. Bartholomeu Diaz named this coast Cabo des Tormentos in 1488 and the name Cape of Storms has remained. Many ships on their way to the east have been wrecked along this coast and you will find books and a lot on the Internet about these wrecks.

Shortly after we have built our own home next to the sea (and incidentally close to where the British Peer was wrecked in 1896,) there were heavy threatening clouds early one evening and I could see enormous waves that seemed very close. Then it broke loose with thunder and extreme wind. My husband had no visibility to drive home and had to sit out the storm elsewhere. Then there was a power failure too and it was darker than dark while the heavens just opened and heavy rains pelted down. The water started streaming in underneath previously untested doors, as I suddenly realised that my husband would not know his way through a dark new house. This is how he found me hours later: with doberman Kyla on top of the highest sofa , the floor full of little tea candles to warn against the large dams of water everywhere inside.

Last month the waves were as big as 9 meters high. The storm which battered the coast was caused by spring tide backed by strong winds with the speed of 100kph. Properties in Langebaan took quite a beating and water was seen two streets up from the beach, while roofs were plucked off and barges wrecked. These small boats seem only to have lost their anchors but they are quite a distance from where they should be. Of course, just look at the calm, calm waters, who would say a storm like that can even happen here?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Serene and the Restless

Enjoy Langebaan with me for the next few weeks, the tiny town on the banks of the large Langebaan Lagoon, a calm spell of water 17 km long, ± 4 km wide. Langebaan in the early 20th century was mainly a whaling station, until, of course, man belatedly changed his ways. Slowly, but ever so slowly, the whales, now protected and appreciated, are returning and we have spotted a few along the West Coast for the last couple of years, and a great thrill it was!

Langebaan Lagoon is part of the protected area of the West Coast National Park and offers excellent sailing conditions as it is protected from the deep sea!! If you approach it from the reserve side by a roundabout road, you will see small boats, some with a very lived-on look, just hanging there on anchor, quietly absorbing the gentle movement of the water. Hey, who said that there was nowhere to hide? Occasionaly, one of these small boats may rig a sail and glide around for a bit to join the large luxury yachts on the bay, or even go out and brave the wild old ocean.......

That brings us right up to the very popular sporty side of Langebaan! An energetic crowd of wind-surfers and kite-surfers form a beehive of activity on the beach. They unload their magnificent, very expensive and colourful equipment, shining with logos and brand names. Dressed in head-to-toe diving gear, they take confident strides into those perfect waves, and just go! I have stood here quite a few times to admire the sunset, and can assure you, some of these people will be on their boards until the very last bit of light has disappeared. By then they are possibly ravishingly hungry and ready for the many pleasant informal eateries!

Watching those fearsome waves on a normal day, I can easily imagine what they must have been like during the recent ‘Mother of All Storms’! There lies a lot of seaweed on the beach, having been thrown right up to the line of the first row of houses. Nestling on the pieces of kelp, there are a few forlorn-looking boats, heaved there by the waves, heavy anchors and all. I painted this little guy, undamaged but far from where it should be, patiently waiting for an owner to reclaim it. In this picture the fishing harbour and the lagoon are situated south, to the left , and the open sea is north, to the right.