Here we present a collection of recent books and newspapers made at the Selah studios in Cape Town. Last year we were well advised by a student who travelled from Berlin to visit us: “Creative flow is all about ‘make it fast, make it good, und do it now.’” Well the great economic and creative thinkers of our day couldn’t have said it better. And so we built a small house for pushing beautiful content into the world – however great or small – to better look after our flow.
I finished these sculptures just before the holiday. I don’t know if they are paperbowls or paper-becoming-trees. Newspaper, ink, tape. The originals do not exist. Prints (in editions of 5 per image) are for sale. Price upon request.
“What’s in a Word” is starting to take shape. If you want to register something you’ve found or kept in your Bible please download the PDF or the Word Doc. Still trusting that the funds to print it will miraculously appear. Let me know asap if you’re that miracle (!).
I am currently collecting photos and stories of the things that you keep or find in your Bible. Or whatever Bible you have in your house. Christian? Not a Christian? Doesn’t matter. Here’s the PDF or the Word Doc. Please take a few minutes to fill it out!
*post-it submitted by L Pedersen. “What you need to start a beaut workshop”
Here is the first sketch from my piece in Soshanguve Township. More of the story will follow tomorrow… If you’d like to receive my regular field reports with more detailed explanations about my work and how these pieces come about in the townships please get in touch.
Today is Nelson Mandela’s birthday and in South Africa Madiba has asked us to volunteer our time doing something for the community. I went with some friends to Blikkiesdorp (“Tin Can Town”) which is a township, or slum about 30 minutes from Cape Town.
When I arrived I was immediately drawn towards a small wooden wall that ran along the length of a shack facing the central square. This turned out to be the home of Chevon and Lionel Kleansmith; Chevon was standing there with her infant daughter and invited me inside to sit in the shade and chat. Her limited English only emphasized the wisdom of her worldview as she answered my questions about her values. (“Listening is worth more”). She asked me why I made street art and when I mentioned hope and dignity she lit up immediately saying that this was the name of the 1-month old in her arms: Hope.
At that moment her sister-in-law and mother-in-law strode through the doorway, having driven up in their own car clad in designer handbags and sunglasses. We were introduced and then I continued the conversation asking Chevon why she had named her daughter Hope. Her sister-in-law Melody interrupted and stated that they were upset by Chevon’s pregnancy because the family lived in such poverty. “It’s a crime to bring another life into this place.” Her English was impeccable. Cybil, the mother-in-law silently nodded her agreement to all of this. Chevon was deeply humiliated by the disappointment in her that these two so forthrightly expressed to me – a guest in her home. Eventually these two left and I told Chevon that I felt God had given me a blessing for her. She agreed to let me paint the words.
Her older children and many others helped me complete the piece. One very small girl about 2 years old stroked my hair as I knelt, evidently doing her best to soothe me. Henry (pictured here) was the biggest help shaking cans and holding stencils and doing quite a bit of dancing. As we were finishing up, Melody returned and got out of the car. Chevon was inside and Melody just stood there staring at the piece with her mouth sort of scrunched up to the side. For about three full minutes she stared. With no small resolution in her step she approached me and said, “I know that you wrote this for Chevon, but you know – God has written it to me. I haven’t been completely honest with you or my family. Truthfully, when I see that my brother is blessed with children, I am shaken by envy. It is for this reason that I ignore Hope.” She turned around and went inside.
When it came time to leave I went inside and said goodbye to everyone. Chevon and Melody both followed me to the door covered in small children, laughing and teasing me and saying farewell.
One more letter from a famous hand. The same one that wrote In Search of Lost Time (or, Remembrance of Things Past). I’ve wanted to read this 7-volume classic by Marcel Proust ever since Murakami wrote about it in his insanely beautiful 3-volume 1Q84 (my favourite book this year).
There’s a man named John that walks past the shop periodically. He carries a clear plastic bag full of very old drawings and prints. The streets of Africa are populated by many men selling a vast variety of goods from avocados to car phone chargers to dish towels. But John’s offering is unique. Today he sold me this original drawing for R20. He was very happy because it was his minbus taxi fare for at least 4 days. Though John is obviously destitute, he always tells me of the artworks worth hundreds of thousands that he keeps for himself.
Postscript: After I wrote that last bit I started to wonder and wouldn’t you know…it isn’t a hundred grand but I’ve just been told that the work I’ve purchased for €2 is an original drawing on his own stationary by the Iranian illustrator Ali Hajjadi potentially worth €300. If the right collector ever finds my find John will have taxi fare for a year…
My first major mural (“with you I am well pleased”) has officially been removed by the city. I had permissions from the owner of the wall, but apparently this was overruled. The buff paint is so mismatched that it reads (beautifully) as an anti-Selah statement: see but don’t perceive, listen but don’t hear.
The owner of this wall has painstakingly painted it white, taking great care to preserve even the smallest details of my piece (done originally on the raw blocks). The negative space between the letters has been made so vivid.
And so the story is retold: gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and
Huge thanks to Jono Morgan for his tireless help with this piece today. Thanks to the residents of Masi who were so encouraging – sharing their comments and questions and rhetoric… Thanks Christine for your wall and thanks Sophia for these great shots of the work. Most thanks God for inspiring the work of my hands.
William Moses Matthew Breitenberg. Our son was born 25 November 2011 at 7 in the evening. 4.8 kilograms (10 pounds, 10 oz.) and he’s 57cm (22.5 in.) long. Happy and healthy everybody in the family truly excited for the birth of our first child.
I recently met an Egyptian woman named Saraa who has been actively involved in the ongoing civil resistance that began in Tunisia and has flourished throughout the Arabian nations. Before she left Cape Town, she asked if she could have a stencil to put up in her temporary residence at Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the Egyptian revolution.
A week ago fires raged through a township nearby called Masiphumelele. This catastrophe left over 5000 people displaced with little more than the clothes on their backs. The rebuilding started immediately; here the skeletons of new homes are seen being built the following day. Within 24 hours the government responded with truckload upon truckload of wood, zinc siding and tarps. Together with many of our friends, we have been sorting donations, helping to build new shacks, providing food and clothing, and painting of course – birds rising up from the ash. This structure was one of a few cinder block buildings to remain standing in the area. I asked the owner what he’d like written along with the birds and he said immediately, “uthixo luthando” which means “God is love.”
So often we go to bring hope, and instead find her smiling in welcome when we arrive.
Recent public art piece entitled, These 3 Remain. Enkanini Township, Khayamundi, Stellenbosch. Thanks to the inSite / AICS crew from Amsterdam for all of your help and to the residents of Enkanini for your limitless enthusiasm and joy.
My favourite photography museum, FOAM, has recently published their first book A Book of Beds, and they’ve included my work… I took this photograph in an abandoned USSR military barracks in Latvia while travelling up the coast of the Baltic by motorcycle. 2008
I joined a group of international street artists travelling to The Gambia to do a project called “Wide Open Walls”. It was an incredible experience full of meaningful conversations and prayers with people who exist in a radically different culture from myself. I learned so much from them – the bulk of my artwork consisted of listening, and writing from what I’d heard.
Last week we went back to Masiphumelele to paint on some of the newly built shacks. You can see that many of these new homes are made from recycled pieces of burnt zinc that barely survived the fires. My good friend Craig Johns is making a short film of the project and has taken some of these photographs above as well. As we were finishing up for the day a woman passed and said to us, “These birds I see them. These birds they will bring us peace.”
Enkanini township is struggling with the local government to get electricity out to their location. I have had long chats with the residents about this and we all hold out hope for change. Thanks heaps to my Mom and Dad for helping out – and Mariah for tackling all the kids…
First Terrence wanted R50 to let me write on his make-shift cinderblock house in Essex Street. Then R10. Then he asked me to come back when I started to walk away. By the end he was holding stencils for me and stopping everyone who passed to tell them “hey look here that joy is mine!” Lower Woodstock.
This is written on the home of Mashiah who lives in Epworth, Harare. In front of this wall she will plant her maize. Last year her crops were so bountiful that after using up all her storage room, there was enough left over to give kg bags out to the whole local community where she lives.