LEGENDS – the mistiness; the hard facts

My grandmother Lenie, born in the 19th-century, told me that we had an ancestor who throttled a young attacking lion with his own hands.  Is there a pinch of Hercules here?  My grandmother Miemie, born in the 19th-century, related how, at Vegkop, where the Trekkers were put to the spear of impis, a black woman servant fled with a white baby.  That baby was our forebear.

Legends are the mist around their heroes who stride over struggling facts of history.  Such a figure is St Honorat.

If we look at the year of his birth, 350 years after Christ, we see the changing Gallic-Roman world of Belgium.  He and his brother converted to the new, strange belief of the Christians.  Twenty years before Constantine had converted and a mere century before that Christians had still been torn apart by lions for the entertainment of spectators.

After adventures and travels over Europe, Honorat and his followers landed on the islands near modern-day Cannes, Iles de Lerins.  Here he established one of the first cloister-monasteries in Europe, which had great influence.  I was privileged to stay at this cloister for three days, a place of rich history and legends.  I came across one of these legends in the Dictionnaire d’Antibes:

 “The devil had gone, but serpents were still there.  Honorat fell down, begging God to destroy them.  Immediately they were dead, to the last.  But they were so numerous that the remains began to stink, but the holy one did not choke.

“He ascended a palm tree and prayed passionately.  Then the sea whelmed, flooding the surface of the island and washing away the repulsive carcasses of the serpents.”

Legends persist.  For us moderns there is something – the throttling of the lion; Vegkop; the serpents.  Do we always take the serpents literally? Were the people of the dark ages, finding the words for the history of a well-loved figure, not attempting to picture an inner struggle that Honorat was having?  Certainly Greek myths are a rich field for psychologists.

And what value there is for all South Africans in our family legend from Vegkop.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

June, 2017

 

Sources

Dictionnaire D’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins. Pierre Tosan (ed.)  HEPT – Antibes. 1998

Miemie van der Walt (1881 – 1973)

Lenie Rousseau (1883 – 1963)

 

My drawings

 

 

 

 

 

TABLE BAY AND THE BAY OF ANGELS

Table Bay, etching 1683

For me Table Bay is a Cape Malay bredie* of images and thoughts.  Table Bay and, of course, the Table Rock, were what magnetized me from the rural landscape to become a Capetonian.  And this bredie … Table Bay calls up for me the desire for a bigger world, a refusal to settle for suburban answers.  These Westerners … was the bad they brought in equal measure to the good?  In the shimmer on Table Bay history clashes swords with the sun … Wolraad Woltemade and his horse in the curve of a wave; the postal stones; ships sinking, ships arriving; the noon cannon;  bearded sailors staring at the Table Rock; Adamastor that you hear in storms if you listen; the Castle, the Amsterdam battery, the Chavonnes battery; the pain and anger of the Flying Dutchman …

The Flying Dutchman, ghost ship

… the murmur of the beach-combers; gulls; Robben Island, smear on the ocean;  musicians on the deck of a ship full of freed slaves dancing and playing the banjo, bringing the blues back to Africa …

Then the second bay, the Bay of Angels.  This Bay, the Côte d’Azur in France, stretches from Menton, near the Italian border and ends near Cannes.  They tell me there were human beings here four-hundred thousand years ago.  I smile.  Where I come from, South Africa, we start at two million years.  Still, history hums in the Maritime Alps that guard the Bay.  Here the Celt-Ligurians, a civilization of thousands of years, erected their forts and grunted under monoliths.  In Antibes (then Antipolis), where I find myself, their remains from 600 b.c. have been brushed open from under the Cathedral with its proto-Christian history.

Nomade sculpture ponders the Bay of Angels

Then came colonial masters, the Phonecians.  For them, the Bay of Angels was a lesser part of the larger establishment of Massala (today Marseille).  The Greeks arrive with an It’s our turn.  Monaco, Nice and Antibes all had Greek names originally.  Whether there were epic battles after some hundreds of years when the Romans marched in is uncertain.  Another handful of centuries.

In this time Roman soldiers regarded the mists of Scottish mountains and the rivers of Northern Europe.  After the assassination of Julius Caesar the coastal town along the Bay, Fréjus (the Forum of Julius), was honoured with his name.  His descendant Augustus had La Trophée built, today a sad, proud ruin, above Monaco. He instituted a census in the Empire, even to the far-flung town of Bethlehem in the Middle East.

Trophée of Augustus at La Turbie

Antibes has a legend that Paul came to the city.  Not unlikely when one thinks that Rome is but two or three days by boat.  Somewhere in the hills here there is a cave, its entrance collapsed and hidden.  In that cave is the Letter to the People of Antipolis written by Paul.  How would that be, if it were true?

At Juan-Les-Pins, the coastal town adjoining Antibes, there are few waves.  Here the Bay of Angels, or the Mediterranean Sea, often feels like a lake.  Over the shimmer on the water you see two islands, Ste Marguerite and St Honoré.  These islands, closer to Cannes, were occupied by the Romans and four hundred years after Christ, St Honoré and his following landed here, to establish one of Europe’s first Christian cloisters.

The islands of St Honoré and Ste Marguerite

These whispers across the water, music from distant times; strange instruments, lyrics unknown … they move over the creased sea … Table Bay and the Bay of Angels, two worlds, people who went before me, some of whose genes I carry … they saw what I now see and, perhaps, felt what I now feel.

 

© Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2017

 *bredie – A Cape Malay dish of spiced curry, dangerously addictive

 

 Sources

Pierre Tosan (ed.) : Dictionnaire D’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins (Hepta, Antibes. 1998)

 Images

Flying Dutchman – paulthomasonwriter.com

Table Bay – etching by Allain Mallet in 1683, from “Hoerikwaggo”

Nomade, sculpture on the ramparts of St Jaumes, Antibes –  my photo

Trophée d’August – Côte d’Azur Tourism 

View of islands – my photo

 

 

 

 

 

M I S T R A L

Walloped awake by a window bursting open and the shutter flaying in a to-and-fro struggle, I am shocked from late-night sleep and battling with clenched teeth, blinding wind, to hook my fingertips around the edge of the shutter, to pull … to pull it back so that … so that I can control what wrenches from my grip.  The catch isn’t working.  I have a piece of twine to tie … to tie onto the flapping shutter.  And I manage, while the Enemy of the Night, the Mistral, lashes this shutter, my face, this apartment block, this town, region, the west Mediterranean, wreaking an old vengeful violence.

depositphotos_26624453-stock-video-coastal-trees-blowing-under-strong

The Mistral as a wild night cannon

The shutter keeps.  I lie back on the pillow, wide-eyed, and listen to the wind, as I have never heard it. I know wind.  I come from the Cape.  But this … Is it Ligeti voices trying, like demons, to haunt their way through everything?  The high-intensity screaming like a bandsaw at my cheek … I’m scared.  Are these hexed angels?  Will the bashing shutter shower cold glass shards onto my face?  I think of flood waters.  I think of earthquakes.  I hear through the choir of lost souls in the lifeless thrashing of shutters outside against the walls of the apartment block.

Then, silence.

It’s an uncanny silence, this.  It feels as if it’s rising past my ears and slowly filling the room, like light.  The sky turns blue.  It’s day.

The day like silence comes

The day like silence comes

I’ve had this experience a number of times and throw in a thunderstorm that scared me witless.  And I know about the Mistral.  My first youthful contact was the description in Roy Campbell’s Horses on the Camargue.  He compares the wild horses of these deserted plains as wind over the sea. For me this is the most passionate poem in the language.

The spirit of the Mistral

The spirit of the Mistral

Then, there is André Brink’s Midi where he offers the mythology of the wind which bears a name in each of the southern patois.  This wind was formerly revered as a god, much as people have thought volcanoes to be gods.  And I’ve wondered how Frederic Mistral came to his surname, the Provencal poet who received the Nobel prize in 1905.

"He blows me here, he blows me there, he messes up my hair..."

“He blows me here, he blows me there, he messes up my hair…”

I think of the South-Easter – Sedoos in the patois – which tumbles Table Mountain’s tablecloth over the crags and which, as “The Cape Doctor”, blows away the germs.  It’s all so cosy until you wander around the Diaz monument on the Foreshore and experience the channeled force of the South-Easter, just as the Mistral channels its force through the Rhône valley at 100 kms/h.  Then you hold on, body and soul.

I, Mistral, am not the heavenly child"

“I, Mistral, am not the heavenly child”

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

January, 2017

 Sources

André P. Brink :  Midi. Op reis deur Suid-Frankryk. Human & Rousseau, Cape Town.  1969.

Roy Campbell: Horses on the Camargue

Wikipedia

 Refer for interest:  György Ligeti (1923-2006), the Hungarian composer’s work “Atmospheres” (1961), amongst others.  

 Images

Night tree branches – depositphotos.com

Trees in the wind – mitsiemckellick.wordpress.com

Cape Town Wind  –  source lost

Trees in the wind – source lost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BROKEN TEMPLE, Bellville

Even before 1994, Anton Marais had designed the Broken Temple.  Like the architect Jan van Wijk [Afrikaans Language Monument, Paarl; The University Area Church, Pretoria], there are prophetic elements in the work.  I don’t speak as an architect, nor as anyone knowledgeable.  I speak about this because I must.

The Broken Temple, Edward St, Durbanville blvd, Bellville

The Broken Temple, Edward St, Durbanville blvd, Bellville

It has been years of driving past the Temple on Durbanville  Boulevard, Bellville.  Sometimes, I interpret the building;  sometimes, it’s just poetry.  If the columns are not Doric, Ionic or Corinthian, probably pressure from the builders, it is the pediment that seizes my attention.

Rotonda by Palladio

                         Rotonda by Palladio

The Greek pediment is probably the best-known motif in Western architecture.  From Palladio (1508 – 1580), considered  by some as the most influencial architect, the pediment became standard.  Globally, it remains the icon of the West.  I was surprised when, neighbouring curled-roof edifices in the middle of Seoul, I saw a massive building with pediment-and-pillars.

East meets West in Seoul, South Korea

          East meets West in Seoul, South Korea

Marais’s Temple has a broken pediment.  In itself this is not unusual in the evolution of the motif.  Baroque architects broke the pediment with regularity.  But the difference is – the most striking aspect of Anton Marais’s work –  that the architects of the past “broke” the pediment symmetrically.  He does not.

Architect as prophet

                               Architect as prophet

One can see the asymmetrical breaking of the pediment as playful, typically post-modern.  Would that have been Anton Marais’s motivation?  Only that?  Or is there more?   This building makes me think of a great poem or a painting:  interpretations keep descending.

Does this design suggest a break with Western culture?  In this, there are positive and negative implications.  Will Southern Africa expand creatively into something new and surprising?  “Always something new out of Africa,” says Pliny, the Roman historian.  Or will South Africa lose Western traditions and, for the foreseeable future, become facelessly international?

Architecture as paradox

                   Architecture as paradox

I think it’s the paradox of the Broken Temple that makes it an important statement.  That it is asymmetrical, a planned off-balance, takes me to the concept of perpetual motion:  is this Temple being built or is the start of ruination?  Is the mathematical perfection of the pediment in question?  This design is and remains a question.  It is faithful to the Restless Greek that, for the past two and half millennia, has haunted our thought processes, pushing for rebirth again and again, a long tradition in Western culture.

 

 © Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Somerset-West  /  Les Semboules, Antibes

January, 2017

 

Images

Villa Rotonda  – Wikipedia

 Seoul image, two photographs of Broken Temple, drawing – Will

 

 Dedicated to Mike Oberholzer

 

ANTHEMS and the burning in the nose

The new dispensation in South Africa in 1994 made for a combo-national anthem, an unusual and thoughtful arrangement.  It has been satisfactory, as far as I know, for most people.

C. J. Langenhoven

           C. J. Langenhoven

“Die Stem van Suid-Afrika”/ “The Voice” was written by C.J. Langenhoven (lyric) and M. de Villiers (music) between 1919 and 1921.  The lyric is a poetic description of the vast beauty of the country, becoming, in a subsequent stanza a hymn of dedication.  The pain of the Anglo-Boer war, less than 20 years before, was fresh in their minds.

Enoch Sontonga

               Enoch Sontonga

“Nkosi Sikelel’ Afrika” was written by Enoch Sontonga in 1897 and is a hymnal prayer embracing the entire continent, asking for blessing and for the “war and suffering” of African people to cease.  It came after a bloody 19th-century and 500 years of slavery.

Rouget de Lisle

                        Rouget de Lisle

“La Marseillaise” was written by Rouget de Lisle during the time of the French Revolution in 1792.  It is a marching song for soldiers.   The lyric is bracing  ̶   “The bloody flag is hoisted”.  Then it goes darker.  “They (the enemy) … cut the throats of our sons and comrades … May their impure blood irrigate our fields.”  And this is against a nameless “tyranny”.

South African flag

                                 South African flag

If the lyrical tones of these three anthems diverge, the music stirs me, yes, burns in my nose.  I heard and sang “The Voice” once a week for many years in the school where I taught and it is part of the seams in my brain.  “Nkosi” I first heard as a schoolboy when the principal bid the working staff to sing it for the school, an experience that I have never forgotten.  The three-to-four-part harmony remains with me.

Impression of the French flag

                      Impression of the French flag

These days the “Marseillaise” is sung more frequently, spontaneously, in public.  It was moving to see the entire French parliament rising to their feet to sing it, something which had not, I believe, happened since World War 1.  It was January, 2015, after the terror attacks in Paris.

A peculiar fate it is to be touched by three national anthems.  Perhaps I should get done and sing “La Internationale”, except that the melody was pilfered in the 1920s in South Africa and the lyrics, in Afrikaans, praise, in a heart-felt way a place of birth, a beautiful farm  ̶  rather different from the original lyrics.  (See “O Boereplaas”)

 

© Will van der Walt

http://www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

December, 2016

 

Source

Wikipedia

 

Images

Enoch Sontongo – timeslive.co.za

C.J. Langenhoven – azquotes.com

Rouget de Lisle – fr.wikipedia.org

South African flag  –  getty images.co.uk

French flag – windows10free.org

 

Exuberance in Motion

If Nelson Mandela is not becoming one of the most written-about people in history, ranking with Muhammed Ali, Adolf Hitler, Jesus Christ and a number of others, then it may not be far wrong to say that he is the most popular statesman on the globe.

There is a memory I have which is in some ways unusual.  In the late-1970s when Mandela’s freedom was only graffiti on township walls, the apartheid government allowed international journalists on Robben Island.  Photographs of Mandela’s cell were published widely.  I was struck by one of the pictures which he had tacked onto his wall.  Even though it was small you could see what it was:  a naked young black woman running ecstatically along a beach.  What a lovely photograph for a man in prison to put up on his wall, I thought.

A year or two later I was in a doctor’s waiting room and paging through a National Geographic when I came upon that very photograph.  It was magnificent – an image of irrepressible joy and freedom!  I confess here that I stole that magazine from the waiting room.  I have it with me today.  I share the memory.

The description of the woman in the National Geographic is as follows:  Exuberance in Motion, a Jarawa woman dances an explosion of merriment that lasted for several hours… “I’ve never seen people so happy before”, said author Singh.

The article was of the Andaman Islands, off the east coast of India where the people look uncannily African.  It would be this too, that would have appealed to Mandela.  The reasons for that picture, near a striking one of Winnie, must have been many.   It was a fragment, as the poet says, that he shored against his ruins.

Will van der Walt ©

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

November, 2012

Image Sources:

The photograph of the cell is from either The Cape Argus or the Cape Times (Reuters?).  The clipping was undated, but is estimated at 1979.

The National Geographic photograph “Exuberance in motion” is by Raghubir Singh who also wrote the article [National Geographic “The Last Andaman Islanders”, Vol. 148, No. 1, July 1975.]

Montebello

A visit to Montebello takes you into the creative heart of Cape Town, all right, one of the creative hearts.   The setting alone is wonderful – umbrella pines tower over this cove of busy people, making things that fascinate.  It is worth the trip for any local or for international tourists.  You’ll find this on the website: Montebello Design Centre is located in Newlands, Cape Town, and is the result of a financial and property bequest by Cecil Michaelis. The Project is situated in the farm buildings of the historic site of Montebello. These buildings and land have a colourful history, being the birth place of Ohlssons Brewery and Continental China. Today, Montebello Design Centre is home to a broad spectrum of designers and artists, from jewellers to painters, film makers to landscapers.

There is much to see and some tasty edibles at two restaurants.  I was particularly interested in the wood carvings and in the metal work coming from The Forge.  I share some of my impressions.

A wrought-iron gate

Flower forms
Bird of wood

 

T a n g o

                                                                                                          

Face in wind

                                                                                                           

Ceramic

                                                                                                         

Sculpture garden

A place of great reward.  And:  I had the tastiest meal in the deli restaurant with an array of interesting goodies to eat.

Will van der Walt ©

October, 2012

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Images Sources: Photographs by Will 

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