South African coins

The first in a series of four

Coins and banknotes in a country are little icons of that country.  Examining a coin or a note, especially with a magnifying glass, is often a revelation.  Numismatists have fun.

Here in Les Semboules I have only three South African coins with me.  I’m not sure how often the designs change and I’m sure that it can’t be a cheap process.

The R1 coin (front) has a springbuck and something I’ve not been aware of and find fascinating:  the Latin words Soli Deo Gloria.  Interesting to say that on “filthy lucre”!  The R2 coin (front) has a kudu and the R5 coin, a wildebeest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the reverse side of each of these coins is the South African coat-of-arms as it has been since 1994.  It is recommended to look this up on the internet as so much has gone into that design.  I mention some elements.  The motto is in the Khoisan language, that of the earliest known inhabitants of the Southern continent.  (I always wonder what is implied by the Khoisan rock art in Spain.)  The words mean Diverse people, Unite.  Not radically different to the 1910 – 1994 motto Unity is Strength.  The difference is apartheid which probably implied Division is Strength. 

It can’t really be seen but on the coat-of-arms there are two human figures, stylized in the form of Khoisan rock art, who are greeting each other, their knobkerrie and their spear at rest over their heads.  Crowning them is the rising sun and a rising secretary bird, the national bird.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules,Antibes

 January, 2019

 

Images

My photographs

 

 See also

South African bank notes

EU coins

EU banknotes

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South African banknotes

The second in a series of four

On the R10, R20 and R100 banknotes we have the image of Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa.  The designer chose an interesting image to work from:  Mandela has the touch of a smile and a keen eye.  (Compare the expressionless image of Mao on Chinese banknotes.)  The image of Mandela is against expressionistic images of African design.  Is it basket work? Fabrics?

 

The reverse side of the R10 note there are images of two rhinos.  On the R20 note there is an image of the young Mandela in tribal costume against the backdrop of a house, probably that of his first house in Soweto, Johannesburg.  On the R100 note is a buffalo.  On each of these notes, scattered around, and to be seen with the 10, 20 and 100 lettering, there are images from South African rock art, perhaps to suggest the antiquity of the inhabitants.  The coat-of-arms appears in the top left hand corner of each note.

 

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules,Antibes

 January, 2019

 

Images

My photographs

 

See also

South African coins  14.01.2019

EU coins

EU banknotes

 

Cypress Trees

Cypress trees hex me.  The branches of other trees grab wildly at the air, doing their thing, but you don’t even see the branches of a cypress.  If they could speak, they’d say, What do you expect?  We were once fragments of gods and then we turned into trees.  We behave.

These gods … the ancient Greeks had cypress trees, which already had a sacred history before them.  These trees were  associated with Chronos.  The Romans preferred to link the trees to Saturn, the dour old task master at the outer reaches of the solar system.  But, in a lighter vein, and more accessible, cypresses were associated with Aphrodite and Athena, to mention but two.  Those who plant these trees in South African churchyards don’t consider this history.  For them, it’s probably the held formality of the trees.

Over the centuries artists made rich use of cypress trees to bring a solemn frame or background to their images.  The most somber of these is the late-19th-century artist Arnold Böcklin.  He did a series called The Isle of the Dead.

At the other end of the spectrum there is Star Night by Van Gogh (1853 – 1890) where cypress trees reach for a phantasmagorical night, probably the happiest painting of the century.  He and Böcklin were co-evals.

If you journey through Tuscany, it is probably the deep green clusters of cypress trees that give the landscape its character.  The coastal areas of the Mediterranean share this quality, something by no means only found in cemeteries.

Artist’s name lost

For me they are like a gathering of people that have morphed into quiet abstractions, beings in creaseless dress with muted ecstasy, waiting for eternity.

The other day I beheld a mechanical dinosaur next to two cypress trees and a man was rounding the velvet trees with a pair of trimmers.  I took a pic realizing that Claudie and I had morphed into these two trees.  I told you, cypress trees hex me.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

January, 2019

 

Sources

Encyclopédie des Symboles

 

Images

Wikipedia images: « Star Night » « Isle of the Dead »

Art work unknown

My graphic and photographs

 

In memory of Gert Wentzel (1948 – 2016)

 

 

 

Images of women – a private collection

In this remarkable home, it is difficult to look anywhere without seeing something fascinating or an object of beauty.  My lifelong friend Douglas has been a collector for as long as he can remember, sauntering around flea markets with a sharply informed eye.  He is, in fact, one of the foremost tile collectors in the country.  Of late he has begun selling some of the objects on the internet, to the joy of those seeking rarities.  I share images of women that grace the dining room of the house, the lounge and the study.

Here is a ceramic vase with an engraved figure of a woman carrying a basket on her head — a traditional South African image with an unusual treatment.

This ceramic sculpture has a classical feel.  Is it Poseidon’s daughter or is that merely an epic wind?

These two well-glazed figures (from the same artist?) form an interesting contrast — the one is demurely downcast; the other bravely thoughtful.

This lino-cut, by an artist called Rix (if my magnifying-glass is to be believed), colourful and vital, could depict a dancer in traditional costume.

This striking sculpture may be one of those he has sold.  For me, it has both power and sadness.

This was, as I remember, a poster by Judith Mason, one of the foremost artists in South Africa.  A complex, thought-provoking image.

I’m not sure how old this stained-glass image is.  It could be 19th-century, as many of the tiles in the house are, or it could be a modern reproduction.  It reminds me of the Symbolist or PreRaphaelite movements.

This image hangs over the fireplace in the lounge, having pride of place.  It reminds me of the 19th-century trends towards realism.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Bridgewater, Somerset West, written early-September

Posted in Les Semboules, Antibes, January, 2019

 

Images

My photographs

 

With much gratitude to Douglas

 

 

 

 

 

The Mowbray Murals

These murals appeared on the streetside of garden walls on Raapenburg Road in Mowbray, some years ago.  I can’t say who painted them, but they impressed me, fine examples of hip-hop graffiti art.

This international movement which includes break-dancing and rap music, takes its ideological origin in the Bronx, New York in the 1970s and 1980s.

I’m not sure if there is a willingness to admit influence amongst the hip-hop artists.  For me there are striking similarities with cubism and some abstract expressionist artists.

Fernand Leger

I find them exciting, charged with an angular yang  energy, wild and searching.  I think it is fair to say that this kind of hip hop graffiti art has done an enormous amount for those would seldom, if ever, see the inside of an art gallery or museum.

When I last passed there, the walls had been “cleaned” of these paintings.  I forgive the hands that did that.  They know not what they do.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Bridgewater, Somerset

Written early September, 2018

 

Source

Wikipedia Hip Hop painting

 

Images

My photographs

Leger – source lost

 

 

 

The Taung Skull

I once had the privilege – probably in the 1990s — of meeting Philip Tobias, professor of anatomy at the School of Dentistry at Wits university.  In the 1960s, as a student in anthropology, I had had two weeks of lectures from him, an experience which had lasting impact on me.  The occasion of meeting him was an arrangement to see the Taung skull which was kept at the Medical School.

The Taung Skull

My interest in the prehistory of South Africa started with Philip Tobias.  In the 1980s, as part of my honours project I wrote a play with this prehistoric research as a backdrop.  I dedicated the play to the teaching of Philip Tobias, which he gratefully accepted.

Much has been written about this skull of a three-year-old child found at the lime quarry near Taungs, north of Kimberley.  Raymond Dart, an Australian, was the first to recognize the significance of this skull in 1924.  For the next ten years academics and researchers, particularly in Britain, denied the significance of his finding which, Dart maintained, showed us a link between our evolutionary forebears and ourselves.  They weren’t the only ones who denounced what Dart said.  The anti-Darwinist members of various churches were vocal in their opposition.  By contrast, Dean Falk, a specialist in brain evolotion, wrote that the Taung skull was the most important anthropological fossil of the 20th-century.

In the 1930s, discoveries at the Sterkfontein caves, Gauteng, by Robert Broom, augmented Dart’s argument.  By the 1950s the search for the origins of human kind had moved to Africa.

A young Tobias and the skull

My meeting with Philip Tobias, himself a world figure in the prehistory of Africa, has remained with me.  With white gloves, and with pride and care, this softly-spoken man brought the skull for me to see.  It was quite a moment.  All human history is here.  I remember raising my hand to touch it, but he drew back.  “No touching,” he said amiably.  I can’t remember what else he said that day.  I think I was a little overwhelmed by the moment.

Back in the 1980s when I sent him the play that I had dedicated to his teaching, he was pleased and flattered.  When he sent the play back to me, there was a single correction in the text.  The words of one of the characters were apparently incorrect.  “This skull,” the character announced, “is a million years old.”  Tobias had drawn a line through “a million” and in the margin added “2.3 million”.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

December 2018

 

Source

Wikipedia Taung skull

 

Images

Wikipedia

(Note:  In the two images of Tobias handling the skull, the skull itself is probably a copy.  He would not have handled the skull without gloves.) 

 

 

 

 

 

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art

The first in a series of three

My visit to the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, Waterfront, Cape Town, was a revelation to me.   It opened its doors in September of 2017, the work having commenced in 2014.  It has been described as the biggest of its kind in the world.

For me the outer character of the building with the segmented glass roof will still take a little time to get used to.  Perhaps the intention of the architects was to contrast the artifice of the glass with the earth-coloured silos.  These silos have been there for at least a century and what to do with them in the development of the Waterfront has been a point of discussion when the Waterfront was first developed in 1991.  The Waterfront itself contributed R500 million to the project, while Jochen Zeitz, a German businessman, contributed his collection of contemporary African art to the Museum on permanent loan.

The entrance atrium was for me most striking.  It is difficult to appreciate from a photograph as the height  (the silos are 57 m tall) is seldom captured.  There is brilliance in the way the original silos have been carved away to create this memorable space.  It may, in fact, be the most amazing feature of the entire museum.  Notice the all-glass lift in the bottom lefthand corner.

The base of this atrium has been used for music concerts.  You can see the scale from the people wandering in it.  This part of the museum is, in fact, below ground-level and there is also the Centre for Art Education.  Children and adults can be part of artistic activities.

At the top of the Museum the space has been given to a restaurant that looks over the harbour area.  What intrigued me was the huge glass segments through which you see a fragmented world.  In the following image of Table Mountain, through this glass, you are looking at reflections of clouds, which lend a surreal vision.

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Bridgewater, Somerset West

Written mid-September, 2018

 

Source

Wikipedia Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art

 

Images

My photographs

 

With thanks to Douglas who shared this with me

 

Reflection of silos in neighbouring building

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