We took an art break this morning to finish off the portraits of Matjiesfontein residents for the Slangarendfees on Saturday. Erica had taken the photos, PC did sketchings on canvas from the photos, and we all painted - very therapeutic!
katty, Anni & Cha on the verandah at the Rietfontein Cottage
PC project managing
Cha working on her portrait
The finished portraits!
We also 'framed' the children's art work for display - found some scrap metal that worked perfectly.
Mirella Bandini at the Laird's Arms in Matjiesfontein
Mirella Bandini studied Landscape Architecture
at the University of Pretoria and graduated with a Masters degree in 2008.It was this background and way of thinking
that encouraged her to begin dabbling in sculpture. She works predominantly in
ceramics, and feels that landscape architecture and the three dimensional
malleability of clay complement one another well. She is also fascinated by public art and the catalytic opportunity it provides to encourage dialogue, create memories, and enhance the magic of everyday life. Mirella is very much an intuitive maker of things
and so enjoys the creation of land art out in the natural environment. Mirella tells us about her experience of the Snake Eagle Thinking Path.
"I assisted in making the white dots and relocating vegetation in preparation for the new dots. I also spent some wonderful hours exploring the Karoo veld and creating small pieces of land art. It was a very meditative, reflective, freeing experience. It was all about my conversation with the land; with my own mind - it was wonderful!
"I also found it an amazing opportunity for me to grow as an
artist, to learn new things, meet wonderful new people and to learn a bit about
myself in the process.I was also very
privileged and pleased to be able to contribute in some small way to the
anti-fracking movement.The Snake Eagle
Thinking Path, for me, conjures up amazing memories… I am very proud to be able
to say that I was a part of this adventure / community / artwork / rebellion /
act of love… "
At 26, Erynne Ewart-Phipps, is one of the youngest members of the Site_Specific collective, which she joined in 2013. When she is not involved with Site_Specific projects, she creates land art of her own under the guidance and support of artist Emma Willemse, a visual arts lecturer at UNISA. She participated both as volunteer and artist during the creation of the Snake Eagle Thinking Path. What drew Erynne to the project?
“Having seen pictures of giant images lain into the earth all around the world, I was both excited and intrigued by the Karoo geoglyphs project. The project involves geological and botanical insight - a personal interest of mine - as well as the opportunity to engage around the issue of hydraulic fracturing as a threat to one of our country’s most unique and harshly beautiful landscapes.
“But my greatest motivation for getting involved in the Snake Eagle Thinking Path project was simply to walk within that site; to engage in the landscape of such a desolate yet secretly thriving world of tortoises, beetles, weird plants and balancing rocks, of snakes and eagles.”
As a volunteer, Erynne worked hard walking the grid, digging, sweeping, applying the lime dots and replanting indigenous flora. But each volunteer was also encouraged to set aside time for themselves as artists, and she created braided grass wreaths, in a tribute to the circular lime dots that form the stepping stones of the path.
Janet Botes is a visual artist who expresses herself through land art, drawing, mixed media, painting, photography, digital art and assemblage. She has participated in numerous workshops, exhibitions and initiatives, including the HumanEarth exhibition series, the former GYA (Green Your Art) initiative, the Green Art exhibition at the Green Expo, and performing her piece SAND(SPOOR] at the Arts Lounge during the National Arts Festival 2012. In 2013 she was one of the invited artists for the Site_Specific Land Art Biennale held in Plettenberg Bay, and she has completed an artwork for one of Cape Town's MyCiti BRT bus stations.
In June 2014 Janet had her debut solo exhibition entitled WILD & STILL: expressions of the landscape in Cape Town. She has donated artworks to auctions and initiatives aimed at raising funds for environmental conservation. Currently Janet is working on a body of work entitled ‘ORGANISM'. She is involved in monthly land art gatherings in and around Cape Town and is working on a future publication 'Veldboek'. What brought such a busy artist to the Snake Eagle Thinking Path project?
“I have several reasons for volunteering on this project. First and foremost is my love for the Karoo and my belief that art can unite us as people, and with the land and environment that sustains us. Art is also an ideal way to raise awareness and express our stance as citizens against processes like hydraulic fracturing, which I consider to pose too many risks to the environment and the people dependant thereon - especially in such an ecologically sensitive and water-scarce area.
“I think the geoglyph is also a wonderful celebration of the endangered Snake Eagle, and I believe that every person who walks the path will further strengthen the imperceptible energy forces that will help to protect this beautiful bird of prey.”
Cally Henderson is an environmentalist who has travelled extensively in Africa. Site_Specific stimulated her interest in land art and she participated in the Plettenberg Bay Land Art Biennale, Jozi Land Art, Aardklop in Potchefstroom, and then, of course, the Snake Eagle Thinking Path in Matjiesfontein. What does this latest Site_Specific project mean to Cally?
“The Snake Eagle Thinking Path connects the dots of beauty, emotion and scientific understanding. It creates beauty that enhances the environment and does not countermand it. If there is any region that is unique to South Africa, it is the Karoo: there is no place quite like it anywhere else on the planet. This project presents poetically a far more powerful plea for preserving the Karoo than any number of consultant’s reports.
“While I was in Matjiesfontein I took lots of photos, strung a few survey lines, found interesting plants and identified one rare and endangered species near the eye of the Eagle - which of course we were very careful not to harm. I also drank a lot of wine and sang with the pianist in the bar….”
Dr Chris Hartnady has achieved international renown in geotectonics and geodynamics, making fundamental contributions to the computer-based modelling of past and ongoing motions of the African plates, and discovering a major new plate (‘Lwandle’) in the global tectonic system. His work in the areas of integrated water resource development, monitoring and management, in addition to hydro- and geo-hazard analysis, geo-risk assessment and mitigation is widely acknowledged. He is currently Research and Technical Director at Umvoto. He and Umvoto Managing Director, Rowena Hay, generously volunteered their time and expertise on the Snake Eagle Thinking Path project. Chris tells us how they became involved.
“On 21st May 2012 I received from Anni Snyman what she described as an ‘unsolicited mail’ (we were introduced some time earlier by Eugenie Grobler), asking me for ‘… advice on an artwork that I am planning to do in the Karoo to protect some part of it against the fracking, and also to provide a symbolic focus for the people that want to protect her from such destruction’. Thus began an email conversation that started with the Karoo Siren, fracture patterns in rocks, dolerite dykes in the Karoo, some lessons on hydrogeological terminology, and led –after a few days – to the subject of the ‘euxinic Whitehill shale’, that is to say, the black, carbonaceous shales that are the main target for shale-gas exploration in the Karoo. I had observed, you see, that Anni’s Karoo Siren was located quite close to surface exposures of the Whitehill Formation in the Tanqua Karoo.
“We discussed the reason for its name (it contains a lot of pyrite or iron sulphide, which - when it weathers and oxidizes - gives rise to surface crusts of calcium sulphate or gypsum) and I told her that the ‘stratotype’ locality of the formation is Whitehill railway siding near Matjiesfontein. So on 25th May 2012 I sent her a Google Earth image, showing ‘ … where the N1 crosses the Whitehill outcrops around the hinge zone of the Laingsburg syncline’. And I asked ‘ … Is there also a land art opportunity here?’
“On 8th August 2014, Anni Snyman sent me a Google Earth JPEG image on which the Snake Eagle had been sketched. A few days later a Google Earth KMZ file arrived with the first layout of the geoglyph. Rowena Hay and I arrived in Matjiesfontein on 30 August, in advance of the main geoglyph party, equipped with hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, the KMZ sketch and a basic geoglyph grid plan that I had laid out. In the course of that first week’s work (31 August-5 September), we very soon discovered that locating and orienting the grid was not that easy, but in the learning process, the eastern wing of the Snake Eagle appeared on the ground, with just a few (easily remedied) glitches.
Rowena Hay and Chris Hartnady hard at work on the Snake Eagle Thinking Path site.
"For the next work session (2-7 November 2014), we roped in our Umvoto colleague Richard Wonnacott, trained in land surveying and one of the country’s most experienced geodesists, brought precision-geodetic GPS instruments, a theodolite and long surveyor’s tape, and laid out the framework for the body and western wing of the Snake Eagle, with the complete grid-plan then in place for the path ‘sweeping’ to begin.”
“And here we are today at the Snake Eagle Thinking Path…”
Ingrid Schöfmann is a self-employed, self-driven problem solver, Project Manager and overall magician. She co-owns CNC RoutDesign, providing services to the exhibitions, signage and marketing industries. Her company kindly sponsored and manufactured directional signage for the Snake Eagle Thinking Path. A no-nonsense person, she gets things done rather than talking about it - which why this bio is so short!
“I got involved in this project out of a deep love of the Karoo and to create awareness against the intention to frack the fragile environment of the Karoo. As labourer, motivator, sweeper and provider of moral support, this project has left me with a great sense of personal achievement.”
Heather at the Johannesburg launch
of the Snake Eagle Thinking Path in early 2015
Heather Greig is a gallerist, event designer, entrepreneur and overall powerhouse who assisted in fundraising, organising events and marketing for the Snake Eagle Thinking Path project. A great networker, Heather has, unfortunately for Site_Specific, now moved to England. We really miss her unique talents and flair.
"I am passionate about the Karoo environment and I believe it’s essential to draw attention to the threat fracking poses to this unique habitat. I also feel strongly about giving voice to ‘forgotten’ communities - our projects need also to be their projects. The Matjiesfontein community are the custodians of the Snake Eagle Thinking Path.”
Janet Ranson is a Cape Town-based visual artist who has held solo shows, and participated in numerous group exhibitions and artists’ workshops in Cape Town and the UK. Her environmental art projects include co-founding Western Cape Land Art with Janet Botes, large-scale installations in Taiwan, projects at AfrikaBurn, a life-size grass elephant in the Ngong Forest, Kenya and temporary public works in Cape Town. These experiences inform her studio work, which contrasts the abundance of nature with questionable icons of popular culture. Janet loved being part of the Snake Eagle project.
Yes, Janet is behind there - we recognise that smile! Photo Credit: Jessie Doucha.
“Everything about the Snake Eagle Thinking Path makes my heart sing – the sheer scale and dramatic vision of it, the teamwork in building it, the incomparable site, the history and natural history, the sweaty work in the broiling sun in the company of fellow artists, the opportunity to observe different approaches to work and to discuss critical issues relating to land and nature art… everything!
“When I previously heard Wongil Jeon of the Yatoo Nature Art movement talk about the ‘open heart, empty hands’ philosophy it immediately resonated with me. I like spending enough time in a place to ask it what I could possibly create there. I used the rusted cans and pieces of glass bottles left by British soldiers during the Anglo-Boer War made wonderful ‘surveillance cameras’!”
Erica Lüttich is the Creative Director of Boitumelo, established in Hillbrow in 2001 as a centre offering training and skills development for adults and youth alike. Boitumelo offers a space in which people are can learn life skills and develop creative techniques in arts and crafts, while generating income for both themselves and Boitumelo. So why are Erica and Boitomelo interested in the Karoo geoglyphs?
On her way to the Matjiesfontein Community Hall
“Participation in projects such as the Snake Eagle Thinking Path uses the arts as a way of communicating with society by extending creative journeys and enabling local artists and crafters to explore different techniques. We have started a project we call ‘Karos vir die Karoo’, which is working with communities in Karoo towns from De Doorns to Matjiesfontein to Colesburg along the N1, to create 3000 Art Blankets. These blankets will be knitted, crocheted, quilted, weaved and knotted from found objects, donated materials and recycled waste material. When completed the blankets will be laid out over the Karoo land, symbolising ‘protection’ for this semi-arid desert landscape and raising awareness of and interest in the Karoo, including the socio-economic needs of its communities. Over the next three years, workshops are planned in each town along the N1 to share skills and work on the blankets, helping to build social cohesion and shifting perceptions.
“I believe the ideas behind each art project must first be well-researched. My involvement in the art-making process at Boitumelo lets me explore, learn and teach new techniques and craft ideas together with the crafters. Through the creative process of making, and the working together of many hands and hearts, the artwork becomes defined and communicated to its viewers.”
Erica enjoys a well-earned glass of wine after feeding a hungry team!
Bryan Hansen is involved in community development, personal growth and wilderness experiences. He was part of the leadership development programme linked to the 2013 Plettenberg Bay Land Art Biennale, engaging with the surrounding communities and encouraging their involvement in land art. He has worked with young men through the Fatherhood Project which encourages them to become more involved in parenting and creating safer communities. He has also participated in reintegration programmes for ex-combatants and helped develop the ‘Play it Safe’ programme for men engaging in high risk behaviours.
“I participated in the Snake Eagle Thinking Path project because I feel that the Karoo plays an important part in the sustainability of South Africa. I was part of the ground-breaking crew, setting up the grids and creating the paths.
“I also believe the project can provide the people of Matjiesfontein with the opportunities created by having a landmark art work in their community and from interaction with visitors from South Africa and around the world”
Bryan Hansen hard at work breaking ground for the Snake Eagle Thinking Path. Photo Credit: Janet Botes
katty vandenberghe is a digital and multimedia artist and designer working in the visual arts, design and activist arena. As a media and publishing specialist she supports NGO and NPO projects, focusing on issues of gender, sexuality, race, environment and animal rights. She has worked in the science, advertising, publishing, education and visual arts industries. Her love of creative collaboration finds her participating in group efforts where she brings her particular skill set and talents to a collective outcome. Her current media focus is photography, videography and animation. katty is self-employed at [•]squareDot Media.
katty tells us about her role on the project. “I’ve been documenting and publishing the Snake Eagle Thinking Path and Karoo Geoglyphs story via social media and the Site_Specific website. Through photography, videography and writing I shared details about our trips down to Matjiesfontein, introducing each new team member to our online audience. We like to extend our projects from the physical into the virtual realm, pulling closer an international audience who are invested and interested in what we do. To date I’ve also edited three short clips on the project, two of which are online, and I am in the process of making a short ‘how we did it’ documentary on the project.”
katty’s involvement in the Site_Specific land art collective has grown out of a long journey walked with old friends, and building working relationships that have spanned the design, education and visual arts arena. It has everything to do with wanting to make an impact on how we treat each other and nature.
katty vandenberghe making wheat-free banana dessert in the Lord Milner Hotel staff kitchen. Site_Specific team members would gather in the staff kitchen in the evenings to share a meal (and a glass or two of wine). Photo Credit: Janet Botes.