As you may well know, there are myriad top-notch brands that are just gagging to be associated with the fredhatman.co.za success story.
Every morning I wake up to an inbox chock-a-block with offers of free suites at premier hotels, free dinners at top-rated restaurants, free round-the-world cruises, free clothing, free wine, free i-Pads, free tickets to absolutely everything, including VIP invites to glamorous international parties jampacked with supermodels, and the occasional offer of a free smack about the head from somebody very upset about something I’ve written.
These super-brands want “visibility in the most desirable market segment”, the exposure that will “fit their profile”, indeed the “insane coolness” that would come with being associated with South Africa’s only “diagnosed SA-positive” blogger.
But I don’t roll like that. I’m a country blogger. I get the shakes when I leave Stanford for longer than two hours (to go shopping in Hermanus). So when I received an offer to engage freely in some “land art” here in Stanford, I jumped at it.
I went down to the river to meet Leli Hoch and Andrée Bonthuys, who run these “art in nature” sessions, and local artist Sanette du Toit Upton, whose work I have admired at the Stanford Galleries Art Cafe.
We were told to “try to get as one with nature, see everything as a piece of art and collect things to make something that will express whatever it is you want to express”.
With the issue of our press freedom being under threat gnawing at my mind, I was immediately drawn to the piece of a Cape Times’ front page I found littering the wandelpad. Then I saw a piece of red plastic cable that seemed almost to form part of a plant with red flowers.
Ah, I could make a noose from which I could “hang” the Cape Times, I mused. Symbolic of a possible execution of a free South African press.
I found a clearing partially surrounded by bush – a “village square” – and got to work. I’ll show you what I made.
OK. So that may be seen as an interpretation of what might happen to our press freedom if the government’s Protection of Information Bill is not resisted with our every ounce of strength.
But, while I was creating my little masterpiece, I felt something else bubble up within me. My motive for wanting to create a symbol of the public hanging of South Africa’s press began to shift. It became – and it was deeply emotional for me – also a need to bury my past, my 25-year career in newspaper journalism.
Attaching a piece of newspaper to a noose and hanging it from a branch stuck in the earth stirred up feelings, old resentments, and I found myself stabbing small “bullet-holes” in the paper, burning the edges of the Cape Times front page and tying a length of blue twine I had found earlier tightly around the body of my soon-to-be-lifeless newspaper career.
Whoo! This exercise had taken on a whole new meaning for me. I was putting to rest two and a half decades of my life in the world of newspapers. I felt no anger, just a calm determination to finish what I had started. And then I felt relief, an inner peace, a release from the weariness of battles fought with editors more enamoured with indulging the wishes of advertisers and politicians than with meeting the needs of readers and the public interest.
But my work was not complete. I went in search of flowers and the material with which to make a rudimentary cross. I wanted to pay my respects to the corpse of my newspaper career. It seemed like the right thing to do. Once this was done, I felt a huge sense of release.
The others found me in deep contemplation and speculated on the intensity of what I had made. And then we walked back up the river to examine their work.
The afternoon had been a wonderful exercise in how to create something beautiful and meaningful from what is available to us in nature. And I was very moved by what “land art” had given me, an opportunity to express and release something that I didn’t realise was impacting so profoundly on my life.
* Leli Hoch (of Stanford Valley Farm) and Andrée Bonthuys (of Baardskeerdersbos) give half day, full day or weekend land art workshops. They offer sessions on demand along the Klein Rivier in Stanford and along the cliff path in Hermanus. For more details, and to book, contact: email@example.com / 072 622 3456 or firstname.lastname@example.org/ email@example.com / 082 350 0253
* If you scroll up to your right on this page, you’ll see a big fat badge saying something about the 2010 South African Blog Awards. I’ve entered your “diagnosed SA-positive” blog into three categories: Best New Blog, Best Personal Blog and The Kulula Best Travel Blog. I wouldn’t be at all offended if you clicked on that there badge and nominated http://www.fredhatman.co.za in any of these categories (be sure to type in your e-mail address on the blog awards site for your nomination to be registered). In fact, were I to amaze all of us by winning something, the Birkenhead is on me down the Stanford Arms! Cheers!