As I’ve admitted before, I don’t know much about art but I know what I like. And I like it meaningful and not necessarily so pretentious that it disappears up the artist’s ass.
I’ve applied this criteria ever since Diane Gilson, the pig-tailed spotty-face who sat next to me in Class 2, drew a spurious picture of me during a particularly boring Arithmetic class. I applied it so assertively that I landed up standing outside the classroom door, not an uncommon position for me to take up. As I recall, I was on first-name terms with the pigeons nesting in the gutter outside 2B.
And I applied it even more furiously when a total nincompoop indulging in some performance art (by a long way not my fave artistic genre) at the notoriously left-field Bean Bag Bohemia in Durban snatched a smoke out of my hand while clearly experiencing an extremely avant-retard moment. I won’t tell you how that ended. Horribly. For him.
So let’s have a look at some art. I think they (the in-the-know “they”) call this conceptual art. I think you’ll like this…
Mmmm. I love it. Artistic expression with a functionality. To house birds. In London. Birds, as resourceful as they might be, have a pretty rough time of it in inner-city London so, on the face of it, this is eco-friendly art.
We should all be quite pleased with what’s been done here. But there’s a problem. Can you spot it? Have a close look. Feel free to use your binocs if you need to. Yes? Anybody detected the terrible oversight on the part of the smart-ass artists who dreamt up this little, er, lark?
OK. Have a closer look…
No? OK. The thing about birds, as grateful as they may be towards people who help them out with a spot in which to rest, nest and possibly even breed, is that they like a twig or something similar to perch on before they enter the nest. That helps them to locate any predators or other dodginesses before entering the nest. Or, perhaps, if it’s been a long flight home, to stop off for a crafty fag before facing the missus and the kids.
No perches. On those arty-farty nesting-boxes. And not much chance of them attracting any birds, unless they are DIY types like those hamerkops which might produce a nail from under a wing and make their own plan.
So, as the art critic I undoubtedly am, I must suggest that the London Fieldworks artists who produced this uber-pretentiously titled “Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven” artwork might want to nip out to The DIY Guy, buy up all stocks of dowel rod and start chopping up bits of perch for the nonplussed birds flying around their installations in parks in Chelsea and Islington.
* To be fair, and I really want to be, you could do a lot worse than flit over to the very interesting Inhabitat eco-arty website to see what other far more environmentally considerate art is being created.
* 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!
Johannesburg. Jo’burg. Joeys. Jozi. Egoli. It’s all the same place.
South Africa’s biggest city. The city built on gold. The city that South Africans – well, those who don’t live in it – love to hate.
We generally don’t have a kind word for the concrete jungle that appears to be a shrine to money, crime, traffic jams, Gareth Cliff and a piss-poor rugby team. Confession. I was born there. At Mary Mount Hospital. While my parents lived at 55 Mars St. Truly alien. But, after just 18 months of life, I managed to persuade Mom and Dad to get the hell out and move to Pietermaritzburg. I’ve tried really hard to avoid going back ever since.
Check? You almost can't see the grossly ostentatious flaunting of wealth for the trees
The concrete jungle we call many names is actually, wait for it, the biggest man-made forest in the entire world. Yes. Hang on. No. I reckon birds had a big hand in helping to create the 10 million trees that green up Jo’burg today. But still, very surprising, hey?
And, just for good measure, the Awesome SA book also tells us that Jozi is the biggest city in the world not to be located beside a lake, a river or the ocean. Who knew that?
I sent your Intrigue-o-meter soaring when I intro’d you to The Bushguy in my first Bush Palace Chronicles post last week. And I promised updates on this highly unusual individual if and when information became available.
Not only has a snippet or two of info been leaked to me but I have a picture of the man who chooses to live only in shorts in a three-walled dwelling deep in the bush behind The Bush Palace.
If Austin Powers dubbed himself to be an International Man of Mystery, then Bushguy is Umdloti’s Local Man of Mystique. But let’s chat excitedly later and try to build a profile of a young man who flits about in the bush with his three dogs, wears the same pair of shorts every day, is seen only when he sprints down to the Bush Palace main residence for a cold shower under the building and, for all we know, lives off berries and goodness-knows-what-else, if anything, in our pristine patch of sub-tropical coastal bush hugging the Indian Ocean.
OK. I will keep you waiting no longer. Here is the only known photograph captured of Bushguy (since he left school, I imagine… and I can only assume that he attended school at some point)…
That's him! The Bushguy. Melting into the bush after a shower under our house! But wait. Thanks to new technology, of which I have only recently become aware, I can take your closer to our Local Man of Mega Mystique. Fasten your seatbelts as I zoom you in...
Ah, that's better. You will have to take my word that he is a deadringer for a young Kenneth Branagh, the British actor and director. Pics by The Heartman
There you are. I’m sorry this pic does not show his face but even The Heartman is respectful of Bushguy’s clear wish to live undisturbed in our dense vegetation and be left well alone. This is the lifestyle he has chosen – for whatever reason… and this I would love to know much more about – and the other resident characters of The Bush Palace want to be as unobtrusive as possible. Apart from me, of course.
I can tell you that he resembles a young Kenneth Branagh, only more handsome, and that he must be around the age of 28. I suspect that reclusivologists would remark that this is young for a person to cut themselves off from the outside world and it does indeed seem that way. Right. Let’s come over all CSI or whatever those programmes are which feature nosey people who piece together bits of info to form a profile of somebody nobody knows much about…
1. The Bushguy is about 28, fair-haired, medium-build, looks better than Ken Branagh did at 28 and wears the same dark-blue shorts every day.
2. TBG (The Bush Guy), because I don’t want to type it all out every time, lives with three dogs in a three-walled wooden structure about 50m behind The Bush Palace and deep in very dense bush. There is a wooden fence which encloses his bit of land and screens off his private space from curious outsiders such as myself.
3. TBG only seems to leave the wider Bush Palace property to swim with his dogs in the nearby La Mercy Lagoon – I think he prefers to go through the bush to get there rather than use the beach – and has never been spotted in town doing anything like shopping, eating or drinking at the Bush Tavern.
4. He has never been seen carrying shopping bags, leading to speculation that he must be living off what he finds in the bush. In other words, and I mean no disrespect, he shares a diet similar to that of the local troop of vervet monkeys.
5. The only reasonably regular sightings of TBG are to be had when he rushes – he moves athletically and surefootedly – down the path and under the house to have a shower. Working as I do on my deck, I catch sight of him out of the corner of my eye and wave at him in a friendly manner, saying “Hi, how are you?” TBG never responds verbally, choosing instead to lift a hand in recognition and give out an enigmatic smile. Excruciatingly enigmatique. What I sense from his demeanour, his body language, indeed his energy, is an overwhelming gentleness, tranquility and perhaps a little vulnerability. An intense spirituality nourished, perhaps, by his powerful and virtually exclusive connection with nature. A man who is very much content to live away from people and their noisy cars, people and their noisy cellphones, people and their noisy lives. People and their noisy energy.
That, my dear Hatpeople, is all I know. The Heartman, The Fiancee and The Film Director, my fellow Bush Palace residents, know no more. Being an ex-journo, I am primed to dig deeper – but I, like the others, do not wish to upset Bushguy. But what drove him, drives him, to live reclusively among the monkeys, the birds, the snakes, the buck? What happened? Was there one extremely traumatic incident which led him to live this life? Was it a series of unfortunate events which left him disillusioned with humankind? I want to find out. I need to find out. Because, and I open my heart to you, there is a sizable chunk of me which feels strongly inclined to embrace a lifestyle similar to his. Because I would much rather listen to the haunting hoot (which sounds like two steel pipes being rubbed against one another) of the strange bird that I can hear right now than the brain-wrenching shriek of a car burglar alarm.
Oh, I took these pictures from my deck yesterday… and suddenly feel moved to show them to you (probably because I’m so powerfully in “intrigued-by-Bushguy” mode)…
In the fourth of my weekly interviews with an interesting resident of Umdloti, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – the idyllic seaside village in which I am blessed to live – I asked the Big Five questions of Andre Cronje, director of the Wild Touch programme on SABC.
Let’s have a quick look at him, shall we?
FH:You grew up in or near the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg, yet knew from a very early age that you wanted to be out in the bush and working with wildlife… how did that come about?
AC: You see, Jozi-city is one of the most hardcore jungles out there. If you look at any aerial shot of the place it’s striking how many trees there are, there are also some crazy animals lurking in the bushes. On a more serious note, most of my ancestors were hunters, farmers and fishermen. I guess a love and understanding for nature is in my blood.
FH:You have been involved with Wild Touch, SABC’s popular wildlife educational programme, since its inception and now direct the series. How did you get involved and what does working with the programme mean to you?
AC: I have been working in the television industry for 11 years now so you naturally get involved with the kind of projects that fits your profile. It’s important for me to believe in what I invest my time and effort in. Series Directing Wild Touch is very rewarding because I know that I’m involved with sharing something beautiful and important with the nation.
FH:We are constantly being alerted to horror stories related to the degradation of our environment. Working so closely with it, what is your experience of human abuse of the environment and what would your message be to the youth who are to inherit it?
AC: You said I must keep my answers short, this question might take days to answer! But I think if we look around us right now, you will see the answer. The abuse that’s visible in the environment is only a mirror of our abuse of ourselves. Just like the orangutang, we are also running out of living space and just like the fish in our rivers the polluted water will also kill us. If there is a message for the youth it would be to start a revolution! Don’t be as ignorant as me, your parents, your teachers or our world governments. Don’t accept the easy way out and do question what is going on around you. To this day we are pretending that we don’t know that we are killing the earth and ourselves.
FH: A group of foreign visitors to South Africa (let’s say, ahem, a gaggle of gorgeous Scandinavian environmental science students, shall we?) arrive on your doorstep and demand to be shown the finest wildlife attractions our country has to offer. Where would you take them? And why?
AC: It depends… the Scandinavian students can hang around my house for a week or so and they’ll get up close with vervet monkeys, various snakes, spiders, amphibians, whales, dolphins and the beautiful birds of prey that hang out here. If it’s a small group I’ll take them on a wilderness walk through the Umfolosi Game reserve. Am I allowed to punt any cool organisations on this blog? Check out www.wildernesstrails.org.za.
FH:Cool. OK. So, you’re often to be seen surfing off and skateboarding around our gem of a seaside village, Umdloti. And I happen to know that you live in a beautiful house hidden deep in the bush on a hill overlooking our bit of the Indian Ocean. How did you get to be such a lucky bugger? And, go on, make us all insanely jealous… please describe your paradisical living-in-Umdloti-vibe!
AC: Jeez, Hatman, you just blew my cover. I was put under a witness protection programme several years ago and they forgot about me. I’ve been trying to get out of this lifestyle for years! Jokes aside, if you let go of your fear, everything else happens naturally. I remember as a kid I dreamed that I was surfing some deserted island. Everyone around me always said that it’s a silly dream because I live in a city 600km away from the sea. So I thought F@*^ you all and I started imagining that my skateboard had no wheels and the concrete was water. The rest is history as I have since spent tmy life living my dreams. I do want to encourage everyone to live their dreams, however far your imagination runs… though it’s crucial that you never forget this: “Concrete is not water” and you will get hurt along the way. So to answer your question about how I got to be such a lucky bugger… “no matter how hard you fall if you get up and try again, you will succeed”. Oh, and by the way this doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt like hell either.