Reflections on Tillmans

The work of Wolfgang Tillmans, a German photographer, seems perfectly housed in the downtown, chaotic, teeming environment in which the Johannesburg Art Gallery has washed up, like a shipwreck on the beach after Fukushima, faintly radioactive. Much of Tillman’s art is seemingly artless – and sometimes, in his work, to my eye at least, art…

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Sea Washing

On the north side of the quay, just across the way from the Cape Grace Hotel, is the Victoria Basin, and a dry-dock where Taiwanese trawlers come to have their paintwork and their bodywork done – like elderly ladies at a beauty parlour. It is a study in contrasts. A contrast I like even more,…

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Sunday constitutional

I was taking my Sunday constitutional, last weekend, at the Emmarentia Dam, just down the road from where we used to live, and on my way in to the Botanical Gardens, just over the dam wall where there is a little harbour and model lighthouse, I saw yachts – a dozen or two model yachts,…

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Pomes, unfamous ‘cos unknown

Then there are the poems – pomes, John Lennon called them – which are unfamous by definition, since they never were published, or submitted for publication. This is a conceit, of course – these poems like their published cousins would doubtless be languishing in the same dry obscurity even if they had been published. Still,…

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Unfamous Poem

Woodsmoke. Embers. Whisky. Cigar. Good jazz playing, on a really nice system – Class A Marantz amp, Arcam CD player, B&W speakers, fat cables. Don’t get me started. But the sound is warm, detailed, alive – every lick of the snares, grunt of the sax, deep and present, three-dimensional. Not loud, just there. As here…

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Three poems from Staffrider

I was going through a box of old diaries and papers last night (there are things in there that will go with me to my grave!) and came across a few copies of New Coin, Sesame, Staffrider – small South African literary magazines from the 80s and 90s. I knew there were a few old…

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Contemplating Havana’s Malecon…

The Vedado end of the eight-or-so kilometre Malecon in Havana has a very different feel to it, from the more grandly built-up and fortified stretch toward the harbour mouth. Crumbling apartment buildings face across the dual carriageway, and the sea that crashes coldly into the rocks seems a metaphor for isolation and banishment. People sit on the battered…

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Modernity bypassed…

Another Sunday, another post. Once again, Havana – a few images, this time, a sampling, of some of the marvellous Art Deco and modernist architecture that flowers, unexpectedly, amongst the colonial ruins of old Havana. Their homage to the airplane, the machine, jazz and the cinema, a striving for escape velocity. How ironic, then, to see them stranded.…

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Bosque de La Habana

The Bosque de La Habana tells you something about the city. A patch of shady woodland along the banks of the Rio Almedares, it is crossed at one end by a picturesque stone bridge. Drawn by the bridge, and the shade, and the river below, the open Chevies and Buicks in their bright colours gather,…

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Sitting in Cape Town, thinking of Havana

So I have come to the end of a week in Cape Town – a round of project inception meetings with officials and academics, dinners out with my 85 year old mother or quiet evenings at home watching The Crown on Netflix, calls on FaceTime to my wife in Toronto, and – stealing a few moments…

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