In Tandem: Poetry to Imagery

Just before lockdown I shared a quiet couple of beers with Harry Owen and we talked about trying something new for the Virtual National Arts Festival. Seeing as we had lots of poetry and imagery between us why not collaborate? Here’s a taste of what we have been working on.

Aorta – Harry’s unpublished poem was initially prepared with Coming Home: Poems of the Grahamstown Diaspora in mind. It’s the first one that we worked on and has all of the elements that we have stuck with. There’s a voice-over to a sequence of images followed by the written text of the poem. A soundtrack backing the voice-over is the final strand of what we have put together.

The second piece is from Coming Home. It’s Gillian Rennie’s lovely small poem ‘Bots Aloes’. Harry again is the reader. Coming Home is published in East London by Amitabh Mitra’s The Poets Printery.

The last poem took a while to complete because we really wanted to track down the author – Hannah Armour – to get her reading of ‘Now’. She wrote this when she was ten and eight years have passed since then. It’s published in For Rhino in a Shrinking World: An International Anthology, edited by Harry Owen and published by The Poet’s Printery. Thanks to social media and our network of FaceBook we found her and she kindly gave us the voice-over.

We still have three more In Tandem videos that we are working on. They’re all longer than the ones we have done so far and consequently more complex. Watch this space!

 

When the wave breaks

Towering over our townships, like a wave ready to break, was this huge cumulus cloud. Ominously pink in the late glow after sunset the top of the cloud was rising fast and, blown by the winds, looked like a crest hovering over Grahamstown’s townships below. This was taken a couple of nights ago, a week after the lockdown began, and mirrors my feelings of apprehension.

Cumulus clouds breaking over Makhanda's (Grahamstown) townships during the Corona virus lockdown

When the wave breaks

Technically this was a tricky photo to take. It uses the Olympus’ Live Composite mode – in this case it’s seven minutes worth of half-a second exposures superimposed (a total of 840 frames).  But it was really quite dark at 6:40 pm so I adjusted the ISO to 1000 and opened the lens up as far as possible to F2.8. The bright white lines in the sky are star trails. The moon was playing hide and seek in the clouds whilst I took the picture and that gave an unpleasant bright smudge in the sky that I have edited out.

A cathedral, seven churches and two chapels: 10 heritage prints of old Grahamstown

There are 70 Heritage Sites in the central parts of old Grahamstown. Take a look at the map and you will see that the 10 religious ones featured here are mostly found between the Chapel of St Mary and all the Angels (on the Rhodes University campus) eastwards through the CBD and down to Sunnyside where you find St Bartholomew’s Church. Then to the east, and looking down from opposite sides of the Kowie River, are The Old Wesleyan Chapel on the Fort England ridge and St Philip’s Church at the bottom of Fingo Village.

Chapels, Churches and a Cathedral, old Grahamstown heritage sites

Chapels, Churches and a Cathedral, old Grahamstown heritage sites

The Chapel of St Mary and all the Angels has a lovely tranquil setting in the St Peter’s grounds of the Rhodes University campus. It was built in 1915 and consecrated in 1916. Inside there’s a beautiful altarpiece of the Madonna and Child that was painted between 1924 and 1929 by Sister Margaret.

Chapel of Saint Mary and all the Angel's, Rhodes University, Grahamstown

Chapel of Saint Mary and all the Angel’s, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, Makana

The Cathedral of St Michael and St George is a most impressive building, and one of old Grahamstown’s icons. Situated right in the centre of the town it towers above Church Square and acts as a counterpoint to the Rhodes University clock tower. It was built between 1824 and 1911 in the neo-gothic style which makes quite a contrast to the basilican style of the Chapel of St Mary and all the Angels.

Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Grahamstown, Makana

Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Grahamstown, Makana

Just around the corner on Hill Street lies St Patrick’s Church. It was built between 1839 and 1844 by the Royal Inniskilling Fusliers who were stationed nearby. It’s another building that makes the most of its situation even though today it is slightly overshadowed by the Public Library next door.

St Patrick's Church, Hill Street, Grahamstown, Makana

St Patrick’s Church, Hill Street, Grahamstown, Makana

Commemoration Methodist Church was built on High Street from 1845-1850 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of landing of the 1820 Settlers in Algoa Bay. You get a fine view of its neo-gothic facade from the junction of Bathurst Street and High Street.

Commemoration Methodist Church, High Street, Grahamstown, Makana

Commemoration Methodist Church, High Street, Grahamstown, Makana

A little further down High Street are the Shaw Hall (also known as the New Wesleyan Chapel) and next door lies the Sole Memorial Church. Shaw Hall became the home the Methodists in 1831 (previously they held services at the Yellow Chapel in Chapel Street) but by 1844 their congregation was too large and so Commemoration Methodist Church was built. Shaw Hall is named after Rev William Shaw, who was the founder of the Methodist Church in South Africa and in 1864 it was where the Cape Parliament was opened – the only time it ever sat outside Cape Town. Next door is The Sole Memorial Church that was built between 1838 and 1843. Originally a schoolhouse it’s named after John Henry Sole.

The Baptist Church on Bathurst Street will be celebrating its Bicentenary in 2020. Although the church was built in 1843 the congregation had moved from their first meeting house that was on Bartholomew Street in Sunnyside.

The Baptist Church, Bathurst Street, Grahamstown, Makana

The Baptist Church, Bathurst Street, Grahamstown, Makana

St Bartholomew’s Anglican Church and St Philip’s Anglican Church are still almost visible from one to the other. St Barts was built in the suburb of Sunnyside in 1857 and St Philip’s in Fingo Village in 1860.

My final picture is of the Old Wesleyan Chapel at Fort England. it was built in 1861 just outside the barracks on what was then known as East Barrack Hill. The school house adjacent was built later.

Wesleyan Chapel and Hall, Fort England, Grahamstown, Makana

Wesleyan Chapel and Hall, Fort England, Grahamstown, Makana

As 2020 – the bicentenary of the 1820 Settlers – gets closer I will be making further ‘occasional’ posts (with pictures) in this heritage style.

If you are interested in buying a print or purchasing image rights then please use the Contact Me form and I’ll get back to you straight away.

 

 

 

 

King Proteas – four studies

There are some King Proteas blossoming on Mountain Drive at the moment. Though they are not as many as last year – when they seemed to go on flowering for a very long time. As Spring gets nearer the days are getting a little longer so there’s just a bit more time to photograph them. Sunset’s a great time for this. I wanted to make a few studies showing them in different light and these four pictures are what I have got. They were all taken in the early evening – often straight into the light so a lens hood was essential!

When they are fully open you can get the most beautiful pink shades as the sunlight streams through them. Some, however, are almost bleached in colour and the tightly furled buds can also reveal very delicate shades of pink.

 

 

Fingo Village taxi ride: a photo merge

Two of the pictures I’ve taken in the past couple of weeks are merged here. It’s something that I experiment with every now and then and this time I’ve got an interesting result.

Take my picture across the valley, Grahamstown-Makhanda

Fingo Village taxi ride

The first picture in the merge is called Across the Valley. It’s a shot I’ve wanted for quite a while. Taken looking down Wood Street in Fingo Village your eye is drawn immediately across the valley to the leafy suburbs of Fort England and Sunnyside. The 1820 Settlers National Monument and PJ Olivier High School are perched on top of the hills beyond.

Across the valley from Wood Street, Fingo Village, Grahamstown Makhanda

Across the Valley

The second picture was one I took on the fly. I was standing on the corner of Bathurst and High Streets in the town centre taking pictures of the heritage sites when a taxi came cruising past. The conductor called out Take my Picture and so I did. Here he is in typical pose.

Take my picture, corner of Bathurst and High, Grahamstown Makhanda

Take my picture

With the photo merge I combined the two pictures together. So the image still looks across the valley but the taxi (which will take you there) is overlain on top. I use the Luminar photo editing software to achieve this affect.

I also gave the merged image a gritty analogue feel to hark back to the multiple exposures of the pre-digital age.

 

Egazini in ruins

Yesterday was the bicentenary of the Battle of Grahamstown.  I’ve always intended to visit the site but somehow never managed it. So this afternoon I took a brief gap in the rain to go across the valley to Egazini: the township based heritage site.

On the way there you get a good view of the slopes of Makana’s Kop up above the streets of Fingo Village. These were the hillsides that the Xhosa warriors descended to attack Grahamstown.

Makana's Kop was wreathed in low cloud

Makana’s Kop was wreathed in low cloud

When I got to Egazini I found that it was lying neglected – almost in ruins. A ring of wet embers showed the remains of a fire that lay within an outer ring of plastic rubbish. A dog was picking its way through the trash.

Dog scrounging in the litter at Egazini

Dog scrounging in the litter at Egazini

The impressive artworks are still standing but the eyes and mouth of one was vandalised. Egazini is in a beautiful setting with views up and down the valley. It’s easy to see Fort England, Fort Selwyn and the other colonial sites but I didn’t see any story boards or information about the battle or the site itself. Maybe I should have looked harder but what I saw didn’t inspire me to linger.

Egazini in ruins

Egazini in ruins

Egazini, the site of the battle of Grahamstown

Egazini, the site of the battle of Grahamstown

It’s saddened me to find this important site in such a ruined state – abandoned and neglected – like so many things in the newly renamed Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) it is full of potential that has gone to waste.