From the very beginning my world has been imbued with art, literature, poetry, music and travel. My amazing parents gave my sister and me a life filled with colour and adventure. As children we ‘wild’ skied in the Black Mountains of the tiny kingdom of Lesotho, galloped across the thorn tree strewn Athi Plains in Kenya alongside herds of zebra and sailed past the very tip of Africa where the warm waters of the Indian Ocean meet the icy Atlantic. All this while living on the slopes of Table Mountain, nestled amongst the vineyards and oaks of “the Fairest Cape in all the world”
And then I met an English boy who had driven to the Cape from London. Down through Spain they rattled and shook in their old Landie. Across the straits to Morocco and then into the desert; through Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, the Sudan, Kenya and Zimbabwe until finally reaching Cape Town. I married him.
Two very beautiful daughters later, we left South Africa. The boy in the Land Rover took us to Nigeria, Hong Kong, Australia, the Virgin Islands, Kenya and Uganda. Together we have sailed on a Junk across the South China sea, plunged into the snake invested waters of the crystal clear Inkotapeni River in Nigeria and experienced an awesome, life affirming encounter with the gorillas of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. We have danced the ‘horse-chip’ in a kaleidoscopic swirl of islanders at a Caribbean carnival, dived the crystalline depths of the Great Barrier reef and swayed tipsily under the palms at a Full Moon party at the Bomba Shack on Tortola.
We’ve eaten grasshoppers and matoke; shared a shark feast with dhow fishermen on Zanzibar and drunk pungent putu beer with a witchdoctor in Swaziland. We’ve had dinner on a deserted beach with champagne, crisp linen and candelabra to celebrate Mandela’s release from the shackles of oppression and tentatively tackled crocodile tail stew on a pontoon while floating up a shimmering path of moonlight on Lake Jakana.
We’ve swam in emerald crater lakes under the towering peaks of the Mountains of the Moon with a hippo mama and her baby; paddled past snoozing Nile crocodiles in dugout canoes and spent a Christmas under canvas amongst the lions in Kidepo National Park on the border of war-torn Sudan and Uganda. The girls have white-water rafted at the source of the Nile, walked with buffalo and elephant in Semliki and seen the strange orange glow of a leopard’s eyes caught in the spotlight of the game ranger’s truck on a night drive.
Across the vast, sun bleached savannah of the Serengeti we went, trailing clouds of dust and tsetse flies. We’ve peered over the lip of the Ngorogoro Crater and stared up at the snow capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro etched against the startling blue of an African sky. We’ve listened to the haunting cry of a fish eagle, laughed at the antics of acrobatic colobus monkeys; seen the speed and skill of a cheetah bringing down a buffalo and smelled the heady perfume of night jasmine on the velvety air of the tropics. We’ve reached up and touched the stars at Lake Turkana and watched the moon make silvery mercury of a waterhole as the shy Bongo came down to drink.
My art is a tribute to the people we’ve met on our travels in Africa. People who have experienced bloody civil war, yet smile with a warmth that reaches the very heart of you. People who have lived under oppressive regimes, yet sing in soaring harmony. Those whose families have been desecrated during onslaughts of horrifying genocide, yet still reach out with love and forgiveness. Children whose eyes light up when given a pencil to take to their little school under the sparse shade of an acacia tree…
That is why I paint. For me, it is a celebration of life and through my art I endeavour in some small way to encapsulate the essence, the spirit and the strength of the exceptional people I have been so very privileged to meet.
I love this, it's so beautiful! Thank you for taking us on a journey with your words, Tessa!
Oh Chris, coming from you, that is accolade indeed! Thank you so much!
I've never read anything so eloquent and so full of life and meaning. I don't think it could be said any better Tessa.
Lorri - thank you so much for your lovely comment...and, especially, for taking time to read my bloggings!
wow. i am bowled over by your travels, your writing. such a rich life from which to create. i look forward to exploring more of this lovely blog.
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