Monday, August 26, 2019

Hotter than Africa

My plane landed in Munich at 7.28 a.m. this morning and I was met by my husband and son. I have to admit I am a bit pleased about myself that I managed – with the help of Erla Cilliers, current chair lady of the Pretoria Jacarande Quilt Guild – to pack 90 quilts into one suitcase. When I went to Johannesburg, I was carrying thirty quilts from Germany, coming back, I also brought 30 from Ireland and 30 from South Africa. Thanks to Erla’s ingenious idea of putting them in vacuum bags they all fit into one (large) suitcase, 

and my personal stuff was left to fend with the additional carry-on I had brought along. On the train from Pretoria to the Johannesburg airport I was assured of another passenger’s respect about my strength that I could deal with so many bags… One of the first things I did after entering the house was to opend that suitcase and the vacuum bags to give the quilts air to breath again, hoping they won’t have been condensed for too long so they still look like quilts and not like French pancakes.

Having come back from a mild African winter I am amazed at how hot and humid it is here in Germany. And when I check on the weather app, it tells me that it is only three to four degrees Celsius warmer, but definitely it is much more humid that I have experienced it in the past two weeks. I am lucky that I don’t have to go back to work/school right away but have another while to ‘get back’ because it feels like I will need a bit to ‘get Africa out of my system’ again. I had an absolutely wonderful time – the trip to Kruger, the many animals I saw, the festival with the numerous nice and lovely people and some very interesting quilts to see. But while on Heronbridge College campus it also felt a bit like we were out of the world. 

Our view from the terrace - although this picture is a bit misleading
because you cannot really see the plastic washed up on the other side of the river
coming from an illegal squatter camp up the river.

Secluded from the South Africa outside, which did not really infiltrate the festival ongoings on campus, except for one incident when a party of attendees who had gone off campus for dinner saw how a car that was waiting in line at the road construction site right outside campus was attacked by somebody who was trying to break the window. He did not succeed, was driven away right away, and the group from the festival was not even directly affected, but that was a bit of a signal that there is a quite different South Africa outside of the gate. And everybody got very concerned when I mentioned that I was planning to spend one night in a hotel in Johannesburg before going back home Sunday night. That is absolutely not possible, alone in a hotel in Johannesburg… Various options were discussed, whether I should hire a private guide and airport transfer, or how I would be able to deal with the situation. I always thought it should be possible if I moved cautiously, but in the end Erla Cilliers invited me over to stay at her place and we had a lovely two days as she showed me around Pretoria, we went for a walk in the morning and a lovely breakfast on Sunday and certainly it was more fun to be in her company than to sit in a hotel room by myself at night.

In terms of textiles it was a very interesting week, too, because last Wednesday the international teachers and visitors who brought an exhibition to the festival were taken on a special tour of Johannesburg. This included the Oriental Bazar, with shopping options, 

Samosas for lunch... very delicious!

a Shwe Shwe fabric shop, with shopping options, 

and in the end a wonderful shop with lots of lots of interesting African Art and Craft items, including a wide range of ‘up-Africa fabrics’ which we took good advantage of. The day ended in a fabric swopping session in the evening in the lounge of our accomodation where we showed our finds, shared pieces and had a fabric fit.

More on my African textile experiences tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

At the South African National Quilt Festival

On Friday I left the lodge near Kruger Park after the staff had sent me off with a private little choir concert. I had heard that they sing for the guests after supper during the tourist season, and that the money that is put into their little hat paid for their flights to Germany this past June. The owners of the lodge took care of the arragements during the stay, mostly on camp grounds and in youth hostels, and that way they got to see a little bit of Germany for themselves.  They say they now want to save up for their next trip, and I promised I would find a place for them to give a concert while they were there.  It is always possible to do that in a church, and I have easy access to that.
So I traveled on, back to Johannesburg, and was picked up and taken to Heronbridge College Campus, where the South African National Quilt Festival is taking place. How international this national festival actually is can be seen on a map next to the entry to Registration, where attendants are asked to put up a tag to indicate where they are coming from.

Heronbridge College is a private school that is currently on vacation, and the classes and exhibitions nd vendors are spread out over the campus. Accomodation is on campus as well, we eat in the dining hall, everything is very close and convenient.
The Festival takes place for a whole week and I am very impressed by the amount of work that the members of the two organizing local guilds from Johannesburg and Pretoria have put into it all. I know how much work goes into it, and the fact that the Festival lasts for an entire week simply amazes me. Several international and many South African teachers are here, the classes are on and everybody seems to be enjoying themselves.
Of course, my first concern was to check on the exhibition I brought here, the trinational challenge “Interchange: Threads connect”. 
Imagine my surprise – and not on the pleasant side – when I opened my suitcase in the room and found that there were still four quilts rolled up in it. Obviously they had not been taken out because they were not included in the stack of the others but rolled up on the side, although I had made sure to tell the person taking over the suitcase at Johannesburg airport. So it took a bit of organizing to make sure that these were put up as quickly as possible. I offered to help, and so we met at 7 o’clock in the morning to take care of that. Thank you, Clare Wallace, for making that possible, I am well aware that that meant an additional amount of work for you.

These are pictures of the three different parts of the exhibition. First, Germany:

Second, Ireland:

And third, South Africa:

But it was a Quilt from Ireland that captured best the spirit of this challenge, I think:

I myself am not teaching, but have participated in one class already, am signed up for two more and took a leisurely stroll through the exhibitions and vending lanes. And I have enjoyed getting to know and talk to new people. That is the good thing about fiber aficionadas at these occasions – you can always find somebody to hang out with and relate to.
The first class I took was an “Introduction to Kantha” class with Dorothy Tucker, and it was very inpirational. The stitches are simple enough, Dorothy herself said that it is changing a lot and modern approaches offer lots of possibilities and options, she even showed a most beautiful piece in classe by one of her companions in an exhibition and historical research.
Dorothy Tucker, holding up a sample
This is the beginning of the sample I made, and another student's wonderful chevron line in the leaf.

Not yet particularly interesting or original, but a start...

I mean to start a piece today, a ‘day off’, with only the limited materials I have with me. (I did buy some thread, though.)

Friday, August 16, 2019

African Silk Experiences

On Sunday morning I arrived in Johannesburg airport after an overnight flight. I had luckily managed to catch some sleep, but I had also been awake enough of times to peek out of my window and be stunned at the what I felt as an absence of lighted settlements which can always be seen from above when flying over the so-called developed countries. Of course I had seen night images taken from space, and I knew, and I have heard the somewhat deprecating expression “dark continent”, but it is one thing to hear that, and to see it with one’s own eyes.
Upon arrival I was met by Sandra who took the large suitcase with the German Guild’s quilts that will be shown at the South African National Quilt Festival starting today, and a few personal items which I wouldn’t need in the African Wilderness, and then set off on another, much smaller plane to to go East.
At Phalaborwa Airport we left the plane and I immediately thought that this airport would jump to the no. 1 position of my inofficial list of favorite airports in the world. 

(Not that I have been to enought to really have a representative listing... It replaces the Santa Barbara, CA airport, in case anybody is interested. And come to think of it, there is an airfield in the town where I live, too – but I have never left from or arrived there…, and this would turn into a totally different story.)
Picked up my rental car, no problem, started driving on the left side of the road, mostly no problem, and had been wise enough to print out a route plan before I left home because my cell phone navigation system would have been no help at all, and the car (smallest one available) came without one. So except for the fact that I kept hitting the windshield wipers when I wanted to switch on the turn signal, which is really due to the fact that it is a Japanese car and not that it is a right-side-dreiver, and that I wasn’t always sure whether I had progressed up to ‘first’ in line at four-way stops, no problems, I arrived at my accomodation (Kubu Safari Lodge in Hoedspruit) less than 2 hours after landing.
Right the next day I went on a guided trip to Kruger National Park, and we saw a lot of animals, including a pride of lions after breakfast kill, and a 20-head elephant herd crossing the road right in front of us to reach a water hole.

I just love Zebra camouflage and am still trying to
figure out how to use them in a quilt design

The next day I took myself in the car to do the “Panorama Road”, up Abel Erasmus Pass, and then along the Blyde River Canyon, which, according to the information signs is the third largest canyon in the world. 

In Graskop, a town on the southern road of the round trip, I stepped into the showroom of “Africa Silks” ( Here the women demonstrate some of the techniques with which the pieces for sale are made, including the preparing of silk duvets. 

Some were weaving scarves on looms. One was spinning the cutoffs from the duvet production together with a thread to make new material for weaving scarves.

And all the time they were singing while working. Willing enough to stop and talk to you, explain what they were doing, and then they would rejoin the song. Beautiful voices, and the singing makes for a magic atmosphere in the workroom. The lady who filled up my tank at the gas station sang, too, while fiddling with the nuzzle. And they do that here at the lodge, hen cooking, when brushing the dust off the walkways. I wonder how it would change Germany if people were singing while working.