July 29, 2009
Some years ago a friend sent me the manuscrit of a book she had just written. The novel unfolded in South Africa, a story of love and adventure in a vast and beautiful country. Men and animals were never far from one another as soon as one left the big cities. Several episodes were set in colonial houses at teatime. Peace and quietness on luxuriant terraces or inside cool rooms. All around the houses there was wilderness, unindentifiable sounds and cries, strong smells and traces on the soil that meant : animals were close.
This story my friend wrote stayed in my mind for a while. I lived in Central Africa for a few years and those sights she described were alive in my memory and brought back images I thought I had forgotten.
One day as I sat in my sewing room, I came across a pretty English fabric : teapots, cups, flowers on tables, the perfect setting for teatime. Then I had this idea of sewing a quilt that would show my feelings as I read my friend’s novel.
It was not long before I found in my baskets of African fabrics all I needed to create my own story : Teatime in Jo’burg. A moment when animals would be even closer to men.
The main material was a green and golden batik I had bought in a women’s co-operative in Rwanda. The other fabrics came from various countries: Tanzania, Madagascar, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. Each with its own colour and symbols. A kind of United Colours of Africa.
It took me a few days only to sew the top, joining animals and cups of tea. My own version of my friend’s book. A quilt I truly enjoyed imagining and sewing.
July 17, 2009
“Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless. ”
Excerpt of a poem by Philip Larkin
An old wooden house in an almost deserted village. A small window under the roof. No one is living there any longer. The curtain is pulled halfway across the opaque glass. Just enough to let in a patch of blue sky. When I pass in front of the sunburnt wooden facade, I look up and imagine life that used to be behind the high window. Was it the bedroom of a large family or a bachelor’s housing ? A room under a corrugated iron roof that must have been too hot in Summer and freezing cold in Winter. The stove was on the groundfloor, no heating upstair.
I imagine the thoughts that flew to the sky as a hand pulled the curtain. Thoughts of other places over the mountains. Desires of leaving the village for a better living. Dreams of knowing more of the world beyond the narrow valley. Or were they thoughts of happiness and comfort to live in the place of one’s roots ? I imagine the confidences swept away by the wind as one opened the high window… Cool mountain air that would refresh old walls and nurture one’s soul. A small high window to let the sunshine in.