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The Kick-Drum and Snare of Silence

SOUTH AFRICA | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [107] | Scholarship Entry

I grabbled with hand-archived Walter Oltmann sculptures and William Kentridge charcoal drawings on a Saturday morning in February.

For five full years, I had studied each monumental artist’s work. In the cocoon of an Art-History Education in Johannesburg, I had imagined that South Africa's art masters were like Hemingway's Paris. They were thesis statements I had been shown on fading brown paper. They were Bordeaux blends and coffee I had never tasted nor smelled.

In theory, I understood the academic analysis that described each line. I had pedagogically been taught the history behind each composition, but until I stood alone in the Goodman Gallery storeroom, with the machinations that defined my country in my hands, I could not quite grapple with the true weight of each piece in my hand.

I had arrived in Cape Town on a windy Thursday afternoon. My father and I bought a brown leather couch, a bed, and cutlery - fork by fork, we built a kitchen out of the rumble of imagination. After I hung curtains in my Juliet Balcony window the shoe-box apartment we had acquired began to feel like home. As soon as my father left me alone in the apartment and returned to Johannesburg, the silence became palpable.

When silence descends, the irrefutable beauty of clarity arises in your other senses.

Like a wind-chime ringing through the cold clarity of night, I heard and felt the vibrant fluidity of the world around me. I heard the youthful ring of laughter in the apartment downstairs and sought the friendship of strangers in the smiles that greeted me on that first Friday evening. I heard the rolling click-clack of archived paintings rolled into storage at the Goodman Gallery in Woodstock, on that first Saturday morning. Through the epic reverence of silence, I heard the Atlantic Ocean rumble as I walked along a path of crashing waves that lead me to the 12 Apostles Hotel on that first Sunday morning.

In the kick drum of silence and the snare of irrefutable possibility, I heard the first whispers of life lived to the lees.
For five full years, I had waited and imagined what moving to Cape Town would feel like – what it would sound and taste like. In the wildness of my dreams, I had never devoted a moment of tactile wonder of the pure reality that exists when you find your way home.

I will never forget the day that I grabbled with my history in my hands, and through the epic reverence of silence, I clung to the impossible beauty of my very first home.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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