Heaven beneath Execution Rock

In the year 1960 there were more snares than wild animals in Swaziland. The entrance posts to Mlilwane Rest Camp hold testament to this – wrapped in thousands of snares recovered between 1960 to 1970. This harrowing display sharply contrasts against the abundance of wildlife now found in reserves throughout the Swazi Kingdom.

Mlilwane Reserve is found in the Ezulwini Valley or ‘Valley of Heaven’ situated below Execution Rock, a granite peak protruding skyward out of the Ngonyane Mountain: A historic Place of Persuasion for witches and enemy warriors. The park, run by a non-profit organisation does not boast the big 5 and so can be explored by car, foot, bike or horse, a rather surreal experience after a strict ‘Kruger Park’ upbringing.

One does need to keep an eye open when trying to photograph weavers and dikkops along the water banks though, as big 5 aside, the park does boast crocs and hippos.

This apparently didn’t stop a group of tourists recently from taking a quick dip. In true Swazi style they were politely and respectfully asked to refrain – fast….

During calving season mommy hippo’s bring their babies into the rest camps at night and one is warned to be on the alert for large moving objects after sunset. The animals definitely have right of way at Mlilwane. A bright change from the ’60s.

Mlilwane Reserve – Swaziland Early October 2011

Zak’s Tracks

Zak is three and he l-u-v-e-sssss trains. Always has, always will. Gran hates to waste. Always has, always……Gran loves Zak and Zak loves Gran right back. Their passions and obsessions have resulted in this bright little number which I’ve titled ‘Zak’s Tracks’ and parks off in Gran’s back-yard – waiting for Zak to come and play.

Gran claims to have been absent when the creative genes where handed around. Perhaps she has just been looking for hers in the wrong place.

What next Gran? Zak really luvvvves helicopters…..

East London, South Africa – November 2011

Macadamia Nut Spring

Hole in the wall spice shops and coconut suntan oil mixed with sweat and vanilla soft-serve assault my sensory memory box when I think about time spent in Natal. A recent spring on Southdowns Nut Farm has added a third dimension to my smell repertoire.

The girls and I disappear off to the farm every now and then which in the spring  is a place full of brightness. Macadamia nut trees laden with their pollen load and beehives brought in for the bloom – rent paid with jars of liquid gold when the bees have done their job – fill the fields, and everywhere there is colour and scent.

On the farm Granny Connie and Great Aunt Edna cut a particularly bright scene, despite the dulling of their memories with each passing day. Sitting together at arm’s length in their loyal armchairs they spend their days crocheting brightly coloured blankets while sharing a collective history kept alive through the repetition of a reservoir of childhood stories. Unable to tell you what was on their lunch plate they are able to clearly remember that as young girls their mom would not let them out to play until they had engaged with one or other form of needlework. Their hands still remember.

Gran must have been around my age when my Mom gave birth to me and so has known me, her oldest grandchild, half her life. She no longer knows me. I was not there during her early years.

The Grannies require and receive 24 hour care and plenty of physical and emotional input and in return provide enormously humbling lessons in caring and mortality. My young watch and take part in the care-giving process modelled around them while they also lay down precious memories of their Great Granny to one day share with their off-spring. The rest of us are forced to recognise passing time in all its reality.

On the farm days role by with the comforting sounds of the nut machines, the bird life, and the farm dogs, with daily routines and rituals – and surrounding all this is the constant, intensely heady, dizzying, musky, sensual smell of a Natal Spring.

Southdowns Farm – Southern Natal Spring 2011