Archive for the ‘Africa Diaries’ Category

Africa Sketchbook ~ Continued

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

It’s around this time of year every year I grow nostalgic for the perspective-changing trip I took to East and Southern Africa in 1997. To continue with my earlier posts, I opened my dogeared journal today to see where I was and what joy or angst my young self was feeling on that day. It seems like navel-gazing, but I think these experiences shape who we are as people and as makers of things. This is what I found:


I drew this at a large bench at Njaya House backpackers. When I was finished, the Australian across the table slid his journal over my way, asking if I could do a sketch for him. I ended up doing about half a dozen of them. It makes me happy to think that there are all these journals scattered around the world and that these people could be parents now, and tell their kids about their adventures in Africa.

I’m still blown away to think that when I went, I didn’t have an email address, I used film in my camera (and took too few photos), and my family and friends wrote letters to me and sent them to Poste Restante general mailboxes, hoping I’d come across them when I passed through.

Travel seems to have lost some mystique since the interweb. Now we can go on Skype and be shown around Sydney Harbour on someone’s phone! God, I sound old. It’s amazing though.

Africa Diaries Continued

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009


It’s been a while since I added an Africa Diary post (snippets from the dog-eared rice paper journal I shlepped around East and Southern Africa in 1997), so I will pick up where I left off:


February 27, 1997  Mark’s house, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

“To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have”
~Susan Sontag 

We’re staying here at Mum’s cousin Lani’s husband’s house outside Dar. It’s very different from the hostels we’ve been staying in. The house is very beautiful, and the dog, Ratfink, likes to jump into the pool and swim with me. We don’t quite know what to do with ourselves here. Lots of reading and exploring, I guess.

There’s a large group of people standing a ways out in the sea, all looking at something.  I want to know what they’re looking at, and what I really want to do is hurl myself in the water like Ratfink. I’ll just stay here for now.


The deck at Mark's house in Dar es Salaam. An oasis for two weary backpackers!

The deck at Mark's house in Dar es Salaam. An oasis for two weary backpackers!


Feb 28

I think I’d enjoy going romantically insane, and Zanzibar would be the perfect place to do it. Though perhaps not remote enough: too many fishermen to bring me out of my passionate, wordless madness. I guess I’m just sick of small talk. It should be banned in all cultures. A ban on banality! And the word nice.

As I washed my face in the small bathroom upstairs, fabricating a letter-form speech to an ex-boyfriend, an open book on the top of the toilet caught my eye: The Fifth Penguin Book of Sunday Times Crosswords, on the back of which was written the following:

The Contemporary Rubayat

Waste not your hour, nor the in the vain pursuit
Of this and that endeavour and dispute
Better by Merry with this joyous book
Than sadden after base, or worldly, goods.
A Book of Puzzles underneath the bough,
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise now! 

~with apologies to Omar Khayyam and Edward Fitzgerald

I love how someone’s little funny can transport me from here to Pearrygin Lake in an instant, sitting on a blanket under a willow tree with a bottle of orange pop, a Daphne duMaurier novel and my sister.

We wandered around the neighbourhood, found a little shopping plaza and an art gallery full of Tinga Tinga paintings which made me really happy.




More African Diaries…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009



I’m feeling more nostalgic than usual tonight I guess.  This trip I took 12 years ago, over 9 countries in East and Southern Africa, shaped my visual language as well as my written. I spent rattling bus rides looking out the window trying to imagine the mixing of colours and how I would describe the shapes of the trees. 


Feb 24, 1997

Our Zanzibarian friend Joseph told me his friend had whispered to him last night, “that woman you are standing with, she took my heart away.” How lovely to find this second-hand love poetry, even the day before leaving.


Marie and H playing chess with the wee boys from down the beach.

Marie and H playing chess with the boys.


Feb 27, 1997

Our last day on Zanzibar has been strange, as are last days anywhere. We said goodbye to Marie after breakfast, and I felt the rising tension between us without her there. We walked around Stone Town and I got my chess set and hena. We went for red beans and rice at Passing Show and then to the Mahrubi Ruins on a dalla dalla. The pond was acid green in the light (not so much pond, but rather “circular pleasure pool” according to the sign) and there were a million fish who liked Marie’s biscuits she had unloaded on me, and strange water beetles that seem to breathe with their bums. The other pond was filled with lilies. It looked romantic  next to the old pillars that were once part the palace some guy had built for his harem. On the wall of one of the small toilet roooms in the palace was scrawled “this time tomorrow”. Hmm.


One of my favourite shots of the trip.

One of my favourite shots of the trip.

Speedo guy. This guy just drove the boat. Never said a word.

Speedo guy. This guy just drove the boat. Never said a word.


The Circular Pleasure Pool in all its glory

The Circular Pleasure Pool in all its glory