as it happens...

Thursday, 7 March 2013

CAPETOWN, SLEEPYTOWN; lets paint this town.

It has suddenly dawned upon me that I have two weeks left, well less, in fact if I’m going to utilise my collective airmiles I had better get my tins and caps shakin’, rattlin’ and rollin’.

I have always been a huge fan of Faith 47’s work and Dal East has, in recent times, been hugely inspirational for me. These guys have recently been popping in and out of just about everywhere globally and so finding them in Capetown at the same time as me was a blessing. Further more to then find myself sat in their studio drinking some very potent but delicious green tea, reasoning about art projects and my plans in South Africa, seemed somewhat mad. They are seriously humble people and so generous with their time, offering to take me up to a dance-hall on the weekend and even help acquire permission for the walls I’m trying to find.

After an hour or so of conversation I was feeling super amped, must have been the green tea, I set foot into Woodstock to look for some walls. Freddy Sam took me through some of the areas that he and fellow artists have painted and helped me establish which walls would be good to try and paint. I returned home with about 5 or 6 possible walls for the week ahead, a good day.. and good days need good evenings so what better than a short movies screening.

I woke with the sun shinning, a rarity in Africa of course, very excited to get out and start painting a wall. The planned destination was a blue alcove in front of sombody’s home, with a nice bit of architecture on top. However the owner, despite prior consent, had changed his mind and asked for no animals, stating it was against his Muslim faith; flowers would be fine but not animals, oh well… onwards. There were so many other walls but now I needed to find one the right shape for the piece I’d prepped.  Half an hour later, a door knock and I was painting my blue crane before the clock had even striked 10am.

The blue crane is South Africa’s national bird, a 3ft tall beautiful blue bird which enjoys dry grassy uplands. However for the past 32 years these guys have been declining in numbers. They are most common in areas where disturbance by humans and their cattle is relatively low but unfortunately that is exactly why their numbers have decreased, as the human population swells and farmland takes over the cranes are forced out.  The conversion of grasslands into commercial tree plantations and both accidental and deliberate poisoning are largely to blame. Within the last two decades, they have rapidly disappeared from the Eastern Cape, Lesotho, and Swaziland, the population in the northern Free State, Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West Province has declined by up to 90%.

I was blessed with this location by a very supportive garage and its mecanics who seemed to like my crane and were saddened to learn about their current vulnerable position. I have to say these guys had me fooled several times during the course of the day as I could have sworn they were arguing, but no just discussing and laughing… T.I.A

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


I’m 30 years young, but some 23 years ago I was adorning my bedroom walls with hundreds of photos, posters and clippings of the world’s animals. My favourites were the big cats and I made a promise to myself that one day, I would find some of these beasts in their natural environment. The only thing I’m amazed at is how it took me so many years to get to African pastures red…

Africa Africa Africa…where do I start with how I feel that your within my every breath, and in my thoughts on a daily basis. I am starting to feel that the phrase African time is settling in. I’m back on Louis time…it’s similar to Cornish time and Jamaican time but it has its own style. I had planned only a few days in Jozi and wanted to do it London style…hahaha yeah what was I thinking, my time in Jozi extended to over a week in the end and there was absolutely no way I was leaving without going on safari. I was panicking a bit as I couldn’t afford the tour prices and most certainly wasn’t about to settle for a lion park, no way, I needed the raw deal, the real McCoy. It’s amazing when things come together; my Dad’s cousin lives in Jozi and we hadn’t managed to link up yet, so it was decided She would take me on safari.

We left early but were apparently not in any specific rush, through my excitement I took deep breaths and allowed myself to be in Liz and Lance’s capable hands. ‘Do they realise how excited I am? 23 years of expectations excited….deep breath Mr Masai... the animals aren’t gonna go anywhere they will wait pon your arrival…deep breaths Mr Masai…’

Life can be beautiful in the way it presents moments of time in the appropriate manner. That morning I got to know a different part of the Michel family and it’s became apparent that I’m the last of the blood line, discovering that fact on a trip that explores the endangered species of the African continent humbles me, as I also hold an endangered last seed.

Anyway back to the animals yo, Liz in the back, Lance on the wheel and me sat staring eagle-eyed out the window.

 ”Woah, woah. Back up Lance” and there sat a beautiful giraffe, framed perfectly by foliage, legs folded under, a rare sight, as they spend most of their time standing up. And I’d wanted to arrive two hours ago…huh and have missed this…not a chance…blessed to arrive as we mean to go on. After 4 hours or so of driving around the park we had seen giraffes, zebras, hippos, elephants, lots of birds, ostriches, warthogs, impala, rhinos, and wilder-beast amongst others, but no lions and time was running out. We had one hour until the gate closed and we wouldn’t be allowed out of the park. Secretly I think each of us didn’t mind the idea of a lock-in, an almost heated debate of the route for our last hour ended with what resulted in being the right route. We pulled up alongside a 4x4, I think we were in fact the only vehicle to not be, ours was a Kia…jokes…anyway a rather tipsy burnt South African rugger bugger peered out.

“You seen any lions from your direction?”
”Nope, have you?”.
“Nope, which means they that way.”
“Cool, well shall we investigate then.”
“After you”
”Lovely lovely”

If I could measure my excitement on a Richter Scale then you may have felt tsunami waves on UK shores, no joke. A few yards up the road and we started seeing passengers in other vehicles peering out through binoculars and camera lenses that I swear you could have made property down-payments with.

“So I’m presuming there must be something out there don’t you think Lance?”
“Shall we pull up?”
“That’s a splendid idea hombres, binoculars please”

I sat up on the window legs dangling into the car, a rainbow had formed above us, in fact I lie there were two, it was heavy drop rain, the kind that if your walking you actually dodge the drops, the sun was still beaming, dark dark clouds meeting blue skies, creating a memorable purple light; Liz commented on this being a monkey’s sky.

“Okay guys, so there is a rhino charging some lionesses into the bush…I cant see them anymore but, by Jah Jahs there is the king”…(salute)…

From that moment on I sat in awe watching the lioness return from her chase to lovingly rub face with her king and walk on as he waited patiently, assessing the rhino situation, some 15 minutes passed and the lion moved onwards until I couldn’t see him anymore, I didn’t know where the lioness had gone and time was chomping away…

“Woaaaah Louis, the lioness are right next to the car!”

Shit Lance wasn’t lying, two lioness walked past and we awaited the king to tread the same path. Another 10 minutes passed and we reluctantly had to hit the dirt road to the exit, but even that wasn’t uneventful, we saw lots more animals including a jackal which is a rare sight.

Our trip was timed to perfection, thanks for African time, thanks for the best safari ever and bless for getting to know a new family member.

I can happily return to Capetown now…