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Saturday, 9 April 2022

Reuben and Melanie explore the Eastern Cape

International travel - that gift and privilege that many of us have been unable to enjoy for 2 years due to the global pandemic. Despite having covid-19 at the beginning of February, a month later, still recovering from its effects, I was fortunate enough to travel to South Africa with my cousin to visit my elderly aunt and see my sister, another cousin and families again. In my hand luggage I carried 4 dolls. Reuben and Melanie, two of our Sasha family, came with all their Shweshwe clothes, though only one outfit each actually got photographed. I had intended dressing them in their Basuto and Xhosa outfits (which I made for the 2017 Sasha Celebration Weekend) while in the Eastern Cape. Joy and Kolisi (two of my Kruselings) came too. But only the Sasha dolls managed to get out and about with me for some photos on a couple of occasions. My energy levels for doll photography was vastly reduced as I recovered from the virus.

While in Cape Town, my cousin and I visited The Waterfront. One of the stalls in the big craft building featured slot together dolls houses made by a local small business. Ikhaya crafts make eco-friendly toys to promote play, I was interested to note that they had two ranges - what looked like a 1:12th scale range (for 7-13cm size dolls) and a Barbie doll size range. The Kruselings are between the two sizes, though possibly some of the Barbie furniture might have suited them, but I didn't have them with me at the time to try them for size. The dolls houses, their furniture and accessories were very well designed and nicely made (laser cut). 

Ikhaya crafts stand at The Waterfront

Ikhaya crafts stand showing some of the dolls house rooms and accessories for sale

Ikhaya crafts outfits for Barbie dolls

Barbie dolls wearing some Ikhaya crafts outfits

My aunt lives in the Eastern Cape Town of Makhanda/Makana (Grahamstown), so after spending two and half days with my sister, cousin and niece in the Karoo at a game reserve (where the warm, dry salty air helped my lungs) then a few days in Cape Town with my sister; my cousin and I flew to Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha), hired a car and drove to Makhanda to stay for several days. 

Makhanda nestles in the hills of the Eastern Cape

Grahamstown / Makhanda Cathedral in the heart of this Eastern Cape town

It was only on our last day there that I did some doll photography. The previous day I had visited the History Building of the Albany Museum as I had vivid memories of discovering its displays, which had included playthings from the past, as a child. Reuben and Melanie came in my bag as I had hoped to photograph them looking at the displays, but photography in the museum was forbidden, so I spent time reading the information and looking but not taking photos. 

The first room had a fascinating display about the last 200 years of the cultural influences on the area, showing the experiences of the indigenous populations and the European immigrants, including the 1820 settlers. During the apartheid era in the 1980s, when I had last visited the museum, the focus had very much been on upholding the legacy of the 1820 settlers and all they had done to build the town. This newer display was more balanced as it revealed additional perspectives on the evolution of the Eastern Cape meeting of peoples and cultures though it looked tired and some of the labelling was hard to read (it needs refreshing, but funds are limited). 

There was also a gallery about the character and story of Makhanda/Makana the Xhosa prophet (1780-1819), a gallery with some of the artefacts and furniture of local families (but far fewer toys and playthings than I remembered seeing in gallery above that space back in the 1980s), an Art gallery upstairs and a fascinating display about Rev James Arthur Calata (1895-1983) who had done much for musical education (he founded a choir and composed music for it) and was also the first black canon at Grahamstown Cathedral. 

As we were leaving Makhanda, Reuben and Melanie had a brief visit to the Monument, which was built to commemorate the 1820 settlers but is also the venue which hosts the famous National Arts Festival events each year. It contains theatres, an atrium, conference facilities and stands on the hill above Rhodes University and the Botanical Gardens. I remember the Monument when it was very new. 

The Monument above Makhanda

Entrance to the Monument

Inside the Monument:
"Nor wild Romance nor Pride allured me here:
Duty and Destiny with equal voice
Constrained my steps: I had no other choice...
Something for Africa to do or say." (Pringle)

Inside the Monument atrium

Commemorative plaque about Nelson Mandela's visit to the Monument in 1996

A replica of a cow given to Nelson Mandela when he visited the Monument in 1996.

The Monument's position provides fabulous views of the town below and this is what Reuben and Melanie saw.

Reuben and Melanie standing on the steps outside the Monument to gaze at the town below

It was quiet on the hill above Makhanda as Reuben and Melanie looked at the town below

Melanie and Reuben in their Shweshwe outfits on the steps beside the Monument above Makhanda

Reuben and Melanie above Makhanda

Our next destination was an AirBnB house on the banks of the Sunday's River. We arrived to enjoy the sunset on the river and I left the following morning for my flight to Cape Town. Melanie and Reuben explored the cactus garden at the back of the house, which had been dramatically lit in the evening and also looked wonderful in the morning light. I was able to photograph the nearly full moon, with its Southern Hemisphere face (much more symmetrical than its Northern Hemisphere face).

The cactus garden at dusk

Just after sunset on the Sunday's River

The cactus garden at night

Moonrise above the Sunday's River

The Sunday's river after sunrise

"Look Melanie, the river is so wide" said Reuben

"I wish we could go out on a boat" sighed Reuben to Melanie as they gazed at the Sunday's river

Sun rising over the Sunday's river

"Look at this amazing cactus Reuben, it is taller than us" exclaimed Melanie

"I cannot even see the top" said Melanie

"This one is more our height, like a cushion, but I wouldn't want to sit on it" said Reuben to Melanie

The top of the very tall cactus

Bird feeding on the cactus flowers in the morning

I took the doll sized Shakespeare Dream Coat I've been making as my contribution to the Susanna Lewis raffle doll prize for the 2022 Sasha Festival to work on while in South Africa, I did manage to do a bit of the embroidery while in SA though not a lot.

I bought some more Shweshwe fabric from my favourite little shop Mnandi Textiles in Observatory, Cape Town. The colours and patterns are such fun, maybe some of the doll family will gain more shweshwe outfits sometime soon, though only once my contribution for the Dolly Jolly raffle and the Shakespeare Dream Coat are complete.


NeverUschi said...

So nice to hear (read) from you again! I hope you'll fully recover from catching Covid. How good you still were able to travel and visit your relatives. It must have been hard to be apart for such a long time, and at such a distance.
Reuben and Melanie obviously had a good time! They look so smart in their colourful garments.
Thank you for sharing the wonderful photos, it's a bit like traveling myself...

Serenata said...

How wonderful you were able to go 'home' for a visit. Looks like you had a really wonderful time.

Are you going to the 2022 Sasha Festival?