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How quick the mood and energy changes when the weather turns from jerseys and jeans to t-shirts and shorts. It might also be due to the certainty after elections. Who knows…? One thing is for certain, the world keeps on turning, irrespectively.

After many meetings, planning and discussions ideas are congealing into substance. Several shows are already done and dusted with several more lined up. Next week sees the opening of our collectively curated glass exhibition with Dr. Ingram Anderson and myself at the Pretoria Art Association.

We have been building this jigsaw puzzle since early last year and the final picture will emerge next Friday. The exhibition is titled “Out of the Fire, Into the Light” showcasing a wide range of current art made in glass throughout South Africa. Our specific aim is to bring the artistry of glass into the light, departing from purely functional glass work.

Twelve years ago we made similar waves, establishing the South African Glass Art Society. Unfortunately this was a venture ahead of its time and had to be shelved. Maybe, just maybe this new collective show will kindle conversation for future endeavours and collaboration to grow our small yet vibrant glass art community. (Nudge, nudge! Wink, wink!)

With almost 35 artists participating “Out of the Fire, Into the Light” promises to be a window on current trends here, the Southern tip of Africa. Established masters will exhibit along young flames guaranteeing a diverse oeuvre of inspiration, creativity, imagination and artistry.
We might not have the grandest furnaces, glass museums and history of glass but have passion, ingenuity and vision to open up a future for the material in new and unpredictable ways.

Here we come, ready or not!

Out of the Fire, Into the Light will open on the 23rd of September 2016. Please visit our FB page for more info and program of events.

Out of the Fire, Into the Light forms part of the Cool Capital 2016 Biennial.

 

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“It seems obvious that something connects between the eyes and the thing being viewed. That something must be light. But does the light come from the eyes, or from the object under scrutiny, or from someplace else?”
The Story of Light, Ben Bova, 2001 – Light and Vision, p.125

Bending Light
an Exhibition Exploring Photons with Kleonicki Vanos and Lothar Böttcher

NWU Art Gallery, Botanical Gardens
01 -22 September 2016

Consciousness is not sharply defined, but fades into sub-consciousness . We are not uniformly sensitive to the illusions of light yet context matters and our perception of it affects our mind, body, and soul. We process life as we perceive it and our perceptions can change, which is reason enough to celebrate who we are.

By Bending Light, both artists invite the viewer to explore variations on perception, invoking a moment of immediacy.

Kleonicki uses light as a metaphorical brush, literally painting with light in her photographic images.

Lothar sculpturally transforms glass into objects and portals, enticing the spectator to come closer and “observe” the world through his sculptures.

Mutually collaborating on the subject of transforming the familiar arrangement of photons into new narratives these vibrant artists intend to illuminate our view of the world and our place in it.

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Look around you. Grids are everywhere. Even in nature grids appear. The structural lines of the veins on your hand, the folds and lines on your palm, they are everywhere like intersecting pathways.

A grid gives structure to space. Consisting of lines it separates planes into blocks. Lines are fundamental to the existence of a grid, but they must cross another. Some lines are longer others broader but it is this crossing of the lines that constitutes a grid.

Some grids are structured, mathematically and perpendicular. Take a map of the city or place you live in, look at these forever connecting lines which make up the roads, streets and borders of your environment.

Others seem random and organic such as the neurones and synapses in our brains or the ebb and flow in a mangrove swamp.

Ultimately these lines, wherever they find themselves, are connected.

An ongoing theme in my work has been the large optical crystal Grid Sculptures. A grid pattern is cut into the base of these large and heavy blocks, adding a rigid, formal, almost quantifiable structure into the narrative. 
Thereafter the flat sided cube is carved up, often with impulsively determined facets or, quite recently, with an underlying geometric structure. I allow these variants to manifest themselves.

The grid already determines rigidity and mathematical quantifiable value. These straight lines conform to an imposed intervention, something that is not quite from nature.

Then the carving starts. First with lines drawn onto the cube then with a saw to remove larger chunks. A rough diamond cup-disk is used thereafter to shape and hew the sculpture into desired curves and facets. It is with my hands, eyes and tools that the sculpture takes shape.

During the process which takes several days of meticulous and repetitive labour, scouring the surface with ever finer gritts, the interior emerges.

It is this magic of the hard transparent material I am after. The initial matt and rough cuts don’t tell me much of what light will do but it is towards the end of the process when, after an almost meditative sojourn the spirit of my endeavour emerges.

I am attempting to impose an organic distortion on the rigid structural set of rules, this predetermined grid we deal and often conform with. I am trying to find another way of seeing things.

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Education

2003 – Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, WA, USA – Glass Engraving and Printing Techniques under Jiří Harcuba (1928 – 2013)
2000 – Staatliche Glasfachschule Hadamar, Germany – Qualified as Glass Cutter Journeyman (Glasveredler, Fachrichtung Schliff), top of class.
1997 – Tshwane University of Technology, Hillview Arts Campus (previously known as Technikon Pretoria)
Courses: Sculpture, Glass, General & Figure Drawing, Printmaking, Photography

Collections

South Africa
– Pretoria Art Museum (New Acquisitions for Permanent Collection, 2016)
Ellerman House, Bantry Bay, Cape Town
– ABSA Gallery
Germany
Glasmuseum Hadamar
Britain
Australia
Canada
USA
Denmark
France

Awards, Acknowledgements & Publications

2016
Glass Art112 Contemporary International Artists by Barbara Purchia and E. Ashley Rooney, published by Schiffer Books
– Represented in the Pretoria Art Museum’s new acquisitions and permanent collection with There’s an Animal in here…
– Printed Portfolio –Lothar Böttcher, Artist: Selected Work 2016 in the collection of the Rakow Research Library, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, USA
– Donation of Prismatic Gadget to the Glass Art Society’s Auction at the GAS Conference, Corning, USA

2014
– Represented in the Glasmuseum Hadamar, Germany with Glass Vuvuzela and beaded carry case.

2011
– New Glass Review 32, Annual Juried publication of International Glass Art, Corning Museum of Glass, USA

2010
– Publication of work in Best of Worldwide Glass Artists book.

2007
– ABSA L’Atelier Competition 2007, Top 10 Finalist

2004
– FNB Vita Craft Now, Bus Factory, Newtown, Jhb. – Bronze award

2002
– Internationaler Glaskunstpreis 2002, Rheinbach, Germany, 3rd Place Award
– Publication of work in Neues Glas/New Glass Magazine

Solo Exhibitions & Projects

2016
– “Air” – Longstreet Art Lovers 1932, Pretoria
– “Aether & Substance” – View Gallery, The Factory on Grant, Johannesburg
– “Rise of the Rock” – Forum Homini, Krugersdorp

2014
– “Cosmic Ignition” – The Mother Flame Collective, Afrika Burn, Tankwa, Karoo, South Africa (Samuel Weisenborn, Billy Marschall, Thomas König, Inglin Böttcher, Lothar Böttcher)
A participatory artwork where volunteers reflect sunlight using 300 mirrors on a target to ignite the “Mother Flame”, bringing fire from the sky through collective participation.

2013
– “ANOMALY” – Parts & Labour, Maboneng Precinct, Arts on Main, 264 Fox St., Johannesburg. Opened by Dr. Gerry King.

2003
– Particles & Waves, 195 Mackenzie St., Brooklyn, Pretoria

Group Exhibitions

2016
Vernissage – Group Exhibition, Moor Gallery, Franschhoek.
Prime Meridian, Trent Gallery, Pretoria, curated by Anna Liebenberg.
– Emil Kováč in Action, Glass workshop and exhibition by Smelt Glass Studio and View Gallery, Norwood, Johannesburg
Non-PlaceMoór Gallery, Franschhoek. Curated by Elfriede Dreyer
Blow Your Sculpture, Pretoria Art Museum (Cool Capital 2016)
Blow Your Sculpture, Pretoria Botanical Gardens (Cool Capital 2016)
Out of the Fire, Into the Light – Contemporary South African Glass Art, Association of Arts, Pretoria. Curated by Dr. Ingram Anderson & Lothar Böttcher
Saadjies – Cool Capital 2016 group show, Anton van Wouw Museum & Aardklop, Potchefstroom
Bending Light – With Lothar Böttcher & Kleoniki Vanos, North West University Gallery, Botanical Gardens & Aardklop National Arts Festival, Potchefstroom
Beyond the Limit – Sculptural Glass, St. Lorient Fashion & Art Gallery, Brooklyn, Pretoria
Glass Art Society Conference, Corning, NY, USA – Donated work for Silent Auction
1st Jozi Inner City Courtyard Sculpture Exhibition, curated by Gordon Froud, No.1 Eloff St., Johannesburg
Liquid, group show by Smelt Glass Studio and Friends, at View Gallery, Norwood, Johannesburg
it’s an artist’s prerogative!, group exhibition, Art It Is, Johannesburg
Thresholds (in)between Glasses, group show curated by Thabang Monoa for his masters degree at Art It Is, Johannesburg
Ad Hoc, pop-up group show at the Mince Festival, Cullinan

2015
– FNB Collectors Lounge, Johannesburg Art Fair, curated by Dewald Prinsloo, Ebony Franschoek
– “The Games People Play”, group show curated by Gordon Froud and Yannis John Generalis, Aardklop National Art Festival, Potchefstroom.
– “Betwixt and Between”, South African Glass Artists, curated by Thabang Monoa for Aardklop National Art Festival, Potchefstroom.
– Dawid Ras, Collections an group show, Sandton, Johannesburg.
– Eclectic Group show, Halifax Art, Parkhurst, Johannesburg
– Jozi(Pty)Ltd., group show at Art It Is, Johannesburg
– Upcycle Chic, group show at Art It Is, Johannesburg
– Jozi Land Art, Autumn show by Site Specific Land Art, Emmarentia Botanical Gardens, Johannesburg
– “Reflections”, group show curated by the Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust, Stellenbosch.

2014
– “Pulling Roots” – curated by Gordon Froud and Vivian Tillet, Muldersdrift
– Jozi Land Art, Spring Show – Nominated as the Event Artist – A group show directed by Chris Reinders and Site Specific Land Art, Emmarentia Botanical Gardens, Johannesburg.
– “Blow Your Sculpture”, a Cool Capital 2014 project introducing the possibilities of glass to various artists working on other mediums, MAP South Africa, Harrie’s Pancakes, Eastwood, Pretoria
– “Play” – A curated sculptural group show at Nirox Sculpture Park, Krugers Dorp, South Africa. Curated by Beathur Mgoza Baker, Maaike Bakker, Jayne Crawshay-Hall & Isabel Mertz
– “The City, a Form of Life”, a Cool Capital 2014 exhibition by leading sculptors from Pretoria, Open Window Campus, Pretoria.
– Hsinchu International Glass Art Festival, Hsinchu City, Taiwan
– Rooftop VI – Contemporary Totem Poles, St. Lorient Art & Fashion Gallery, Brooklyn, Pretoria
– “Cathedra” – a Group show of chairs and seats, curated by Gordon Froud, North-West University Gallery; Bayliss Gallery, Norwood, Johannesburg.
– “Revealing Light – Light Revealed”, group exhibition, Tina Skukan Gallery, Pretoria
– “MorfforM”, a Tera Collective group show, Fried Contemporary Art Gallery, Pretoria
– “kárrictər”, collaborative exhibition with Stefan Hofmeyr, Art Space Durban, Durban
– “Showcase 1”, Bayliss Gallery, Norwood, Johannesburg
– “Shards”, group exhibition at Tina Skukan Gallery, Pretoria

2013
– “Diane Victor Benefit Auction, FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg
– “Conversations with King” – Contemporary Glass in South Africa, Tshwane University of Technology, Faculty of Arts Gallery, Pretoria
– Tom Waits for No Man”, travelling national group show, curated by Gordon Froud, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Cape Town
– “Art Sunday One”, Dawid’s Choice Gallery, 18 Silvela Road, Sandown Estate, Johannesburg (M. Dawid Ras)
– “Reveal” – Contemporary South African Glass Art, ArtEC Gallery, 36 Bird St., Port Elizabeth
– ABSA Art Gallery, “Re-sampled” invited group exhibition, Bloemfontein.
– “168 Hours”, Aardklop National Arts Festival, Snow Flake building, Potchefstroom, South Africa
– “Alice in Wonderland” Group Exhibition, curated by Gordon Froud, Longstreet Art Lovers 1932, Waterkloof, Pretoria
– “Interrupted” – Greek Cultural Week Group Exhibition, University of Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg.
– “INTERRUPTED” Art Exhibition at SAHETI School, Bedfordview, George Bizos SAHETI Scholarship and Bursary Fund
– “Objets d’Art” Glass & Jewellery Exhibition, St. Lorient Art & Fashion Gallery, Brooklyn, Pretoria

2012
– ABSA Art Gallery, “Re-sampled” invited group exhibition, Johannesburg
– SASOL New Signatures 2012, Pretoria Art Museum, Finalist
– Pop Art Exhibition, The White House Gallery, Illovo, Johannesburg
– TUT Alumnae Exhibition, Tshwane University of Technology
– Kaleidoscope – Energy of Colour, St. Lorient, Pretoria
– Translucent, Chapman’s Art Emporium, Pretoria

2011
– SASOL New Signatures 2011, Pretoria Art Museum, Finalist
– Werkstatt Schau, Samuel Weisenborn Studio, Schiessheim, Germany

2010
– South African and Modern African Art, 26 Oct 2010, Bonhams Knightsbridge, London, UK
– “L’Origine du monde- this is not a porn song”, group exhibition in the Snow Flake building for the Aardklop National Arts Festival, Potchefstroom, South Africa
– Rooftop II Contemporary Sculpture Exhibition, University of Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
– Rooftop II Contemporary Sculpture Exhibition, , St. Lorient Fashion & Art Gallery, Brooklyn, Pretoria, South Africa
– Vloei – Group Exhibition of Contemporary Glass Artists, St. Lorient Fashion & Art Gallery, Brooklyn, Pretoria, South Africa
– African Light – Group Exhibition of Local and International Glass Artists, The Edge Glass Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
– The Art of Soccer, UNISA Art Gallery, Pretoria, South Africa

2009
– Hartwarm, Platform on 18th, Pretoria, South Africa
– Standard Bank Achiever, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
– If I were a Woman… , Magpie Gallery, Centurion, South Africa
– Urban Visionaries, Chapman’s Art Emporium, Pretoria, South Africa

2008
– Rendezvous, Focus Sculpture, Jhb & University of the North West Art Gallery
– Commit, Group exhibition at Platform on 18th Gallery, Pretoria.
– Reflect Refuel, Contemporary Art Exhibition, Art Association Pretoria, Pretoria.

2007
– ABSA L’Atelier Competition 2007, Top 10 Finalist
– Boat and boat shapes, The Edge Glass Gallery, Cape Town
– Tajan Auction House, Paris. An African Painters Exhibition.

2006
– The Lighter Side, a collaborative exhibition with Ignus Gerber (photography), Justice Mokoena (sound), The Rainforest, Gordart Gallery, Johannesburg
– FNB Craft Now, KZNSA Gallery, Durban – Finalist
– Beeldspraak, works by 52 established South African artists, University of Johannesburg Art Center

2005
– Christmas Show, Gordart Gallery, Melville, Jhb.
– The South African Glass Art Society’s Glass Festival 2005
– The Edge Glass Gallery, Cape Town.
– Jean Welz Gallery, Worcester
– Dorp Street Gallery, Stellenbosch
– Irma Stern Gallery, Cape Town
– Leading Trends in Studio Glass, curated by Retief van Wyk, Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria.
– ABSA L’Atelier Competition, Finalist
– Funktional, Gordart Gallery, Melville, Jhb.

2004
– 10 x 10 x 10 Exhibition, Gordart Gallery, Melville, Jhb.
– FNB Vita Craft Now, Bus Factory, Newtown, Jhb. – Bronze award
– SAGAS Glass Festival:
– Gordart @ Thompson Gallery, Melville, Jhb.
– The Chris Tugwell Gallery, Brooklyn Mall, Pta.
– Ekurhuleni Fine Art Awards, Finalist

2003
– Ekurhuleni Fine Art Awards, Finalist

2002
– Internationaler Glaskunstpreis 2002, Rheinbach, Germany, 3rd Place Award
– FNB Vita Craft Now Exhibition 2002, Merit Award

1999
– Contemporary Glass Art in Germany, Glasmuseum Immenhausen, Germany.
– Ekurhuleni Fine Art Awards

 

Appointments & Experience

2016
– Attendee at the Glass Art Society conference, Corning, NY
– Coordinator, Curator, Instigator for Blow Your Sculpture 2016, a Cool Capital 2016 event.
– Coordinator and curator with Dr. Ingram Anderson for the national glass art exhibition: “Out of the Fire, into the Light” hosted by the Pretoria Art Association for the Cool Capital biennial, 2016

2015
– Coordinator and curator with Dr. Ingram Anderson for the national glass art exhibition: “Out of the Fire, into the Light” hosted by the Pretoria Art Association for the Cool Capital biennial, 2016

2014
– Instigator, coordinator and curator for “Blow Your Sculpture” a Sculptors and Glass Project – Building a Bridge between Mediums, Cool Capital 2014 Event, Pretoria – Group exhibition.
– “Cosmic Ignition” – a Mother Flame Event, Afrika Burn, Tankwa, Karoo, South Africa
A participatory artwork where volunteers reflect sunlight with 300 mirrors on a target to ignite the “Mother Flame”, bringing fire from the sky through collective participation.
– Founding Member of Tera Collective, a creative group of artists with Rina Stutzer, Izanne Wiid, Grietjie Lee, Sybrand Wiechers, Sarel Petrus, Lothar Böttcher.
Part Time Lecturer, Tshwane University of Technology Glass Department, Cold working and design, 2nd & 3rd Year Students
Ward Committee Member, Ward 87, Region 5, City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality – Disaster Management

2013
– Brandy Wall Sculpture, Ellerman House, Bantry Bay, Wine Gallery, Villa 2. Under direction of Angus Taylor.
Ward Committee Member, Ward 87, Region 5, City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality – Disaster Management
Part Time Lecturer, Tshwane University of Technology Glass Department, Cold working and design, 2nd & 3rd Year Students

2012
Elected Ward Committee Member, Ward 87, Region 5, City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality – Disaster Management
Part Time Lecturer, Tshwane University of Technology Glass Department, Cold working and design, 2nd & 3rd Year Students

2011
– The Glass Association (UK) tour of Coburg and surrounds, Germany.
Part Time Lecturer, Tshwane University of Technology Glass Department, Cold working and design, 2nd & 3rd Year Students

2010
– Part Time Lecturer, Tshwane University of Technology Glass Department, Cold working and design, 2nd & 3rd Year Students
– Judge for Cool Inc. Tattoo Convention, Johannesburg 2010

2009
– Design and manufacture of the Aardvark Award for Aardklop National Art Festival 2009, commissioned by the Beeld Newspaper, Potchefstroom, South Africa
– Assisting David Reade in Worcester, Western Cape, with the installation of cold working equipment and training of assistant
– Ngwenya Glass Design Workshop 2009 with Peter Bremers, Ngwenya Glass, Swaziland.
Part Time Lecturer, Tshwane University of Technology Glass Department, Cold working and design.

2008
– External Examiner/Assessor for Third-Year Glass Design Student’s Evaluation, Tshwane University of Technology.
– Attendee at the Design Indaba, Cape Town.
– Design & Construction of new studio space for Obsidian Glass, Plot 176, Spioenkop Rd., Kameeldrift East, Pta. (2007 – 2008)

2007
– External Examiner/Assessor for Third-Year Glass Design Student’s Evaluation, Tshwane University of Technology.
– Ngwenya Glass Design Workshop with Peter Bremers, Ngwenya Glass, Swaziland. – – – Part Time Lecturer, Tshwane University of Technology Glass Department, Cold working and design
– Attendee at the Design Indaba, Cape Town

2006
– External Examiner/Assessor for Third-Year Glass Design Student’s Evaluation, Tshwane University of Technology.
– Construction and installation of glass display cases for the Picasso and Africa Exhibition, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg.
– Attendee at the Design Indaba, Cape Town.

2005
– External Examiner/Assessor for Third-Year Glass Design Student’s Evaluation, Tshwane University of Technology.
– Coordinator and Committee Member of the S.A. Glass Art Society.
– Guest lecturer at the Tshwane University of Technology – UV-bonding demonstration

2004
– Coordinator and Founding Member of the S.A. Glass Art Society.
– Guest lecturer at the Tshwane University of Technology – UV-bonding demonstration.

2003
– Attendee at the Glass Art Society Conference, Seattle, USA.
– Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, WA, USA
– Assistant to Michael Bokrosh, Bokrosh Studio, Seattle, USA.
– Site Manager for the erection of the Tshwane Glass Recycling Facility in Rosslyn, Pretoria.

2002
– Design and manufacture of display stands for the Gold of Africa Museum, Cape Town under the direction of Christopher Till.

2000
– Assistant and apprentice to Michael Bokrosh, Bokrosh Studio, Seattle, Washington, USA

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The Glass Art Society conference took place in Corning this year. I was fortunate to attend, met many old friends and made many new ones. From the moment I arrived there was an invisible energy permeating through the air. Everywhere one found yourself there was bound to be somebody connected to creative glass ready to share some friendly words on where you’re from, what you do and more.

Day one started as a pre-conference event, a round table discussion on education and the roll history of glass plays in current curricula. Former board members, critics, historians, curators, department heads, educators, professors, artists, schools, students, experts and even collectors joined in the discussion. Afterwards we got a behind the scenes tour of the Rakow Research Library. I would wager that most answers to glass related questions can be found here!

I forgot to mention, earlier on day one Lino Tagliapietra was making glass at the Museum hot shop amphitheatre. The Maestro was hands-on throughout, constantly keeping his glass under control, from choosing the canes laid out to pulling and twisting of the dinosaur’s neck. Amazing!

As the round table discussion was a pre-conference event, day two was actually the first day of the conference. The welcoming reception took place at The Rockwell Museum with a beautiful setting overlooking the town of Corning from the top floor balcony. The conference started with a bang!

The days were filled to the brim fromThursday till Saturday. There were talks and demos, in the hot shops, cold shops, lamp working studios, and even lec-mos (hybrid for lecture-demos) in the town’s movie theatres. Panel discussions at Corning Headquarters and the Corning High School auditorium. Evening events in town with the Crystal City Stroll where public light sculptures were exhibited all around town and galleries showed cutting edge contemporary art. Silent and live auctions with works donated by artists help fund GAS.

On Saturday the closing party highlight event, the Glass Fashion Show curated by Lorna Doneffer got everybody fired up and shaking bootie on the dance floor. It was almost sad to say goodbye that night.

Sunday was my first opportunity to walk through the museum, slowly. I spent two days traversing the expansive display of where glass came from, how it got here and where it might take us next.

Monday evening was laundry night and Tuesday morning it was off to New York City…

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Tofo, Mozambique

It was probably one of the best days out ever, traveling on a dhow from Barra to Pansy Island where we snorkelled and then enjoying a local lunch on Pig Island (Ilha dos Porcos).

Paulo, our guide, introduced himself to us earlier in the week. Engaging us with his friendly demeanour he outlined the boat trip with snorkelling and a lunch, which we have been wanting to do since the first time we came to Tofo in 2008. Taking his contact details we agreed to set a date.

When on holiday, time seems long and schedules irrelevant. Suddenly one realises that the trip home is around the corner and even if the weather is crummy with a chance sunshine one should take the gap and see more than just the confines of the little holiday town. Good call!

At 08:25 the bakkie was here to pick us up. Leaden clouds framed the horizon with a crispy edge in the air. Nevertheless, our spirits where high and everyone tumbled into the back. The trip to Barra was long and cold and without any expectations. I even asked Paulo of the ship has life vests and he gave me a quizzical look, as if I spoke a foreign language.

Driving through coconut forests on twisting sand roads past derelict lodges I could not but feel being in a tropical thunder type of movie – surreal… We arrived at the launch where several dhows were waiting. Several other tourists were also there, mostly coming in their own vehicles.

The beauty of no expectations is that everything becomes part of the journey, the experience. Paulo kept on telling us some history of the lodges, especially the empty ones. It sounds like there are problems in Mozambique emanating from renewed political upheavals and unrest further up North (probably connected to the financial benefits of the gas deposits found off shore in Beira). These turmoils don’t visibly permeate our tourist environment. (Although I am sure there are many more conversations flowing beneath the perceptible surface)

Boarding the dhow we got introduced to our captain, Mandito. The clouds were still menacing but our spirit of adventure positively filled our sails. The dhow was simple with a long bamboo holding up the lateen and scattered planks providing a floor. Nimble hands got us off on our cruise, floating over a forest of sea urchins.

Our first stop: Pansy Island. The name comes from the many pansy shells found on this sandbank island, which emerges only on low tide. Deftly manoeuvring his ship with just the wind and rudder, captain Mandito pulled us close into the bank where we disembarked. Paulo brought a whole box filled with snorkelling gear (masks, snorkels and fins) for all to kit up. My foot was still sore from a shattering bump earlier in the week and the fins wouldn’t have fit in any case on my size 13’s.

Off we went! At first it was slow to enter the crystal clear water. It was still cold. Within minutes the skies cleared and distracted by the multitude of shells, corals and fish swimming with us at an arm length’s distance the coldness was soon forgotten. We were searching for the famous seahorses which unfortunately stayed illusive. Instead we saw scorpion fish, stone fish, clown fish, crabs, crayfish, other fish, stars, tube worms and even a little octopus. It was beautiful! The children loved it as did us big ones.

Then it was off to the next destination, Pig Island. Sailing past the sand banks we saw many many people bent over in the water picking muscles and gathering them in floating buckets. As Paulo informed us, this is the community collecting food, for themselves and for the market.

On Pig Island, which is named after all the pigs farmed there centuries ago, we got a traditional lunch of deep fried fish, rice, tomatoes and onions, a delicious cassava sauce made from the leaves called mapharinia, chips, clams and pickled muscles. We took some beers along to wash it all down.

After lunch Paulo took us for a personal tour of the island. There are about 1500 inhabitants. We met the three teachers at the little school with 200 children. The soccer field and market place was next to that. We walked through the coconut palms to a small clinic past the church. Ironically there were many pigs too, tied up to trees and some in pens. Chickens occasionally crossed the paths, some looking a little disheveled.

On our way out Paulo introduced us to the chief of the island, Eric. A pleasant man wearing a grey coat. He greeted us all in broken English. It was the end of the day and he said time for a beer and then rest. (Actually he sat down after we left to do the books of the days earnings.)

And so our day was winding down. The sun was low and the tide high when we left Pig Island. Sailing back the captain decided to gun it over Pansy Island, which was now submerged beneath the swells – a short cut, if you like. Paulo had a good chuckle as we neared White Sands on the other side of the lagoon as many of the other tourists had parked their cars close to the launch and will have to wait till much later for the tide to ebb before being able to drive back through the low lying areas.

The sun was setting as we disembarked into the warm waters of the mangrove. It was gorgeous! The proverbial cherry on top of a wonderful day with friendly people and nature in Africa.

You can contact Pualo Gwambe on +258 84 52 345 68 or +258 82 39984 51

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