Thoughts on Earth Day

I do hope you have given thought today on how you can protect our planet.  The use of plastic is disturbing as we see the disastrous effects of it in our oceans and marine life around the world.  Just Friday late afternoon I had a walk in my area and was so sad to see all the plastic bags on the banks of the river – hanging onto the bank like washing on a line!  I use recycled shopping bags, but need to cut on using plastic packaging when  buying fresh food, fruits and vegetables.

During April 2018 I had the privilege of spending a few days in the Khutse area, part of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana, as well as next to the Orange River near Hopetown and in  Mokala National Park Northern Cape Province of South Africa.  We were blessed with thunderstorms and downpour of rains and the most beautiful clouds, as well as seeing a full moon rising… and game on the lovely grassed veld.

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in his seminal essay, “Nature.” 

I love to spend these days quietly and observing;  sitting, listening and looking mostly.  Trees, plants, birds, animals, and the beautiful early morning awakening and then the quieting of the early evening are part of this daily experience in the bush.  I try to capture it by making drawings and really opening my senses to what nature has to offer every day.

It is with this experience in nature that I want to explore why we conserve and why we visit nature and have days to commemorate nature.   The more I research about nature conservation the more I am under the impression that current efforts are not really making the desired impact – more and more species and natural areas are endangered.  These wilderness areas I visited with my family have been set aside as parks or as wilderness areas.  Could they not be seen as just islands of pristine nature, protected from development, agriculture, mining, damming and urbanisation, that are visited by tourists and or naturalists?   I am becoming aware that protection of these wilderness areas  often involved resettling large numbers of people, too often without fair compensation for their lost homes, hunting grounds, and agricultural lands.  At Mokala Interpretation Centre I became aware that nature conservation brought confrontation with the indigenous peoples of the area.

As a family we love camping and I have always looked at this utilising of nature as a way of making less impact on pristine nature conservation areas, but our parks are more and more filled with luxury lodges,  tourists accommodation with modern amenities (wi-fi, tv, restaurants)  busy camping sites, eco trails for our expensive 4×4 vehicles and other game viewing vehicles, all leaving the footprint of development due to infrastructure needs –  buildings, roads, sanitation,refuge removal,  toilets and  water supply.  These areas are not accessible for most people living in and around these areas and I do understand that the economy is fed by tourism.   The thoughts  that I am pondering on is that here  in  Southern Africa nature and humankind evolved together, generations of pastoralists farmers and nomadic cattlemen have walked the wilderness and had to protect and compete for safety, food and survival.  They lived in close relationship with the sounds and sights of nature, and  the ‘civilized Westerner’ came much later and started dictating arrogant nature conservation practices, which alienated people from nature.    By now many conservationists are realising that conservation should demonstrate that the fates of nature and of people are  intertwined.  Nature conservation strategies should be about the health and prosperity of nature and people.  Addressing poverty,  income deprivation in areas around our game reserves, national parks and wilderness areas will have to be part of nature conservation plans.

John Muir, a forefather of the American conservation movement, argued that “wilderness” should be cleared of all inhabitants and set aside to satisfy the urbane human’s need for recreation and spiritual renewal.”

I am convinced this is a exclusive view of conservation.

I have started a  painting on a copper plate – here is the photo reference for my study.

Leaving at dusk-25

Leaving at Dusk – a photo taken by photographer (my talented sister in law)  Mietsie Visser.

This photo of the three rhinos running away in this beautiful time of the day inspired me to discuss a  different kind of drawing with  my art tutor, Johan Conradie.  I decided to look at the daguerreotype photographic process – a development during the Victorian era. The atmospheric effects of these Daguerreo type photographs are  beautiful for me, and  I love the idea of using this photo of Mietsie and linking it to the development of  my exploration with lines.  Due the to influence of photography that shows reality, art could use this way of seeing.


Daguerro type


On the easel: trying to capture the light, then the background, some more lines and scratching on the copperplate. I hope to reach a Daguerro type painting.

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