Images and symbols of a journey and the things we put behind us when we move forward.
During the spring of 1996 I went back to my childhood home, Groothoek Mission Hospital in the former Lebowa – 30 years after I had left. Driving away after an emotional visit, the title for a quilt came to mind. The sounds at the hospital were exactly as I remembered it: a symphony of silence backed by the church bell, a penny whistle, chirping cicadas, and the quiet voices of patients. The mission church on the premises had a great influence on my life because in a strange twist of apartheid, the white staff at the hospital were not allowed inside the church. As a child, the exclusion caused great confusion in me and I was violently drawn to the forbidden church when the bell tolled. I used to sneak into the churchyard and sit under the window – enthralled by the singing of the black nurses and patients. This was my religious education.
My husband and I immigrated to New Zealand in 1998. We left Cape Town on 4 December and arrived in Auckland on 6 December 1998. After spending a few days in Devonport to catch up with our son who migrated to New Zealand a year earlier, we embarked on a tour through the country to feel where we wanted to live. During the journey we discovered the famous New Zealand muffin and took a muffin break every morning. On our third day in New Zealand our son and his partner announced that they were expecting our first grandchild. The quilt tells the story of our arrival, our journey, and the subsequent loss of our little pea pod.
I made the quilt seven years after our migration to New Zealand. When I started, the old familiar images kept on asserting themselves and begged to be included. Every image is deeply personal to me and has been my companions for many years. In difficult times, they always give me comfort. Made for my daughter – for her support.
A quilt that took me to a still place.
In African art, the depiction of birds in this feeding posture alludes to human sacrifice, sacred messengers, and divine acceptance.
While I was making the quilt, every individual block took me to a faraway place, a once upon a time place, and above all, a still place.
On silence, solitude, birdsong, and scattered showers in our gully.