2. Eyes in the land

30cm x 20.5cm, Cotton and silk embroidery thread on calico

This work is about seeing and being blind, listening and not being able to hear. It is about refusing to understand your own destructive presence within a utopian landscape.

I immigrated to Australia for twelve years after a harrowing personal experience in South Africa. I wanted to make a work that documented what I couldn’t see, understand or hear. Hopefully by interrogating my own anxiety I could understand how to transcend this as well as embrace my compulsion to return to the site of my greatest fear.

Three years after returning to South Africa I made this work. I had to transcend my own tendency to want to describe the particular as a didactic narrative. The poetic visual narrative greatly assisted me to transcend many aspects of these complex experiences of location and dislocation.

The first year I was back, I lived with lions and within double electric fences. The lions had the bulk of the land and we humans had small, secure, contained areas. I felt reasonably safe in my electrified pen. One night at 3am, I mistook the cry of a hunted, dying wildebeest for a human voice and I understood how primal the African landscape was and how tenuous the human presence can be within it. Understanding this gave me a sense of peace.

This work also began as a short poem which I then worked into a drawing. I was astonished to see how the colours and forms began to express what the writing was unable to. I fought with the thread and the fabric, so unsure of myself. I understood that the journey into creativity was going to challenge me. I also realized that nothing was going to change my experience in South Africa; it is only by finding and expressing my own creative authority that I could, with confidence, begin to understand my South African destiny.

Eyes that are afraid

Eyes that are angry

Dangerous eyes

everything they see

will live in fear