On ground still wet from the morning rain, seven St Dunstaners took a stroll through the South African landscape, recreated in the grounds of the British Museum in Bloomsbury. Designed as a multi-sensory experience they touched and smelt the succulent vegetation and flora of the Cape region as they walked along the winding path. The plants and flowers bought in from South Africa included African lilies (Agapanthus), Funbos heather, varieties of daisy and the South African geranium (Pelargonium) and Elephant’s foot tubors. Making a bold statement in the weak October sun the Lesotho red hot poker (Kniphofia caulescens) with its bright orange rocket-shaped flowers stood alongside the shocking pink fig marigold (Carpobrotus).
Merging the landscape with human history and culture, reproductions of rock paintings by the San, a hunter-gatherer community, were woven amongst the plants. Bending to touch the surface of the rock, Eddie O’Brien who had travelled with his fellow St Dunstaners and staff from the craft workshop in Ovingdean felt the outline of elephants carved into the stone. More than just an art form it depicts how the San used animals to bring rain to arid land. The San’s shaman would think of the rain as an animal, they would capture the imaginary animal, in their mind they would take it to the place where they wanted rain and kill it. Its blood would then become rain.
The British Museum’s African Collections Curator, Chris Spring led the journey and Percussionist and Composer Eugene Skeef played native instruments with everyone joining in. With history meeting present day culture, Vuvulezas were bought out to accompany traditional instruments. Impressed by Arthur Walton’s prowess on the Vuvuzela, Eugene gave him a dried carob pod that was used as a percussion instrument as it rattled when shaken.
Arthur Walton said: “It was a long journey to and from the British Museum but it was a great experience. I hadn’t played a Vuvuzela before and it certainly makes a loud noise. The garden inspired all of us to have a go at recreating elements of it at Ovingdean. Esther Freeman, Catherine Jones-Romain and Phil Rawson all have ideas how we can do it. We’ve worked out how to recreate the instruments and will also try some rock carvings.”
St Dunstaners who journeyed through the South Africa landscape were: Bob Michael, Peggy Saunders, John Nunney, Eddie O’Brien, Arthur Walton, Brian Taylor and John Watts. They were accompanied by Art & Craft Workshop Manager, Esther Freeman and craft instructors Catherine Jones-Romain and Phil Rawlson
written by Catherine Goodier