30 Paintings in 30 Days

30 in 30 Day 30

Pineapple Seller
Charcoal and Acrylic on Paper

Pineapple Seller Web

Pineapple from a lady who was selling sliced, peeled, pineapple from her barrow on the corner. The slices cost almost nothing, which makes me a tad embarrassed about how much my bottle of wine costs and how many slices of pineapple she would need to sell to pay for it. I did give her a bunch of money, but still it’s humbling.

30 Paintings in 30 Days

30 in 30 Day 29

Under the Tamarisk Tree
Charcoal and Acrylic on Paper

Under a Tamersik Tree Web

Boys use long poles to bash seed pods from the Tamarisk trees in Juba, South Sudan.

As expected I haven’t managed to do a painting every day in the 30 in 30 days challenge, however, it has made me think of my art in a new way, forced me into a new medium and the discipline to apply.

Diary of an Adventure

Vineyard Adventures

Vineyard Adventures
25 January 13

A day of sorting the studio, packing the new wine fridge, which is a tad small, probably perfect? The new, lemon green Weber is ready for action, waiting for Fredy to arrive from Switzerland and Coreta from Knysna.

Polly is recovering from her surgery and although moving with much less pain, tiers easily and stares at us with huge eyes. Short walks in the vineyards al, that is possible for now.

The cottage garden is suffering in the heat and wind. Even the rugged agapanthus are taking strain and many of the vineyards are showing signs of heat stress. For all that, the drive through to Stellies was stunning where we enjoyed excellent sushi at Genki’s.

On the patio, with Francolin’s and their chicks visiting, Terry’s superb terrine, accompanied by bubbles and Bein Merlot rose. Perfect on a scorching day. The question, being implemented by the ever patient David. What is the optimum length for the wind paddle of the wind chime?

Dentist sorted, we stopped at Wild Peacock for a pre-lunch cappuccino and a haircut. Jordan Estate for a stunning lunch, the valley golden in the sunlight. Dad and Mary drove down from Montagu and Hesta managed to join us. We made a fair amount of noise, the Syrah was very good, and the lemon and poppy seed soufflé with vanilla, outstanding.

Stellies Views
Oil on Canvas

Stellies Views
Oil on Canvas

Mum’s for a brief visit after a morning in the Regional Office. Lesa and Alan came across for one of Mum’s table-groaning meals and it was great to see Lesa so rested after her trambolic year and recovered from the fall from her horse.

To counter the triple assault of searing summer temperatures, sea sand and pine tree roots in the garden, I’m going to try planting in cardboard boxes, sunk into the ground filled with potting soil. By the time the cardboard has disintegrated the plants should be established enough to to withstand the roots. We stopped at Delios to see what garden bench, urns and other elements could be used in some of the areas where the plants are struggling.

Twelve Apostles, where Polly is welcome with her own menu and the blue sea stretches to where it falls off the world. A few seals to keep us entertained while we enjoyed a glass of wine and a light meal before dragging ourselves back to the cottage for a well earned nap.

My painting, confined to the wooden garden furniture!

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Juba Adventures
18 Jan 13
Dinner of left over terrine and pineapple from a lady who was selling sliced, peeled, pineapple from her barrow on the corner. The slices cost almost nothing, which makes me a tad embarrassed about how much my bottle of wine costs and how many slices of pineapple she would need to sell to pay for it. I did give her a bunch of money, but still it’s humbling.

Juba town feels like it has been demanding these past few days, although I’m still learning. During our retreat with the heads of all the UN agencies in South Sudan, we were given a fascinating talk on the background to some of the troubles and violence we are seeing in the country. What was particularly interesting was seeing how these same issues of entitlement and reward for the years of struggle are mirrored in much of what we have seen in Zim, and to a more sophisticated extent in South Africa.

My painting was effortless with the young girl from Lake State forcing herself from the canvas. I have also done one of the charcoal studies that I didn’t get to during the week.
Oil on Linen 40cmx50cm
Expectations Web

Our new refugee crisis is looming in Yida, the original refugee settlement for those fleeing the fighting in South Kordofan, which is bursting and we are seeing almost 3,000 people a week coming down from the Nuba Mountians. The numbers are difficult because its also the time of the month when food rations are being handed out, and no one is really sure how many of the new arrivals are here to collect food to take back across the border to the rebel fighters.

Our job is to create the infrastructure that will allow about 40,000 people to move to a new camp, which is some 40 km from Yida at a place called Jam-Jam. It’s still close to the border, which means the security fears of being caught up in the fighting remain. There is an alternative site which has been prepared at Nial, which would take them about 50km from the border, which the refugees refuse to use. They claim it’s prone to flooding, while the reality is probably that it’s too far for them to support the rebels.

Concern that any build up of machinery for road construction will be seen as an act of aggression and instead of protecting the refugees will escalate the conflict. Then of course there are the timing issues, is the area clear of landmines, do we have the correct government approvals, how to provide water, what can be done about prepositioning supplies ahead of the roads being cut in the wet season and exactly how many refugees are we talking about? This while trying not to drown in the myriad of UN agencies and NGO’s involved.

My jog was noisy with the guy in the mosque in full cry and dogs barking. Not sure if they are related?? I had a jogging buddy for part of the way, who kept going faster and faster. Fortunately he turned off before my lungs gave out.

Chiba (our Japanese Program Officer) organised the UNOPS SSOC Olympic games that as part of her farewell. She is leaving for our Johannesburg office and will be missed in South Sudan, where she has made a real impact. She had a range of team games that included crazy things like a three-legged race. No surprise that I took my partner sprawling, much to the delight of all. At least I wasn’t the only one! The speed at which some of the teams raced around the course was impressive, and the relay was incredibly competitive. I did excel at being bombarded with water balloons, as there were bonus points on offer, and I was confined to a circle with little room to move.

My bags are packed, the coffee machine is clean and I’m heading to the vineyards.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Juba Diary
11th Jan 13
Cattle blocking the road in Juba Town, still feels bazaar. Even though cattle are the cultural backbone of South Sudan, as well as a source of conflict and one of the biggest migrations in the world. There are an estimated 1 million cattle waiting to cross over into South Sudan from the north and west of the country as pastoralists follow the receding water and grazing.

One of the paintings I have had on my list for ages, ‘One Man and his Dog,’ the walk in the Hottentots Holland above Gordon’s Bay, looking out over False Bay, the sweet scented air of fynbos.

Kirsten asked for a painting of Turin, Italy by night, which I have been putting off as I didn’t have the Ultramarine Light she wanted. The colours vibrantly reminiscent of Van Goch.
My least favourite start to the day. Cold shower. Particularly as I didn’t get out for my jog, as my head is still stuffy with cold. Not sure how it’s possible to catch a cold in the tropics with the daily temperatures in the mid 30’s!

My evening paintings done after an eleven hour day in the office, and then dealing with the interruptions for silly things like rumours of an ebola outbreak, the media storm resulting from the briefing on Blue Nile at the Security Council, or the confiscation of staff radio’s and ID’s at army checkpoints, are not my best. My initial focus was on getting the tonal aspects of the charcoal and acrylic medium correct, however, I find I’m focusing more and more on simplicity and what is the minimum that will still convey the energy and passion of the subject. Japanese woodblock style??

On the menu for dinner; chicken terrine with sundried tomatoes and basil, accompanied by a Barefoot Shiraz from California. Not shabby for Juba Town.

Lots of moving parts as the office goes from the half dozen who remained over the holiday period to the hundreds who are floating about as they head out to the project sites. The canteen has started up, which makes my meals a bunch easier, and I have had the first round of telling people that their contracts are not being renewed as project funds or priorities are changed.

Not sure how, but I actually survived an evening without wine. I left my strategic stock supply in the office and not having a car couldn’t get back to collect it. Didn’t notice is any difference to my morning jog though.

Sustainable Development, a letter to my UNCT Leadership Group, which is going to be published by Devex.

South Sudan remains a complex place to work. We have the expected post-conflict, limited resource environment that has minimal capacity and is beset by natural, and man-made, disasters. Within this context, and given that the country is one of the most underdeveloped in the world, I expected that upholding our core UN value of ‘do no harm’, would be the easiest aspect in sustainable development within both the humanitarian and nation building space.

It was during a conversation with a Cabinet Minister of the South Sudan Government, about the years of war, adjusting to a post-conflict environment, and governing, as well as meeting the never ending priority list of Nation Building that I came across a key element of sustainable development. We don’t know the country. Particularly when it comes to sustainable infrastructure.

In building a road, an environmental impact assessment may tell us where we cross the migratory route for elephants. Or in setting up a refugee camp, where the winter flood waters need to be directed so as not to flood the local market. Or where material for construction activities can be excavated in a way that creates a water hafir to mitigate against inter-tribal conflict. All of which are activities that increase sustainable development, and ‘do no harm’.

A factor I have not integrated into my thinking, and planning, is the huge resource of knowledge many of those in Government have, after spending two decades walking across the country during the years of conflict.

In opening a road, to increase food security through market access, enhancing peace building by allowing security forces to rapidly respond to cattle raiding, reducing child mortality by enabling women to easily access clinical services, and positively impacting on the lives of girls by creating safe routes free from violence, are we creating long-term problems by not knowing that this same road is now opening areas for loggers to exploit a previously inaccessible resource? Or that the road will link two communities rekindling a decades old conflict?

My task for the New Year is to access this pool of knowledge and as such achieve sustainable development that also does no harm.