Diary of an Adventure

Thesen Harbour Town Adventures

Blisters. Stiff muscles. Creaking joints. Such, the first week in the apartment, with stairs. Walking into town. Carrying Polly up and down the stairs. A jogging program, and hours in the studio.

We have a resident owl who sits on top of the security camera mast, filling the still air with its, fog horn rivaling, hooting. Head rotating to follow us on our walk. Curious, rather than perturbed.
‘A Moment’, a painting of a couple sitting at the Heads. I wanted capture the joy of the moment. Bodies coiled with mirth. A bit of a fight as I wasn’t getting the figures to ‘jump’ from the composition. Instead, they were fading into the background. One of those days when the tonal aspects weren’t working for me. Their small size also giving me problems.
Having to paint with my right hand as my left wing is struggling after a week of continuous painting in the studio.
Sun out after the storms that had us closeted in the apartment. A chance to get the new fireplace working. With the sunshine, a guy out on his mower creating Land-art amongst the long grass and yellow daisies. ‘Pathway to my heart’??
The studio is empty. Ernest is wrapped ready to be shipped to its new home. Another of the small painting has been sold. The easels and painting bits have been relocated to the garage, and the builders are scheduled to start the last phase of the renovation work, taking out the front walls and windows of the studio to give us more light and visibility.
The first of the kitchen units from Design-Wise has been installed giving us a glimmer of what the final kitchen will look like.
Latest paintings from the studio
A Pair
Oil on Canvas 20cmx20cm
A Pair
Yacht Club
Oil on Canvas 20cmx20cm
Yacht Club
Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Our water is so bad at the moment, I’m not sure if my hair is cleaner or dirtier after my shower.

My ‘adventurous’ pallet was tested by the breakfast Salah prepared that had elements of Egyptian cuisine in it. The olive, rice and onion dish, served with Spanish omelets was sharp and more than a wake up. For the traditional after the meal fruit, he served ‘Khoshaf’ with coffee. Dates soaked in milk. While certainly no date fan, it was amazing, if rich. Excellent for that 2am, jet-lag boost.

I have been a tad disappointed at the depth of colour in some of my paintings. Perhaps underpainting with contrasting colour is the reason? It makes my single session painting more difficult, as the underpainting has to dry. A couple of paintings on the easel. Small works, with the sunset skies, Turner tantilising, over Juba Town that are so amazing at the moment.

After a twelve hour sleep, I put my head down and did my painting before the patio got too hot. The sun has moved so that in the afternoon its in full sun. Great for drying washing, but not great for painting!

‘Juba Town’, from a photo by Elke. The road outside the UNOPS compound leading up to the banking sector. Remnants of Colonial Architecture remain amongst the emergence of glass and plastic. The painting a tad nostalgic and romanticised. Juba Town scrubbed clean by afternoon storms. An escape from the harsh reality of guns and cholera.

The Dave Brown guys have commented on three of the paintings I submitted. Great that they highlighted so many and we will see if I get to the finalists. They have also asked what are my three goals for my art, which is sort of troubling. Sometime around midnight, I decided on:
1. Art Gallery open with a curated Annual ‘Dave Brown’ type competition
2. Yearly mentorship program for local emerging artists supported by galleries in Knysna
3. Linking paintings with stories

I also sent a bunch of elephant pictures to the Royal Society of Wildlife Artists for a bit of variety.

The calm of Juba Town turned into chaos with streets blocked by soldiers conducting random searches. The crazy drivers the biggest threat as they remonstrated with the soldiers and confidently tried to squeeze their vehicles into nonexistent spaces. The traffic policemen were humerous in their efforts to disentangle the knots.

Afternoon jog in Juba 3 as the heavy morning storm prevented me going out at first light. The air still heavy with moisture, I slogged my way around the circuit, running the last section with a bunch of guys who I don’t normally see out. Nothing like testosterone as a motivator! My magic blue tape giving me a bionic edge.

A night of rain and its still raining. Still, I slept well in one of the transit rooms we now have here at the office for people who are only spending a short time in Juba. It was basic, but comfortable. The matress having seen too many bodies, with that natural hollow that had me mountain climbing to change position.

No alarm needed, as the call to prayer was strident. No excuse for those who did not get up!

Laundry sorted, coffee machine cleaned, and for a week, this adventure is done.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Juba Town is crazy with streets full of traffic. Shops open and well stocked. Street side restaurants busy and people all over the place. Tents erected for weddings and the soccer fields have nets attached to the goal posts. Players jog around the field and go through their warmup drills. A semblance of normality, within which, even the speeding military vehicles and convoys of new armoured personnel carriers don’t seem out of place. Dogs are back on the streets, slowly exerting their dominance on life.

Sunrise jog, managing to do an extra loop. The first time I have managed that for almost a year. Hopefully my Achilles will survive. Back at the house, I found that I had locked the keys inside. I looked to see if any of the windows were unlocked, which of course they weren’t. However, I knew that if I could get up to the emergency window bars, I could undo the lock and at least then see how to get through the glass window.

I had to wake Eddie to get guys from the office to bring a vehicle with its roof rack so we could get up to the window, as its almost three meters from the ground at that point. Sher arrived, and we undid the lock, only to find that there isn’t enough space between the window and the barrel bolt to unhinge it. A bit of force sorted that and we could swing open the bars. A combination of cunning and a progressively bigger hammer, finally had the glass of the window removed and we could send a skinny, flexible guy through to open the door. We did damage one of the shrubs getting the vehicle up to the house, but for the rest nothing was actually broken.

American style brunch, with pancakes (made with a special milled flower from a Whole Foods type place) and Canadian Maple syrup. Phones and radios chirping constantly with updates on the attacks in Bentu and Nassir. Both which seemed to have fallen to the government forces again. All holding our breaths that there won’t be a new round of atrocities. Fighting around the PoC adding to the tension and volatility of life in Juba Town.

Don’t see a lot of birds around Juba, with the Marabou storks and yellow billed kites the exception. Occasionally I have seen a coucal when I’m out for my morning jog, and the odd owl silhouetted against the sunrise. To this, I can now add the unmistakable blue flash of a malachite kingfisher and crowned plovers.

The laundry is sorted, the coffee machine cleaned and my bag is packed. Ending, for now, this adventures.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

Watched over by the moon, it was a cool morning for my jog. I came across a large puff adder that had been run over on the road confirming my caution about not going out in the dark.

Bunches of meetings as per normal on a Friday and a zillion small bits that have kept me out of mischief.

Juba remains quiet, with ongoing clashes on Juba-Yei road. Continued reports of defections, and road banditry. Single incidents resulting from indiscipline.

President Kiir addressed the media stating that they expect an end to hostilities to be imminent. Let’s hope.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

SSOC braai at Juba 3

Security issues that have dominated the past weeks, replaced by people issues. Staff stranded in various parts of the globe after having documents and money stolen. One of the engineers admitted to the UNMISS clinic in Malakal with suspected heart problems and unfortunately not recovering. Special flight organized to get his body back to Juba and get the information to his family.

Transit Guesthouse, where Jogchum has turned a blank wall into a feature by having granadilla plants create vertical lines of green. Simple, and stunning, particularly with the shadows of the foliage. The subject for a small painting.

Lines of Green
Oil on Canvas 40cmx30cm

House is quiet after the departure of my staff. The mess is under control and the storm that has been threatening all afternoon continues to rumble like a bad tempered old man with gas!

Around 27 people were here for the braai that Edit and Sher did all the hard work for. At one point we had 11 cooks around the fire from 8 nationalities and not a single South African or Australian interfering! Sher marinaded his meat in a special Afghan, or LA, receipt that involved lots of bits, including Tabasco. Tasty it was. There was a bit of concern about the lack of kitchen implements, however, Simon did a great job of putting out a whole range of salad bits, of which there were no leftovers.

I don’t think anyone went home with paint on them!

Juba Style, a small painting (15cmx15cm) for Van of a view over a green Juba Town from the top of Jebel hill.

juba Style
Oil on Canvas 15cmx15cm

The design for the National Archive has been released. Very pleased that its the design that I liked the most. Hopefully it won’t change too much from the original concept as it goes through the detailed phases.


My jog around the Juba 3 circuit, with more wild flowers out after the rains. Seemed like an impossibly long way.

Painting for Aly packed for its trip to France, fridge emptied, coffee machine cleaned, linen changed, ironing sorted and suitcase packed.

Diary of an Adventure

Juba Adventures

28th March 13

Rain over Addis Web

Rain over Addis
Oil on Canvas 40cmx40cm

Thunder rumbling over Juba Town, the scramble to ensure staff are safe as reports come in of over 100 South Sudan military casualties from fighting in Jongelei, reportedly heading towards one of our project sites. The airfield, a priority project to make it accessible for fixed wing aircraft has demanded bunches of time to unblock the finances unblocked within our systems.

The thunder also a warning that the rains are on their way making travel within the country almost impossible. This with our twenty truck convoys waiting to depart, while others are being hijacked and fuel stolen (we use 3,000 liters per day at one of our sites) grinding our refugee response to a halt.

Early jog on quiet roads with glimpses of the full moon between the clouds. Lightning flashing in the distance. Glad I had my lamp, as corrugated iron sheets and been blown into the road, which I would never had seen in the dark. On the way back, the call to prayer over Juba Town.

In Juba Town, road crews have been sweeping the sand off the streets which keeps the dust down but has taken away my jogging surface. A few rainstorms should bring the sand back.

Dinner at Da Vinci watching the Nile, with Laura, one for Ian’s postgrad class mates in York. She is in Juba for a couple of months doing research for her dissertation. The traffic coming back was nuts.

I ignore the bunch of proposals and stuff that were piling up on my desk and spent the day painting, ‘Rain over Addis’. My sky and clouds looked flat and dead, so I scrapped the whole lot and started again. Much happier. Even if the clouds look like a bit crazy with wild colours and the focal point seems to vanish from the page.

The apartment looks empty and dusty with the paintings all packed. Only the latest one is still on the easel, with dirt marks on the walls where others have rested. The coffee machine is cleaned, as I start the trip back to the vineyards.