In SPOONDANCE I dance on my grave, or at least the grave that years of Calvinist education has drummed into me, a decidedly cathartic drumming and dancing.
I don’t really believe in heaven or hell, but for me what personifies these two uncertain locations are scrapyards and old rubbish dumps.
Hell is called Gehenna in the Bible. It was a fearful place just outside ancient Jerusalem, to the south. Its notoriety stems from the fact that human sacrifice, especially child sacrifice, sometimes took place there. For most of the time it was a smouldering rubbish dump. When I read about Gehenna, the Bible’s most (in)famous rubbish dump and the fire and smoke that could always be seen coming from it, I thought of South Africa’s most famous ‘dump’ at Wonderwerk cave in the rocks between Danielskuil and Kuruman. Like Gehenna, it is remembered and studied for the fire that once burned in it – the oldest trace of human fire, dating back to over a million years ago. Wonderwerk cave is now a world heritage site. It is more becoming to call an old, dysfunctional dump a ‘midden’ and middens, or even landfills, are a great source of inspiration in my work – hell becoming heaven, so to speak.
Scrapyards are places where we take things that would otherwise end up in the dump. Like so many other artists, I am always rummaging through them, looking for interesting materials and objects. One of my favourite scrapyards is Avery Scrap Metal and Glass Recyclers in Mill street, Bloemfontein. They have a special way of categorising and storing an enormous amount of interesting stuff. On my visit in 2013, I found a box full of very dirty kitchen utensils, and of special interest were the dented and filthy tablespoons. I decided that, since they were so very dirty, I would probably be able to pay less for them. To my utter shock they were hellishly expensive because they were silver spoons. Actually, they were only silver-plated. The fact that silver, such a noble material, naturally becomes spoilt and tainted over time appealed to my sense of irony regarding heaven and hell. I scraped together all the money I could lay my hands on and bought the spoons.
Some of us are born with a silver spoon in the mouth. The silver spoon is synonymous with wealth, especially inherited wealth. A prosperous background or a well-to-do family environment does not, however, guarantee happiness in this life and especially not in the one hereafter. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24)
What makes a wealthy person luckless and poor? Ultimately all silver spoons look tarnished – born in heaven and deceased in hell. Are all of these things: heaven, hell, prosperity, poverty and even the proverbial silver spoon, not merely a fiction and should they, as imaginary figments, dampen our desire to dance?