Heidi Fourie:

a reminder of the solace and silence

a reminder of the solace and silence

Arriving at Witklipfontein, approaching the Dome’s ripples, we noticed considerably more trees and greenery than in the surrounding golden Platteland. We entered a restored grassland framed by black-hilled horizons, shaped by a mountain-sized stone from space that altered the course of Earth’s evolution two billion years ago. This stone, eroded over time, left only patterned clues.The knowledge of the Vredefort impact is only roughly two years older than me.

Our residency house is aptly nestled in the bush, and you can hardly hear a car or a machine, only birds, jackals, and wind sweeping, swaying through grass. Nindya is a calm, thoughtful presence.

I’ve always imagined being in the wilderness without paint or drawing materials. How would I create? I’d probably tie some sticks together. I collected butterfly and moth wings, unsure of what to do with these fragile, delicate objects.

Branching Out

Swye wasn’t carefully planned or preconceived; it was improvised. It wasn’t difficult to shape branches into a wing structure as they were already branching out like the veins of a wing.

On the first day, we were spoiled by a bounty of asparagus, the last of the season. Desperate for more, I scanned the bush for new shoots, only to find one already starting to branch out. I picked it, then felt conflicted. Perhaps it needed to become a bush, to sprout new shoots next season. I held the asparagus for a few hours, unsure of what to do with it. The asparagus bush showed me a new sense of gratitude, a symbol of abundance, and a respite from my lately turbulent life.

When Swye was just a twig frame, I liked it as it was and the shadows it cast, but I hesitantly started attaching bunches of grass, emulating scales, feathers, or membranes. I thought I’d pose it in the landscape, close to the house, but ventured further and further, eventually carrying it at least 100 km. It was surprisingly easy, even pleasant, to carry. Friends were also eager to help.

When I saw “Snake Mountain,” a curious hill with slanted, meteorite-exposed stone, I felt I needed to take Swye there. One morning, I asked Nindya if she wanted to join. She also really wanted to visit the hill with the fancy rocks. I was too eager to wait until the next day, so I thought I’d go, leave Swye there, and go again with Nindya the next day. I changed my mind about leaving Swye ; I’d grown quite attached to this severed, sticky wing.

I saw a large green, patinated rock face quite a way up the hill. I climbed up, focusing intensely on my hand and foot placement, not wanting to fall while I was out alone. I shifted Swye up as I went, balancing it on the rock protrusions. As I looked up, I saw a large puff adder sailing towards me, trying to get away from Swye. I jumped down without hesitation, unharmed but shakily watching Swye from below. The snake went under Swye, onto a ledge where I couldn’t see it anymore. Not knowing whether the snake was under Swye or in the grass somewhere, I decided to leave Swye there. It was painful leaving him there with a snake and exposed to the elements until the next morning.

Nindya and I set about rescuing Swye from being held hostage by the snake. We found a nice long stick with a hook at the end to pull Swye down from the ledge. We were on high alert for signs of the puff adder, almost disappointed to find only Swye, but relieved to be able to carry and embellish it further.

Swye was greeted curiously by giraffes, baby goats, donkeys, and a strangely unfazed baby dassie, but the ostriches were suspicious. Birds liked it when it lay flat, but avoided it when standing upright. It proved a half-decent umbrella and a very effective wind shield for the emerging autumn winds.

Swye, a reminder of the solace and silence of Witklipfontein.

Areas: South Africa

Venues: Witklipfontein Eco Lodge