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A complicated blue lotus heritage

Updated: Sep 24, 2023


The first test print of the brand new water lily block shows it still needs a bit of cleanup.

The design is a tiny, somewhat obscure statement on heritage as a certain far away country celebrates Heritage Day this weekend.

Initial inspiration for the design was my father, a stocky, dark and mostly laconic man who was never sick until he was suddenly, devastatingly, life endingly sick, only wore blue and khaki, only drove blue vehicles, knew everything about the natural world, especially birds, painted with water colours (his 1940s water colour pair of Pin Tailed Wydah birds hangs in my gathering room today) and who introduced blue water lilies to the Big Dam.

A bit before my arrival in this lifetime, my father built the clay walled dam (water reservoir) and several smaller ones on a water course which curved through a section of Seafield farm. The Big Dam was where I learned to love bodies of water and wild swimming, to fish with worm baited hooks in late afternoons, watch the light dance on water and row an old flat bottomed wooden boat which my father brought home from a farm sale and called the Dabchick, a water bird also known as a Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis.

The Big Dam was also where some of his daughters scattered my father's ashes. The farm belonged to someone else by then because terminal cancer and farming are bad companions. The wild, naturally vegetated hills and valleys I knew in my childhood as the game reserve, had become someone else's heritage, game fences removed and acres and acres of the farm planted with sugarcane, (as seen in the image above) in a style of cash crop farming which my father didn't believe was the best land stewardship model.


Last I heard, a decade ago or so, there was a land claim on Seafield Farm, meaning (and I oversimplify a very complex topic) people alienated from their traditional homelands during a colonial period in the country's history, had petitioned the post colonial government for land rights, based on being able to prove they had ancestors buried in the area. I don't know the outcome.


Heritage can be a complicated thing to think about. Almost as complicated as wrapping one's mind around the notion of a person becoming ashes and the ashes becoming the silt of a waterway and the waterway becoming, somehow, some day, ocean.

So does that mean, by right of ancestral ashes and the law of flow (which I have just invented) I have land claim to ocean even as I live in the desert?

I never knew why the farm I grew up on was called Seafield. I think the name predated my family's connection to that 750 acre piece of planet earth, but it's undulating hills did drain the rain into watercourses, which must eventually make their meandering way to the ocean, not really very far away as the rivers run on the east coast of the southern tip of the oldest continent.

Speculative heritage aside, I delve into my Da Gama textiles stash to make a blouse to wear to farmers market today. Sewing my own clothes is a heritage activity which I learned when very young from my mother and my maternal grandmother, who knitted, sewed and embroidered for all members of the household. Da Gama cotten prints clothed my childhood, often well laundered to a soft, faded beauty by the time the hand-me-down garments arrived at me, the tail end of the pack of siblings

I could have chosen to wear shweshwe, today, as I have several garments sewn from that very special heritage cloth with various, now discontinued, imprints on the flip side.

Maybe tomorrow I'll wear a brown or blue shweshwe dress, and continue making little birds of fortuity from scraps.

Whatever it is that I wear, chances are high that I have sewn it myself and the fabric has some connection to other geographies.


...And what you thought you came for

Is only a shell, a husk of meaning

From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled

If at all. Either you had no purpose

Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured

And is altered in fulfilment. There are other places

Which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws,

Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city..

T.S. Eliot: from Little Gidding

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