I grew up in the pristine bushveld of Zimbabwe where the colour of the soil is typically shades of red. I recall spending much time playing with red soil, experiencing the textures and exploring the different shades of this oxidized ferric iron soil. I knew the soil well. Adam Small (1936 - 2016) South African playwright and poet and leader in the Black Consciousness Movement, writes of a similar experience where he 'literally played with the soil.'
Often wondering what associations the soil holds for me, I believe it is that of sacredness and authenticity. This viewpoint contradicts strongly with both historical and heightening issues around land restitution as recently expressed during the inaugural speech of our newly appointed president, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa. It leaves me with more questions than I have answers for, especially when viewed from the perspective of decolonisation. It was therefore very meaningful for me to read what Adam Small had to say about soil in Conversations with Avril Herber in 1979:
'It was Martin Buber who said that soil was holy, and I found that very meaningful. He is talking about living in a specific place at a specific time. And only when you really experience that place and time that was yours to start with, can you later on, I think, write or create anything that is really universal, you have to know it well, very well in life.'
The tragedy, of course, was that Small and and all other people 'of colour' in Apartheid were denied the soil, a piece of land to call their own where 'you are denied, in harsh physical terms, access to places and times in your own country - how still to call that earth holy, to insist on that, and not to give up the idea, is very, very hard.'
Although soil has been incorporated into my art making process since my student days in Rotterdam, I have recently begun using soil to draw sound pieces.
I have been thinking about re-imagining Sounds of Displacement in this way ...