Gina Niederhumer

Closing the circle (shortened version)

I was searching through old photos and journals looking for visual images for a new series of work when I came across those letters, lots of them . . . from a time when I first came to Africa .  My handwriting, in thin blue ink, the letters carefully formed.

Sitting there on the hard wooden floor in my bedroom, my feet tucked under me, wearing my specs I read some pages and the first of Harald’s letters  . . . I became nineteen again.

What happened? To that girl; so full of hope and adventure? To that young god whom she so adored and believed in? Where did her belief in the future go? What knocked her belief in the absoluteness of an incredible love?
Why did we give up so quickly?

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I didn’t leave my mother and grandmothers and sisters to live in this huge city, isolated and lonely in a suburb with neat houses and high walls around them . . . shopping at Spar, washing jeans at the Laundromat every Saturday.

This is not how I imagined living in Africa would be. I came looking for adventure, for wild and open spaces . . . and Love.  I was going to let myself fall into Africa . . . and Harald. I never imagined that shopping-lists and washing baskets and having enough two rand coins for the tumble dryer would ever be any of my concerns.

Star studded indigo skies were my dream . . . sitting around the campfire, stoking the coals and listening to stories of the Bush; the land rover barely visible in the blackness of the African night.

Every time she saw me, during the last weeks before I left for Africa, my grandmother asked: “Have you packed everything? You haven’t forgotten the umbrella?” She shrugged off my explanations about rainfall in Johannesburg as total nonsense, and asked yet again –“you won’t forget to pack your umbrella?”

As I waited for another letter telling me more about South Africa, I grew restless – packing and repacking, my suitcase, definitely no umbrella, but which shoes though?  . . . sandals and running shoes, good black ones? The red jacket?

Feathers stuck to some pages, flowers to others. A sprig of discoloured jasmine. No scent left in the tiny blossoms but I remembered how I felt when I smelled it for the first time –they have faded, like everything else I guess.
That holiday changed my life.

And meeting again that nineteen year old girl, so full of hope and love, made me remember why I came; it has finally closed the circle for me. I know I could not possibly not have come to Africa. It was my destiny.

But that said and done, now that I remember why I cam here in the first place and after washing Harald’s jeans for 30 years and putting up with suburbs and shopping centers . . . raising the kids . . .  I think he owes me that Land Rover!

Gina Niederhumer

It was a strange year concerning my writing. I had taken on so many different work options; ideas for shows, for projects, which consumed my time more than I thought.
Writing seemed always an indulgence of my own free, silly, wandering thoughts and not geared towards anything productive; time was too precious to waste it. Those forty bags need to be finished; the dolls need to be stuffed; the Gingerbread delivered . . . there was always something.
My writing took on more the form of dreaming . . . which in some loose, unplanned moment overcame me and then I had  to get it to paper, what ever it was that wanted out.
Sometimes that happened at three in the morning or while waiting at the airport, but never in my working time.
That really tells me a lot when I look at it.
So bit by bit I stapled my pages together or shall I say, stapled them out, with a whack and a force which had nothing to do with bags and deadlines, only with the vehemence of the undenied voice.
Whack and another one while I was not looking.
Although there would have been a lot more staples in my stapler, I have obviously held my hand too tightly over my needle and thread, to allow for more spontaneous stapling.
Silent was my stapler most of the time – unused.