I often wonder where my wedding images end up.
After the big expensive day, after two or more children, after a divorce, after the death of a spouse, an affair, after everything… what happens to them?
Photographs and videos are all that remain of the promise we make, and this is exactly the reason that makes me realise what a privilege it is to be a wedding photographer.
Nobody can deny it: that fluttery feeling in your stomach when you’re about to head off on that first date is exciting.
But it’s also terrifying – and even more so if you’ve just gone through a divorce. ‘It’s difficult to be an adolescent again – because that’s really what’s required of you,’ says Liz Dooley, director of the Family and Marriage Association of SA (FAMSA). ‘You get all those good feelings of excitement, but it’s much trickier because you’ve lost some of the skills you had at handling those feelings.’
Men – and women – have affairs, whether we like it or not. What makes someone break their partner’s trust? And can there be forgiveness?
Short, tall, slim, round, slender, strong, broad, petite – we all apply these labels to our bodies. But what about focusing on what makes us beautiful instead?
How to tell whether to chuck it in - or stick it out.
Peer pressure doesn't ever go away. Three women tell us why they chose to say 'no'.
When my husband wanted to go for a vasectomy, I went with his decision, thinking that we were complete as a family. We already had a son aged nine and a daughter aged 11.
So in 2005 he went for the op. But the longing to have a third child never left me. In retrospect, I knew all along that I wanted and needed to have a third child. I suppose I was adhering to society ‘norms’ and not my heart’s longings.
In May 2007 my wife, Debbie, died after falling from a viewpoint high up in the mountains. She was just 50. We have two daughters, Zoe and Tara, and we had the rest of our lives mapped out as a deeply connected family.
Before she died, we had made plans to live in Spain for a year. She died six weeks before we were due to leave. The three of us left anyway and we are still here in Barcelona.
There’s a special magic that happens between two friends who are a generation apart, and we wanted to celebrate that. An older friend is your confidante and your mentor, your shoulder to cry on and the wise woman you show off. There are few things you can’t talk to her about, because she has the wisdom of experience: whatever you’ve been through, chances are she’s been through something similar - and she’s got the crib notes you need to survive.
It’s difficult to say no to Dorothea Moors. For one, she has the look and the aura of an elder. Secondly, she talks softly and with great intelligence, and thirdly, she makes complete sense. And it’s these unique characteristics that have artists and business in the Eastern Cape knocking at her door, wanting to get involved with her projects.
Hailing from one of the well-known Port Elizabethan families, she attributes her love of art to her grandfather. “He used to write his own score, and then play it on the piano. I was mesmerized by that process,” she remembers. He also painted and was intensely curious about history and culture and it was this richness that led Dorothea on her art journey. This included meeting and marrying architect Tony Moors. “He is my rock and my confidante”, she says with a soft smile. “He was the one who encouraged me to embrace the world of art, and who managed the careful restoration of the Art Deco GFI Gallery. Owned by the Gutsche Family Trust (Dorothea was a Gutsche), The GFI Gallery stands proud and tall, offering artists and business alike, the opportunity to showcase Eastern Cape Art. There is just one big difference. Every single exhibition and project that the GFI Gallery gets involved with is for a charitable outcome. A recent example is the collaboration between The Rhino Foundation and select artists who are invited to spend time with the rangers. Through this very real experience, the artists are encouraged to create unique art pieces that will be auctioned off for the same charity.
Dorothea’s vision is the purest example of what philanthropy should look like.
Other charities that have benefitted from countless auctions and sales, are Hospice, Missionvale Care Centre, The Retina Association of South Africa, to name a few. Her only requisite is that recipients must reside in the Eastern Cape. She is passionate about this province and about giving back.
“Galleries should be used for more than just exhibiting,” she explains. “They should be a place of teaching and inspiration to anybody who shows interest,” she explains. The Spring School is another one of Dorothea’s unique projects. Each September, she opens the Gallery to Grade 11 and 12 students from all over the Port Elizabeth and its surrounds with one aim in mind – To inspire them to be better artists. One of the great outcomes is the chance for these students to mix with students from the townships and vice versa. It is a multicultural mix of energy. She manages to persuade the likes of Greg Kerr, Judith Mason, Duncan Stewart and Anthony Harris, to give up their time, to workshop with these young budding minds. And it doesn’t cost a cent to be there. The Spring School has become an iconic event in PE.
The GFI Gallery and Dorothea have blue chip businesses on her side. They want to be involved and they love to collaborate with her. They get value for money and because of the sponsorship; the artists enjoy a platform that is wide and varied. It’s an age-old simple concept but it works. Everyone is happy and everyone wins. Opening nights at the GFI Gallery are always full and fun. At Duncan Stewart’s recent preview evening, guests were invited to buy a Hope Necklace (an art piece in itself), and the proceeds went to Northwood Hospice for Children with HIV/Aids. That was over and above the sales of Duncan’s art. Rand Merchant Bank didn’t hesitate to sponsor the exhibition.
When I asked her about art in South Africa, and how she sees it, she answered, “The world is becoming African. It’s our time now. We have so much raw talent in this country and it is maturing since the apartheid struggle art. We are finding our beautiful strong voice – and it’s a free voice. We at GFI want to showcase that strength, and we do”. Her eyes lit up when answering. She truly believes that there is brilliance and diversity here in Africa.
“I come from a privileged background, I was lucky, and I am eternally grateful. The least I can do is to provide a springboard for others. One that inspires, one that offers a real shot at bettering the lives of others. This is what I love doing.” Again her eyes light up.
Dorothea Moors is one of the people who make you feel you can be and do better. Just by saying yes.
Girls are kissing girls. MXIT rules. Zuma’s bad news but we’ll make it anyway. God is great. And if sex is not quite on our radar, it will be soon. Here’s what South Africa’s young teenagers are thinking (and doing)…
In celebration of Father's Day we asked some Dads to share their stories.
Shamwari Townhouse, Port Elizabeth's lavish new Art Deco boutique hotel.
“I need to break out from the monotony of school lifts, shopping for dinner and making sure the house runs smoothly” says Jenny Moorcroft, an avid member of the Boots and Toots Club – a hiking group comprising 4 core members (Jenny Moorcroft, Carol Pitt, Julie Combley, and Jenny Black) who stride forth into the wilderness on an annual basis.
This is a group of women who simply love the outdoors and will do pretty much anything to make sure they get away from the humdrum. And they do. Superb photographs from various trails, including the Transkei Meander, the Whale Trail, Hoggs Back and Walks on the Tsisikamma coastline, fill up their bulging photo albums and when prompted, all sorts of funny stories come tumbling out of their memory banks. “We have had some major laughs, like on the whale trail late one night - one of us found a whole family of mice delicately eating the following day’s biltong and peanut allocation. You can well imagine 6 little tiny mice and a bunch of terrified women hikers, all shrieking at once..!” remembers Julie.
“Yes, only women are allowed”, proclaims Carol Pitt. “Adding testosterone to the mix introduces competition and seeing who can go faster, or longer - an unnecessary component on our hikes! We like to amble along, and let the conversation flow uncensored. We catch up on the last year’s news between us and we share stuff that we don’t normally have time for. The whole concept is to regain a sense of self and a sense of nature in one”.
The choice of where to go next is entirely democratic and is usually discussed over some good wine (hence the name “Toots”). Most of them don’t seem to worry where they go, so long as they go. “We try and get a week or so off from our families” says Jenny, “and then we wave them goodbye with a grin on our faces and a spring in our step”. There seems to be a sense of support amongst them, and a huge dose of humour. “We have had all the life talks on these trips – marriage, kids, divorce, affairs, religion, politics and environment. There are no sacred cows. Somehow being in nature puts everything into perspective,” adds Julie.
“And when we are walking we always have big plans”, exclaims Carol, “and now we are saving to go to Italy and do one of the famous trails there”. There is no stopping these energetic housewives.
It was difficult for me to leave without humming “…these boots are made for walkin’…!
“Letters”, “Turning Points”, “Unknown Heroes”, “Frontiers”, “Between the Wars”, “Victorian England”, and “Women Travellers”, are just some of the intriguing subjects that this lively, challenging group of ladies have written about over the past 40 years. Conceptualised by Rosie and started by her, Betty Davenport and Shirley Maclennan in Grahamstown by in 1966, this club is extraordinary.
Today, there are 15 democratically elected members who meet every third Thursday to present their paper on the subject of the year. “There are some criteria” explains Lynette, “You have to be female (too many alpha males will spoil the fun), you have to have a quick humour, you have to prefer listening, and you have to be interested and you must be prepared to get stuck into a subject”! “And you have to be a critical thinker” adds ………….
The subject for the year ahead is determined (through a voting system) in November, and each member has to present an hour’s long essay on that particular subject. And if that is not enough, you also have to present it to the club, in oral form! “Yes, that hour is nerve wracking”, says Gus, “and you don’t want to be ill prepared, but I love the stimulation and the involvement. You do the homework – which can take months, and you get stuck in!” Continues Priscilla. “We take our personal passion of learning more about life, into delivery and execution!”
“During the apartheid years, most of us were involved in the struggle, and our Thursday Essay Club became an escape from the daily trauma and difficulties. We made a point of NOT discussing related subjects during that time, and so this club became a refuge for us, a place to rejuvenate and invigorate” explains Lynette.
I asked whether you have to be an intellectual to join - “O no, we are a mixed bag”, says Rosie. “Since inception, we have had theologians, librarians, published poets, artists, mathematicians, secretaries, social workers, IT specialists, and political activists in our group, and this makes for very diverse and interesting papers”.
Ends Shirley “Very occasionally, some of our members do fall asleep, but no one snores”!
Moving cities, with a family in tow, and usually because a spouse has been transferred, is a difficult process. And it doesn’t help when PE is the destination. It’s supposed to be this backwater parochial dull coastal town where no one want to end up. So, when Maura Jarvis found herself in this situation, she spent about five minutes lamenting and then pulled herself up off the windy beach and did something about it. She enthused a few other women and started the Refugee Club. Primarily its function is to assist newcomers, mostly from Johannesburg, with the settling in process. “It was so difficult to find out which plumber/painter/decorator to use, and then there was this whole subject of schools, where to live/buy, and then when the going gets tough, there were no friends to help” Maura explains.
So she and founder members, Carol Watson, Irene Jones, Davina Pugh and Leigh Ehret, set about making sure that whoever came to PE and needed it, was welcomed and informed. “We suddenly had women phone us from afar, having heard about us, wanting to know if we could meet up” remarks Carol, “and then I knew it was going to be a useful supportive mechanism”. And it seems as if there is a mass move to PE these days, with families choosing a coastal lifestyle in favour of the fast JHB pace. Leigh explains: “We had a choice over any other city and we chose PE for its value system, the amazing school availability, and because it is still a place where kids can ride bikes and hop down to the beach”. And the Refugee Club provided the practical and emotional support she needed in order to integrate.
“We meet once a month, or when ad hoc spontaneous occasions arise, and we discuss topical subjects that are all relevant to us” says Davina. “We have rolled out to a Bookclub, and even started the “Boopclub” for our husbands who meet separately. Initially all we had in common was that we were not from PE, but after a while that all falls away, and now we have unexpected and unusual friendships. Some women come for one or two meetings and then move on, and some stay and become part of this very supportive circle of friends.
Megan adds “We have some firm objectives – We try and guard against the Eastern Cape accent! We now bring cooler boxes to the braais, but they are now called “cool” boxes and we find the loudest ones! We encourage spontaneity and embrace doing business with our friends. And we try and keep people in PE! O, and we never lose the urge to go the beach. Irene sums it up: “This little town is amazing. We have made many new friends outside the Refugee Club – PE is brimming with the famous friendliness but it made the transition so much easier having souls around that were going through the same difficulties of arriving in a new town”.
On meeting this very sexy, very good-looking group of (eight) women, I was struck by how well they were handling early motherhood and parenting. “It has to do with making sure that once a month, we focus on ourselves,” says Lucinda. “It is so easy to lose oneself in the sometimes exhausted task of raising a family – and reclaiming the near forgotten aspect of being a woman and a friend becomes imperative” adds Linda.
This group meets once a month at rotating locations and incorporates some delicious food, lots of good wine and interesting conversation. They come from diverse careers and experiences that seem to have contributed to the very real and meaningful bond these women share. “The group dynamic is amazing and we have been very lucky to attract like minded women to our group,” exclaims Manuela. Apart from one of two women who joined and then left, they have never had personality clashes or arguments. It has probably got to do with the fact that new members are only put forward when the character fits – relaxed, fun, and committed to making the get together an important “playdate”.
Every month, all eight women put R150 into the kitty, with a different mum taking all each month. This money is to be spent on them only – with shoes, sunglasses and jewellery being the popular spoils. Katie adds “And then, once a year, we have a family day where caterers are brought in, husbands mingle, and kids make a whole lot of noise. It’s a time for merging the families as a unit and we all love it”.
But it’s during those monthly meetings that these women support and love each other. They don’t really see each other outside the group meeting, and so there is never a dull moment or lull in the conversation.
“Its one day I really look forward to” says Sian. ”Its where I come to feel normal.”