Perception---you have that power.

There is purpose in design. There is information in a setting. There is truth in your environment. Fake or real, it's there.

All images are copyrighted by Heidi Hoffer unless otherwise indicated. Your courtesy in using my photographs must include crediting me as the photographer. You must tell me when and where you've used them and send the link to me showing your use of them.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Arriving in Jo'burg!

Bathroom scale to make
 sure suitcase weight
is under 50 lbs.
Preparing for departure involves much more than attending the Fulbright Pre-Departure Orientation. At that, they take care of your head. They prepare you for state department policies, they let you know how the embassies and consulates will work with you, and they talk about the countries’ good and bad habits. After that orientation meeting, preparing for departure is all about the heart, with the exception of your luggage which is a judgment mixture of sentimentality and necessity.
Teaching at SILV.
I traveled just a few days after I was in Las Vegas teaching with a few friends for the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas. Of course I was busy up to the last minute.

The flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg was absolutely packed. We had a choice of about 50 movies to watch, TV, documentaries and so on all for free—so I did a bit of movie watching, including “Invictus”, they story about President Mandela’s pulling the country together using the Springbok rugby team. Morgan Freeman played Mandela. He sure looked the part.

OR TAMBO - Johannesburg airport was beautiful and very organized. On the way out to greet whoever was picking me up, I saw the famous Vodacom phone booth and decided against stopping to get a cell phone. The line was about 60 feet long with lots of shouting people crowding the harried Vodacom employees. I continued through, and found the school had hired a driver in a Macdonald’s emblazoned taxi to pick me up. He held a card with my name on it and I hopped into his McDonald’s (Yes, the Golden Arches!) Cab and we were off. (Along with 3 suitcases…)

One of the gates for pedestrians who have an
electronic strip on their campus ID card which
they swipe in front of a laser reader
to unlock the turnstyle.
The housing is behind manned gates for vehicles, and everyone snaps to when a car drives up. Warren (Head of Drama at Wits School of the Arts) even seemed impressed with the security. And, since the university is in one of the largest cities in the world, the environment is noisy. I did see a cat slink up the front steps of the building, so either someone has a pet or we have feral cats.

I spent a bit of time unpacking. The apartment is really pretty sterile. This university apartment comes basically furnished, but no bath towels or shower curtain. I figured I would buy those things after I arrived and in the mean time, I could dry off with a t-shirt. I certainly did not want to pack towels. The flat is extremely similar to what Roger and I stayed in when he was doing research in France at Nanterre. 

Nicely labeled hazardous materials area.
I walked around a bit and came across this fantastic door complete with hazardous materials signs. It is a great study for scenic artists. I also see new and interesting birds, like this pair of Hadeda Ibis (Pronounced "haw-de-daw." )

Hadeda Ibis near Girton Hall on the Education Campus
of  Witwatersrand.
I am learning by leaps and bounds where and what things are, and all of that. I’ve been toured through the theatres by the heads of the technical departments, and met my design counterparts after they arrived from working at the Grahamstown Arts Festival. At this point, school had not yet begun. The most unexpected bit of advice and help came from one of the international volunteers at the Drama for Life center, Inzzi. Inzzi is a gentle and outgoing dreadlocked woman who seems to know everyone. She volunteered to walk with me the few blocks down the road to the Pick ‘N Pay grocery store.  We shared a sorrowful laugh over the cheese selection which was not European. I bought the cheddar, and it was awful.

The Department of Drama's senior designer, Sarah, designed costumes for Shaka Zulu the musical. She invited me to go with her and her design students to see it and have a tour backstage. It was fantastic. We were able to spend some time comparing design notes regarding how we work, too. Below is an image from the playbill designed by Propaganda Studios which I hope captures the total Zulu essence Sarah captured in her costumes.

Sarah Roberts designed the costumes for the musical
Shaka Zulu currently on at Pretoria's State Theatre.

And for something outdoorsy, I went with Carrie (the Operations and Production Manager) and her dogs to a dogpark. It was nice to get out into the air a bit, and stretch my legs. The dogs were hugely funny. Someone with a remote controlled toy truck was buzzing them. For Nelson Mandela's birthday, I joined Carrie and her friends in a city park clean-up since Mr. Mandela asked everyone to do a bit of community service.

Alice is greeted by a joyous bigger dog, and both are
about the be suprised by the toy truck.

On a serious note, we in the Drama Department at Wits are embarking on a South African Season with nine apartheid plays in two weeks. Important people like Ariel Dorfman the Chilean-American author and human rights activist have come to the Wits Theatre to speak about the impetus and spirit of that time in history. I'll tell you about the South African Season in a few days....have to dress rehearse the shows first!