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ARA Trees

Five Days in Nirox

The first day of my brief Nirox Residency was filled with travel, settling in my room and wandering around the Sculpture Park, marvelling at all the artworks, water features, lawns and trees, enjoying the peace and calm after the hectic days in Joburg. In the evening I looked at some trees to spend a day with, since that was my plan – to use this opportunity of being close to nature in a protected space to make a time-lapse video with a tree every hour for one day.

The second day began early, I thought, at 7 am, when I went to look at one of the trees that I remembered as small and unremarkable but nevertheless interesting among all the magnificent trees around. The sun was already high, we should have started at 6 am, I realized, too late. The tree was unknown to me, but my host told me later it was called Rhus pyroides, today Searsia pyroides, in English either Firethorn Rhus or Common Wild Currant. I spent the grey day visiting the tree every hour from 7 AM until 6 PM when the rain began – a veritable thunderstorm. The plan was to continue until 7 pm, expecting there to be some light left after the sunset 18.22., but it was rather dark already at 6 pm, as you can see from the second image below, so I gladly stopped at six and nearly escaped the storm.

Day with the Firethorn Rhus, first image (7 AM)
Day with the Firethorn Rhus, last image (6 PM)

The third day at Nirox began in a relaxed manner with my usual routines, including yoga etc. I headed out into the park with my camera around 10 AM and generated material for three works, or three sketches, before lunch – this is what happens sometimes, when you are in the right place at the right time. The sketches included standing with the majestic Weeping Willow, simply because it was so beautiful, sitting and writing on the Firethorn Rhus above the brook (although the writing is not visible in the image) and then stopping to reach for the crowns of some Hackberry trees on the way back – see images below:

Dear Firethorn Rhus
With a Weeping Willow
With the Hackberry Trees I
With the Hackberry Trees II

The fourth and last day opened a whole new world; I walked out into the reserve, the bushveld, and enjoyed the open grassland, the slopes, the wide and vast landscape. This was the right place for me… After finding the road I quickly returned to bring my camera, continued walking and found a small Firethorn Rhus to perform with. They actually grow all over the place; I chose a small one with a rock next to it:

Dear Firethorn Rhus II

Friday, the fifth day, was again a traveling day, and in the car on the way back to Joburg I looked at the landscape with different eyes. These four days were the highlight of my time in this country, at least in terms of art and peace and beauty. This was further accentuated by the Corona virus panic spreading everywhere. Maybe I will come back one day to revisit the trees, and to see the rest of the sculptures, some of them far away in the Reserve. A big thank you to everybody who made this brief visit possible!

By Annette Arlander

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