Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
We’re hearing a lot about immigrants these days and Jeff Jaffe is certainly someone who came to the U.S. in search of a better life. Jeff grew up in South Africa during the apartheid era and was no stranger to the social injustice happening all around him. At that time, all male high school graduates were enlisted into the military to fight against the “communist threat.”
At age 20, he left South Africa after his military service ended with only $100 in his pocket. Fast forward to 1997 when he opened Pop International Galleries on the Bowery in New York City. He remembers selling his first major painting, a Keith Haring, for $150,000. Today that painting would easily get $5 or $6 million.
Jeff earned an MFA in sculpture from the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art near Detroit He has a unique point of view as an artist and a gallery owner. To this day, he has never signed formal written agreements with the artists he represents – everything is done with a handshake.
Jeff talks with Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti about his journey from South Africa to New York and Pop International Galleries.
Once again (for the 39th time) the ArtExpo has descended on New York City (at Pier 94 at the western foot of Manhattan’s 54th Street.) This is the biggest such gathering of juried artists in the U.S. – artists congregating from around the globe to promote their work to trade buyers—gallery owners and managers, art dealers, interior designers, architects, corporations and art & framing retailers. Again, the pleasure for me was to be able to talk to the artists. The art becomes more meaningful to me, and often more sensible.
Tzachi Nevo traveled from Israel for this, his first New York ArtExpo. He came out of an industrial design background and prepares his work in that mindset; his art is his business. He is widely represented on the Web (LinkedIn, FB, Etsy, Pinterest, etc.) Until two years ago, Nevo worked in marketing – having previously spent only the briefest time practicing his design craft. He is a genial fellow with none of the obvious eccentricities or pretensions of the cliché artist. The works Nevo displayed at the Expo are bold in color and design, reminiscent of Greek theater masks or African tribal art; primitive in their simplicity and readily accessible. They show a definite sense of whimsy. He has produced distinctly different series – masks of animals, large emojis, many of which were not displayed at the Expo but may be found on-line at Urban Masquerade.
Christian Torcal and Carol Routenaer
I spoke briefly, and haltingly (due to our mutual lack of bilingualism), with a charming young Spanish couple from Valencia – Carol Routenaer and Christian Torcal. Routenaer is a self-taught photographer with a romantic sensibility and an eye for the idealized beauty of young girls set off with bits of nature in ravishing colors. She occasionally dipped into surrealism – perhaps accidentally, but the works could be enjoyed simply for their lush and deep tonalities. This was also her first Expo. See Carol’s website.
I chatted at some length with Ed Pascoe of the Pascoe Galleries; Pascoe maintains a gallery in North Miami, but his Expo display was an expansive collection of captivating ceramic works by a collective of South African Zulu artists (Ardmore Studio) – with wonderful color, detail, energy and humor – simultaneously sophisticated and accessible, masterful and occasionally silly. You could not resist smiling at the work.
In 2009 Pasco first visited Ardmore in Kwazulu-Natal and met the founder and organizer of the collective, Fée Halsted. Pascoe now regularly visits the collective in South Africa, and Halstead reciprocates; they can be seen at the center of the (uncredited) photo of the collective. See the website for Pascoe Gallery.
I also had an engaging conversation with Kevin Grass and wife, both artists, but only Kevin’s work was displayed. He teaches academic art, she art history; they met while studying northern renaissance art at the University of Georgia. Grass hales from Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, a modest French colonial town an hour south of St Louis – founded in 1735, and the oldest town in the state. (It gets a mention in the journals of Lewis & Clark.) The Grasses live and work in the Tampa Bay area. His relatively rustic background belies the stylistic classicism, and the philosophical and satiric sensibility of his paintings. (One iconic image is of a young couple, casually attired, in intimate embrace – each perusing his/her phone behind the back – and outside the peripheral vision – of the other. Another is a riff on Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding portrait – but this time around commemorating the legalization of gay marriage.) Grass paints on birch plywood and finishes his works with a varnish that enhances the depth and luster of the paint and suggests a more aged lineage. See the website for Kevin Grass.
I spoke with Kate Taylor, a vivacious Torontonian, who also works on birch ply – but in a less representational manner. She starts with a bold color wash and then attacks her “canvas” with a palette knife of many colors to build pointillist abstracts, and finishes the work with an epoxy resin, lightly torched to educe air bubbles, rendering the final product glossy and bright, and seemingly lacquered. The strike of the palette knife leaves bits of color with a hard lead and a softer, almost frayed trailing edge – as if having been ripped from the edge of a paper. See Kate Taylor Studio.
Peter Layton Glass Works
Glowing glass creations of the English master glass artist Peter Layton were also particularly striking. See more on his website.
The Expo brings together art and artists from around the globe, working in many media – some exceptional, some less so – but all receptive to conversation. If you are an artist, or enjoy the study, philosophy, technique or business of art, or if you are in the market for art, you should find wandering the aisles here a fascinating few hours. It is open today (4/22) and tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday. Each day includes various special events, talks and presentations – all of which can be found on the Art Expo New York website.
Their romance begins innocently enough. Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) and her sister, Muriel (Laura Carmichael, Edith from Downton Abbey), attend an event at the London Society Mission, where they dance with foreigners who are attending colleges in England. Ruth exchanges glances with one of the students, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), and soon they are dancing and talking about their mutual love of jazz. Although not the jazz played by Brits, Ruth jokes. The relationship continues. They share 78 LPs, dance at other venues, and take long moonlit walks.
Seretse is not a regular student, but a king, in line to ascend to the throne in the African country Bechuanaland. When he shares his status with Ruth, she takes the news as a sign that their romance is over. Instead Seretse proposes, bending down on one knee, the blinking lights along the River Thames providing the perfect romantic backdrop. He tells her to think about it, stressing that her life will drastically change. She’s made up her mind, however, and accepts on the spot.
The opposition begins to line up. Ruth’s father, George (Nicholas Lyndhurst), is outraged, telling Ruth she will bring shame to the family. If she goes ahead with the marriage, he says, he won’t see her again. Equally furious about the impeding union is Seretse’s uncle, Tshekedi Khama (Vusi Kunene), the regent of the Bangwatho Kingdom, who has raised his nephew since the death of his parents. Taking a white woman as his queen, the uncle emphasizes to his nephew, will endanger his reign and throw the country into turmoil.
The most strident voice against the marriage comes from the British government, since Bechuanaland is a protectorate under British control. By 1931, South Africa was no longer part of the British Empire, but because of that country’s mineral resources, maintaining economic ties remained important to Britain. In 1948, the South African government’s National Party instituted the segregation policy that became known as apartheid and put pressure on the British government to prevent an interracial royal marriage in Bechuanaland, its neighbor to the north.
Love wins out and the couple, accompanied by Ruth’s sister and some of Seretse’s friends, ties the knot in a small ceremony. Soon they are on a plane to Africa, Ruth thrilled by the scenes below of widebeasts and giraffes fleeing across the terrain. On the ground, the couple is angrily confronted by Tshekedi, his wife, Ella (Abena Ayivor), and Seretse’s sister, Naledi (Terry Pheto). While Tshekedi’s attack is aimed at his nephew, the two women target Ruth, telling her she will never be accepted by them or by anyone in Bechuanaland.
But with the people assembled, Seretse delivers a heartfelt speech, emphasizing that he loves his country, his people, but also his wife and cannot rule without her. (Those watching The Crown on Netflix will no doubt recognize that argument from Edward, Duke of Windsor, who said he could not rule without Wallis Simpson by his side. He was forced to abdicate.) Seretse’s address succeeds in winning over his subjects, but his problems are not over. British government officials demand that Seretse come to London to settle the dispute between him and his uncle. Once in England, however, Seretse is forbidden to return to his country. Thus begins many years of struggle where Seretse and Ruth fight to be reunited and for him to assume his responsibilities.
Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport), the British government representative to Southern Africa, relishes giving bad news to Seretse, prolonging his suffering, even causing him to miss the birth of his daughter. The crisis becomes a political football in Parliament, with some opposing how Britain is interfering in African affairs for financial gain. The discovery of diamonds in Bechuanaland raises the stakes on all sides. Seretse wants to make sure his people profit from the mining of that resource.
The film is based on the true story of Seretse and Ruth. He went on to become the first elected president of the new country, Botswanna. Ruth won over her detractors, fighting for racial inequality and working for many charitable causes during her lifetime.
Directed by Amma Asante who also directed Belle, the film was shot in London and on location in Botswanna. The script is by Guy Hibbert adapted from the book Colour Bar by Susan Williams. Cinematography by Sam McCurdy, is spectacular.
Some of the supporting cast emerge as caricatures, particularly Davenport and Tom Fenton (bad boy Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films), who overdoes his role as a sinister British official. The two leads, however, are not only solid, but a joy to watch as their romance unfolds, hits speed bumps, and then triumphs. Oyelowo and Pike have real chemistry on screen, whether they are dancing in their bedroom, the music heard only faintly from another room, or talking on the phone, their separation exacting a toll.
As Ruth, Rosamund Pike silently absorbs the blows from her new in-laws, a sign not of weakness but of strength. She’s confident in the love she has for her husband, and in his love for her. Through her deeds – taking on labor-intensive work in the village, placing her trust in local doctors, and nursing her newborn daughter alongside village women – she slowly begins to win over even her fiercest enemies, particularly Seretse’s sister, Naledi. (A wonderful performance by Pheto.)
Oyelowo first demonstrated his skills at playing great orators in his performance as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s Selma. This film takes advantage of that talent, giving him several moments where he displays his ability to engage those around him with his words. Yet in the more intimate scenes, whether making a stand against his uncle or taking in the bad news delivered by a supercilious government official, Oyelowo shows another side of Seretse, a leader who despairs that he may never get that chance to lead, not for his own glory, but to lift up his people. It’s an extraordinary performance.
Cindy Peterson is a 77 year-old mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. She’s also a marathon runner, who recently completed her 50th marathon! And she has no intention of stopping anytime soon. Next year, she already has plans to run the Honolulu Marathon.
It all started with a bucket list she created over 35 years ago. It contained 30 things she wanted to accomplish in her life. Ten years later, she was down to just two items on the list: buy a Jaguar and run a marathon. She already had a company car, so she focused on the run instead. But at the age of 55, that task seemed almost insurmountable. Then she turned on the TV.
“I was watching the NYC Marathon in 1993, when the founder, Fred Lebow, ran with a brain tumor. I was so motivated that if he could run with a brain tumor and complete the Marathon, I could also run it, even though I had varicose veins, couldn’t walk a block, and was 20 pounds overweight!!”
But Cindy was determined. She joined the New York Road Runner’s Club and began training, little by little, step by step. A year later, in 1994, she completed her first New York City Marathon. Since then, she has run 18 more marathons in New York, plus literally dozens of others around the country and around the world. She is a member of the 7 Continents Club, an honor bestowed upon runners who have completed at least one marathon on all seven continents. Her conquests include Easter Island, Antarctica, South Africa, and the Marathon du Medoc, where runners dress up in costumes (Cindy was a “can-can” girl), drink wine, eat, and run through the most famous vineyards in the world.
In 1995, Cindy also helped found the Mercury Masters, a running club created exclusively for women over the age of 50. Their mission was and is to promote a healthy lifestyle, camaraderie, and mutual support. The original group of ladies still train, run, and travel together. They also stay connected with parties, emails, and birthday greetings. As Cindy says, “They are always in your corner. They always have your back.”
But it takes more than friends to stay in marathon shape. Six days a week,rain or shine, Cindy runs six to eight miles a day around Sunset Lake in Western New Jersey. She gets up at 5 a.m., eats a banana, puts on her knee pads (her route is rocky, so falls are frequent), her gators (they keep the dirt and small stones out of her shoes); and then she heads out the door for one to two hours. Her pace has slowed over the years – she has gone from a 10-minute mile to a 13-minute mile. But, she says, those morning runs clear her head and give her time to think.
“You need to be with your own self. Whatever you need to fix, you get it done. Then you feel great about your self, your body feels good. It keeps me going. If I couldn’t run, I’d walk.”
Cindy also says it’s never too late to start. Just remember to take it slow and increase your mileage by only 10% per week; get plenty of rest; and drink lots of water, no matter what the season. When I asked her at what age she planned to stop running, she laughed and replied, “You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running!!”
The perfect culmination of our three weeks in Lesotho and South Africa was the five days we spent with our son and his wife at Nkorho Bush Lodge in Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Since Sabi Sands is located next to Kruger National Park and shares 50 kilometers of unfenced boundary, the animals roam freely over this large natural area.
Airport waiting area, Skukuza Airport
Some visitors to the area stay at different lodges for two or three nights, but we remained at one lodge for our full four nights, becoming totally relaxed and deeply in the present moment. When we made our reservations, we did not realize that our lodge was two to three hours away from the Skukuza Airport, located within Kruger National Park.
Kruger National Park Entrance
However, we had arranged drivers in both directions and all we had to do was sit back, look around, and nap. Skukuza is a very small, but beautifully designed airport. The “departure lounge” located outside feels like a luxurious spot to relax and actually enjoy waiting for a plane.
Our bathroom with showers indoors and outdoors
The warm greeting we received at Nkorho upon arriving set the tone for the remainder of our stay. Nkorho is a small lodge, having only seven cottages and a maximum of about 16 guests. The chalets have very attractive comfortable bedrooms with sliding doors to the deck. Our bathroom, and I think all of them, was quite luxurious with showers both inside and out.
The common space at Nkorho includes a thatched building with inside and outdoor lounging areas including the bar, the infinity pool, a smaller rock pool, and a thatched dining porch. It overlooks the open plain and the watering hole where the animals come to drink, so we often had entertainment even when doing nothing.
One interesting fact is that the only fence around the property is a wire to keep out the elephants. Therefore smaller animals can, and sometimes do, get in. This does not appear to be of much concern during the day—-unless it is, for example, the lion we were told once came in and decided to stay—-but we were warned that once we were all in our cottages for the night and the outdoor lights were turned off, we should not go wandering. Since there were wild animals around, guests were realistically confined to the premises and could not, for example, go for a run or an unaccompanied hike, which was the one drawback for some guests.
Sunset on game drive
Each day had the same structure. The rangers woke us about 30 minutes before our pre-dawn drive started. After a quick cup of coffee, we climbed into the land cruisers for a two to three hour game drive. Those wishing could go on a bush walk with the ranger and spotter as soon as we returned. Between breakfast around 9:30 a.m. and lunch at 2 p.m., many of us would go back to bed or lie on the lounges on our decks or by the infinity swimming pool with a book, a drink, or binoculars so we could see the action at the nearby waterhole. By 4 p.m., we would be back in the land cruisers for a drive that would transition from late afternoon, through sunset. When we returned in the dark, we were greeted by a blazing fire set in a barrel. The attentive staff offered us refreshing drinks. Dinner was served in the boma, a circular enclosure made of leadwood branches. It was lit by a central campfire and many lanterns. The food was tasty and plentiful, including a memorable warthog carpaccio.
Night sky during cocktails
While some guests retired right after dinner, we found it was an enchanting time to sit in the outdoor patio next to the pool, drink in hand. The bar was staffed by the rangers and the other staff we saw routinely, so we had additional opportunities to talk with them. I remember some very nice moments near the bar with our ranger, Jason. We discussed his family background and training to become a ranger, and studied the map on the wall of the Sabi Sands preserve. When I was curious about the difference in the roars of a lion and a leopard, Jason whipped out his cell phone and we compared videos of the two. (Yet I still can’t imitate the appropriate roars with my two-year-old grandson!)
Each game drive had the same structure, but each was, literally, a trip in itself. Despite our wishes it were otherwise, the weather and whether the animals appeared remained beyond our control. There were blankets if we were cold, ponchos in case it was wet, and conversation was encouraged while we were driving along, so that helped to keep us entertained when the animals did not cooperate. Nkorho used two land cruisers, each one with three rows of bench seats that were capable of holding 10 passengers, but we never carried that many, and we always had space to spread out and have clear sightlines.
Close to the elephants
The guides were in contact by radio with other guides in the area so, if one found something of interest, others could be informed. The guides would not want to raise false expectations for the guests, so they used code names for what they were stalking. If there was an interesting sighting, no more that three cruisers would congregate at a time, so we never felt in the midst of the tourist horde.
Because the animals were comfortable with the cruisers we could get up close to most of the game. In Sabi Sands, the cruisers were permitted to go off the roads, which allowed us to be very near the game in their natural surroundings. We were, however, warned to stay seated. It was almost as if the cruisers were just another animal!
Coffee break on morning game drive
The morning game drives included a stop to stretch and have coffee and a snack. We were asked at lunch what we would want for our “sundowner drink” so that, when we would stop during our evening drive, our preferred libation was provided, along with snacks such as biltong, pretzels, and other munchies. Some of these stops were in open plains and one memorable one was near a riverbed. A sundowner in Africa, on a game trip, with a full moon, or seeing the stars and the Southern Cross, is a magical moment in time, and space.
With Jason in driver’s seat
Each game drive had a team of a guide and driver, Jason, and a tracker, Victor, who sat on a little seat in front of the cruiser hood, spotting game or searching for tracks. Sometimes the two would get out, follow a track, then get back in the cruiser and drive into the bush, hoping to spot the game that they had tracked. Of course, everyone wanted to see “the Big Five” (Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard, and Rhino) and we saw all of them except lions who seemed to have moved on to other areas after making a kill nearby the week before. Sometimes, it was only one animal, at other times a larger group, including a dazzle of zebras, a crash of rhino, a herd of elephants, a pod of hippos and a journey of giraffes.
Elephants at the watering hole
We had especially good luck seeing spotted leopards and elephants. Jason knew the nicknames, personalities, and history of some of these magnificent creatures. When we saw one stalking prey, Jason shared what he was observing, the movement of the tail and its meaning, for example. We also were able to see a spotted leopard at rest on a riverbank. While it lacked the drama of a kill or a mating, it provided time to really study the amazing rosette design, the different colors of the fur, including a creamy white, and the mesmerizing eyes of this masterpiece of nature. One day, we spent about 30 minutes near a group of eight elephants at the waterhole. Jason’s enthusiasm and visible affection for the elephants was part of our experience, and he had all of us entertained with commentary on the baby elephant’s awkward efforts to drink water.
Our tracker and guide were also adept at spotting the little animals. On one night drive when we were having little success seeing the big animals, Jason stopped the cruiser, placed an interesting chameleon on his arm, and we studied him while Victor held the spotlight. We also saw magnificent birds, termite mounds, and many smaller animals such as mongoose, steinbuck, and turtles.
Impala and Wildebeest watering hole
The animal that seemed most profuse was the impala. In addition to seeing the “bachelor herds” since only one male accompanied the females, we witnessed, on two days, parades of impala lined up neatly walking to the watering hole. We were in the infinity pool, as hundreds of them approached in a neat line, drank, and then leaped away.
While each of us intellectually understands that there are patterns in nature, this visit to the bush dramatized it. In addition to the rosettes on the leopard and the spots on the giraffe, we saw the waterbucks with a large circle of white surrounding their tails and the stripes on the kudu and the wildebeests. We witnessed the variety in the stripes on the zebra. Some of them are actually “shadow stripes” of brown, and the layout of black and white patterns vary from one zebra to the next.
I assume that most of us returning from Safari make lists of which animals we saw, but it is of greater value to reflect on what we learned about these animals. It is humbling to be a guest in their world, still enjoying the comforts of ours, and grateful that, at the end of each day, we can both be in the places that feel like home.