Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Artist's Studio.

We had moved from Villeria Pretoria to Sunnyside, the heart of the city. Our rented five bedroom mock-Tudor-style house was built in 1930 with peppercorn trees surrounding it for shade. After 30 years of growth, the root structure of the trees stared to lift the foundation and cracks appeared in the walls. The rent reflected these and other shortcomings.

With the commute too far for our nanny, we needed to find a new one. It took a few years of rotating nannies before Linah Makokolo showed up at our doorstep. She was a very small woman, about the same height as my nine-year-old brother and eight-year-old me. We immediately liked her.

This house move also coincided with my father's transition from house painter to portrait painter. There was no real definition to where the in-house studio started or stopped. Paintings lined the walls and hallways and found their way into bedrooms and the kitchen. There was a steady flow of people coming and going through the house-studio. The more prominent ones had their portraits painted.

In slow times, my father practised his technique with my brother or me as models. The process was a long and boring one, which required us to remain in the same pose for hours. These sessions could run for days, while we painfully watched other kids at play. It didn't take us long too spot the telltale signs indicating my father was getting in the mood to paint. We would quietly slip out the backdoor and stay away all afternoon. The dog wasn't a good candidate, so that left only Linah to pose.

There are not many portraits of my brother nor me, but many of Linah Makokolo.

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