Last night I attended the Melville Photographic and Poetry Exhibition at the Melville Visitors Centre. The exhibition featured about half a dozen photographers and half a dozen poets. The artists vary widely in their subject matter, professional backgrounds, and ethnic heritage, but share one thing in common — they live and/or work in Melville.

I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced this much creativity in a single building before.

That is indeed a clown in the middle of the room. The writing on the clown’s chest is a poem by poet/photographer Pierre du Toit, who lives two houses down from Joe and me. Sorry clown fans — this act is not for sale.

One of my favorite photos at the exhibition: “Shot for Celtel – Kenya,” by Andrew Bannister.

My favorite exhibition guest. Only in Melville.

Haiku by poet Peter Fincham. Each poet did a reading of his or her work (in Peter’s case, actor Tony Higgins read his haikus for him), and also created a visual poetic display. I’ve flipped this photo for easy reading, but Peter actually wrote the haiku vertically down the side of the painting.

“Melville My Home,” by Peter Magubane. Magubane is one of South Africa’s most famous living photographers. Standing next to the photo is my friend Chris Green, who made an interesting discovery just moments before I took this picture.
The white car in the middle of the photo is Chris’.

That’s Peter Magubane in the center, wearing a green shirt. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to meet him before he slipped away.

A lady and her pug check out photos taken by the finest photojournalist in Melville — Joe!

Phillippa Yaa Devilliers reads her poem to a rapt audience.

I must admit that poetry has never been my thing. I struggle to read and understand it. But for some reason — maybe it was atmosphere in the Visitors Centre, or my feelings about Melville, or the amazing talent of the artists (or perhaps all three) — I was really moved by these readings.

One of the last performers of the evening was Eric Miyeni, a Soweto-born writer/actor/photographer/jack-of-all-trades. As he began to read his poem, “I Did You Wrong,” I slowly dropped my camera and felt everything fall away. Here are the last few stanzas of the poem (you can find the whole thing in Eric’s book, Poetic Journey):

I did you wrong
Because I was in such a hurry to watch you grow
I never left you alone to dictate a pace of your own

I did you wrong
Because I loved you with so much heat
I burnt your space to love me back

I did you wrong
Because I loved you so much
I could not be secure enough to trust you with my eyes closed

I did you wrong
Because I said I would take you away to lover’s land
But look, I took out the map to hell and played navigator

I did you wrong my love
Because I could love you right, now
But your love is gone and I am here, alone, clutching at phantoms in the dark

Another first for me — the first time I’ve ever cried during a poetry reading.

This picture epitomizes Melville. Marie-Lais Emond, director of the Melville Visitors Centre, frolicing in front of “Salvia Africana Caerulea,” a photo by Judd Kirkel.

The exhibition will be up for the next few weeks so it’s not too late to check it out. The Melville Visitors Centre is at the corner of 7th Street and 1st Avenue.

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