Ice block with flowers and leaves in it

Lockdown Journal: Day 27 (Ice Flowers)

If you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post  has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts.

Today is Day 27 of the South African lockdown. I’m excited because I have something different to share: I made art.

Ice block with flowers and leaves in it
Lockdown photo 27: Ice flowers (and leaves)

On Day 25 I shared Mark Straw’s photos of flowers frozen in ice. I was enthralled by the idea and decided to try it myself. So yesterday I gathered some red nasturtiums and supplemented them with red and yellow leaves and some tiny red berries. I put them all in a glass dish, covered them with water, and froze the dish overnight.

I felt demoralized when I pulled the dish out of the freezer this morning. The ice was cloudy and cracked, and the flowers and leaves had distributed themselves unevenly. I wasn’t sure the project would work.

But after half an hour of sitting outside drinking coffee and staring at the dish disconsolately, I realized the ice was starting to melt and the sun was rising in the sky. I better try now, I thought. So I fetched a butter knife and pried the ice out. Once freed, the ice looked prettier than I’d imagined.

I then had to scramble to figure out how to actually take the pictures, before the ice melted and the sun became too bright. I found a nice spot in front of my house in a little bed of violets.

Newsflash: Getting a thin block of ice to stand up straight on its own, with the sun shining through it just so, is not easy to do without prior planning. Also holding a block of ice makes your hands very wet and cold.

After much trial and error, I dug a tiny trench in the ground with a serving spoon and managed to precariously balance the ice into a standing position.

The Melville Cat decided to photobomb.

Melville Cat photobombing ice
Oh, hi Smokey. Of course you never want to hang out with me except for right now, when I have a 45-second window to shoot these pictures before my ice art collapses.

In the end, I got some photos.

Flowers in ice
Flowers and ice
The flower at the bottom started to fall apart quickly because it was close to the surface of the ice. Also note all the stray pieces of dirt — evidence of how many times the ice fell over before I got it to stay.
Flowers and ice

Several people have suggested boiling the water before freezing it next time, as that helps the water freeze clearer. I also need to use more flowers. Anyway I’m happy with the result.

That was the exciting part of my day.

COVID-19 News

President Ramaphosa did not announce the government’s future plans for the lockdown in his speech last night. He instead focused on the extensive social and economic relief programs the government is enacting to combat poverty resulting from COVID-19. We’re supposed to find out about the lockdown on Thursday.

Again, I empathize with the president and think he is doing the best he can to deal with this pandemic under impossible circumstances.

But.

In other news, over the past several days there have been horrific evictions/home demolitions going on at an informal settlement outside Lawley Township, in the far south of Joburg. All of Joburg’s top photojournalists are covering this story, and I’ve been following them on Instagram.

I’m hesitant to talk about this on the blog, as it’s extremely upsetting and I’m trying not to focus too much on negative things. But I visited Lawley and blogged about it a few years ago, and I’ve noticed an uptick in traffic to that post in recent days. So I think maybe I’ll say something.

Man with his shack in Lawley Township
A man named Tsvangirai with his shack outside Lawley, when I was there in January 2016.
Puppy in Lawley
A puppy named Sticker who I met that day.

This article in New Frame explains in detail what’s been happening in Lawley. (Note: The photos are heartbreaking and graphic.) In short: The Johannesburg Metro Police gave the go-ahead for the Red Ants — a kind of civilian army that the government hires to carry out mass evictions — to demolish hundreds of shacks built on a contested piece of open land near Lawley.

Residents have been beaten, shot at close range with rubber bullets, stripped of their homes and meagre possessions, during a time when we’re all supposed to remain locked down inside. Why on earth was this allowed to happen? I understand the shacks were constructed illegally, but…why now?

What is going to happen to all these evicted people? Where will they go? Reportedly there are more than 1000 of them. How were the Red Ants hired by the government to gather in huge numbers (again, reportedly more than 1000 of them) without protective equipment, to carry out such a “job” — this week of all weeks? WHY?!

This horrific action undermines everything else the South African government is trying to achieve right now. I’m so outraged, I can barely see.

Today’s Worthy Cause

Sigh. I’m a bit exhausted after writing that.

I encourage you to support Dorcas Aid South Africa, recommended by reader Caroline de Wet. Dorcas is reportedly providing critical food assistance and other relief work on Joburg’s West Rand, an area with a lot of poverty and suffering.

Dorcas Aid

If you’d like to donate from overseas, please contact me privately.

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9 Comments

  • Reply Catrina April 22, 2020 at 6:22 pm

    Heather, your photos are gorgeous!! Now I feel like trying it too, although not a photographer.
    What went on in Lawley is outrageous. Thank you for highlighting this. I hope this will have consequences for whoever ordered this to be done.

    • Reply 2summers April 22, 2020 at 6:32 pm

      Thank you. You can definitely try it! I’ll bet this would even work with a cell going if you find the right spot. It’s more about design than photography 🙂

      • Reply eremophila April 22, 2020 at 11:01 pm

        Yes, be outraged Heather. Be outraged at the huge con trick put on people by governments. Now they are showing their hand, with the RedAnts.This is just the beginning, unless there is resistance.
        Good photo bomb Smokey.

        • Reply 2summers April 23, 2020 at 6:16 am

          Thanks Annie (and thanks from Smokey). Unfortunately the Red Ants have been around for 15 or 20 years already – I just can’t believe they’re still allowed to operate now 😢

          • eremophila April 23, 2020 at 12:32 pm

            There’s a lot of things that are hard to believe Heather, but facing them is an important step toward changing them.

  • Reply David Bristow April 23, 2020 at 8:04 am

    Land invasions and subsequent evictions is distressing and complicated. People come from rural areas where a feudal chief allocates tribal land to family heads. They then come the city where the local government is their chief (also the party they voted for), and they expect to be entitled to free land, But freehold or leasehold land in cities is not the same world as tribal land. A state cannot tolerate unplanned and runaway land seizures for sure, but surely they don’t need to resort to such violence and intolerance.
    And so there is a planetary-sized chasm in world views. The solution is not rocket science: release some of the vast tracts of vacant state/military/mining lands, clearly surveyed and serviced with the basics. They (local and central government) have had more then 20 years to work this out FFS.

    • Reply 2summers April 23, 2020 at 8:07 am

      Yeah. I totally get the situation is complicated but in this case I feel like the answer is very simple: Do NOT evict people in the middle of a virus outbreak.

  • Reply Rosemary April 23, 2020 at 11:11 am

    Great photos Heather! Thanks so much for the COVID updates. Surely there is some rational thinking behind Lawley….keep us posted

    • Reply 2summers April 23, 2020 at 11:21 am

      Thanks. One would hope, but…I just can’t see how this decision was rational.

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