Welcome Stranger

The small boat crossed the treacherous channel and left us on the tiny island off Sicily. It is an exquisite place; turquoise water that hurts the eyes and a shimmering fortress. I thought we were alone on the island. We walked on the baked path and the physical connection with Africa was evident. We found neatly arranged clothes, drying in the sun and left by refugees who had crossed from Africa to Europe. As we walked, I could smell fear. I knew instantly that people were hiding in the low vegetation. I raised my hand slightly in greeting and kept walking.

Back home, where my sense of belonging is strongest, I began to see landscapes as a refugee would experience them. The Kruger Park was no longer a pristine wilderness, but a place where animals hunt when you walk under the cover of night. I realised why some mountain ranges are called barriers. I painted myself in the landscape that welcomes me, lying there like a stone that cannot be moved, stitched into my surroundings with brush marks.
Migration is pervasive. Out of necessity, it often happens quietly. In these works, the refugees leave silent traces of their journey through water, sand and mountains. I asked myself what I would take if I had to leave, and I saw that African women take fabric. I scattered my collection of African fabrics on the floor and painted them as if lost at sea. Every cloth is regional and has meaning. With it around her, a woman can seem regal and even happy. She might even feel these things. These flashes of colour push back despair; they conceal and express at the same time.

*‘Welcome Stranger’ is the translation of a message written on a Kanga cloth.