aida amélie

Tuesday 1st January 2013


Hopes, desires, uncertainties gathered up and laid by your crib – like entrusting a good dog to care and protect you, and to amuse you.

The first sight of your face pierced me with affection’s arrows. Light yet may still prove to come from the eyes. For by the light of your eyes can I see things that were previously folded and veiled. It was as if I could finally see my own eyes – ever elusive in the mirror. To see each other for the first time, beyond the womb and the dark glass – face to face. You cried. The air was too much. I cried. The light was too much.

The rain is falling now outside, the christmas tree is drying up inside, a single candle flickers with its last burn. You are keeping me up at night, but mostly it is the pleasure of hearing you breathe, coo, purr, and roar in your sleep. You, my little dragon, are not afraid to stir the night!

I look forward to adventures with you. To share drives and train rides. To visit galleries and perambulate holy places. To attend music and theatre shows. To feast on good food and great films. And not just to intake, but also to share in discovery and making. To play with code and cameras. To build with arduinos and legos. I don’t have a particular craft – my help to your learning is limited to my allotment as a hack but we will play!

Although born to me and certainly a clear sense of your connection to me by these forms we filed, I do take your presence in my life to be a priviledge. It will never just be me or your mom that raised you – agency over your life is distributed: from teachers, to extended family, to friends, to the things, institutions, and city we dwell with you in. All these will inscribe upon you their names – and you will write back upon them. Through mutual authorship, the story will unfold.

My grandfather, a farmer in South Africa, wrote to me on the occasion of my second birthday. He seemed to recognize that my future would be urban, because the poem he wrote was about the feel of the veld and its nurturing of the hunter’s appetite. It is an experience unattainable in the city, he says. The frosty morning, the open terrain, the creatures that roam and build, the distance, all part of the cultivation of a desire: the hunt. However, he notes without explanation, it is a hunt without slaughter. He ends with the line:

Jy moet word ‘n jagter
maar nie ‘n slagter

you must become a hunter
but not a butcher

I presume he meant this metaphorically – that regardless of the condition, learn to cultivate the appetite for the chase. What is the hunt in the city? To search for something until it is found. What of the slaughter? To kill for food. The appetite for the hunt is to be cultivated for its own sake and not for the sake of an excess, for violence.

On a frosty morning, to venture out into the city by foot. On a warm summer evening, to head out by bicycle. To wander, to search for that something. Nowadays it is about hunting for fashion, for bargains, for a detail to photograph, for a good coffee. Awareness of the appetite is more important than the object.

However, we’re not freed from the violence even in the hunt. In the city or the veld, you’ve entered a world of appearance and reality, of iconodules and iconoclasts, of contested spaces, of contested histories. It can make the world exciting, but also heavy – where the hunt without blood is more an illusion distancing us from the more troubling consequences. Like the chicken in the grocery store plastic wrap is far from the blade that extracted its life. Or the cute outfit that is far from the underpaid hands that weaved it. May I invite you to that space between fiery outrage and cool ambivalence? Between the weight of unrest and the lightness of being?

It is my sincere hope to raise you with the sense and grace of play – slow to ideological commitments, quick to strengthen diversity, always hungry for the right action, and always thirsty for the image to clear up, for the assembly of all, for the life together.

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