Friday, March 25, 2011


Outspan is a word used in South African language and it is a partial translation from the Afrikaans " uitspan" which has been formed from the words uit (out) and spannen ( to stretch).  According to the dictionary it means:
1. an area on a farm kept available for travelers to rest and refresh animals
2. the act of unharnessing or unyoking unharness or unyoke (animals)

I have found these old photographs a while ago and they date back to the late 1800's and the beginning of the early 1900's and were taken in East London. They show not the actual OUTSPAN but a place where the ox-wagons that came to town, came to a halt, and were a market was.

Some of these ox-wagons had 12 oxen spanned in. Remember this was a time in Africa when automobiles had only appeared in very scarce numbers on the continent. Fresh vegetables grown on the farms and other products were sold in town. 
Although not of the best quality I find these pictures amazing.They show us a vague glimpse of a time when the first settlers had come to the Eastern Cape, when life was equal to hardship, and when cars and Landrovers did not exist to ease.
They show the lives of the ones who had left their continents in search of whatever it was to come and live somewhere else. 


The Accusation
I couple of weeks ago I have taken a picture named  " The Accusation ".
It is a simple but somehow very expressive installation that I have made with a vintage rabbit doll head that I have found  in a junk shop. I never thought it would become so popular that it would be featured over and over again in Etsy treasuries.

The conference
This is another one of my installations with a little rabbit called holding a conference with two garden gnomes.
I have never had a lot of contact with rabbits in my life - until now. The last year has definitely become the year of the rabbit for me.

In September while visiting a tiny farmers market in the region I saw a black rabbit in a cage and his sight lying in the heat, looking pretty sick, led me to a spontaneous and undoubtedly emotional purchase. Additionally he had told me in rabbit language that his name was Aladin. I love Aladin and the 40 robbers. But may be I have imagined this. I am not so sure about it right now.
In the picture you see him, in great condition and in full health. But as I always love to say and can not say it often enough: This is an inclusive universe and one thing leads to another. ALWAYS !
He got fat ! But stayed sad !
And I learned rabbits do not like to live alone ! 
I am unable to look at something or someone sad. It seems wrong to me. So there we go again.

He was added and he was called Simsalabim.
Names are important and I thought this was an appropriate one having to grow up with a big brother called Aladin. I wanted to keep the magic in the family.
After haven given him a little cute brother, who has been much more expensive than himself by the way, Aladin escaped! Yes that right! Ungratefulness in person! He did not only escape once but several times. I know now that he was simply meant to live on higher planes than in my garden.

But being faithful to the saying of my grandmother: What was paid for has to be used - we did our best to make him stay and take care of his tiny brother. Here you see him in Quarantine for a couple of hours. 
And you can see in his naughty face that he knows where he is gonna go.
And now he is roaming free in the bush and living the life he deserves.
Simsalabim was alone however.

A replacement was found quickly ! Cause nobody can watch a small sad rabbit. It is even worse than a big fat sad rabbit.


and Pepper !
 I had enough of magicians.

With enormous feet.! 
My brother used to ask them the question: Is it nice with such big feet ?
But the story is getting even worth.  Both died within a week because they have been taken away from their mother too soon and could not survive.

But to put you at ease: Simsalabim is fine and big now. The picture shows it and he does always this thing with his ear.
After Aladin ran away and little Chilli and Pepper were bought, and then died, and were then buried on the new installed rabbit graveyard in the garden, we did not give up and Pauline joined the family. And both  Simsa and Pauline( the black spot in the background) are not living happily after.
And Remember this is an inclusive universe which has lots of challenges in stock for you!
And tons of inspirations!

Monday, March 21, 2011


All pictures are shot on film with a vintage Kodak Retinette 14.

Friday, March 11, 2011


In my last post I showed a vintage photo of a girl wearing traditional beaded jewelry from the KWA -ZULU NATAL region. 
In this post I would like to show you some of the styles and designs created in the Eastern Cape - the province where I live and work. Being a passionate collector of trade beads since many years I have always been fascinated by beaded jewelry and African beads.
These two photographs come also from my own collection. They show vintage mannequins that have been hand-crafted for a local museum display more than sixty years ago, attempting to portray the traditional Xhosa culture. 


Some of the most extensive collections of traditional beaded jewelry can be found in small museums in the Eastern Cape. I think that the importance of these collections, that were mostly collected privately at one stage, and have been donated to the museum later when the collectors have become old or died, will be understood and valued more at a later stage.
I have spent more than one afternoon looking at these incredibly beautiful and tasteful pieces from days of old.

You can see here that the designs of the beginning of the last century have been very elaborate and very complicated, making use of a lot of different colored beads. Classical traditional pieces are headbands, necklaces varying in length and width, belts, anklets as well as bracelets - some of them worn high above the elbow.

Interesting for me was, being just an observer and not an expert, that earrings are not to be seen often on old photographs. 
Today beaded jewelry has taken on a completely new and modern turn. And since huge dangles are the-in- thing of the moment we have worked on some funky designs. I collaborate with a mother-daughter-team who are experts in more than one beading technique, have taught me to bead and who bring my designs to life.

I have called this design " THE COLORS OF MY NATION " representing the spirit and the vibrancy of Africa.

The close up shows you the thin metal wire used to make these huge dangles more stable.
Beaded jewelry has always a 'soft  connotation" but for this design stability was needed. We have kept the traditional beading technique but added some modern material.

Stunning, is she not? Beautiful like a true African queen. Cornelia.

 And this design I call 'White African Wedding"
 Does one still need a dress when wearing them ?

And there is blue as well.

Black and White

and the urban look

You can check out more designs here: Chocolat Negro

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Beauty Of Many

This is a vintage photograph from my collection called " THE ZULU MAIDEN ". It dates back to the late 1940's early 1950's and shows the magnificent traditional bead-work and jewelry created since hundreds of years in South-Africa. The adornments shown on this photograph originate from the Zulu tribe.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


A while ago I came into contact with an elderly woman who was born in the Transkei which was one of the former homelands in South-Africa under the Apartheid Regime. I met her at a traffic-light corner in my town selling her hand-made reed and grass brooms. The brooms were beautiful but she had another item which caught my attention.

She had a bracelet woven of reed grass - woven with a grass-species originating from the area around Coffee-Bay at the Wild-Coast were she usually lived. Africa is a continent with a long tradition in basket and mat weaving. And many other items have been created by Africans from this amazing material with a durability that is simply astounding. 
I asked her : " Why did she have only one ? "
And she replied : " Only old women in the place where I live wear it . Not many are sold in town. " 

The bracelet she had with her did not look like the ones in the picture but these are the occasions I am looking for. This is what gets me all excited. These are the processes I want to get engaged with with my business.
To find and discover crafts and crafts techniques and the people who are still able to do them is a permanent quest of mine. 

To realize my personal vision concerning design means for me to marry old valued techniques with new modern design and to be as creative as possible in this process from a view-point of materials used and re-used well as the functionality and the symbolic meaning of a product in our time.

Since then I have started to work with her and our collaboration is an on-going process. 
I asked her if she could do some of my very simple designs and she has created amazing bracelets with great skill and precision. The wonderful thing about them is that a cycle has been fully closed. 
A century old technique has been used to create a modern design item that is completely organic, non-treated and natural. And its is compatible with the aspirations of  " Modern Design " in our world as well. 
Additionally a person who can be considered as a representative of a marginalized group is able to earn income and receives recognition.

I have uploaded big photos so that you can see the incredible detail and the different styles of weaving. 

During the time I have worked in the International Development Sector for non-government-organizations and other projects I learned that to create and design an item that sells it has to be absolutely desirable to at least a group of people, a target market or a niche. The item or product must incorporate characteristics that make it desirable to give it a long life cycle.The person must want your item and not feel tempted to buy it because of you who has made it. Then you are a good designer.
People do buy out of charity because they feel compassionate about a certain group or organization. But they buy only once and then what was bought sinks into a drawer.

Not only has this been an amazing creative process for my but I did AGAIN learn at lot.
During traditional Xhosa weddings certain gifts were given to the bride representing parts of her future life. The broom is one of them. I will write more about this interesting topic in another post because it is a whole tale that can be taught. 

We thought after our designs have been received so well that these organic bracelets would make beautiful and surprising small gifts for the female guests of weddings in Europe, America and elsewhere as well. 
Instead of giving a chocolate truffle that is consumed immediately or something that can not be used after the wedding the bracelets make for a fashionable accessory and remind your guests a long time of this special moment. 
We have started marketing them as such and have equipped several weddings with them last year.

It is worth thinking about this if you are getting married or if you have a friend who is getting married and is looking for creative ideas to make her wedding special. 
Chocolat Negro gives great wholesale discounts. And a woman in Africa who is a fantastic crafter will be empowered financially by weaving your wedding gifts for you.

If you are interested you can contact me on Chocolat Negro:

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Love is gonna find you. !
Today I am showing you some of my berry installation prints.

In the front of my workshop stand these large trees that I call THE ELDERS.

They are over fifty years old, have massive stems and produce a really enormous amount of red berries. 

The berries in return make an enormous amount of mess.

When they gather together in corners

or explode on the stairs

They literally explode when they are overripe, splattering their juice all around, when they hit the floor from 10 meter height. And the trees produce berries through most of the year. I have been told a hundred times to cut them off but their branches are like a great natural chapel and give us shade throughout the summer.

And they allowed me to create some nice installations which I had of lot of fun doing.
 Like this one called : A STUDY OF BERRIES. 
I have truly studied them in all stages of evolution.

 Or this one - a small reminder of the THE POWER OF NOW

All  prints are available at : Chocolat Negro
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