“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large – I contain multitudes.”
Having written a few posts, I signed up to the WordPress Blogging 101 course some time back, which was oversubscribed. However, the first assignment arrived in my inbox this week (not the most opportune time…) which was to make a post defining what this page is about. It seemed a good idea, so here it is:
I am above all, a husband and parent to two daughters. These are the most sacred things to me, followed by my three dogs. Like each of the following aspects, they are part of my self-identity. More than the others, I hold them carefully and closely to me, mostly away from the scrutiny of the world, quietly: they require no public endorsement to accord them their inestimable value.
My tagline of my various media states: Artist. Teacher. Zimbabwean.
If only things were as simple as a single word. I make art and have some reputation in my country, though in recent years, my output has been a little limited. It is in constant negotiation between the other agents within my life, and has settled into a status quo that I have come to accept as part of this time of my life. A life I would dare not tamper with, for it is an excellent one! I believe wholeheartedly in the place of visual arts in society, and their ability to elucidate aspects of our context and time.
Two Lists of Observations of Teachers
- They have the power, the presence, the authority to absolutely decimate one’s aspirations, to belittle, to render a sense of worthlessness.
- They can humiliate beyond one’s possible imagination.
- They have a propensity to fail to “teach”.
- In years past (and I fear present), they can effect random beatings, with a variety of objects, as was normal in my junior and secondary education. The picking up of an eight year old by his ears and the thrashing a 12 year old with with a ruler until he begged for mercy in front of the class seem to stick in my mind. Cracking students heads together (one in each hand) was an un-extraordinary event at one institution at which I once taught, nor was a sharp blow to the face with an open hand, of each member of a class of students who lined up for the occasion.
- One English teacher, made secondary school a more tolerable place than it would have been without him.
- As previously written, my mentor Helen Lieros was instrumental in the transformation of my life.
- My tertiary education was full of the most insightful, hard-working and dedicated members of the profession, many of whom I have the utmost respect and for, and whose opinions about my work remain invaluable.
- I am surrounded by inspirational teachers and professionals for whom I have the greatest respect, at the institution at which I now work, and at which Studio One (of which I often write) is located.
- My wife Shaunagh is a Grade 2 teacher, also extraordinary, dedicated to perhaps the toughest part of any educational phase!
I am patriotic, and love the country into which I was born. It is extraordinarily beautiful, and inhabited by warm, peace loving people. Even the name is seriously cool:
Z I M B A B W E
Houses of Stone
In a conversation with the author John Irving, Phillip Dodd says “…I have a view of all of us, that we are all marked by our generation, that you can leave the ‘60s and the ‘40s when you were born, but they cannot leave you…”. I am a white Zimbabwean, born in the early 70s, and marked by that. That is, I was a child during the brutal liberation war. I am not of the generation that fought that awful, but seemingly inevitable war, nor am I a “born free”, though I certainly identify with that era. I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about my in-between status, and the manner in which it contextualises my existence.
It seems then, that this blog is a narrative of the larger strands that make up my self identity. It runs parallel to my own visual arts, that of my students, and my teaching. It is framed within an extraordinary but sometimes immensely challenging country.
Greg Shaw, 8 February 2016.