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Keith Joubert
Diary
25th May 2008

We are in the Selati, packing and preparing to leave for Botswana. The mopane leaves are turning a rich red gold in colour, turning the rolling landscape into the varied patterns of an eastern carpet. The air is still and clear with every crack and crevice of the distant mountains clearly visible. Warthogs hover near the back door – dominating the monkeys at feeding time.

Porcupine
 

Our porcupine friend appears each night hoping to find an open door. Recently however, he had walked in quietly during the evening and gone to sleep in one of the rooms. Later, as Keith was walking down the passage in the dark, there was a loud shout, simultaneous to a shaking rattling sound – he and the porcupine had walked into one another leaving Keith with a couple of quills embedded in his leg.

No real damage done and we managed to show the porcupine the door – dignity was restored all round but an end to his domestic ventures for now!

   
8th May 2008

This has to be one of the best months in the South African lowveld region. From our studio base in the Selati Game Reserve we can look onto the vista of the Drakensberg escarpment and all its changes of colour through pinks and purples to moody blues.
We had very little rain this past season so the mopane trees are changing colour to winter reds and golds already, and the grass is tinder dry and blonde.

Warthogs have turned what used to be a lawn into a dust bowl of sticks and roots and the females with their surviving brood of youngsters are regular visitors to the back door. We keep a supply of crushed mealies and banana biscuits on hand to supplement their feeding, but some of them are already looking a little gaunt. With luck we will get some winter rain to supplement their diet with fresh greens otherwise it is going to be a long dry season for them.

Other regular visitors are a troop of vervet monkeys that hang around the windows casing the kitchen for food items so that when they find an open door they know exactly where to go to find the good stuff! It’s an incentive to keep the kitchen cleared. Their arrival is usually heralded by the sound of the youngsters thundering up and down our tin roof, while older members of the troop head straight for their optimum vantage points. It is always so entertaining to watch their antics, and we enjoy the interaction whilst being ever careful not to cross the unspoken boundaries of encouragement that would elicit bad behaviour.

At night we have a friendly porcupine who thinks it is his right to enter the apparently cave like passageways of our house and inspect all the corners, before snatching a quick sleep in the kitchen. We watch his tour of inspection with fascination and awe. And of course his main motivation is to locate the stash of crushed mealies and biscuits!

 
Elephants
Together with the elephants, lions, nyalla, giraffe and all the wonderful creatures that inhabit Selati, the studio and old farm house is more of an all weather viewing hide at times. There is always something to be seen passing by.


Lillie House, Selati Game Reserve.

 
As glorious as it is here, the constant need to travel and explore Africa’s great and diverse wild areas drives us on. Botswana has long been our home, and we are now privileged to have the opportunity to spend studio time in the Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana. And so as winter sets in we are preparing to head up there again.
Preparations involve, buying of art materials and supplies, and repairs to the land cruiser that carries us on that long journey. 13 hours drive from here to the town of Kasane on the Chobe River and then 6-8 hours of travel over 200km of sand pit through the northern game areas bordering Caprivi until we cross the Savuti Channel.

The Selinda Spillway lies between Lake Zibidianja in the east and the northern reaches of the Okavango delta in the west. At times of high water, which are recorded in history, these two evocative waterways have been known to connect. It is an area of wide open grasslands, palm tree islands, leadwood forests and a mopane tree belt of hidden waterholes and elephant paths.

For many years this region has been the domain of citizen and trophy hunters. Today however, there is a new regime who have put an end to all hunting and are working to conserve the area as a sanctuary for all creatures large and small.

 

As the waterholes of the interior dry up through the winter, herds are forced to migrate to these northern waterways.

Late dry seasons see an influx of the more water dependent species that creates a natural spectacle inherent with dramas of life and death enacted beneath the wide winter skies.

Lion
 
Palms
Palm trees, always evocative of travel and trade routes throughout Africa, here are suggestive of the long and often arduous journeys that are taken by the extraordinary creatures of this region.
 

Elephants, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, and many antelope species – accompanied by their retinue of predators – lions, leopards, cheetah, wild dogs – together capture and inspire the imagination of creativity. At Selinda, every day is a new adventure of fascination and wonder.

Before this gets too long winded however (and its probably already too late!) I will be using this space to keep you updated on the travels and adventures – and sometimes misadventures - that continue to inspire the exotic and mystical paintings of Keith Joubert.

 

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