Wilfried Schärf, a friend of many years, died this month.
He had been a lawyer, Professor of Criminal Justice, and Director of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cape Town.
A one-time jeweller, he could identify edible mushrooms and was a great cook.
He was a man of integrity; a descendent of German Moravian missionaries whose heart was scored with an inviolable sense of justice.

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Is it not time to view the deliberate killing of wild creatures as murder?

If the Minneapolis dentist, Dr Walter J Palmer – who allegedly hunted down Cecil, Lion of Hwange, in Zimbabwe – had lured a woman away from the High Street and down a dark alley; then shot her with a crossbow, only to wound her mortally, leaving her to drag herself, bleeding and in extreme pain; with him pursuing her and shooting her dead, beheading and skinning her – he would surely, in his home country at least, receive the death penalty for premeditated murder and dismemberment of a body.

His gruesome deed might be interpreted by some as a crime against humanity for, perhaps, the woman left behind infants; or was the last breeding mate of an endangered, cultural group, in the way that Cecil, Lion of Hwange, was the father of cubs and a critical contributor to a diminishing gene pool.

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I own 197 porcupine quills. These have been collected one-by-one over some forty years of travelling in Africa. They are beautiful and I have them on display in a crystal vase in my museum, treasuring them as missives from these elusive, nocturnal creatures.

Each has been found in the wild so, at Saturday’s market, I was dismayed to see a young man selling quills. He had a large quantity and I mentioned to him that it’s not ethical to kill porcupines. He shifted responsibility away from himself, indicating that the quills were a bi-catch because his farm workers hunted the animals for food.

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Image: Love leading the Pilgrim by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones

“Life as a Journey” is an often-used metaphor.

Life’s very components are metaphoric – there is a beginning and an end, both of which are heavy with the mystery of arrival and departure. And, of course, there is the road itself that must be walked.

This metaphor is at risk of becoming a cliché. We see T-shirts proclaim: Life is a journey – are you packed? Advertisers make use of it, so we are compelled to consider: ‘Are you driving your BMW? Have you got your Johnny Walker? Are you dressed in Gucci? Are you fragranced by Dior?’

How we travel our life’s journey is largely up to us. We are given a milieu in which to live, along with a set of circumstances, but we ourselves decide how to make use of those components. We can live in the shallows, if we want to. We can live without ever seeking meaning. We can live as consumers of things that have no intrinsic value.

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One of Patricia Schonstein’s ‘Found Poems’ in the anthology Africa Ablaze!  is crafted from a question posed to a former Rhodesian soldier about poetry and war.

The poem, which takes place in Bulawayo airport’s departure lounge, is formulated around two extreme responses – the poet’s and the soldier’s – as to whether poetry has the capacity to stop war.

It’s a dark, humorous, even absurd interaction around deadly serious subject matter. It reflects the poet’s absolute belief that poetry can be transformational, alongside a total denial of this notion by the soldier.

You hear the soldier’s sarcastic bark, ‘Should we have waved Tennyson under their noses?’ followed by a dismissive brush off, ‘Give me a break, Lady!’

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CHANDLERREADING 2 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Excuse me, random stranger… may I read you a love poem?”

This is how I welcomed people into the intimate Poetry Corner of  Chandler House in Cape Town.

The excellent Michael Chandler was blending fine art and poetry, love and beauty, Bukharas and erotica on last night’s First Thursday in Cape Town.

“I’m not going to seduce you,” I’d say to those who looked hesitant or wary. “I mean only to share some expressions of love.”

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