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Not to gloss over last night’s post (and yes, I firmly agree that he needs to be punched – the problem is, I can’t find anyone to do it), but I’m trying to do this thing where I actually blog regularly, as opposed to sporadically, and… twice a month at maximum.

This weekend Sparkle Pants and I set out to photograph Duke University. We’d driven through the campus on Friday and were all set with batteries charged Saturday morning (okay, afternoon) when we woke up.

And then we got there… and discovered that the entire Raleigh/Durham area (or “the Triangle” for all y’all keepin’ it real) was at one of the seventeen events we hadn’t noticed were planned for that very day. Overnight an entire circus had sprung up, a run in support of animals, a run for children, a grandmother’s knitting convention, the annual tearing down and rebuilding of the school just because Duke students are spoiled rotten and they could do that if they wanted to… We decided we’d try the Gardens, which I’ve never been to but have heard from everyone are amazing… but there was a wedding on and no parking whatever to be found.

Vowing to come back next weekend, we drove around aimlessly for awhile, until we were forced to choose between “Downtown Durham” and I-85. I chose Downtown, because D comes before E which is the letter 8 starts with. It was an alphabetical adventure.

We ended up in the Tobacco District, where they were setting up for a battle of the bands on the lawn that night. We wandered up and down, past the offices of WUNC, our local NPR affiliate… and then I saw it. Extended until June or July something… a display of paintings, photographs and handwritten letters documenting Nelson Mandela’s time in prison in South Africa. Now, this is exactly up Sparkle’s alley, and very much up mine as well, so we crossed the fake river and went inside.

Y’all, it was heart breaking. Reading Mandela’s own words about his attempts to grow a garden, about the death of a beloved tomato plant which he uprooted and tenderly buried like anyone would a pet or loved one, about his realization of the importance of family and friendship, of touch and love and hands holding hands, shoulders supporting shoulders. He spoke of thinking he’d be imprisoned behind guard towers and barbed wire until he died, that he never dreamed that outside the walls of the prison, the tide was turning in their favor, apartheid was being overthrown… Nelson Mandela has always been one of my very few real heroes, but to hear his voice speaking on the small monitor inside the exhibit, to read his words in his own handwriting, to see the pictures he had drawn and filled in with such bright, bright colors – I couldn’t help but internalize that moment when he stepped into freedom. When he saw the faces of people he loved, people he never thought he’d see again. When he walked out of the prison not to another day’s work at the quarry, but into a new South Africa, one that has made strides toward equality and overthrowing racism that we in the United States only dream about even today…

There was no photography allowed in the building, so you’ll have to see the exhibit itself if it comes anywhere near you. I just photographed the Lucky Strike tower and the waterfalls gushing over No Smoking signs. But the eye is the best camera, and memory the best film, and I have those images in an album in my heart. And I know if it can happen there, if hatred can be overthrown and lives rebuilt, it can happen anywhere.

Even here in the United States.


Here is a set of almost entirely un-edited photos for “24 Hours of Flickr” which occured on the 5th of May.

You should go look at them even though they are horrible and badly framed and un-Photoshopped (except where obvious).

Currently Reading

Eve Ensler, Insecure At Last

Brettell and Sargent, eds. Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Quoth the Raven:

"Girls aren't beautiful, they're pretty. Beautiful is too heavy a word to assign to a girl. Women are beautiful because their faces show that they know, that they have lost something and picked up something else."

-Henry Rollins
May 2018
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