The Southern Double-Collared Sunbird

With the arrival of the South African autumn, the sunbirds are more active than ever. They are “chee-cheeing” in the trees and darting about the flowering bushes in an iridescent display. Southern Double-Collared Sunbirds (Cinnyris chalybeus)—and Malachite Sunbirds (Nectarinia famosa)—are regular visitors to the garden from the nearby woods where they nest. A few days ago, I photographed a female.

She was accompanied by a male who could not quite decide what bush was to his liking, and so I was unable to photograph him on that occasion. I include, therefore, a male I photographed in April last year. I must add that in the case of the photograph of the male, there is no enhancement of the image; its feathers are as splendid as they appear—in fact, they are even more magnificent to the naked eye!

A Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Female (Cinnyris chalybeus), 29 March 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Female (Cinnyris chalybeus)
A Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Male (Cinnyris chalybeus), 3 April 2018. Copyright 2018 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Male (Cinnyris chalybeus)

More of the Chandelier Lily

I was delighted to photograph a Chandelier lily1 as it emerged from the ground directly from the bulb, and as it began to unfold into the branched flowerhead, from which it derives its common name, one week later. What a sight!

A Chandelier Lily Reborn, 22 March 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Chandelier Lily Reborn
A Chandelier Lily Unfolding, 29 March 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Chandelier Lily Unfolding


  1. Brunsvigia orientalis, possibly Brunsvigia litoralis, a slight variant.

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The Agonising Paradox

“Letting Go”1 promises deliverance but embraces sweet enthralment. In a piece just under two minutes long, nearly half of which is devoted to a playground field recording over which a wistful synthesiser presides, a sorrowful melody briefly loops, then disappears.

The theme here is not “abandon”; there is no celebration as the title suggests, only “longing”—for connection, intimacy and approval. If there is a “letting go”, it is unwilling and temporary—the artist’s pain is comforting and familiar to him; his grief, consoling.

Consequently, he presents it to us in a disarming, innocent and sympathetic melody wrapped in a misleading title and nostalgic cover art. This is not deception, however, but a raw exploration of an inner conflict: the paradox of loving our psychological afflictions.

The Beautiful Mirage

“Longing” is reflected in the black and white cover image: the children, a symbol of blissful abandon, run away from the photographer. The melancholy picture, the ephemeral field recording and the plaintive melody all suggest that peace to the artist is unattainable.

He knows the darkness from which his composition emerges—too well to truly let it go. Like the tune, he wants to be optimistic, but in a minor key—his despairing sense of life—struggles to be so. Artist and artwork, by their very nature, resign to despondency.

For as long as this resignation lasts, the music rises in a slow and desolate pitch, reaching for a beauty beyond its grasp whilst mournful synthesised voices yearn for salvation and joy. Yet they will not tear themselves from the shadows and ultimately fade away.

“Letting Go” glimpses beauty, but it is a mirage to the artist; or perhaps the artist is a mirage to it, for he needs it to be . . . distant . . . justifying his unwillingness to seize it. Still, we shall not rush to blame him; what, after all, is more terrifying to the wretched than joy?


  1. “Letting Go” by Distant

The Chandelier Lily

I recently shared a photograph of the Chandelier lily (Brunsvigia orientalis, possibly Brunsvigia litoralis, a slight variant) and briefly mentioned what happens once the flower expires. I was fortunate to come across an example, a week ago. This one was about 30 centimetres (11,81 inches) wide. The seeds—which are about half the size of a pea, green at first, then black—are contained in the triangular pods at the extremities of the many arms. What a plant!

Dry Chandelier lily (Brunsvigia orientalis), 22 March 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Dry Chandelier lily (Brunsvigia orientalis)

How do you work? (Part 1)

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My Approach

Slow and Steady

I am a “rational artist”: I must know why I do what I do, and so I have formulated a clear artistic vision. Analytical by nature, making sense of my artistic motivations and processes is not only illuminating but gratifying. A big part of my work involves dissecting it, and my approach to fulfilling it can best be described as methodical.

For this reason, I tend to work slowly, thoroughly exploring every idea for a work (or part of a work) that comes to mind. The moment of inspiration is only the beginning to me. The joy of being an artist lies in the struggle between the inception and completion of the work: in the perfection of its concept, content and execution.

I think of an artwork as a microcosm of an artist’s life, containing the sum total of his experience up until the moment of its conception. My work then is the process of distilling into an artwork the content of my heart and mind, of concretising in a musical or poetic composition what I felt and thought at the moment of inspiration.

Realising a Response

My theme is the wonder of nature, especially as seen in pastoral beauty—at once my muse and subject. I may encounter a wild flower, or a creature, or survey a landscape from which I cannot withdraw my gaze, that will evoke an impression: a feeling that seems to require music or poetry to express. This is how a piece begins.

It appears first as an emotional reaction that transforms into a thought, which in turn becomes a poetic line or verse, or a musical idea. What follows for both music and poetry are fundamentally the same: I begin with a rough idea which I methodically develop, producing many variations until I find those that best fulfil my intentions.

Devils and Details

At any given time, I work on a specific piece in a project—a poem or a musical composition—rather than many at once. I must immerse myself wholly in the work, without distraction, that I may extract from it whatever artistic potential it possesses; I do not move on from a piece until there is nothing more I can do to improve it.

The least interesting part of the process to me is the “gear”: I only require that it helps and not hinder my work, and that it be of sufficient quality for my purposes. My tools, therefore, are few, simple and convenient: for music, I use a digital audio workstation and session musicians, and for poetry, a physical and digital notebook.

A Greater Striped Swallow

We were also fortunate to see a number of birds. Blue Cranes (Grus paradisea) congregated on the hills and in the river, a Reed Cormorant (Microcarbo or Phalacrocorax africanus) perched on a branch, wings outspread to dry them. On this occasion, however, I was captivated by a Greater Striped Swallow (Cecropis cucullata), quietly surveying the scene.

A Greater Striped Swallow (Cecropis cucullata), 15 March 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Greater Striped Swallow (Cecropis cucullata)