The dying art of handwriting

7 03 2013

I read last year that a number of states in the USA will no longer be teaching cursive handwriting. Indeed, I have seen examples posted on the internet of students’ handwriting and it is printing – the letters are not joined. The local International School has a paper-free policy whereby all text will be stored and generated on electronic devices. I guess this does not apply to the art department!

I received the letter below today in the post (another dying institution?). It’s from my uncle in the UK who will turn 90 this year. I visited him last year and he is indeed looking old but his mind is sharp and his handwriting exquisite although I admit I find some of it a bit difficult to decipher. It is certainly better than my writing and the grand irony of that is I won the Headmaster’s Prize for Handwriting in my final year at junior school. Now I have difficulty reading it myself! I do hope that I will be as lucid as my uncle if I get to 90 even if my handwriting has long since deteriorated below his standard.

Cursive writing from a 90 year old!

Cursive writing from a 90-year-old!

The art of keeping going

31 07 2012

It’s official; we have the world’s best weather (see the previous post) and at this time of year it is really predictable and dry which means it’s the season for garden art shows. The Verandah Gallery in the Emerald Hill suburb of Harare has just had its annual exhibition this past Sunday. It’s a very sociable affair with a jazz band and loads of art on display but from my point of view it’s a bit commercial – designed for the mass market and more than a bit expensive. It is all for a good cause and profits go to the nearby Emerald Hill Children’s Home for the Deaf. There will be more garden exhibitions all through to the end of September as Zimbabwe’s artists struggle to make a living in what are exceptionally hard times even by world standards. My favorite gallery is the Gallery Delta in the old house (one of the oldest houses in Harare) that belonged to Robert Paul, an eminent Zimbabwean artist. It’s run by Helen Leiros, herself a well-known artist both locally and abroad, and her husband Derek Huggins and they have monthly exhibitions that are anything but commercial. Most of the art that I have collected over the past 10 years or so has come from there. It has not been easy of late for Derek and Helen who had to sell off some of their own art just to keep going. So I support them when I can.

The art of science and original thought

23 04 2009

I have just been reading an article in a recent Scientific American “Does Dark Energy Really Exist?” (April 2009). It has been known for some time now that the universe is expanding at what appears to be an ever accelerating rate. There is a problem though; nobody knows what is driving the acceleration so it has been called dark energy. Despite the best and most expensive efforts of scientists worldwide, nobody can find this dark energy. So what the authors of this article (and others) have postulated is that dark energy does not exist; what scientists have seen as evidence for a uniform expansion of the universe is in fact something else. This is not the place for a physics discussion and anyway, the original does it much better. What does fascinate me about this paper is its original thought.

In my early days at university I was somewhat conservative. Arts did exist of course but that was for people who hadn’t discovered science, or even worse, wanted to do an easy degree. Fortunately we all mature a bit and by the end of my university education I was wondering why there wasn’t at least one course requirement in my curriculum for a more “abstract” subject; philosophy say. If science has a fault it is to encourage a very regimented way of thinking which of course leads to incremental progress but the true geniuses of this world have original thoughts and ideas and sometimes they don’t know what made them think that way. This sounds suspiciously like art.

I now have a fascination with art in its various forms. HIFA ( is coming up next week and I am involved as a “communications assistant” meaning I am required to write reviews, take photos, and help update the website. I am certainly not doing it for the pay which will cover my travel costs and a bit extra. I will certainly be fascinated by what I see and will marvel at the artistic thought process which is just so different from what I was taught.

At a HIFA some years back I went to see a contemporary dance show by a French dance school. The first half was pretty much standard contemporary dance (I love dance because it is something that I will never be able to do and hell, those girls have great legs!) but the second half was abstract. I think I was one of the few people in the audience who actually applauded at the end. It was brilliant; how DID they think of that? Walking out with the audience I heard people grumble that they didn’t understand it; it was rubbish. No, I said, it was not rubbish because you did not understand it. It was abstract – it was whatever you wanted it to be (Zimbabweans are notoriously narrow minded).

Perhaps this is the source of the frustration that I feel with religion; people are just not prepared to challenge the accepted doctrine – you cannot know the mind of God so you just accept it (there¬† is of course a paradox here; to be religious you MUST accept the doctrine otherwise there is no point). That to me is denying our very raison d’√™tre. We are what we are because we are so intensely curious and prepared to challenge what we are often led to believe is the accepted explanation for what we see around us. And that is called science.