Art has been a passion from an early age, I loved the ability to communicate visually outside of verbal language. Art can be a means of communication for the voiceless, for myself, for marginalized people, for wildlife and for the earth herself.
My passion for wildlife is nature not nurture and so living in Hwange National Park since 2007 was a dream come true to live alongside the diverse animals here was a treasure, yet there is a sense of disconnection in this context, we are not one with nature as our truest way of being is, how can we reimagine and remember what this means as humanity? This question and exploration is what fuels the work for me, truly creating an alternative.
I left my life in Europe in 2007 and followed my heart to Zimbabwe, I felt a sense of arriving home which I never expected. I became more immersed in this beautiful country, and both Brent and I decided we wanted to live with the people who ‘live’ with wildlife to understand what that truly entails and to challenge ourselves to really ‘walk the talk’. We approached our chief who is the traditional leader of this area and asked if we could live in the communal area as part of the community. We were so humbled and excited to be accepted by him and the community members. To honour their support, we know we had to throw ourselves in to this opportunity and give it 100%.
So I threw myself into building our home using natural materials, learning about living off grid and practicing permaculture. All of this heightened our understanding of how destructive modern life is for the natural world. From reading, learning by doing, short courses and mistakes along the way, the conditions for our new life, as a family and all our future fur babies was created. In 2014 we moved into the home I built and really started living with nature and wildlife, and we have never looked back. I am truly happy when my hands and feet are in the soil, from earth building to growing food. To raise Oliver where he can run free and be deeply connected to the land and culture makes our hearts sing, we are deeply grateful to our community for the welcome and for all the creatures we share our lives with, from the smallest to the biggest.
The soft foot alliance grew out of Brent and I’s experience over the years and how we knew something else was possible. My role has brought together my creativity and permaculture to design and implement our work. I hold a vision in my heart of a world I know is possible, it led me to do this for our own lives and I know it is possible to do this across landscapes. That through regeneration on all levels, abundance is there and so too is coexistence.
My parents had given up so much to share with their siblings and children, a tool they believed would make life easier, that is, education. I gave education 101% effort doing everything by the book the best way I could. Getting this job was a great opportunity to prove to my parents that they did not make a mistake.
In the work place, it seemed like the education we had, had limited application and it felt like we were taking more from the system than we were giving and it was not sustainable. I would interact with some of my peers who were not employed and they would tell of vain efforts they were putting to get employment and I realised there was nothing special about me, l was just fortunate.I have always been a reflective person, this time, l really began to question everything. Questions that crossed my mind were, ‘Where are we going?’, ‘where are we coming from?’ and ‘where are we?’ as a community and as individuals. I looked deeper into my own life and of those around me. I was shaken by how instead of progressing we are stagnant or even backsliding.
The goal of living a more convenient, abundant and satisfying life, which led people from especially my parents’ time to move into urban areas was short lived. Back then, it was easier to feed a family, provide shelter and access water without using a lot of physical effort, in urban areas than in rural areas. It only required an investment in education and afterwards getting a job and it was guaranteed that a good life followed. It worked for sometime, but by the time my generation got to be in the working class, the model was highly selective and only worked for a minority, because there were hardly any jobs to talk about. Nowadays, towns have so little to offer, people walk for long distances to get firewood, electricity is occasionally available… salaries can barely cover food and accommodation costs.
There is still so much hope in education bringing a good life, the thing that has shifted though, is where the good life is. For a few it is still within the country, but it is in a different and better neighborhood. For the majority, especially the educated ones, a good life is only found outside the country. We are back to square one, right where my parents started, ‘running’. Moving to a different place where a good life already exists.
What gives us the guarantee that, unlike the temporary good life in urban areas, the countries we are running to, will always offer a good life for everyone? Already things have changed in the benefits that used to come with moving out of the country. The support that a person in the diaspora could give to people back home has reduced, getting jobs in these countries is becoming more and more difficult and even the reception of foreigners in such countries has changed for the bad, an example is xenophobia incidences in SA or in general the effects that are coming as a result of increased immigration.
Its highly likely that, whichever new place we will find, that offers a good life, will only have room, for just a short while. This leaves one solution, of creating a good life right where we are. Using all the acquired knowledge, formally or informally learnt, to extract the benefits that are offered by resources surrounding us, while at the same time protecting these resources, for the sake of the future generation, so that they never have to ‘run’.
This realisation made me want to know more about how l can benefit from things available to me already. In my search, l discovered that there are alternatives to a conventional lifestyle and amongst the new things l learnt, there was permaculture and regenerative agriculture. I was also privileged to witness a family, choose to live a rural life, and strive to create a good life not just for themselves, but inclusive of others. I saw practically, how it was possible to create a good life. It was even easier because l became a part of soft Alliance and I did not have to be isolated when l decided to try out an alternative way of life.
Just as I had predicted, my contract ended 5 years after l has gotten the job, because the company I worked for could not afford to keep us. Some colleagues left for greener pastures in other countries, and those that could not, waited to be called back, as there were very limited opportunities in other companies. As for me, l decided it was time to stop running and went back to where l grew up, to try and make things work there.
Already l have seen a transition from losing money in attempts to carry out multiple projects that are meant to bring in money, to an increased resilience to both changing climate and an unstable economic environment through increased utilisation of internal/ readily available resources. There is so much more potential to stabilize economy wise at a larger level through simple family level grassroots solutions.