daily painting | africa

sketch of lodge in south africa by emily weil

Hello and Merry Everything on this rainy December Monday! Been awhile since my last post, as my world has been a blur of activity, from being warmed and loved by folks who came from all over the U.S. for my brother’s ashes ceremony in Mill Valley to a fun Thanksgiving with my niece and family in Crescent City to an astonishing adventure of traveling to Africa for 16 days for a “road-trapping” trip where we we put “rings” (bands, in the U.S.) on the legs of South African raptors, from falcons to eagles to “buzzards” (we call them hawks in the Americas). All I can say is WOW • WOW • WOW. I didn’t bring paints with me (not a lot of spare time) but did do sketches. Here is a depiction of one of the lodges we stayed in. When we arrived in this particular spot in the African bush, which with its red-rock outcroppings looked like a scene from The Lion King, we were asked to sign a waiver that we wouldn’t sue if we were stung by a scorpion or trampled by elephants or eaten by lions. So thrilling! Elephants were so near we could watch them roaming and hear them munching on branches. We heard lions roaring (never saw them). Thankfully scorpions stayed tucked away but a few large spiders did say hello in our rooms (ugh). It was assumed everything was deadly venemous.

I took a small portion of my brother’s ashes and left them in this place. He never visited the continent. Now he can enjoy the scenery and listen to the lions.

It was the trip of a lifetime, and I’m so happy to have had such a privilege to travel there. South Africa teems with wildlife and we saw baboons and mongooses (looked up the plural version!) and monkeys and hippos and crocodiles and jackals and zebras (pron. “zeh-bra” and one nearby zebra was albino) and countless spectacular birds. I held African eagles in my hands! And falcons! And we saw hundreds of smaller birds with dazzling gemstone colors and long, showy tailfeathers. Our group leaders had encyclopedic knowledge of the birds there.

So. Home now. Where I can freely drink the water and enjoy consistent electricity (South Africa infrastructure is a mess, and the govt. is in chaos) and not worry about malaria or thorns that flatten tires and pierce even sturdy footwear. And the racism was blatant — there were the white Afrikaans farmers, and the Black African workers — white farmers in air-conditioned truck cabs and Black workers standing in the back of the vehicles in 115° heat. A very big chasm between the two. No one tried to hide it and it left me dumbfounded. 

I want to go back. Maybe I’ll win the lottery and go gape at the animals in Botswana. Or experience music in West Africa. What a place. And how incredibly privileged we are to live here. Traveling always brings profound gratitude.

4″ x 6″ ink on paper