archive - issue 12

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  • /

    By Ruth Barker
    On the QWERTY layout of my computer keyboard, the symbol / appears beside the questioning symbol ?. They are represented together on the same key, and
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  • Apartment / Containers

    By Vincent Bezuidenhout
    These diptychs are the start of a series of images I have been working on regarding the visual landscape we choose to surround ourselves
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  • I returned home after my first year in college to discover my younger sister had turned gorgeous. This was a disappointment, but not an
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  • Butterfly

    By Adriana de Barros
    The pupa, a silk wrap of emotionsIsolated, within breathing, wanting to bethe intense pronoun of selfIt is silly to be one's own pronounShe giggles
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  • Collage

    By Claudio Parentela
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  • Drag and Snap

    By Leigh-Anne Niehaus
    This series is inspired by the childhood game of "snapdragon", which allows for simplistic and delightful decision-making through random selections of colour and number.
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  • Evidence of Life

    By Tamlyn Martin
    Below is an extract from a series of 11 poems created in parallel with visual artworks. 5. Memories laced with visceral realityFlooding herThe gentle
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  • Forward! Slash!

    By Travis Lyle
    You think you're a forward-thinking kinda person, do you? Lemme be the one to break it to you, sunshine – you're as lame as the
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  • Human/Nature

    By Lydia Anne McCarthy
    This series explores moments between nature and human beings that are at once idealistic and unsettling. Each picture is an independent narrative, but placed
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  • Immigrants

    By Stanley Onjezani Kenani
    you want to livenothing leaveto liveyou swimor like fresh sardinesyou are packedin boatsyou leaveto live.  you leavegold in the belly of Africaoil in
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  • In Between

    By Tania van Schalkwyk
    Raised in an Arabian land of heat, fire and temper,sometimes the calm of England clamps downlike damp in a bathroom with no windowand a
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  • Letter to the Editor

    By Elan Gamaker
    Dear Sir/Madam I should like strenuously to object to the subject matter ("/") of your current issue. It must first be mentioned, however, that it
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  • Or: a line drawing

    By Gabeba Baderoon
    Pencil and nothing. Her face turned almost entirely away. Forehead, cheekbone,jaw,the bun low in her neck,shoulderand down,the long linejust enoughthen left alone.
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  • p u n c t u a t i o n

    By Ula Einstein
    Einstein works with a diverse range of media, including drawings and installation with fire, thread, and blades. The series of drawings and installations with
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    By Sean Hampton-Cole
    Keys. John speaking. 'Lo?Good morning. May I speak to Bob Mitchell please?Bob in Bonds?I'm not really sure. I'm trying to...You want extension 125. This
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  • Pretty Babies

    By Peregrine Honig
    With the premise that "/ " presents what is IN and what is OUT, the "Pretty Babies" series explores the fashion industry's well-published and syndicated DOs
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  • River Bank

    By Mario Sughi
    The symbol / is intended initially as a symbol of division. A real or unreal line divides the girl from the water, the girl from
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  • Scissor

    By Charlotte Gait
    There was a time when you and I were connected by iron, acid, vitamin and blood. Where every mouthful I took was with the
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  • Seasaw

    By Sol Kjøk
    Here, the motif is conceived of as a seesaw (the typo in the title is intended, as this drawing is part of a series
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  • Series Seven Up

    By Noel Fignier
    Text by João Branco Kyron, HipnóticaThe collision is imminent and in the fraction of time left, the eyes shut and the vision is superbly
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  • A battle over samoosas between the snobbish Cinderella and a homeless electrician is mediated by Cinderella's boyfriend JJ. The samoosa battle is conflated with
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  • Wayne Porter, freelance journalist, donned his anthropologist's birthday suit and hit the bowling alley. Bar the bowlers hat tipped gently off centre, the man
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  • The Incised Wound

    By Joanne Hichens
    "Please, for me, Dave," I placed my hand on his, and really, no begging, just asked him nicely, "Lay off the booze tonight." Whether
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  • He had been driving for hours through that unstable, somnambulist night when he fell asleep at the wheel. He awoke with a start and
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  • The space between.

    By Mehita Iqani
    It's a handy little line, the one that we use to make our options known. Either/Or. Paper and ink or binary code? Its clichéd,
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  • Un Hombre Fuerte

    By Tamo Vonarim Written these words are, at times of a subconscious flow – whether they are mine, I don't know. All I know is that I
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  • Unbroken Awareness

    My life is now a floating shellI am a vessel on that river.The storm, the ship, the sea,Whose shores we lost in crossing.  I
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  • Untitled

    By Wilhelm Saayman
    This series of images, made using pen and ink, photographs and Photoshop, explore alternate/dream realities.
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  • Untitled

    By Aryan Kaganof
    /At R550 rand I thought I'd rather die/ My mother: can I trust this woman?/ I thought the Romans were coming, dinkum/ …and always
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Sunday, 25 May 2008 02:00

The Incised Wound

By  Joanne Hichens
"Please, for me, Dave," I placed my hand on his, and really, no begging, just asked him nicely, "Lay off the booze tonight."

Whether he heard or not, he was distracted by two women coming into the restaurant, both in dark glasses, dressed to the nines, one, big-breasted, had a throaty laugh, the other, wearing gypsy-style gold-hoop earrings, had an oily sheen across her forehead. And above us, spheres of gold and silver, like planets, some studded with crystals, caught the light and moved with the warm night breeze as the women closed the door. I remember I scooped up rose petals scattered on the table and crushed them between my fingers, but with my sinuses playing up, for me there was no scent.

The others arrived soon after: Zelda, Nazli, their husbands. This was a good-bye to these older women I worked with at my sub-editing job. Goodbye to nine-to-five and the bad office chair that had stuffed up my back.

This was the dinner to mark a new stage of my life.

The artichoke starter was a disappointment. My steak came smothered in chocolate sauce made of musty unsweetened Belgian that even the hint-of-chili couldn't improve. This black mass I considered sacrilege, it glistened like an oil slick on my plate. And for conversation, the others talked mainly about the trouble children were.

Zelda said, between steak and desert: "I gave up my newborn daughter for adoption when I was fifteen and didn't see her again till she was twenty. I'm working through my guilt in therapy, you know, that all this time I thought she'd had a better life without me but her foster father turned out to be a no-good alcoholic."

Nazli teased from the other side of the table, "I'd like to drop off my kids somewhere and collect them in twenty years. Heck, that would suit me!" Telling me babies were easy, it was tots and teens that gave you worries, and that children were there for life, like an affliction of some sort. Her husband laughed, "To be single and gay would be ideal, and not to want kids. Be damn rich and have a decently decorated house with no stains on the couch, or junk I'm constantly tripping over on the floors!"

We were having fun, yeah? For me: no. It was not fun.

This was one of those trendy restaurants that provide entertainment. For instance, the waitress, after pouring yet another round of schnapps the colour of semen, brought around a selection of hats for dress up: a hard hat, a panama, a boater, a black pillbox, a silk turban in grey. Mostly dirty and bent out of shape. Dave, in a straw hat with a frayed brim, leered like Huckleberry Finn on the drink.

I was sober. I was tired of the banter and the jokes. After the hats, Dave sucked from a Hookah and blew smoke, his jaw clicking as he sent rings floating across the table, his mouth a black hole, his lips stained dull maroon from too much red wine. I wanted to go home, lie down and get relief from the pressure at my pelvis.

There was even a magician. He pulled a stream of silk hankies from a previously empty palm. For his next trick, his fingers fluttered around the fork that Nazli gripped, and we gasped as the prongs twanged at right angles and in opposite directions like broken fingers.

And it was while we were all goggle-eyed at Nazli's corkscrewed fork, that one of those chic-chicks in dark glasses came from the shadows, banged on a table with a spoon, and shouted: "Listen up, as if your life depends on it! Hand over everything of value." It was the woman with the gold-hoop earrings, wearing a hard hat now, like a builder on site, not a criminal about to rob us. She said: "We don't want to find out you've been holding out on your wallets, cell-phones or jewelry."

The magician whimpered, looking like he wished he could do a Houdini, when he saw two of Gold-Hoop's men-friends head for the kitchen, appearing as if from nowhere. Gold-Hoop's partner, in the black pillbox with a veil covering her face, pointed a gun directly at us. And the restaurant, buzzing seconds ago, was suddenly so quiet I could clearly hear the lyrics Elvis Presley was crooning in the background ("Are you lonesome tonight...are you sorry we drifted apart...) as Gold-Hoops moved towards our table and ordered, "Make your contribution," passing around the very same straw hat that Dave had worn.

So, I reckon from sheer fright, my waters broke. I looked down at the darkening upholstery of the seat, felt some of the warm liquid run down the insides of my legs before it pooled under my chair. I told myself I just had to sit this through. I held a hand to my side and averted my eyes. I told myself that everything would be okay. I did what they said. What the ladies got from me was a cheap Timex, a diamante broach, a mock-croc purse with a coupla car-guard bucks in it.

Dave, done spitting on his fingers, struggled to pull off his wedding ring. He was so past it with those hooded eyes of his after overdosing on wine and shooters, that he started giggling as Elvis sang, "Do you gaze at your bald head and wish you had hair..." Elvis making a joke of his ballad, Elvis losing it and Dave too, like this robbery was one big joke.

This was when Gold-Hoops stepped close. A knife darted out and a silver blade opened a flap of skin across Dave's cheek.

But Dave didn't quit. Dave, with blood seeping from the cut on his face, just could not control his misguided mirth, and Gold-Hoops cut again.

This time right through the fabric stretched tight across my abdomen, she slashed right through my ski pants, through the skin, the muscle, and Dave at last tossed his ring in the hat and sat heavily, no laugh left in him.

"The next person who says a word, we'll shoot this pregnant woman," warned Gold-Hoops, as she pressed a circle of cold metal against my temple.

The whole thing only took some minutes, though it seemed interminable, before the women walked backwards out the door with a flash of psychotic smile, a thank you ladies and gentlemen. Elvis Presley laughed as their gang disappeared more smoothly than the magician had pulled the coin from behind my ear.

That's what I remember. And the stink of adrenaline in the restaurant, as frantic phone calls and hysteria took over.

One woman had gold-hoop earrings, and sweat and pimples on her ebony forehead. I remember the deep cleavage of the other. On both, dark glasses and those ridiculous hats. And I remember a man in a black leather jacket, with straight square teeth, at the door beckoning for them to hurry.

I was aware of the pain, as the baby knocked hard at my pelvis with his foot, as blood soaked through my fingers where the knife had split my skin that had been taut as a butternut, as the baby's head started crowning right there at the slice at my belly.

In Long Street, as they carried me to the ambulance, a boy as thin as a praying mantis appeared in the light, with his hands cupped in front of him, but the paramedics chased him away. The ninety-buck steak, smothered in the chocolate sauce to-die-for that someone had recommended, churned in my gut, with the tasteless artichoke salad and insipid rose-scented crème-brulee. I hardly gave Dave a second thought, as I breathed under the mask and succumbed to the meds the paramedics pumped into me.

The day after, Dave came to the hospital with the others. He'd passed out at the restaurant, "defeated by the booze devil," Nazli said, as if this was an excuse.

Dave asked me, as I held my tiny boy, born a month early by emergency caesarean, as I stroked my son's face and kissed his downy head, Dave in his rumpled clothes, asked, "Did we at least have a good time before all this happened?"

"Are you serious, Dave?"

The vertical indent deepened between his eyes as he tried to bring back more of the night. I watched as he fingered the crusty cut on his cheek, which started to weep, then traced the plaster on the baby's face to help jog his memory.

That's all I can tell you. I've signed my statement. When I was conscious, I was focused on my baby and I prayed throughout that he'd be safe.

Now, I can't get Elvis Presley's laugh out of my mind.

All the world's a stage and each must play a part.

The plastic surgeon says that forward slash on my baby's cheek, cut by Gold-Hoops, will leave a scar. As will the cut on the face of my baby's shit-faced alkie father.

About the robbery, if you ever trace our goods, I don't want the wedding ring back.
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