archive - issue 13

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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

Ten-Pin Mention and Other Spare Parts

By  Jenna Mervis
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 to my left is naked, kneeling and squinting at the galaxy of shooting pins at the end of the alley. The man to my right, nude also, drapes a stiff white towel over his left arm and waves his fist in the air.

"Hurrah!" he shouts over the mirror ball radio station belting out back-cracking hits from the mid-nineties, when no style was in style and cool was the measure of the girl on your arm.

The man to my left must be in his seventies, bald on top, and below... well, I dare not stare. Rule 1 of the All Natural Bowling Alley: one may look, but one must not stare.

I wonder if it is more of a gentlemen's agreement than an enforceable law. I've already caught the woman at the scoring board giving me the once over. Nevertheless, I'd best not mention names or intentions or alleged indecent optical assaults just yet. I'm a "textile" in disguise, desperate for a ten-pin win and willing to take my clothes off to prove it. I'd best lay low until my turn.

"Hurrah! A spare! You old dog you! On form tonight," the man cheers again. The woman at his side marks the spare with a / on the scorecard. The red, white and blue scarf knotted at the throat is her only covering. It is immediately obvious she is cold. Lights flash, the man is clearly some kind of bowling hero. They all know each other; I am convinced.

Naturist or not, bowling alleys all sound the same. The rumble of the ball on its polished run towards the set, the hollow clatter of scattered pins, this is what drives bowlers to score higher and higher, reach for that ten-pin mention at the Pearly Gates. Nude or not, it is a fantastic game.

There are more women here than men, whose parts dangle like useless tool belts. Children scamper down the empty wooden lanes on the far side of the hall, rolling their marbled pink and blue balls down the gutters. The sound is, if you'll excuse the weak pun, guttural and rather hypnotic. These bare-bottomed children worry me less than the adults. It seems more natural for children to shed their clothes and play. This is, after all, what they do until they are introduced to the concept of nudity and sex. At what age, I wonder, do children these days become body shy? Suddenly, I find myself admiring my new friends, that they can raise children to be comfortable in their own skins.

One more naturist to go before my bowl. My skin is a translucent membrane barely concealing my discomfort. I am writhing beneath its inadequate covering and the short white towel is pulled so tightly around my waist that I fear I may dislodge a kidney or two.

Bowling naked is not indecent, I am comforted by the jovial young father awaiting his turn in front of me. Adam and Eve are apparently not responsible for my discomfort.

"You see," he says, "it all comes down to language. Society has mainstreamed negative expressions like pornography, erotica, sex shows, topless dancers, strip clubs. The natural state of nudity belongs to a dead language. Now it's all about sex sex sex.

"Here you stand looking like a criminal when it's actually them out there," he says frantically waving his arm in the direction of the door, "who are the real problem. They're already living in their self-made cloth prisons."

I can tell the man is a passionate mouthpiece for the cause. Strands of sticky spittle have spun a web between his upper and lower jaw but he doesn't notice. I find it difficult to concentrate on anything else.

"Some people would call you exhibitionists," I say resting my eyes on his earlobe.

"Words are simply words, Mr Porter."

It is interesting that despite the intimacy of our natural states he still feels the need to call me Mr Porter. Perhaps that is my first incorrect assumption, to associate nakedness with familiarity.

"Please, call me Wayne," I say.

"No one here is on display, Mr Porter. We are here for sport, for the game of ten-pin bowling, not to wave our spare parts to the world. The Greeks did it. I mean for God's sake, the word gym originates from the Greek word for nude."

I imagine this close-knit little community of naturists as well-oiled athletes metering out their paces on the bowling tracks. 

The man has a convincing point. Language is a curious motor that drives the way we process our context and judge other's. We are only as convincing as the words we have access to and their meanings, which society dictates. Certain societies or groups ascribe to different meanings, which inevitably leads to alternate realities. Is one reality more real, more right than the other? Is naturism a natural state of being naked or an exhibitionist state?

I watch the young man stride across the floor with his ball gripped in his hand. His long legs skip and fold down the short runway and his arm swings back, his body pivots at the hips and suddenly the ball is spinning down the track. He is too gangly for a ballerina, but his movements are well-coordinated and perfectly timed. He is no stranger to bowling. The pins scatter in every direction and the ball disappears. A fine score.

"Why do you think naturism is not more popular then?" I ask him as he returns to mark his score.

"The world is full of idiots, Mr Porter," he winks and smiles. "I do believe it is your turn. Would you like me to hold your towel?"
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