They both were in boarding school, albeit continents of each other. One came to Riebeek Kasteel from Europe in 2019. The other one came to visit her boarding school town some years earlier and decided to stay here.
Here they met and became close friends before they threw their respective art talents together in a special project that will be on exhibition in Cape Town later this month.
As friends the two artists spent many a night sharing their thoughts and dreams discussing the meaning of life. “We breathed life into our respective mediums and put our minds and creativity together.”
Tracy Fairston was in school in London in England and had already developed a love for poetry then.
Li Nepgen studied art with photography as a minor at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. Nepgen talks about her childhood and how she and her younger brother travelled from Cape Town by train to Hermon Station on “uitnaweke” (off weekends) and holidays.
She has been a full-time contemporary artist and art teacher for the past many years and works primarily in painting, clay and sculptural ceramic objects but is also active in printmaking and mixed media. She works from her home-based studio in Riebeek Kasteel and had her first solo exhibition in 2015.
Fairston lived in Spain for a number of years after school and came to South Africa on holiday several times. “I always said then that if I would move to another country, it would be South Africa.”
She has collaborated with musicians, photographers and artists and took part in various exhibitions and recitals all over the world.
When the two became friends and got to know each other’s art, Nepgen suggested Fairston publish some of her poems.
The two then worked together – Fairston’s poems and Nepgen took the photographs for the poetry collection The Final Straw. It is also the title of the poem that anchors the project.
This poem is not necessarily her only favourite, Fairston says, but is very personal. She wrote it quite a few years ago. She describes it as “quite an honour” that one of her poems The Silence in Your Eyes inspired well known local artist Solly Smook to do a painting titled The Silence in Your Eyes.
Fairston’s poetry at the monthly Poetry Jam at Rata (Royal Arts Town Amphitheatre) is one of the highlights each time.
The Final Straw project, which they launched with Solo Studios 2019, “was great fun” and also hours of art and photography. Nepgen took all the pictures with her cellphone. Tracy’s hands were painted for the Black and White photos. The enlarged photographs and verses were on display in 2019.
Now, this exhibition is going to Woodstock for a special exhibition evening on May 27 at the Art is Art Gallery. “A collaboration of poet Tracy Fairston and accompanied art photography by Li Nepgen. This evening celebrates the merging of poetry at its most personal … and its expression captured through depicting photographs. ”
Fairston says her words represent her life experiences. Her poems come “from the depths of her soul”. She hopes to take her poetry to a whole new artistic level.
Copies of the booklet are still available.
Visit Fairston and Nepgen’s respective facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/alifeinwordss and https://www.facebook.com/LiNepgenLoveArt.