An old family story has my mother chastising my (at the time little) sister, over her apparent disparaging commentary in respect of a small boy who shared her class at primary school. According to my sister, this boy apparently lacked any skill with regards mathematics or some such academic subject. “Darling, you must understand that everyone is good at something” say’s mother, to which my sister apparently replied “Well I should think that he is good at digging holes, because his granny is always taking him to the beach”..
Now I have always tried to hang on to my mother’s message, there is talent all around us and we don’t necessarily get to choose at what we are talented, there is to my mind a high likelihood that at least part of it is genetic. Actually the very reason that this blog is called “The Fishing Gene”, because I have always loved to fish, no matter that I cannot see any direct relationship with a recent ancestry which appears almost entirely devoid of piscatorial interest. But the point is that there is talent surrounding us and within all of us, frequently we don’t see it, not in others and as importantly not in ourselves.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book: Outliers, one of the themes is that to be exceptional at something one needs to spend 10,000 hours at it, all well and good but it doesn’t escape me that you are highly unlikely to put in that amount of time without passion.
Certainly those , to my mind, tedious “Britain’s Got Talent”, “America’s Got Talent”, “X-factor” and similar shows have a place, and they do afford gifted people to show off their skills, but they focus entirely on the show business, music industry sorts of things, as though that was all there was as a measure for excellence. In the end I can’t get past the idea that it is more about whether Simon Cowell and his ilk can make some money out of your skills than whether the world might appreciate those talents.
Here in South Africa we seem to have developed a near paranoia about our own value, the stigma of the Apartheid years, the vilification from the world at large, the economic downturns and more have left many with the feeling that “imports are better”, that “other people and other nations” have skills and that we should sit back as the whipping boys of the global stage.
So it was more than a little refreshing this past weekend to be amongst a number of truly talented people, certainly only a microcosm of what talent lies about us but at least a sample. A sample of excellence that is world class, people who need not bow their heads in front of any international audience and who, to be quite frank the rest of the world needs to know a bit more about. Not because there are no other talented people , they are I suspect on every street corner but because the media control who you hear about and who not. Because those TV shows only give a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg in terms of skills that abound.
The event was an open garden day in the upmarket suburb of Bishop’s Court in Cape Town, the garden an absolute picture, good enough to be appreciated by even as accomplished a plant killer as myself. I may well have talents, but green fingers don’t feature amongst them, as generations of desiccated, abused and yellowed vegetation in my garden can attest.
The garden in question is the proud creation of Sharland Urquhart, and it was opened up for the day to raise funds for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust. An organization providing assistance to South Africa’s and quite possibly Africa’s best centre of paediatric care.
But Sharland’s talents aren’t limited to gardening and landscaping, she has the ability to collect around her some of the most talented and interesting people you may care to meet.
So from that day here is my own “South Africa’s got talent” offering: all these people who participated in the day and gave of their time and profits to the cause of the Hospital Trust.
Tom Sutcliffe: Actually it is Dr Tom Sutcliffe but he wouldn’t tell you that unless you knew. Tom is in terms of South African fly fishing “the John Gierach of the South”.
He virtually single-handedly put South African Fly fishing and South African Fly fishing writing on the map. He was party to the country’s very first dedicated fly fishing retail outlet “The Fly Fisherman” in Pietermartizberg and now has a library shelf of very readable and informative titles to his name. Including “My Way with a Trout”, “Shadows on a Stream Bed” , “Hunting Trout”. Sadly some of his books are out of print, but you may still be able to rustle up a copy on line if you are prepared to pay for them. But on top of being an exceptional author and medical doctor Tom is also an accomplished artist, capturing the very essence of trout and rivers in lovingly fashioned water colours and he still finds the time to manage a blog/newsletter on line on a weekly basis. You can link up with Tom via his newsletter/website at http://www.tomsutcliffe.co.za/
Tom Sutcliffe Watercolour
Tom Sutcliffe drawing of Rhodes
Gordon van der Spuy: Actor, fly fisher and fly tyer, Gordon is one of the few who have the patience to spend hours creating the perfectly balanced salmon fly. Actually if you met him you wouldn’t believe that he could sit still that long. His talent and passion is only ouweighed by his absolute enthusiasm for all the things that he does. Gordon, along with Ed Herbst was giving fly tying demonstrations during the course of the day.
Sandy Griffiths: I hadn’t come across Sandy’s work previously but it really is quite exceptional, Sandy doesn’t only make pewter objects but equally is again a writer with several books about pewter work to her name.
As said, I don’t know a lot about Sandy’s work other than this one day, but that was enough for me to need to own a piece of it, I figure that is recommendation enough. Book titles include: “Easy Pewter Projects”, “Pewter It” and “Pewter Impressions”.
Stephen Boshoff: Stephen is a town planner or something of that ilk in his “real life” but actually that is simply a front for a man who is far more at home being anally retentive about wood.
You won’t believe that Steve can do with wood and thankfully he ploughs much of that talent into wood that has a fly fishing theme. Cane Rods and wooden nets, fly boxes and even chest packs, his attention to detail is frightening to us mere mortals.
Cane Rod with Cape Disa engraved butt plate
Crystal clear wraps on the rods and even a model that incorporates the reel in the design for better balance. You can purchase a custom built cane rod from Stephen for a fraction of what you might pay to better known makers but chances are you are likely to “get in on the ground floor” of an investment because I am quite sure that his work is going to become internationally recognized and cherished in time.
Steve’s remarkably innovative “Centre Axis” Rod design
Chris Bladen: Dental technician turned Sculptor. I can still remember the days when Chris was making jewelry in the centrifugal devices used for casting dental implants and false teeth. I am not sure if he was supposed to be doing that, there may well be a little old lady out there somewhere with a trout secretly embedded in the back of her dentures.
Another of those people for whom attention to detail isn’t just a fleeting thought but a way of life. Now Chris is internationally acclaimed for his work in bronze, with a particular emphasis on fish. When it comes to fish sculpture I doubt that Chris has a peer, from schools of flying fish to life sized leaping sailfish his work is simply beyond compare.
That Chris studies fish, catches fish (on fly of course), and watches fish is immediately apparent in the form of his works. These art pieces capture the very spirit of the wild, every sinew straining, every muscle taught, movement in a static object, simply wonderful. Chris has pioneered a lot of patina techniques which give his creations life-like colour and already he creates the trophies for the Del Brown Invitational Tournament in the Florida Keys. You can find out more about Chris’s work on his website at http://www.chrisbladen.com/
Red Cross Children’s Hospital: Finally the Doctors and Nurses of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, they are equally talented, world class to be frank and desperately underfunded, which I figure was the point of the open garden day in the first place. Talent isn’t talent unless it is shared, who can question if the beauty of Sharland Urquhart’s immaculate garden, Stephen Boshoff’s hand crafted rods, Chris Bladen’s Sculpture’s, Sandy Griffiths’ pewter feathers or a Tom Sutcliffe’s water colours will ever outweigh that of the face of a smiling child who was sick and is now well?
Talented people, helping talented doctors put smiles back on children’s faces.
I doubt that this is much of a list of South African Talent, but if this amount of skill, dedication and passion can be found in one exquisite garden on a Saturday afternoon, who knows what lies out there?
I know that there are still lots of other people like Mario Geldenhuys (rods and nets), Steven Dugmore (Cane rods), Deon Stamner (Wooden nets), Peter Brigg (Author) and many more who have passion and talent in abundence.
At least it’s a start, a start in recognizing that talent is everywhere, not just amongst others but amongst your countrymen and women, amongst your friends and if you look closely I strongly suspect you may well find some within yourself.
I doubt that there is any higher calling than doing what you do well, whether you are simply an exceptional father, mother, partner, fireman, metal worker or doctor, talent is within us all, and talent, to be of value should be shared.
So here’s to talent, to the skill and passion that enriches our lives and the lives of those around us.