THIS Heritage Month, an emotive video which likens our humble yet hardy rooibos bush to the strength and resilience that lies within each and every South African, serves as a reminder of how brave and powerful we can be as a collective force during the pandemic.
Using finely ground rooibos tea leaves as a medium, the poignant message is beautifully illustrated in a three-minute video.
A talented performance artist, who hails from Russia and loves our local brew, was commissioned by the SA Rooibos Council (SARC) to create a series of renderings whereby rooibos tea leaves are skillfully scattered and moved on a lightbox by hand to tell the story – similar to sand animation.
Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council says the rooibos bush, which only grows in South Africa, is a true force of nature.
“While it’s one of the nation’s most-loved beverages, very few people know how tough its life’s journey is and the trials it has to endure to produce the quality tea we (take for granted and) enjoy every day.
“During these unprecedented times, it’s important that we all access our inner strength as Africans. As a people, we have an innate respect and love for our natural environment. Nature is a wise teacher. When we pay close attention, it can teach us many a lesson.
“When confronted by the unrelenting blows of the elements – ranging from scorching hot to near freezing temperatures, long periods of drought, gale-force winds and pests – rooibos’s natural defence mechanism kicks into gear. This stimulates the production of healing antioxidants which strengthens the bush and helps it to unlock its true potential.
“By becoming better acquainted with the battles that the rooibos bush faces every day and how that struggle enables it to produce its best harvest, we (as a nation) can learn and draw strength from its undeterred spirit. If we too remain steadfast, we will emerge triumphant from the pandemic,” says du Toit.
The video has been long in the making, but almost wasn’t produced as the tea samples kept being sent back from Russia’s regimental customs department and only arrived in the country a few weeks ago.
Du Toit says getting the specially ground tea samples to Russia when the entire world was under lockdown was like something out of a 007 movie. “We enlisted the help of agents all over to get the samples to the artist and fortunately, it arrived in the nick of time.”
The artist, Anna Strelkova, says waiting on the parcel to arrive was a nail-biting experience, but that it has been an honour to be part of a project that aims to bring a nation closer together through their shared love of rooibos.
While she’s a fan of the tea, she’s never used it in any of her animations.
“Sand animation is an art form somewhere between painting and animation. The same laws of composition, light and shade applies as with painting and drawing, but the main focus is on blending one image into another. Replacing sand with rooibos tea creates a similar effect, but trying to get it to behave like sand is a bit trickier. I used my hands, brushes and a special pouring-technique to give shape to each impression.
“I always feel challenged when I work with a new medium. Rooibos’s vibrant, amber colour also makes for a beautiful visual experience, so I might just incorporate it more into my animations.”
The video is an immersive, nature-inspired installation which celebrates the strength of our natural heritage and our people, and ultimately aims to foster greater social cohesion and a shared national identity among the 59 million people that make up our beautiful rainbow nation.
To view the video animation, click here.