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  • Writer's pictureJanis Slingsby

Artist in the shit - No flies on me

Updated: May 6, 2022

23rd March 2021

Welcome to my first ever blog.

Slinger (never called him Robert) is a technophobe while I'm a mandatory technophile; add a hefty dose of Kabakov style relationship and 46 years of knowing him, and I feel justified in having a say.

For those who don't know us, I recently described Slinger as having an RGB brain. There are three threads; art, Africa and Anthropocene man's impact on his environment, which has lead to infinite expression. On the other hand, I took far too literally and seriously a response to Slinger quoting Pablo Picasso "there are only two types of women - goddesses and doormats". I knew I wasn't a goddess and I sure as hell wasn't going to be a doormat, so I came up with being indispensable.

Anyway, after a year in varying degrees of lockdown, I've been feeling a kind of nostalgia. A mix of not having enough people to chat to, but having so much to say, and a yearning for the hot, heady, halcyon days of not so long ago, spent in Ethiopia's southern Omo Valley. I feel a sadness wondering when or if we'll be able to return and carry on the work which consumed our lives for eight years.

Since he returned to oils, I've been trawling through our vast archive of images documenting our Omo Valley adventures to locate relevant images, which reflect an underpinning emotion, event, objects, or particular individuals. I've been finding it mostly therapeutic. I say mostly, as it is implicit in the work aspect of what we did, that underscoring all we have done and seen, are extremely serious and contentious issues. But that is for another day.

Robert Slingsby - No flies on me

No flies on me - Robert Slingsby in Mursi village 2018

I found this image of Slinger with cows. He loves cows and they've featured in his art throughout his career. He and cows clearly communicate and he appreciates their cultural and spiritual significance. Checking his face close-up I realised it's actually covered in flies and the memory of this Mursi village flooded back. It reminded me how we forgot about the flies. It reminded me how we forgot about the cow-shit we’re standing in. It reminded me how the Mursi use the fresh cow-shit as an insect repellent. It reminded me of the sores we get on our feet from wearing open shoes in the cow-shit. It reminded me of the lengths we have gone to for art material. And it reminded me how crazy the two of us are that we’ve never been happier than standing in cow-shit covered in flies in some remote corner of Africa!

Robert Slingsby - Architects of Apartheid 1979

Architects of Apartheid 1979, oil on canvas

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