Creative people see the fantastic behind the commonplace. Whether it’s the landscape hidden on a canvas before the artist finds it, or the music adrift in the air until a musician plays it, creative people make magic out of the mundane. Today’s guest brings an international flair to the magical melange. Nathan Lowell Presents…
Masha du Toit
When I was little, my older sister used to enjoy scaring me. She would point at a vase and say: “There’s an evil spirit in there. It’s been trapped in that vase for many years but it may come out at any moment. Better stay away from it.”
I knew she was making it up, but I was terrified all the same. And even as a child that fascinated me, that I could believe and in the same moment, not believe. I became aware that I could think things into being and once they existed they were as real as anything else I could see or touch.
Now that I am an adult I find myself living in a world that denies the existence of this power. There is no magic. The most potent act is to buy something and the only worthwhile quest is planning for a financially secure retirement. And yet, everywhere I turn, I see the traces of another world. Stories live in the shadows and come into focus if you know where to look.
As a writer I look for the links between the world of stories and the world we live in. Folk tales and legends. Baba Yaga the Russian witch, with her hut that stomps around on chicken legs. Sedna, the Inuit Goddess, crouching at the bottom of the sea, her hair tangling in the currents but unable to comb it because her father cut off both her arms. Stories creep into my life. What if I were to lift up that manhole cover and find a stone-troll sleeping in his nest?
Or what if there is an ancient mermaid living under the pier in Kalk Bay harbour? And then there is technology; how long before a poltergeist discovers the disruptive potential of a mobile phone?
And to complete the circuit, these stories reflect the every day world. The thorny branches tangling Sleeping Beauty’s arms become the tubes and needles of a life support system. Or when a homeless troll is trapped by the same security doors and burglar bars I hide behind every day.
When I write I try to tease out those strands of magic that are still caught around the things that surround us every day.
That vase is still on the mantelpiece at my father’s house. I know that it is empty, and I know that it is not.
Masha du Toit is an artist and writer living in Cape Town, South Africa. She reads far too much, draws pictures that tell stories, and writes stories about every-day magic. You can find her at her blog and get her short stories – “Strange Neighbours” – from Amazon.