Earth Matters
Christine Dixie
1. Why does the earth matter to you as an artist?

As the heat of the day drains away I walk the familiar stony road to the Nieu-Bethesda graveyard. My favorite gravestones are the huge slabs of flat rocks that have been dragged there from the surrounding hills and laid down onto the earth. I wonder how they were carried there and who so carefully chiseled the names and dates of birth and death into these rocks.

Beneath some of these stone graves the earth has fallen away. There are gaping dark holes beneath them, altar-like now so that when the sun falls on them their shadows tell the time of day.

In the dark space beneath these graves ground squirrels have made their homes. My dog chases after their scent and then stands patiently, one paw up, waiting for me to remove a thorn. I leave the warmth of the grave where I have been sitting and move towards him.

2. What is the importance of our relationship with the things we put or find underground?

I bury four objects into red earth.
A root which ends in fine tendrils echo's the capillaries pulsing blood in my body.
The desiccated carcass of a lizard, a miniature relative of the dinosaur whose footprints and bones are still found in the rocks.
A rusty wreath from a grave, the broken ceramic flowers speaking of the gradual oblivion of all things.
The final object, a small tin which first held cough drops, then nails and now I fill with orange pumpkin seeds.

Above each of these objects buried in red earth and encased in resin are finely etched depictions of four doomed crops attempted by my great-grandfather while farming in the karroo. In a letter to my grandfather detailing the fate of these crops he signs off, Better times are not too distant now.