Assassinating royalty

Assassinating royalty

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

“Are you alright Sister?” Sister Elizabeth asked the young nun whom she pulled out of the water in total darkness.

“I’m alright, sister thank you,” Sister Varvara said gasping for air after having been thrown down the twenty-meter deep, abandoned mine-shaft. She looked up, but the dark of night revealed only the blackest of pits, filled with voices of hatred from above.

Elizabeth knew, the moment the Bolsheviks pushed her over the ledge on the summer’s night, their intention was murder.

“Be careful,” she said when she heard harsh voices and another person falling into the water. And another…and another. They were all men from the company of prisoners.

“Who are you?” one of the men asked.

“Sssh!” another male voice hushed him.

“I’m just curious,” he replied.

Elizabeth couldn’t see them but knew their echoing voices was not a good thing when she asked them very discreetly to be quiet. It did not have the desired effect as many other inquisitive voices rose in a soft hum. So much so, they did not even hear the small object drop into the water.

The blast of the grenade was enough to make everyone’s ears ring, and complete silence followed. After about two or three minutes, (or was it perhaps five?) some men asked if there were any hurt.

“Quiet please,” Elizabeth begged the men. “I don’t think they have gone yet…”

Just then, the second grenade fell in the midst of them, but one of the men hopped it into the water. Again, the ears rang high-pitched, but this time there was a sufficient light of flash, which lit up the shaft, in a quick sharp, bright light.

Growling sounded from close by and Elizabeth knew that at least one man was severely injured.

“God saved us this far,” she whispered softly into Sister Varvara’s ear while holding her hand. “But the painful noises from these men will surly encourage the soldiers in their deed.”

“What do you propose, Sister?” her companion asked.

“These soldiers can’t kill us directly, as they still have a conscience. So they do it in a cowardly manner,” Elizabeth continued. “We will use that, and make it more difficult for them.”

“But how?” the female voice sounded with fear.

Elizabeth’s unexpected singing sounded as delightful as a crisp, snow filled winter’s morning. As more and more voices joined in the singing of the Orthodox hymn, the fear and anxiety seemed to have vanished from every heart, being at peace with going to a Heavenly home.

The singing was with such intensity, that they failed to notice the large brushwood filling the entrance from the top. The soldiers set it alight, but the flames and smoke went up in the air, along with the fragrance of their pleasant song, not harming a single person trapped beneath.

The light of the flames was ample enough for one of the men to recognize the face of Elizabeth. He immediately knew her as the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova.

*****

Colouring the past – Klimbim

A new dimension in colours – Klimbim

It is easy to take the wold of pictures for granted today. Colour images are taken and disposed of with the blink of an eye, and whatever photo we take with our mobile devices, can just as easily be edited into what we might assume to be the perfect work of art.

But what about those pictures that were taken before our current technology? Sure, they have a dynamic sense of danger or classicism clinging to it, but when looking at old black and white frames, a psychological barrier between the moment in the picture, and what you currently feel and experience, comes into play.

This is where Olga Shirnina comes in. If you were in need of a bit of colour in your photos, then Olga would be the person coming to your rescue. Living and working in Moscow, she spends most of her time in front of a computer, as a Russian translator for the German langue, and was kind enough to grant us an interview, and tell us more about her passion for changing black and white in to colour.

Audrey Hepburn – Black and white pictures are brought into the world of colours
                       Arseny Tarkovsky – A Picture is worth a thousand words.
How long have you been colorizing pictures?

My first work in colouring was back in 2011, and at that time, I had no idea that it could be a business. I am a translator by occupation, and so in 2012 I received a book on colour theory that needed to be translated. If you ask me, I think it was a sign, nudging me in the direction of this kind of work. It helped me tremendously to structure my knowledge about colours and I learned a lot about colour combinations, complementary colours and so forth. Naturally, I wanted to put it all in practice, and so I gradually grew into it.

Are your client predominantly Russian or do you work on an international basis as well?

For a long time I had clients from all over the world but Russia! Initially I posted my colourings on Russian sites but was subsequently heavily criticized and received tons of negative feedback. Part of the reason for this was, the fact that I colorized pictures from Russian history and there are plenty of experts who were eager to find mistakes in uniforms, weapons etc. Art lovers also frowned upon the idea, in their own opinions exclaiming how tasteless the work was.

It then only made sense to me, to post colorized images elsewhere.

A young Romanian gentleman convinced me to publish a website and a Facebook page with my colourings and was even so kind as to set it up for me. This led me to receive some interesting commissions, such as the cover of the last book of Paulo Coelho about Mata Hari. I also had some deals with Russian publishers but the experience was not always positive.

Do you have a special interest in history or more toward the form of arts and visual expressions?

Both. Russian history fascinates me. It is full of dramatic, cataclysmic events, which not only had an impact on the history of the country, but also on the rest of the world. I regret to say that many people have an unbalanced view and understanding of Russia. Sometimes a picture can say more than many words are able to, and it gives me great pleasure to add to people’s knowledge and learning about Russia, through my work in colourings

I also find it interesting to work with colours, achieving different effects or copying the manner of great painters of the past.

Do you do a lot of research on a picture when you give it colour?

Yes, of course I do. Eye colour, uniforms, medals, and colours that were ‘fashionable’ at the time and many other factors. Andrey Malov, an expert in uniforms, has helped me a lot during the past few years. He, for example, pointed out that Nicholas II on the famous photo with his family from 1913 wears a crimson shirt, and not green as many others and I myself originally thought. He wore the uniform of the Life-Guards of the 4th Imperial Family’s Rifle Regiment.

There are many interesting people among my followers. Some of them are experts in fields like history or aeroplanes and they often criticize my colourings but also help me in the process. I’ve learned so many facts and history, and I know it will continue in this fashion.

Leo Tolstoy – One of the greatest writers ever

Vladimir Lenin – Russian communist revolutionary

What do you enjoy most about the work you do?

There is a magic moment when you put colour on the black-and-white face and suddenly the person on the photo comes alive. Sometimes it is even a little terrifying when he or she looks direct into your eyes and seems to follow your movements.

Which is your favourite picture you have worked on?

It is hard to say. I think many colourists would agree that very often an image you have worked on for hours and you like a lot people just ignore. Like my colouring of the Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina. I found the drawing of Leon Bakst with all the original colours of her costume and transferred them unto the black and white image. I was satisfied with the result but the colouring was not popular at all!

Which was the most difficult picture you have worked on?

Pictures with lots of details, interiors and landscapes are not easy to work on. I like portraits and sometimes when I see that the person on the image looks “alive,” I’ll do other details in a less careful manner. I am still learning however, and hope that someday I will manage to reach a standard of perfection.

Do you think all pictures should be colourised or are there those that have greater value in black and white?

Black and white images are and remain a piece of history but the world was never monochrome even during the war. On top of that, it remains interesting to imagine how it was many years ago, and what historical figures whom we know from books or articles looked like. They were also flesh and blood like ourselves. Colour removes the time barrier between now and then or at least makes the moment captured, more transparent.

Do you prefer war pictures in particular?

Most colourists are men and they colorize war pictures. I saw that there were very few images containing the Red Army, and I decided to fill this gap. My first colourings however, received loads of negative comments. Some even wrote “Olga, stop your red propaganda!” In the beginning, this was a shock to me but now I colorize war photos and look with nonchalance at toxic comments.Colouring

The beautiful Tamara Karsavina, Russian prima ballerina

The image of Tamara Karsavina as mentioned above. 

Olga makes sure that proper respect is given to the photographers of these pictures and states that all are excellent in their craftsmanship and have created masterpieces. Olga herself only adds color to the original works, and also mentioned that she cannot take credit for the original works of art.

Article by:  Johannes A Snyman  Photos supplied and copyright by : Klimbim / Olga Shirnina  

Follow Olga on FACEBOOK and on her WEBSITE

Cookies and scented soap

Cookies and scented soap

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

Hurrying past the duty-free shops on the airport, Amalia started to feel nauseous. The nausea actually started when she had to check in, but forcing herself to remain calm, she didn’t pay attention to the state of her body. She knew for a fact that her name couldn’t possibly have appeared on the police screens as a suspect, but still, her mind couldn’t help but to think of the “what ifs.” There was no turning back now. A brand new life will begin as soon as the plane takes off.

Her eyes glided over the expensive brand names in the aisle, but it all went unnoticed. Her attention was with Barry. The loving Barry. The Barry she once knew. The perfect husband Barry. The Barry everyone liked, and whom she loved with all her heart.

How is it possible that a person can become so controlling and so ridiculously jealous? Everyone has friends. Male and female friends. True, there were things that she couldn’t discuss with Barry, however hard she tried, but she realized his lack of understanding triumphed her efforts. She was so desperately hungry for conversations about the deeper meaning of life. About faith and relationship, creativity and the abundance of life itself. But he wouldn’t hear of it. He limited his means of verbal communication to rugby, braai and politics. The racial side of politics as he would get so worked up by the government’s incompetence.

It was inevitable that she would eventually find someone who shared her interests and her passion for spiritual and personal growth. It didn’t really matter if this someone was a male or female friend. What mattered was that she, Amália found a friend with whom she could share ideas and a part of her life that she greatly valued. She didn’t even spend a dedicated time with this guy. Their chats were limited to half an hour or an hour after church, never alone and always in the company of other church members. A church Barry attended once and refused to go ever again.

“They are living under the law,” he said. “They focus too much on the old testament,” he complained.

Amalia quickly glanced at her watch, then fixed her eyes on the numbers above each boarding gate. The nausea wouldn’t go away. Could they halt the plane while taxiing to the runway? Do the Russians have the power to arrest her in Moscow on behalf of the South African police? On what charges? She would be a suspect but of what? No, she didn’t think so. It’s always like that in the movies. Once that plane takes off, you are home free baby! But not yet, she must still get through the boarding gate. The gate where there are security officers. They have computers and phones and walkie-talkies and goodness knows what other means of communication.

Amalia thought of praying but quickly realized that it wouldn’t help a bit. Not after what she had done. She’ll ask for forgiveness. But now is not the time. She read somewhere in the scriptures that there is a time for everything and now was the time to get on a plane with as few incidents as possible.

Alongside the rugby, braai and politics, Barry developed a new line of thinking. A married woman, apart from work related issues, ought not to have any social conversations with other men, regardless of their relationship status. Naturally, this new line of thinking quickly escalated to more than a few intense arguments. She then, good wife as she is, sacrificed the conversations with her dear friend at church, but Barry thought he needed to make a point and posted the whole affair as a question on Facebook.

It came as no surprise that a few of Barry’s friends, through a long line of comments, fully agreed with him. Those Facebook friends, who didn’t agree, conveniently neglected to publically give
their opinion. He wanted to make a point and so he did. He was right. She read it all. One notification after another, as he thought it only right to tag her in the question he posted. Until one man, wherever he came from, sarcastically commented that if Barry felt that way, he might consider locking his wife up in the house, buying her a leash and taking her for walks every afternoon.

That comment did not sit well with Barry, and he eventually took it out on her. He restricted her movements in every possible way. He monitored her every move. It became an obsession with him, so much so that she was the one who ended up seeing the psychiatrist. “Bipolar,” he said, but she knew better. She knew where the depression came from. She took the pills nevertheless.

Until about two weeks ago. It was nothing serious, she just neglected to renew her prescription. The effect however was more serious. It was dark. She didn’t know how to get rid of the awful feeling in her head. She wanted to run away from herself. He came barging into the kitchen with his ranting over where she was the previous day. She didn’t think, but at the same time she knew exactly what she was doing. She took the biggest steak knife, turned around and forced it into his neck. Not once, not twice, but repeatedly.

It was messy.

The two ladies and security guard at the boarding gate were professional and friendly. Pre-flight procedures took a while but no longer than usual. The airplane started moving toward the runway with the airhostesses performing their safety demonstrations. The armrests underneath Amalia’s arms vibrated a little as the flying capsule lifted itself into the air.

A new life just started with newfound freedom.

Maybe Barry was right after all. Maybe married woman shouldn’t speak to other men. Men were not as creative as woman when it came to making cookies from the drained blood, and bars of scented soap from the remaining parts of a corpse.

*****

Photo by
Olia Gozha

Sunday Afternoon

Sunday afternoon

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

“This is absolute nonsense, I’m taking her to the doctor. There is nothing more to say. End of discussion.”

It was the words of Rassie Koch, fearsomely echoing against the walls of the quiet living room on a Sunday afternoon, where only the ticking of the grandfather’s clock could be heard. Marina, sitting on a chair against the wall in the opposite side of the room, wanted to run away from her husband, who occupied himself by staring through the window at Klaradyn, their adopted daughter, having his back turned to his wife.

Tick tock, tick tock, the sound of the clock grew louder, amplifying the loneliness inside of her, and the thought of running away from him, from the house, from the farm, just seemed like an idea to die for. Her feet however did not move and from where she sat, she could also, over the broad window sill, make out the figure of Klaradyn on the swing outside the house.

Rassie,” Marina said in a low tone, not wanting their daughter to hear, who was at the time taking an afternoon nap in the adjoining room. “We’ve taken Lisa to the doctor. We’ve taken her to the reverent. The only advice they could come up with was to get her a friend. A sister, someone for company. That’s why we adopted Klaradyn. Now, because she’s not speaking for a couple of days, you want to run to the doctor with her as well? I mean, people will start thinking there is something wrong with us!”

“A couple of days, Marina? It’s been two weeks! Not a word! For two bloody long weeks!”

Marina saw her efforts of keeping the volume of the conversation down was fruitless, and without intention, spoke somewhat louder as well.

“So she is not talking. Can’t you just give it a couple more days?”

“She is not talking… she is not talking,” Rassie laughed sarcastically shaking his head, before shouting,

“She drove a pair of scissors through a student’s hand! She burned down the headmaster’s house!”

Rassie, please…”

“That’s not normal!” Rassie hollered at the top of his voice. “I want the best for my daughter, and this is the company we get? A Hungarian girl who seems to have brought the evils of her town with her! How long before she burns down our house as well?”

“We don’t know her Rassie,” Marina said trying to save the state of affairs. “She fled the war. We don’t know what happened to her… or her parents, or what she has been through. You know she never talks about what happened there. What is the doctor going to say anyway? ”

Rassie didn’t respond, and kept staring at Klaradyn swinging ever so slightly. She was reading a novel, bare feet hanging from the swing, making her appearance quite innocently, childlike. The bright light of the sun shining on the green grass and trees outside were in stark contrast with the strenuous tension in the house, and for a moment Marina thought it ironic that Klaradyn, even though not talking, were perhaps more content and fulfilled under the old oak tree, then all of them in the house put together.

Tick tock, tick tock the clock kept going. Marina knew loneliness, and also knew that it would all be over once she was married. Once married she would be so happy, content and a constant stream of joy would, in abundance spring forth from her heart. How wrong she was. A Sunday afternoon such as this one, it seems, especially in recent years, amplified the realization that there is no loneliness so cruel as a loneliness within a marriage. Not even their own fourteen year old daughter provided any form of consolation for the deep grey hole inside Marina.

Tick tock, tick tock, the deafening sound of clock hammered in her ears.

Rassie?” Marina said while looking at a framed photo of a younger Lisa on the side table in front of her, the depression and darkness so relentless that she spoke without thoroughly thinking, almost in a manner of confusion. “Why is this happening to us?”

Rassie didn’t answer, and kept his eyes on the mesmerizing motion of the swing going back and forth.

“I mean, you are right. This is not normal. I look at other people’s children… Take Helen for instance… and Sarah. Their children are doing fine. I know we are perhaps not the perfect parents, but I can’t see how it can come to this,” Marina sobbed. “It is just too strange.”

“Speak for yourself,” Rassie sighed.

“What do you mean?” Marina said in a forceful cry, immediately expressing the hurt.

“How much time do you spent with Lisa? Huh? Tell me? When was the last time you did something for her? Go on! Tell me!”

“That’s not fair, Rassie,” Marina started crying, with the first tear running over her cheek. “She shut herself in that room and never come out. She locks herself in there, night and day, she doesn’t answer when I call. Is it my fault?”

“Don’t blame her now! You are a damn excuse for a mother, you! And typically, just as I expected, you blame her for everything! No! It’s never you! Always someone else’s fault!” He shouted then said in a plain voice; “But maybe she is as bad as you are. Maybe it is a good thing if you two stay away from each other. At least then will your ghastly influence on each other be kept to a minimum.”

Rassie… please,” Marina kept on crying.

“I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this. Two women, good for nothing in my house, and now, to top it all we have a third one, high and mighty, thinking she doesn’t have to speak,” he forced the words through his lips. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you the choice. Mm?” He said in a sarcastic, manipulative voice.

“Please, don’t, I beg you…” she said as she knew what was coming.

“No, no. you want to make the decisions here, now let’s hear what you have to say. Either I take her to the doctor first thing tomorrow morning, or,” He raised his eyebrows, facing her, “I take my belt, go over there right this minute and give her a hiding, so much so that she will start speaking until you go deaf of it! Go on! Tell me! What do you make of that?”

Marina was so teary and Rassie so busy with his discourse that he was quite startled when he suddenly noticed Lisa standing in the door.

“Lisa darling…” He started saying but saw her wide eyes looking at the window, upon which he turned around to see what it was that caught her attention.

Rassie turned around, then tensed up, seeing Klaradyn standing right outside the window. She had an axe in her hand, and gave the window three gentle taps with it, before looking right into Rassie’s eyes, tilting her head to the left.

To Rassie, the smile she had was most frightening, as her unmoving grey eyes and every other line in her face, expressed the total opposite.

*****

Drama, Theatre and Film – Micia De Wet

Drama, Theatre and Film – Micia De Wet

The world of theatre and film has for the most part been undervalued and underappreciated in South Africa, especially when compared with the European culture of the industry.

I then came across Micia, and asked her if she would be willing to share her passion for arts and culture with us.

How did your interest in drama and stage productions come about?

When I was nine I knew what I wanted to do, and it was all about the rush and adrenaline of being on stage, and that is what I started with.  As I became older it became the idea of being able to tell people’s stories for people who can’t tell their stories themselves.

Now it has moved into a strong socio-political avenue, as I feel like that it is a huge responsibility for any performer of creator person, to invest in open and explore. I think that is my biggest thing with drama and film and any mode of storytelling.

Do you through your line of work see a lot of stage productions?

Yes, I this year traveled to Prague for instance where I performed in their International Theater Festival. Yes, I see a fair amount of movies and stage plays. More movies than stage plays because of availability. There are French festivals everywhere and I feel that is where you see the majority of the work that people today should be seeing.

Why are independent films in South Africa not such a big thing?

Getting independent films to be part of the South African culture is the hardest part. The whole way we approach all of it, in essence, our thinking has to change, and that is what makes it so difficult.

Funding is also a challenge as you only get funding when they know it is going to be a commercial success. The various funders also didn’t want to fund our trip to Prague, until only afterwards when we proved to be successful, they started showing interest.

There is some truth in the fact that most funders are more lenient to give funding for recycled stories which they know will work, causing a lot of work not to be original.

Do you think the promotion of arts and culture in South Africa can be done?

On promoting and changing the South African culture for the better, I believe that there is always that possibility for people as a collective to change, and I love the notion of non-violent, non-disruptive change, where you can see something in a different way without being forced to see it in a different way.

Globally we are going through a stage where everything is to violent, to find that change, to find that breach of going forward. There is also currently a whole lot more freedom of speech but no responsibility toward what is being said.

That is what I try to advocate for, is to take responsibility for what you say. A lot of times I’ve seen stuff that felt like a lot of anger and thoughts of emotion just being spewed out and in film as well, and you think to yourself, you have to interrogate that, you have to think about that on a broader context, you can’t just put your feelings out there when they are not rationalized.

What are your goals forward?

Regarding drama am I focusing on theatre at the moment, but I have film and movie making as a goal and am pursuing it.

Do you have any film Directors you aspire to?

One of my favorite people is the Austrian film director and screen writer Michael Haneke, but I’m also fond of Danish Director Lars von Trier, known for the film Dogville with Nicole Kidman, which is a very abstract and strange film.  I love the way Lars deals with visual mediums, where it is almost a shock and a brutal and animalistic way in which he deals with imagery but it works so well in his way of storytelling.

What is it about film that motivates you?

There is the script but movies are more about the cinematography and the putting together of the images and that is what excites me about film.

It is important to be loving what you are doing, because when you love what you do, people can see that, and that is what they walk away with.

 

Article by:  Johannes A Snyman  Photography by : Aniki Grobbelaar / Chapters by Ani  Location: Tashas – Menlyn Maine