Brush marks, small paintings and flashbacks

“Orange kraal – Road to Tsumeb” acrylic on paper, 5″x 7″ in a rag mat that measures 10″x 12.”   Available for $150.

All I have to do is start reading my journal…look at my sketches and pore over the thousands of photographs and I feel a spark…my memory travels to…somewhere in Nambia, Africa. The music in my studio may be Geoffrey Oryema, from Uganda or Joni Mitchell and I’m traveling…in my mind and heart. I guess that is part of the richness…the value of travel…the “aliveness” that I carry with me even when I return home.

These four paintings are small acrylic paintings on gessoed paper. I had them displayed in my show in June, but they were not a part of the official “Namibian Portfolio project” so I did not talk about them much. Having not posted them before, here they are!        I have added them to my Available Work page.

I will post one each of the next three days and tell you about that moment’s adventure!

They were painted as ideas for larger paintings, but they stand on their own as studies… bits of the story…of travel, of immersion in another place. Decisive sketches and faster brushstrokes…moments that allowed me to release a feeling or a moment in a small painting. These are memories that hit me from my travels in the vast, strange landscape of Namibia. If you’ve traveled in arid, desert country, on any continent, you can probably understand the words, “the land of lost horizons,” as Namibia is described in an older Spectrum travel guide.

Tucked away, many times out of sight of ‘we road travelers,’ were tiny kraals, or villages, where families lived and herded goats or cattle for a meager living. They were groupings of thatched huts with a fence made of thatch surrounding the kraal. The scraped, dry ground inside and out were the result of the constant padding of feet, both human and animal. Fallen branches from nearby trees or thatch were fuel for their cookfires. Sometimes, the kraal fence was made only with wood, depending on the region. Thatch was plentiful in the areas near rivers where the papyrus and reeds grew tall.

The bright orange buildings in this kraal caught my eye as we drove north from Etosha National Park to the town of Tsumeb. John was taking a turn, driving the Toyota 4×4 truck that we had rented. I asked him to turn around and go back so that I could make some photographs. The building materials on this stretch of road, on Namibia’s landscape, were mud and wood…so the kraal was painted brilliant orange over the smooth mud walls. The fence was a spare form made with skinny sticks.   Art in life.

Thanks for reading, if you made it this far! Let me know if you have questions or comments or have interest in my work.

©Teri Capp All Rights Reserved


Small Works Show and Sale at Gage Academy!

Invitation to Small Works Exhibit at Gage

Invitation to Small Works Exhibit at Gage


Gage’s Holiday Small Works Sale is a unique opportunity to purchase an original and affordable piece of art. This Holiday season, give the gift of art and purchase stunning work as a gift for a friend or family member! Join us for the opening reception THIS Saturday, November 19, 10:00am-4:00pm and buy your favorite piece before it’s gone!

The show opens on Saturday, November 19th and runs through December 9th, 2016. The exhibit is open every day that Gage is open. The school gallery is located in the beautiful brick buildings next to St Mark’s Cathedral on north Capitol Hill. Check out their website for hours. Come out and support Gage, a great art school with many inspiring classes, workshops and camps. And support the artists who have work in the show – all hung salon style in the 3rd floor galleries! It is a casual and fun place – and you get the feel and smells of a real art school.

I have a group of 14 limited edition archival pigment prints in the exhibit. They are editions of five, printed on beautiful Hannemuhle paper, 8 1/2″ x 11,” signed and numbered. This is the edition that I made from my Namibian Portfolio series of paintings. The originals were acrylic paint on deep panels. You can see the entire group of images by clicking on the Namibian Portfolio tab on my blog site. Some of the editions are almost sold out. For the show at Gage, they are unframed, and mounted on matboard with handmade paper corners, $75 each.

These three are examples of prints that were purchased and then framed in floater frames, without glass, which is just one way to finish them. They would also look good finished with an 8-ply rag mat, framed behind glass.


Bright Road - Etosha, framed print

Bright Road – Etosha, framed print


First Light - Sossusvlei, framed print

First Light – Sossusvlei, framed print


Spreetshoogte Pass, framed print

Spreetshoogte Pass, framed print


If you have any questions, please contact me.


©Teri Capp All Rights Reserved







Producing work keeps producing work…


"Etosha - Great White Place" acrylic on deep cradled panel 18"x 18"

“Etosha – Great White Place”   acrylic on deep cradled panel     18″x 18″     SOLD


Work begets work – which creates a tension for me. Sometimes more work is a reward and sometimes it’s just more chores.

The reward comes in the form of making more art work – to be creative stimulates more ideas – strings come loose and fray from the original piece or pattern, and these loose strings can be the beginnings of new ideas and paths to follow. I wonder, were the ideas already there, lying dormant?

Producing work produces more work! It’s an exciting state of mind…being creative…and it provides “juice” or fuel for our souls. But, it has demands that can be hard to sustain. To work on new ideas, bringing them from their nascent state to reality is work. It’s dig-in and make-it-happen-work. Grit – get in your studio, and keep-going-with-those-ideas-work. So there is fatigue, even in creative work.

Here enters the tension. Any of us who get to do work that is creative and generative are fortunate. But most of us have some sort of parallel work that is the stuff of every day – our chores and tasks to survive. I don’t have to gather water and chop wood but I do have to cook, clean and attend to many tasks that are seemingly endless. Work that makes work. To feed my family, I must first think, then assemble, chop, prep and cook. Afterward I scrape the leftovers into containers and wash dishes to prepare for the same work again tomorrow. Sometimes I wonder at its incessant nature and other times, its therapeutic value.

But after having done these tasks hundreds of times, I can stand and snap beans, peel carrots, wash pots  and at the same time, visualize a painting or shape words into stories. Parallel work.

Work begetting work.

An aside…a short story about the painting above, “Etosha – Great White Place”

It was one of those days! A day where you can’t believe where you are – the kind of day when I’m so glad to have travel-mates that “get it” without a word being spoken – a nudge with my elbow into their ribs says it all, followed by a glance and a knowing smile. Black-faced impala, elephants, giraffe, acacias?

Our bodies told us that the day was done – but with a little more light to be seen on the white dust road and the veldt (grass plain) glowing, we turned down one more side road in Etosha National Park, Namibia. Squeeze out every drop of the day. Head lamps and lanterns would see us through another camp set-up in the dark! The hot shimmering light of day began to submit to the haze of twilight. Animal sightings, yes!…elephants and zebra visiting the water hole, but with the cool air rising quickly as the sun left the horizon, it was time to find our campsite. It was winter in the Namibian desert.

I was honored this past week to sell the painting, “Etosha – Great White Place” to a wonderful client-friend, after she visited my Storefronts – Seattle installation!


Storefronts - Seattle by Shunpike Art Walk September 22nd 2016

Storefronts – Seattle by Shunpike Art Walk September 22nd 2016


Reflective daytime view of Storefronts - Seattle installation on John St

Reflective daytime view of Storefronts – Seattle installation on John St

Storefronts – Seattle installations are on view until November 8th! My work is in the John St Window at 1026 John St. Part of a group of eight talented artists in different windows in the South Lake Union neighborhood. Some of the others are on Mercer St, Thomas, and Republican St.

The paintings are available for purchase. If interested or if you have questions or comments please contact me.

©Teri Capp All Rights Reserved



Quiet….quiet for miles in a sand sea

“Namib Uplift”    acrylic on deep cradled panel    18″x 24″


From this arid floor and deserted floodplain, the bones of the camel thorn acacias remain – 500 to 600 year old skeletons. Captured and preserved.

Sun-bleached and charred, reminding us of the unpredictability of this wild, beautiful place.  I stood there in the wind – the only interrupter of the ineffable silence.

I could have been in space, on another planet, but it was the heart of the Namib Nakluft desert…Sossusvlei. As I stood looking across, what words would I use to describe this place?  Sand – bones – skeletons – sun and wind, and did I say sand?… in a palette unlike any I had seen….ivory white, but not quite; subtle purple-greens, veils of apricot, pale orange and red…a haze of lavender in the distance.  It had an eeriness to it, a mysterious beauty…like this vast sand sea held secrets.

Encrusted with lichens and fine gravel, the desert floor looks barren and dead, but these organisms are delicate and alive. One tire track can last for years; possibly permanently marring the sensitive plain. Some of this valley is flooded…maybe twice every decade with rain enough to make the Tsachaub River live up to its name, but the camel thorn skeletons stand as witness to the lack of consistent life-giving water.

The massive dunes soar above the dry floodplain, sculpted and shaped by the constant winds that cross each other – blowing from the arid east and west from the cool Atlantic. These moving red mountains can be anywhere from 75 to 1,150 feet tall. The cool currents that arrive from the Atlantic, 35 miles to the west, bring just enough fog to give the plants and insects and animals, that have adapted, the water they need to survive.

Hike – slog – to the top of the dunes and it’s me and time…me and the sky…and the wind and silence. I commit as much as I can to memory; to sensation…captured and preserved…perhaps.

This painting, “Namib Uplift” that I completed this summer, is part of the ongoing installation in the Storefronts Seattle Installation in the South Lake Union neighborhood. If you’re in the Seattle area, you can see it until November 8th, 2016. (two more weeks )! My art installation is on the corner of John St and Boren Ave N. 1026 John St, to be exact.

The paintings in the installation are available. Please contact me if you are interested or have comments or questions!

Teri's "Colored By Travel | Namibia" installation at 1026 John St, Seattle

Teri’s “Colored By Travel | Namibia” installation at 1026 John St, Seattle


©Teri Capp – All Rights Reserved


Hopes and promises…real time and perceptions


“Vaguely Astonishing” – acrylic on deep cradled panel – 12″x 36″  

Travel – in real time, is fantastic!

There can be difficulties, and unpleasantness to deal with. How about being annoyed by bugs, overwhelmed by heat…eating sand, fatigued from driving on incessant washboard roads…getting lost, feeling ill from something I ate, breathing someone’s exhaust? ! All of those are true.

But so is lifting my head at the end of a long day and looking until I can’t look anymore…at the haze-infused, melon colored light that blurs the lines between ocean, dunes and road. It is hard to focus on this kind of scene, but that is part of the overwhelming magic that I feel when I’m in it…I felt it when I was there and I couldn’t let it go, even after being home from Namibia for months.

“Vaguely Astonishing” is the title of this painting (title, courtesy of my husband), …the north-south coastal highway on the central stretch of the Namibian coast…the conveyor of anyone moving between Luderitz, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. It is one of the strangest roads I have ever traveled…a tiny ribbon barely visible at times, with the sand blowing across it while being electrified by the sunlight. Visibility at times?…almost none, as we groped for our sunglasses, hoping for aid from their polarizing effect, while simultaneously flipping down the car’s sun visors over the windshield.

“Where are we?” …we asked of each other as we traveled in our rented 4×4…sometimes laughing, sometimes truly confounded about our geographic point in the universe.

This place…and the images I made of it on our trip have haunted me. I wanted to paint it…some of it…something of it.

Hopes and promises to myself…to keep working and pushing forward. Hope that you might look at one of my paintings, and know that sensation of glancing out of a car window…perhaps being startled into curiosity or delight…and wanting more.

“Vaguely Astonishing” is a new, larger painting that is part of a 4 month installation in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle, WA. It is on view through November 8th, 2016.  The vitrine (window) is at the corner of John St and Boren Ave N. and is lit 24 hours a day.   Link:  1026 John St  There are at least eight of these beautiful vitrines, sprinkled throughout South Lake Union…filled by other artists with an amazing variety of ideas, handiwork and beauty. The schedule for this cycle of installations; July 23 – November 8, 2016.

The image below gives you an idea of how my husband, who is a photographer,  John Wiley Photography , sets up my pieces to record. We use various props; ladders and easels and boxes on which to set the art work. I hold a big, white diffusing cloth between the sunlight and the art before he makes the photograph. We can set up studio lights and do it inside, but I’ve found this outdoor set up to be the be best, accurate light.


Photographing “Vaguely Astonishing”…clamps, ladder, wood…camera, click                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         ©Teri Capp All Rights Reserved                                                                          

Namibian Portfolio Show this week! Preview paintings on new page…

Somewhere Else - Deadvlei, Acrylic on cradled panel, 12"x 16"

Somewhere Else – Deadvlei, Acrylic on cradled panel, 12″x 16″

There is a NEW page on my site! The preview page for my completed first phase of the Namibian Portfolio Project.

Please see the tab at the top of page and click to view any and all of the Namibian Portfolio paintings.

This has been a year-long project with the support of a group of clients who were vicarious travelers…in spirit with me on my one month trip to Namibia, Africa in 2015. They took a risk…pre-purchasing paintings through an offer that I created before leaving on my trip. I have completed 25 paintings in my studio over the past ten months and next Saturday and Sunday are the culminating exhibit and selection party for my supporters. ~ Exhibit details ~  Namibian Portfolio Exhibit and Event

What a journey it has been!      Thank you!

I have also created Limited Editions of Five of each of the completed paintings. They were also part of my original offer and I pre-sold several. These will be available at the show and can also be ordered. They are archival pigment prints on Hanemuhle Fine Art Paper with a deckle edge. The prints are approximately 7″x 9″ on 8.5″x 11″ paper. They are signed and numbered and the price is $65 each.

I will have several additional original paintings available at the show too.

For a look at the history of this project, see my post from last May. ~ Namibian Portfolio – Advance Purchase  And there are many more parts of the story in the archives of my blog!  Enjoy.

Please contact me if you have questions or are interested.

The date is set! Namibian Portfolio Exhibit and Event – June 18th + 19th

You are cordially invited to the exhibit event celebrating

the Namibian Portfolio Project!

New paintings by Teri Capp

Dune 45 ~ Sossusvlei,  12″x 16″  acrylic on cradled panel

Namibian Portfolio | Two-Day Exhibit 

Dates – Saturday, June 18th,   5-9pm
Saturday evening opening + selection party

Sunday, June 19th,   2-5pm

| Private Studio Gallery: 310 21st Ave East, Seattle 98112  |
Capitol Hill neighborhood –  between E. Republican and E. Thomas streets.
Directions: It is near Miller Community Center and across the street from The World School. (Be sure Google Maps is showing “21st Ave East” for accurate directions).
Parking available on both sides of the one-way street on the weekend.
Makoros | Kavango River, 8″x 8″ acrylic on cradled panel
Teri | on the road | Namibia
White road | Etosha,  8″x 8″  acrylic on cradled panel

Teri is excited to share the entire group of subscriber-supported work from her one-month journey to Namibia, Africa in 2015. The Namibian Portfolio project was born a year ago. It was offered to art lovers, collectors and travelers who took a risk and pre-purchased paintings to be completed in the months after Teri’s return. The supporters will have the opportunity to select their painting at the exhibit opening – each piece a different moment or encounter from her story of covering thousands of kilometers in Namibia and Botswana.

“Traveling to and through Namibia, and the subsequent months of work in my studio were an amazing amalgamation of life experience. The subject matter in Namibia was generous – a catalyst – and I have many more ideas to put into paint. A sense of purpose was created, which felt like another kind of generosity; the knowledge that I was making this body of work for my supporters – and beyond.”

What an unusual and exhilarating relationship it has been. From here I step off and keep going.

“Poems arrive ready to begin.
Poets are only the transportation.” (Humility by Mary Oliver)

Additional paintings and prints will be available at the exhibit.

©copyright Teri Capp Art All Rights Reserved

Gone missing?…my studio is to blame

TCapp_NamPortfolio_painting2_web ready_Apr2016-6

“Hot white road – Etosha – riding shotgun” Acrylic on cradled panel. 8″x 8″

And work on taxes is also to blame and so is taking care of my family…you all know what I’m talking about. I just didn’t get to my desk to move photos around and write.

Last week, camera in hand, time to snap some working shots in my studio…a progress report of sorts. These are not perfect photos…just pieces on my easel and drawing table, to give you an idea of what’s going on…some of my process. Many are finished paintings and a couple are in progress. My Namibian Portfolio project is nearing completion! I will keep you posted…soon.

Through the haze and muck and glory of each “everyday” ~ somehow I keep moving forward. Hours spent at the computer – developing – cropping – forming compositions from my photographs of Namibia. Next stop…my drawing table…moving from my chair to standing…back and forth, I open my journal and pull elements from my travel sketches. Laying on my table are some soft pencils (#4B and #6B), for dark lines and shapes…some hard pencils (H and HB) for lighter lines and shapes, I draw…compose, delete and add.

Erase…brush the filings on the floor, lay down a better line or shape. Trying to make the strongest composition for my next painting.

Value studies in pencil

Value studies in pencil



"Brush fires and monkey fruit" Acrylic on cradled panel. 8"x 10"

“Brush fires and monkey fruit” Acrylic on cradled panel. 8″x 10″


Decisions ~ which drawing on which size panel?…which image on a gray-primed panel…or would it work better over a red-orange under painting? I begin laying down thin base layers of paint. Thin, so that I can see some of the color underneath…thinking about the vibrations of warm and cool colors…lighter – darker, brighter – grayer…

"Great Valley of Sossusvlei"-morning light. (In progress.)Acrylic on cradled panel. 12"x 16"

“Great Valley of Sossusvlei”-morning light. (In progress.) Acrylic on cradled panel. 12″x 16″


Value and composition studies - pencil

Value and composition studies – pencil



Value and composition studies - pencil

Value and composition studies – pencil


Thinking ahead ~ to try to reach the high-keyed light of Etosha National almost constant shimmering effect. Thinking about how to create the hazy, other-worldly light and color at the great dunes of Sossusvlei. As I put the paint on, my “thinking” changes ~ it becomes part response ~ reaction ~ to that last bit of color or brushstroke. How do those colors “feel” together? A warm tone next to a cool one, creates a “pop.” More contrast is introduced this way…as well or better than, merely adding light (white) or dark.

Thinking about my next move – it blurs with response…emotion…then pure action. “Okay, not quite what I was expecting, but I’ll go with it.” And so, even with sketches, studies and plans; all of which build the important foundation for a strong piece, each painting takes on a life of its own. Not to make more of it than it is…(though some days it feels like climbing mountains) ~ it is a pushing through ~ conscious and less conscious actions. Believing that the colors, brushstrokes and “decisions” will work to take me to “that place”…the light quality I’m after…that stirring of my senses ~ creating a bridge between my emotion and my experience.



"Acacia on Etosha Pan" Acrylic on cradled panel. 8"x 8"

“Acacia on Etosha Pan” Acrylic on cradled panel. 8″x 8″



"Travelers-main road Sossusvlei" Acrylic on cradled panel. 12"x 16"

“Travelers-main road Sossusvlei” Acrylic on cradled panel. 12″x 16″


It’s not formulaic or prescriptive…this thinking about how to paint a painting…though there is some method to what can feel like madness.  Maybe that’s it…the actions finally come from the sensations and evoke the emotions I’m trying to reach. The interpretation of my experience through painting.

Listening to things like Pat Metheny’s Are You Going With Me? help with the “pushing through.” An amazing road trip song.


If you are interested in my work, let me know. Thanks for looking and reading.

Follow me on Facebook


©All rights reserved Teri Capp Art

Conscious inspiration…serendipitous brush

Giraffe in Etosha grazing its favorite - one of many acacia trees

Giraffe in Etosha grazing its favorite – one of many acacia trees


Just like an unknown trail or path takes me places that I haven’t seen before; where my footprints step – (hopefully lightly left behind) – into newly discovered terrain. So it goes in my studio. ~ Ha! ~ I have found myself painting giraffe and other four and two-legged creatures! Who would have thought? I have not typically been a painter of animals but after our time spent in Namibia, I knew that they would find their way into some of my artwork. (One special client did drop a strong hint about the possibility of a painting of giraffe).

The animals that we saw were such a part of our story. Though challenging, I did quick sketches of a variety while we were traveling and now back in my studio, I’ve blended my sketches, photographs and memories of the place and its creatures into paintings. After all…they are just shapes, patterns, clumps of light and dark…areas of negative and positive space…to be figured out on a two-dimensional surface. This is one from my Namibian Portfolio project.

Detail of 12"x 16" "Giraffe in Etosha's bush" painting

Detail of 12″x 16″ “Giraffe in Etosha’s bush” painting


To drive the white gravel roads of Etosha National Park in the afternoon ~ ahead of us, a curve in the road ~ I turn, startled to see, all of a sudden, not just the one or two giraffe grazing at acacia trees close to the road ~ but five…six…seven, scattered back into the bush! How can such a tall animal (the tallest animal), seemingly just appear in the scrubby bush?

I never tired of seeing them…lanky, graceful, shy and curious…larger than life.


"Giraffe in Etosha bush" acrylic on cradled panel on my easel

“Giraffe in Etosha’s bush” acrylic on 12″x 16″cradled panel, on my easel




Detail of 12"x 16" "Giraffe in  Etosha bush" painting

Detail of 12″x 16″ “Giraffe in Etosha’s bush” painting


Like a group of cows is called a “herd” ~ the collective noun for this species is a “journey of giraffes.” I loved learning that bit of trivia.

I have been painting elephants, oryx and ostrich too. Wow! ~ who knew where my brush and paints would lead me?


Let me know if you have questions or comments.

e-mail:                   Follow me on Facebook


©Teri Capp – all rights reserved



A Namibian museum…hands off?…no, hands on!

fishing_Mbunza women_Nam_post_2016-12

On our way – a bit of tarmac and another dusty road, after leaving Sarasungu Camp. Questioning where I was – again – as brilliant sunlight spread across northern Namibia and the Kavango River. Turning off of the main dirt road, we wound our way past yellow millet and sorghum crops…goats and kraals (family villages). Seeing a cluster of thatch huts ahead, we slowed and parked…stepped out of our 4×4 baakie, into bright sand, dappled with shadows from thick groves of acacia trees.

Only Cecil, my brother-in-law knew some of what was in store for us. He has forged a friendship with Zebron, one of the founders of the Mbunza Living Museum. It is one of four Living Museums that have been set up in Namibia. Zebron greeted us with his broad, bright smile and deep voice. At his invitation, we followed him, and all five of us tried to squeeze into the tiny reception hut – dark and shady, with stripes of sunlight marking the floor of sand.

Reception hut Zebron_Nam_post_2016-1

Zebron in the reception hut


Northeast border of Namibia - Kavango region

Northeast border of Namibia – Kavango region

Continuing along the northeast border of Namibia

Continuing along the northeast border of Namibia


Teri's sketch of Mbunza hut or rondoval

Teri’s sketch of Mbunza hut or rondoval


The Mbunza are one of five main Kavango clans and they are one of a handful of tribes in Namibia who have set up a Living Museum. It is an entrepreneurial endeavor backed by funding from the Namibian Government’s Cultural Affairs office and private funding. Cecil’s friendship with Zebron was born of a film project that happened over the past two years. Cecil, a filmmaker and producer, was working with another artist to gently and beautifully tell some of the story of the traditions and customs of the Mbunza. Their film is titled, “The Mbunza of the Kavango.” 

As we stood in the reception hut with Zebron, we had choices to make. An hour or two walk and talk? A craft-making workshop? In the end we decided to sign up for the craft-making…a hands on experience. We paid our fees and waited for our instructions. My sister, Kristin, and my daughter and I chose to make baskets with some of the Mbunza women. John and Cecil chose to make an arrowhead with blacksmith tools over a fire. What we thought was to be a couple of hours turned into an amazing four-plus hours with an entire walking tour of the kraal (village) and oral histories of their customs and tools, objects and work.

The actors who we met, in the Living Museum, shared with generosity – their lives – their history, and the crossover into their “now. The concept of a “living museum” is so marvelous and relevant, with storytelling at its core. The stories were the mingling of the present with the past ~ trying to find a balance ~ a place in their minds and hearts to carry on ~ push forward with parts of their traditional culture ~ to find the place where the stories help them understand their place in the modern world. Most of the group of twelve to fifteen “actors” have day jobs, if you will ~ especially the young; working as laborers on farms, in mines and in urban centers or towns, offices and stores. Their energy spent participating in the Living Museum was part-time work ~ an avocation, that added value and meaning to their lives as well as some financial reward.

Mbunza man preparing blacksmithing fire

Mbunza man preparing blacksmithing fire. Photo by Cecil Moller

The idea of the Living Museum could be perceived as contrived, but as each hour went by ~ exchanging gestures, glances , smiles and shared questions about each other, I realized how life-affirming the experience was ~ for all of us. There was a genuineness and sincerity about the Mbunza ~ silliness and humor ~ in their conversations with each of us. I saw camaraderie and respect between our group of Mbunza guides…an authenticity; they enjoyed each other. Again life-affirming and real. They were living in the story of their own cultural inheritance.


Still life with a womans's foot as she sorted mangetti nuts

Still life with a womans’s foot as she sorted mangetti nuts


"Mahangu" or millet being sifted before grinding

“Mahangu” or millet being sifted before grinding


Mbunza man playing the instrument he made

Mbunza man playing the instrument he made for hunting springbok


An introduction to another world…what was this place?..this story?…this place of animal skins, softened by hand – every part used – nothing wasted. Fishing from the Kavango River and the lakes, with their handsome woven-reed traps. This story of handmade instruments…a bowl shaped piece of wood – with sinew fastened to make a humming sound when strummed to attract the springbok when the hunter used it in the bush.

The depth to which their “form followed function” was compelling. Big gourds filled with goat or cows milk…hung from a small wooden rack…pushed by hand to rock back and forth while the person sang and churned the milk into butter. Sleeping mats were made of the reeds from the river banks…flattened and woven. Baskets were made for storing and holding food and other items. The mats were woven by the Mbunza men…to show they could work and provide for a family…that they had learned and had not been lazy when they were young! Basket weaving was done by the women of the tribe to demonstrate their ability to cook for their families.


Zebron then shared a lovely story with us about a daily ritual of the Mbunza…

At the end of the day, family groups would circle around the gathering fire. It was kept burning 24 hours – never let to burn out. Family and tribal members gather to tell stories from the day and how they connect to the past. A very grounding and centering act of connection with the people who mean the most in their lives. It made me think of our daily ritual at home…holding hands before we eat and saying something we are each grateful for that day. It’s calming and helps us look forward and to feel like someone has our backs.

Zebron telling the story of the days-end "sharing" or shrine

Zebron telling the story of the days-end “sharing” shrine. It was built of bones from their supper and the men’s bows were laid against each other to bring good luck for the next day’s hunting.


Craft-making was happening!  ~ We hunkered over the long strands of reeds which we were supposed to persuade into the shape of a basket. Angelica (Pandu), my teacher, made it look easy as she quickly poked a hole with a big nail, pushed the sharp end of the grass through, and wrapped the grasses into patterns and coils to end with the desired shape. Kristin, Zara and I each had a teacher and we sat together, working, laughing and talking for over an hour.


Teri, Zara and Kristin intently working on our baskets

Teri, Zara and Kristin intently working on our baskets


beautiful shapes, beautiful hands, real people...well seen by John and his camera

beautiful shapes, beautiful hands, real people…well seen by John and his camera


group shot of the basket makers and our wise teachers

group shot of the basket makers and our wise teachers


Meanwhile, John and Cecil worked outside of the kraal fence, bent over a small fire with a piece of iron to heat and forge into an arrowhead. …plink, plink…plink, plink, the ringing of iron on iron. 

John's arrowhead in the making!

John’s arrowhead in the making!


The amazing design of the hand-worked bellows.

The amazing design of the hand-worked bellows.

Mbunza man blacksmithing

Mbunza man blacksmithing

In the heat of the mid-day sun; arrowhead making crew!

In the heat of the mid-day sun; arrowhead making crew


Again, it was the gestures, small conversations in these intimate groups that allowed us to laugh together, ask questions, make mistakes and know each other – even if just a little.




Arrowhead and friendship forged!

Arrowhead and friendship forged!


We photographed and I sketched as much as possible, while we moved around the village that day…absorbing this place.

Busy moments...observing, listening, recording our time remember

Busy moments…observing, listening, recording our time together…to remember. Photo by Cecil Moller


Later, we were drawn to the marshy land by the river and Lake Samsitu, where the Mbunza women demonstrated the fish traps. (I loved the sculptural shapes of the traps) John had to try his hand at using one!  Then he smiled, and asked, and joked his way into a makoro (dugout canoe) ride too. Much laughter ensued…all around!

John fishing in the Kavango delta

John fishing in the Kavango delta

Arrowhead and friendship forged!

Arrowhead and friendship forged!

Makoro, Mbunza paddler and John...with his camera!

Makoro, Mbunza paddler and John…with his camera


John's perspective in the makoro.

John’s perspective in the makoro.


Another highlight as we hung around down by the lake, was finding a slow-moving chameleon…a rather large one. We picked it up and photographed it…but the Mbunza people would not touch it! Some kind of superstition. A belief in Malawi is that they are enemies reincarnated. We were told some believe the chameleons to be venomous. We didn’t know why the Namibians shied away from them.

The chameleon and Cecil

The chameleon and Cecil





Chameleon in John’s hands













Last, but not least… we were invited to move…to “please sit” – under the trees…we leaned back against a primitive log rail and waited…as the Mbunza gathered. The women all formed a line on one side and the men on another, forming an L-shape. The women began to sing and clap and the men who weren’t drumming moved into the center and started to dance. One woman at a time would step out and dance in the center too.

Then a whirl of dust, a rhythmic pattern of beats on drums, louder…and stamping feet with ankle rattles and reed skirts. A song was rising. They held us with the pulse – the – circle – swirl – stamp – in the shadows of the acacias. Rolling, shrill, calls and ululation (a howl or wailing sound made as an expression of strong emotion) and harmonic singing – big smiles and sweat and dancing…until it was time to say goodbye.  Continuing on the road…continuing with our lives.

Mbunza dancing

Mbunza dancing


Faster, faster...

Faster, faster…


Zebron on the drums

Zebron on the drums

There is always more to the story ~ especially an ongoing story ~ where the characters are alive, creating a concrete coexistence between their modern lives and their history. We landed in one part of their universe…a blip on their timeline…but they were so willing to share.

Again, as I pore over the images of our journey around Namibia, I’m reminded of the value of travel to a different place. The true, real-time interactions explode stereotypes. They open up my mind to creative thinking. The touch of a hand with someone who lives every day – 9,000 miles and another continent away, leaves an awareness and openness in my soul that never goes away.

Take your kids ~ travel ~ take yourself.


My compliments to my fellow-traveler-photographers for their work included in this blog post! JohnWiley, Zara Wiley and Cecil Moller

Questions?      Comments?       Interest in my work?             E-mail or call.                Tel: 206.329.4750

Follow me on Facebook

©Teri Capp-all rights reserved