VaL Smit is a South African artist and poet based in Cape Town. She writes ekphrastic poetry per artwork created and uses various media in portraying images that she feels fitting to deliver the message of the words she pens down. 
She focuses on the inner turmoil experienced by our disconnectedness from nature and each other. Her work has been published in various online international journals including GloMag India, The Chachalaka Review,  The West Review,  The Raconteur Review,  Literary Garland, Valiant Scribe, and Mississippi Books. Her website is www.valsmitart.com. 


Artist’s Statement
“As a Visual Artist and Poet, the goal of my artwork is to find psychological meaning in the most mundane: A walk in the park, shattering winter winds, spring at its most magnificent moment, flowers and smells, all creating poetical imagery smoothly transferring the audience into another world.
My artistic practice questions the ambivalence that I experience between the connection and disconnection of humankind and nature. It is in this state of questioning, of feeling vulnerable and exposed, that I explore the comfortable and the awkward, the controlled and uncontrolled, the familiar and the mundane. It is at the meeting point of these dualities, where the pairings slip and merge, that I situate my work.”

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Interview with Val Smit
by Jaime Grookett for Valiant Scribe

Introduction

(Written Interview)

We had the pleasure of interviewing poet and artist VaL Smit for Valiant Scribe. She shared with us her thoughts on the connection between visual art and poetry and what inspires her to write.

 

What inspires you to write? 

“I try to find existential meaning in the most mundane. A walk in the park, spring flowers, and smells, a social encounter, political events and activism are some of the happenings that inspire me. It might also be the power of a single word or the context in which it was spoken. 

I am a bit of a barefoot philosopher who constantly questions the ambivalence that I witness because of the disconnection between mankind and nature. It is in this constant state of questioning and contemplation where my inspiration originates.”

There is a famous quote that stands out for VaL Smit concerning her inspiration to write: “I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.” – Khalil Gibran

How did you come to find ekphrastic poetry as your medium for writing?

“I found that humanity needs constant visual stimuli to come to a standstill… to listen and hear, but also look and see. Ekphrastic poetry enables me to stimulate both visually and with the written word. The goal of my work is to create awareness for the lack of critical thinking and reflection needed to free humanity from the shackles of control. I believe we have lost the ability to think critically, reflect soundly and control our own thought processes which is largely controlled by historic societal values, media, and most importantly political, economic, and social influencers.”

What is your process for writing and sketching? 

“I have no defined process in creating any piece. Most of the time the poetry is written first and whilst in process, I contemplate a visual that I feel will be fitting to portray the words I have penned. Since all my work is metaphoric and based on Creation as an example, symbolism in visual pieces is always portrayed by natural elements like leaves, trees, flowers, seeds, or just plainly the human form. 


I choose to largely use pencil as the medium for my sketches to create the almost pointillistic result on highly textured paper. Other media creates definitive lines, which I choose to steer away from since images are ‘shaded’ and not sketched as such.  In my poetry, comparisons are constantly drawn between seasons, fog, and trees to portray human perceptions. I often draw comparisons between natural elements or occurrences and our perceptions, acknowledgment, and awareness of mental illness, the entitlement of our young generations, poverty in third world countries, and other social issues that lie close to my heart.”

A quote, I would like to emphasize is, “God made Truth with many doors to welcome every believer who knocks on them.” – Khalil Gibran

 

How does your work intersect with the social issues of today? 

“Living in a largely patriarchal, conservative, and traditional society (RSA), I find it quite difficult as a non-conformist, progressive, liberal thinker to fit in. I have an exceptionally inquisitive mind and am constantly researching material to assist in my own processes of critical thinking. 

 

According to Nietzsche, "The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

"I believe that most, if not all, of the social issues we face as humanity were created by humanity because we lost the ability to connect with ourselves, each other, and creation. We have covered ourselves with so many protective layers of dirt that we no longer pause and wonder at a fellow human’s strange story, their struggle, or their soul. The shackles of control so strongly enforced by us can only be broken once we have re-established this basis.”

VaL Smit employs art and writing to advocate for social justice issues today and believes deeply in the words of Khalil Gibran: “One day you will ask me which is more important? My life or yours? I will say mine and you will walk away not knowing that you are my life.” 
 

Waiting for spring.jpg

Waiting for Spring 

‘Waiting for Spring’ symbolises the end of winter (hard lockdown in RSA) and the hope of returning to human interaction and connectedness. The almost frozen emotion of aloneness will be thawed and replaced by the brighter footsteps of Hope.
The artwork represents Humanity whose eyes are downcast in deep contemplation of finding Hope in re-established connectedness and interaction.

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Still Life

Written in the month of mental illness (RSA), ‘Still Life’ encapsulates the mood transformation between depressive thoughts and enlightenment. In being mindful of this condition and making it part of who you are, how you react, or how you perceive situations, lies the acceptance and the power to overcome.

The literal depiction of the still life in the foreground of the artwork is done to find the true figurative meaning of the poetry. The visual art, therefore, entices the audience to look and listen deeper than what is portrayed.

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Woman, imprimis

Our worth is measured by historical societal values.  We, as women, have the power to rectify this cantankerous thought process with virtue, humility and grace.  We are the beginning of all and the end of all.

This portrait lies very close to my heart as a woman. It tells our story as women in this country; always struggling to enter into the sun from the shade. We should be recognized for who we are and what we can accomplish and we should know that we should always be placed first.

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Night and Day

The contrast between night and day here symbolises our thought process during a time of financial and consequently emotional distress (lockdown RSA). Hope lies in allowing you to meander the aura-like glow of day.

Reality is visually portrayed in female form with a headdress of clouds varying from thunderous to silver. The beauty of reflection during a time of distress is juxtaposed to create awareness of a process that is long overdue.

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Bloom O221

Bloom is a range of three sketches investigating the effect seasonal change has on our perceptions of us. Autumn and winter are often perceived as morose, dark and dreary. The poetry focuses on the belief of alternative new life budding during these two seasons as a positive influence on our past perceptions. I use peonies as base for the artwork and over expose the detail of the stamens to depict humanity held together by Nature depicted as petals. The portrait kisses the flower and embraces the bud of new life.

Bloom 0321.jpg

Bloom 0321

Bloom is a range of three sketches investigating the effect seasonal change has on our perceptions of us. Autumn and winter are often perceived as morose, dark, and dreary. The poetry focuses on the belief of alternative new life budding during these two seasons as a positive influence on our past perceptions.
I use peonies as a base for the artwork and over-expose the detail of the stamens to depict humanity held together by Nature depicted as petals. The portrait kisses the flower and embraces the bud of new life.

 

WAITING FOR SPRING

When the frosts of winter had ceased

Its snows melted

Its cutting winds ameliorated;

The pain will subside

Our blood in our veins no longer frozen;

Spring will draw on

Greenness will grow over the brown beds

Refreshing it daily

Suggesting the thought that Hope travelled there at night

And left each morning brighter traces of her steps

VaL Smit ©  

 

STILL LIFE

Wandering in leafless shrubbery…

Cold winter winds brought clouds so somber,

rain so penetrating

 

Forlorn regions of dreary space,

that reservoir of frost and snow

My heart swollen to lameness

by sharp air,

began to heal under the gentler breathings

of Hope

 

The horizon bounded a great pleasure,

outside the guarded walls of my garden

Noble summits,

rich in verdure and shadow

Blue peaks no longer stiffened in frost

and shrouded in snow

 

A pale gold gleam remains

in overshadowed spots

like scatterings

of the sweetest lustre

 

I enjoy this often,

unwatched and

almost alone

This still life

 

VaL Smit ©

 

 

WOMAN, IMPRIMIS

A forest valley, with a deep profundity of shade

formed by tree crowding on tree,

descends deep before me

The oak roots, turfed and mossed,

gave me a seat;

the oak boughs, thick-leaved,

wove me a canopy.

 

There is something in the air of this clime

which fosters life kindly

Its dew heals with sovereign balm

Its gentle seasons exaggerate no passion;

its temperature tends to harmony;

its breezes bring down from heaven

the germ of pure thought and purer feeling

 

In all the grandeur of this forest

there is repose;

in all its freshness

there is tenderness

The gentle charm vouchsafed to flower and tree,

has not been denied to me

  

Nature cast my features in a fine mold;

I have matured in my pure, accurate first lines,

unaltered by the shocks of life

My form gleams through the trees;

my hair flows plenteous and glossy;

my eyes beam in the shade large and open,

full and dewy

 

Above my eyes,

when the breeze bares my forehead,

shines an expanse fair and ample –

a clear page

whereon knowledge may write a golden letter

VaL Smit ©

 

 

NIGHT AND DAY

Crisscrossing midnight grey lines

seams coming apart 

in little black eruptions;

 

shuddering breaths, 

a vast beast 

dying in agony

 

The sea gleams phosphorescent silver 

lit by a moon in cloudless sky; 

a soft dying light 

ripples across the water 

under blinking evening stars

 

A warm, wet breeze 

leaks little threads of mist 

out of hellish cracks; 

watery lines of yellow appear 

under scudding silver clouds

 

Choreographed by the breeze 

those born of wing meanders, 

in vivid relief against the grey, 

the aura-like glow of day

 

VaL Smit ©

 

 

BLOOM 0221

Morning decked her beauty with blooms,
and so filled her lap with roses 
that they fell from her in showers,
making her path blush

The hours woke 
and emptying on the early hills their dew-vials,
they stepped out dismantled of vapour;
shadowless and glorious, 
they led the sun’s steeds on an unclouded course

VaL Smit ©    


 

 

BLOOM 0321

 

The moon of calm autumn

floats full over the inky mass of blooms;

their tendrils in a knot of beauty

Mellow coolness is answered,

by their fragrant breathing

and the loving profusion of dew

Nestling in the gloom,

the soft light

is silvering this autumn evening

VaL Smit ©

 

 

BLOOM 0121

I linger solitary, 
To taste one kiss of the evening breeze, 
And feel the freshness of dew descending

Blooms gather their tendrils in knots of beauty, 
Hang their clusters in loving profusion;
Faithfully renewing their perfumed petals
And honey-sweet pendants,
In the hope of autumn
 

 

VaL Smit © 
 

 

 

REQUIEM FOR KINDNESS

 

A drizzle was pattering softly

Smoke sketched a few curling grey vines,

thunder rumbled in the distance

 

Streetlights set blooms on tall iron stalks,

a grey veil swirls thick between;

And Humanity,

in its infinite variety,

is burnished by the serene light

that shows the struggle of the soul

 

Each person with his own strange story,

numbed to tolerance and acquiescence,

none pause to wonder at his fellow’s,

infinitely abject,

shuffling past with our eyes shut

 

Over us all brood a splendid unanimity;

solemnized and brushed into uniformity

as with a season squandered in grey

Our eyes seem to push through curtains of colour,

which yield like veils and close behind them

 

In some tranquil space of pure clarity,

look how the light becomes richer;

bloom and ripeness lie everywhere

Glory spreads out and multiplies its splendours

faster than thought can affect its combinations,

or aspiration can utter her longings

 

We are together;

I press you to me

 

VaL Smit ©

 

 

LAND OF SHADOW

Winter seemed to conquer her spring;

the mind’s soil freezing gradually

to barren stagnation

 

Those who have sojourned at this spot,

know its stark climate

Its pitiless wastes

 

There is neither light nor growth

All human company is obscured by shadow

No rest is possible;

the atmosphere is full of demons

agitating the nerves to a pitch of frenzy

 

There is no calm;

the air is rent with a howling,

coming from the very centre of oneself

 

There is no escape;

We live in inhospitable climes

placing foot after weary foot

determined to go on until we find once more,

the light

 

The barren landscape persists;

We look on the thought of death with a quiet eye

With hope that some solitary soul

is peacefully rowed to the Land of Shadow

 

The fabric of the sky is fading;

we should build a nest for ourselves

With pleasant thoughts and good deeds

fashion a shelter for our souls

and with a blush,

the heavens will begin to groom themselves

for new days

 

VaL Smit ©

 

 

EOSTRE

I rested my temples on the breast of temptation

put my neck under her yoke of thorns

With will and energy,

virtue and purity,

I sow the seeds of good intentions

 

The spirit within

empowers to give constant strength and comfort,

to gladden daylight and embalm darkness,

and curtain humanity with wings

 

VaL Smit ©

 

 

THE FOREST

I walk under tickling mist

of a morning drizzle

Healthy curtains of brown and green,

in vivid relief against the blue

Little rivulets meander

keeping paradise from going thirsty

 

Vague columns of mist

necklace the tall, blue mountain

rising like a looming cliff

Softly glowing silver creeper vines

entwine hedges

marking paths between

the swaying blackness of the trees

 

The flailing of the forest dies down;

a soft rustling,

and then stillness

Fingers of fading mist

swirl around the trees,

the sun lingers behind thinning clouds

 

The forest echoes;

a buzzing flutter of unseen wings

and the sound of water,

dripping from a thousand branches

 

VaL Smit ©

 

 

RESURGEMUS

The forest lain out beneath the iron sky of winter

Is stiffened in frost

Frozen in fog

The mists as chill as death wandering to the impulse of our south-west winds

The river itself is a torrent

Tearing asunder the wood of skeletons and

Sending a raving sound of thunder through the air

Our forest now,

The cradle of fog-bred pestilence

Breathing contagion into its crowded recesses

How I long for blue skies, placid sunshine and soft western gale filled days

Our forest to shake loose its tresses and

Our Oak skeletons to be restored to its once majestic life

VaL Smit ©

 

 

ATROPHY 


Here we are,
wandering alone,
waiting duteously on Nature,
while she unfolds a page of stern,
of silent,
and solemn poetry
beneath our attentive gaze
 
The story that has been narrated,
the song that has been sung to us,
possess what we were enabled to create
 
But indolent we are;
reckless we are,
and most ignorant;
for we do not know that our dreams are rare,
our feelings peculiar
 
We do not know,
have never known,
and will die without knowing,
the full value of that spring
whose bright fresh bubbling in our hearts,
keeps it green
 
VaL Smit ©

 

 

REBIRTH

 

On my walk through winding,

unfrequented lanes,

the air is still,

the sun not wholly ineffectual,

my path firm

 

A meager snowfall makes lace of the land;

birds in their branches keep mute vigil

Nature,

half in mourning,

wears a grey mantle

and sighs in the trees

 

The sun will soon become an early riser

And grey skies will go into storage

A living silence will issue a mumble

from hedge and shrub

From high in the trees sociable conversation of song,

will fill this very air,

with the humming of rebirth

 

VaL Smit ©

 

 

SPILLAGE

 

Human love rise like a freshly opened fountain,

overflowing with sweet inundation

the fields we have so carefully prepared –

so assiduously sown

 

The fertile fields are deluged

with nectarous flood –

the young germs swamped –

delicious poison cankering them

into delirium and delusion

 

The light that illumines the deepest chambers of the soul,

the sense of humility that almost overwhelms surprise,

the desire for worthiness and goodness,

upon which new generations are founded,

is replaced with a self bolstering display

of verbal-spillage

 

VaL Smit ©

Bloom 0121.jpg

Bloom O121

Bloom is a range of three sketches investigating the effect seasonal change has on our perceptions of us. Autumn and winter are often perceived as morose, dark, and dreary. The poetry focuses on the belief of alternative new life budding during these two seasons as a positive influence on our past perceptions.
I use peonies as a base for the artwork and over-expose the detail of the stamens to depict humanity held together by Nature depicted as petals. The portrait kisses the flower and embraces the bud of new life.

Requiem for Kindness.jpg

Requiem for Kindness

What cargo do we carry to make a secret of our souls?
I believe that most, if not all, of the social issues we face as humanity were created by humanity, because we lost the ability to connect with ourselves, each other and creation. We have covered ourselves with so many protective layers of dirt that we no longer pause and wonder at a fellow human’s strange story, their struggle or their soul. The shackles of control so strongly enforced by us can only be broken once we have re-established this basis. 

Land of Shadow.jpg

Land of Shadow

On the brink of embarkation on our third sojourn with the pandemic in RSA, we need to build a nest for our souls. Inundate ourselves with pleasant thoughts and good deeds, and groom ourselves for new days.

Winter as a portrait symbolize our national population being overwhelmed and inundated with thoughts of the pandemic, the constant effect on economic stagnation, and the psychological effect on human interaction. Her hair is depicted as erosion, writhing away our perceptions of death or our numbness to its constant occurrence. Death is portrayed as a skull beautified by nature in its finality.

Eostre.jpg

Eostre

Written during Easter (RSA) to explain that the ever-present temptation that we experience, can be subdued by will, virtue, and humility.

Eostre wears a yoke of thorns. The yoke represents manipulation, corruption, and unaccountability in our country. The protea is the national flower of our country and represents our beauty as a diverse people and the hope of instilling the habit of good intentions.

The Forest.jpg

The Forest

Where do you go to be still… to get away from reality and really look and listen; see and hear?

This is my place… here I find the tallest tree and look for new vistas to unfold from every branch. In every new vista lies the hope of a new beginning, not only for me but for humanity.

Resurgemus.jpg

Resurgemus

'Resurgemus' or ‘We shall rise’, is an outcry to the political corruption rife in our country (RSA), amidst immense economic strain we experience as a people. Our country’s tresses are held fast by pestilence overwhelming the masses to whom so many empty promises had been made to. The problem at a molecular level is a moral one and not economic, as we are made to believe.

Atrophy.jpg

Atrophy

Nature’s poetry, narrated subtle as undercurrent to the cantankerous happenings we experience daily, goes unnoticed as we are wasting away the bubbling spring in our hearts. Even though we are attentive to her song, we remain ignorant and reckless in our behaviours. We listen but do not hear and look but do not see.

Rebirth.jpg

Rebirth
 

I focus on the process of existential awakening with emphasis on perceptions of spiritual growth and the realisation that rebirthing is required in a severely controlled society.

Awakening is portrayed as a young female representative of our young generations being the future of humanity. She has sprouted new roots and leaves at the tips of her hair, depicting the empowerment to adjust to processes of critical thinking. Her eyes confront humanity with love, kindness, and humility.

Spillage.jpg

Spillage

How do we find meaning in a world where we focus on efforts to improve our lives materially, with a hyper-emphasis on controlling political conditions and market fluctuations?

The baseness of our current condition has begun to infect our souls.  A fundamental shift in consciousness from restless and desperate to humility, worthiness, and goodness is required to prime young generations for the creation of new meaning.

Humanity has averted her gaze in cognitive dissonance. She recognizes but fails to see our young being swamped by delusion. The womb of seeds on the right of the visual depicts our younger generations and the future of life.