I have just watched a video on YouTube made by a mural artist called KipToe; which was made in 2019, where he joins a large group of other artists in Akumal Mexico. They gather to cover a long bridge along a road close to the beach with beautiful colorful murals – each being given a section of their own to paint. The atmosphere is festive. They are all having fun, being creative and working as a community. Some sell cool-drinks to relieve the artists from the harsh heat under which they are working, others are drumming and making music; creating an atmosphere one can only wish to dance to.
Dancing, laughing and celebrating are the sounds behind the videos’ footage. The video itself is put together in a creative engaging manner and one is left with a smile… and a feeling of joyfulness… and then sadness. And this is what my blog post is about. The loss of this sort of festive, creative togetherness this year due to the Covid19 pandemic. We are now at the end of the year 2020. It had been a year of… well one can use the whole dictionary of descriptive words to describe it – horror, shock, disappointment, fear, loss, fortitude, hope, determination, reflection, realization… the list does not end. But today – like many other days, just the simple act of watching such a video as described above, returns the sentiment of sadness to me, with the fact that we have lost that form of community togetherness. Yes, yes… many are doing amazingly good things as a community to help those in need during these times – and I am in absolute admiration of everyone participating in such endeavors – but I am talking about the pure light celebration of creative gathering – the dancing with abandon, the painting of joy in whichever expression. This video I speak of brought that loss home to me – once again – and it makes me sad.
I am naturally an optimistic person. I find it relatively easy to see the silver lining and run with it above the dark clouds. But even for me – there have been so many times this year where I have felt complete despair looking at the wider picture and have been hit with a feeling of utter helplessness. So how does this blog post relate to chocolate? After all this webpage is all about chocolate…
Well… I have up to this point been spared the pain of what others have endured so far during this pandemic – a pain of loss far greater than mine. In my chocolate world, all I lost was my shop. Admittedly I was gutted. I loved my little chocolate shop so much. I woke everyday with joy knowing that I was among those few very lucky souls who was happy to go to work – doing what I loved in a place I had created with love. So… I lost that one and then spent a few months licking my wounds, and then got over it… almost. Many amazing people in my community offered me retail space in their shops – but it took me quite some time to muster up the will to start all over again – and differently.
In my first shop we had a mezzanine space above our retail space where we created all our chocolate delights. I could hear what was happening all day long downstairs, and I was often called down to meet customers, or discuss special requests with them. I loved that. I loved every minute in my shop / chocolate studio.
Anyway, the time spent in lock down at home was a very positive experience for me. We got some real, beautiful family time in, which I truly feel blessed for having. We got on to setting time aside for self-improvement, both mental and physical. We also got creative – painting, baking, crafting etc. I got back into a regular routine of Yoga and began doing Pilates. And I gave myself the time to think long and hard about where to with my passion for chocolate.
I lean naturally toward healthy living and conscious eating habits. I believe that food can be prepared in a creative fashion and enjoyed in a consciously healthy manner. I think that where possible one should prepare food with as little to no sugar as possible (and it is possible). And if one is to consume chocolate that has sugar in it – it needs to be of the highest quality and that one should never eat compromised chocolate products where replacement oils have been added – like palm oil. The reasons behind this have been explained in another blog post of mine – being for the benefit of our own health – and for the health of our natural world. So, what am I saying in this post then?
Well… being in lock down and then entering a very changed world, I had to decide how to share my passion – with distance from others, in a safe manner, and yet build a bridge of relative interaction. The most logical thing to do was share as much as possible with a YouTube channel and to start writing a blog site… but I had my immediate community to think of (who thankfully still wanted my chocolate creations – or at least some did – those who could afford it because let’s face it: SO many of us had sadly lost our main source of income!), and I had two staff member that were left stranded during lock down, both of whom had families of their own to try support.
I desperately wanted to find a way to accommodate them – they are two amazingly hard-working people and became just as passionate about chocolate as I was during our time spent working together pre-covid19.
Then… later… A couple who I did not know very well but admired from afar and liked enormously when I interacted with them, offered me a retail space within their art studio. Their names are Terry and Jan Raats, and they own an art gallery on Thesen Island (where my original shop used to be) in Knysna. Jan is an acclaimed and celebrated fine artist – and his studio is called Jandreart Studio. He paints with his fingertips and his work is beautiful. I was honored by their invitation to enter their shop. Admittedly I was quite shy about the idea. They were proposing to actually ‘make space’ for me alongside his gallery showcasing his paintings and his actual studio space. Jan paints in full view of those entering or walking past his shop. It Is a permanent show – and that is what makes this gallery interesting. People walking in can have a conversation with him or simply watch him paint.
So ChoColette was invited in and on acceptance they made space for me and my products. I can not be happier with the set-up. My chocolate creations on display for purchase alongside his beautifully moving art works so well visually.
We have been working like this for a month now and I am still humbled by the welcome Terry and Jan have given us. Circumstances are tricky in this Covid-19 climate. There are fewer feet than before, with a lot fewer tourists visiting – but the space we have been invited to is a creative one, with a gentle peaceful atmosphere. I could not be happier with the way things have worked out. I do miss working near (or above) my retail space – I have to be honest – for I have to create the chocolate offsite… but to bring all the chocolate creations we make into such a beautiful space is a real treat. Perhaps one day when things are ‘back to normal’ we will be able to bring the chocolate studio near the retail outlet again. But for now, we at ChoColette have been blessed… and my valued staff members are back earning and it’s wonderful to spend time with them again. I missed them terribly when we were apart!
This blog post may feel as if it is all over the place – but what I wanted to say is that I, like everyone else, miss the sense of community of creation. I would love to have ‘creative evenings’ like an exhibition of chocolate art alongside Jan’s fine art etc. I would love to see street parties where people are not wearing masks and expressions of weariness. I would love to feel a world where we are less divided by opinion and belief – for it seems more prevalent now that it has ever been. I would like to walk out of the shop and feel a festive, free atmosphere in the air. The last I remember was the Rugby world cup – which we, South Africa, won. I am not very interested in Rugby… but I was sucked into the huddle of anticipation around the screens set up for the hordes of people in a restaurant near my old shop and then the celebration of the win! It was wonderful – and only now do I realize how special that moment, or many other alike, was.
So that’s all I am going to say about that. This loss makes me sad… but deep down the natural optimist in me clings on to hope that hopefully sooner rather than later we will be able to dance in the streets again together to the festive beat of drums and human noise made by joyous abandon.
When that day returns – I look forward to dancing and singing with you!