DR YUNUS OMAR pays tribute to longstanding Muslim Views columnist, Dr D’Arcy, whose articles have managed to open the world of art to many of us.
I HAVE been a fan of Dr M C D’Arcy for many years. His ‘Art’s for All’ column in Muslim Views was always a must-see whenever we left the masjid with a fresh copy of the paper tucked under our arms, once a month.
One of the first things I would do was to turn to the second-last page in the paper, which was usually where I would find ‘Art’s for All’. It’s possible that I read the headline and the introduction but what I usually looked at were the photographs or other images on the page. Dr D’Arcy would often include some of his own artwork in his articles, and write about how he had created them.
Now I am aware that in the title of this article, I am thankful for being helped to ‘see’. The over-riding thanks are to our Creator, who Enables everything. Through the power of The Almighty, we exist, and are able to function as human beings. This is no trivial matter. Everything we are comes from that Eternal Source, and so this thanks is an acknowledgement of our very creation.
In that light, when members of Allah’s creation make it possible, through Allah’s Mercy, to assist human beings, we pay tribute to them, secure in the belief and knowledge that it is Allah that Enables them and all of us.
The impulse behind the writing of this article came from watching an amazing series of short video-clips on a video-hosting service called TikTok. The very first video was stunning on so many levels: crisp, clear videography; beautiful colours; incredible detail and simplicity. It was a celebration of fruit.
My life is inextricably bound up with fruit. Some of my most precious memories involve cold mornings in the front of my father’s beloved old International, with my legs far too short to even dangle over the front of the long single seat. The purr of that International engine as it broke the stillness of a District Six Muir Street morning just after 3.30 a.m. is part of the sounds of my life. No one else can hear it but it reverberates in my heart still. When the long gear lever moved on its greased ball on the cabin floor of our ‘Inter’, and my Dad carefully flicked the added-on indicator switch, with its pulsing green light at the end, my joy was complete. We were on our way.
Depending on whether my father had parked the truck facing towards Sir Lowry Road or up towards Hanover Street the night before, we would either move down Muir Street and stop at Chapel Street before turning right, or, more excitingly, drive up Muir Street, take the steeper section to the right at Vogelgezang Street, past the wash-house on the left, and stop, on the incline, at Hanover Street. Then it was indicate left, turn past the vismarkie (fish-market), and up Hanover Street until we turned left at the Avalon at the top of Russell Street down to the circle, and into Chapel Street. It was dark and quiet. All was quiet except for the graceful pulsing of that majestic International’s engine. It was majestic because my father drove it so masterfully and lovingly.
Our destination was Epping Market. Its huge doors were still closed when we got there and my Dad reversed the truck close to the high loading walls. Then we trudged (I normally skipped) towards the doors, with each breath out a proud ‘smoke’ for a youngster who didn’t smoke beyond one coughy puff as a five-year-old. When the huge doors were slid open at 4.00 a.m., I followed my Dad into the maze of piled fruits and vegetables in that market.
It was a frenetic mix of sounds and movement as my Dad and others vied for the highest quality produce at the best prices. From agent to agent we moved, checking fruit, smelling and touching, and buying. It was giddy stuff for a little kid, and I am so grateful that my Dad took me along as a really small child to be part of this world that had been the world of his father, too, when the market was just down the road from Muir Street, in Sir Lowry Road, where the Good Hope Centre now stands. I didn’t know any of my two grandfathers but my Dad let me walk those unseen paths they had blazed before I was born.
My father loved fruit. He loved everything about fruit. He loved farms. He loved being around people who appreciated fruit. He packed baskets and crates carefully so as not to bruise and damage them. I have always known that. Seeing those short TikTok videos a few days ago brought these thoughts of my father back. ‘Sjoe! Dad would have loved to see this!’ I thought. My Dad has been gone for 21 years but the sight of those TikTok videos brought his memory back keenly.
In the February 2019 edition of Muslim Views, on Page 39, Dr D’Arcy wrote the following: ‘When art pieces are continually on view, you might not always ‘see’ them. But stop once in a while and focus on their subjects and artistic detail. In the blink of an eye, sullen moods change, depression and drudge fade; the change is subtle but it is there.’
When fruit is everywhere, I tended not to be able to ‘see’ its beauty every day. Someone, somewhere, shared their love of fruit in those short clips, which can be seen on TikTok at @fruits_lovers_ and enjoyed as I did.
Dr D’Arcy came to mind, too, as I watched these videos. Suddenly, his descriptions of colours ‘exploding’ and ‘bursting’ from a canvas became a reality. In all the years that I have appreciated his art and his writing, I hadn’t really been able to ‘see’ anything like he could. The work of TikTok video creators have helped me to appreciate Dr D’Arcy’s ongoing journey to help people like me ‘see’ more clearly the wonders of Allah’s creations. For the very first time, I saw yellows ‘bursting’ forth, and reds ‘bleeding’ from plums.
Being guided over many years to ‘see’ like this is a priceless gift. The lesson has taken long to be learnt, but I am a grateful student.
- Yunus Omar (PhD) lectures in the School of Education at the University of Cape Town. He writes in his personal capacity.