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Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

Recently, while idling through a market on one of the last summer days, I bought my first record. It is, by all accounts, a very uneventful story. More of a fact, even, than a story. Except for one small detail: I do not own a record player

By Piet Smedy  | April 23, 2021 | Category

Photograph: Prue Ruscoe
Photograph: Prue Ruscoe

Recently, while idling through a market on one of the last summer days, I bought my first record. It is, by all accounts, a very uneventful story. More of a fact, even, than a story. Except for one small detail: I do not own a record player.

Before we get into the why, let’s start with the which, specifically, which record had I found in a box at a makeshift record store on a clement Saturday morning that would make me part ways with my money (happily, I might add) when I knew I had no means to play it? Well, how could I not?

Every December holiday, my father, mother and I would road trip to the coast, and it was on one of these give-or-take six-hour drives that I first heard Jim Croce and would continue to do so year after year. I did not know his name at the time, at best he was the ‘Time in a Bottle’ guy. (As the driver, my dad was adamant that it was his near-divine right to play DJ). The promise of a sticky toasted cheese at a Harrismith petrol station aside, there was not much to look forward to on those drives, so I would lie on the back seat, studying the car ceiling (I was small enough in those days that, even flat on my back, neither my head nor my toes would touch the armrests), and I would listen to Jim sing songs of belonging, dreaming, loving and losing. I lost my dad a few years later, but when I picked up that Jim Croce record, I was right back in that car with him turning up the volume.

Who are we, if not the product of our memories? Why else do we fill our homes with photos of loved ones and souvenirs of moments that we want to hold on to? Because it is in these pictures on walls and objects on shelves that we find comfort and, maybe, even a brief escape to something friendly and familiar. Actress Rolanda Marais, whose Cape Town home is on this month’s cover, said it best when asked what it was about her mid-century home that captured her imagination: ‘Perhaps it is because I grew up in that era and recognise a lot of the pieces, or maybe it is something from a previous life, I do not know, I am just instinctively drawn to it.’ And she is not alone, which is why this month we explore the influence of yesterday on our present, how decades past dictate the days to come – in our homes, at the very least.

We cannot, of course, allow ourselves to get completely stuck in the past, it would be to the detriment of progress and design, art, architecture, culture – they’re the cornerstones of society in progress. Contributing editor Marnus Nieuwoudt spoke to an Afrofuturist, a futurist, an architect and an artist to unpack how these creative forces’ work is informed by the past and how it is shaping the future of creativity. The same creativity that is the invisible tissue binding our shared, collective, lived experiences and propels us towards new frontiers – as if by design.

So you see, that is why I did not put back the dusty copy of ‘Don’t Mess Around With Jim’. Even without the help of a turntable needle, I could hear those songs playing again, and I do not regret buying it. That said, I also do not regret buying a record player later that day, either.

As always, stay safe.

Piet Smedy, Editor-in-Chief

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