The unprecedented COVID 19 Virus and subsequent Lock-down has had drastic and differing effects on people in South Africa. This series aims to explore that space, and document a bit of what life looks like during Lock-down in South Africa. All necessary health & safety precautions were maintained in the production of this article, and all persons involved had legal permits to work and travel.
The story is told and was photographed by Bernard Brand.
Sitting down with wife and husband Dan Bakkes and Brendon Erasmus was a day well spent. They are the first two person interview I’ve done and it worked really well I think. You may know them as “The Great Yawn” or by their latest endeavor, art and decor brand, “Khakoon” (Cocoon). They are both talented in a multitude of ways, from cooking, baking, painting, playing multiple instruments and the list probably goes on. I can probably fawn over them the whole day, but let’s get to the day I spent with them.
We kind of just jumped into some conversation before I started asking questions, so I’m starting there for this one.
Dan speaking about her grandma…
Dan: I’ve been feeling a big weight on me from the perspective of the elderly in this time. My best friend is my gran and she had a fall just before lockdown. She went to hospital and then frail care right after to get better. The impact of the elderly not being able to see their family has affected them so badly. They feel forgotten.
The only way I’ve been connecting with her has been through an occupational therapist.
Speaking on the collective anxiety we’re all feeling… Brendon: Anxiety is a weird thing. I almost feel if the symptoms included a back ache my brain would’ve told me you have a back ache even though that wasn’t the case.
“This time has made me realize that every interaction you have with friends and family is important and I hope we can continue living this way.”
Talking about need to always buy new things and not being able to… Dan: I went to my grans place to sort out some of her stuff; what to keep, what to throw away and take to hospice. It was weird. It was almost like she had already died, but she hasn’t and I was giving her stuff away without asking her what she wanted to keep. It was so difficult.
BB: What don’t you miss about life before the pandemic?
DB: I almost wanna say limiting your interactions to just take care of yourself a little. Not feeling guilty about doing that, you know? Saying yes to certain things at your own detriment.
BE: I don’t miss nightlife. Last year I went bar crawling with friends to celebrate 20 years of knowing each other and I remember waking up the next morning and realizing I don’t have to do that again for a very long time. Ha ha.
BB: What have you guys learned about yourselves and each other?
DB: I didn’t realize how much I mask my own stress until it manifests in my body, so realizing I don’t manage stress as well as I thought I did. We realized that we both like to bath. Ha ha.
BE: I think it’s very similar to Dani. I realized what makes me stress even more and what I should avoid. I learned that Dani is a procrastinator, but it’s more of a stress response I think. And that I like cleaning house. Ha ha.
“Hospice is like this weird purgatory. Some of those things will stay there and “die” and other things will find a new purpose and life with someone else. There’s some beautiful about that.”
Talking about online performances… Brendon: I think a lot of musicians felt this pressure to perform and do online shows and stake their claim to almost prove that you do this because you’re really a musician. At the same time it was important for us to just take a step back and rest. We made the album (The Waves, the Tide and the Moon) and released it and then we took a break.
BB: As you’ve mentioned you guys released an album and on top of that you started a new business. How has it been?
DB: I think we felt incredibly blessed to be able to release music when you’re unable to go and record or perform live. The latest album felt like a purge for us. We got married in November last year and in December we recorded the album. There was a lot we needed to get off our chests.
BE: It was a relatively tough time. The idea for Khakoon had sort of just presented itself to us. So during the day I was drawing and doing little paintings and recording in studio and jumping back and forth.
I just thought of this now. There must have been some weird butterfly effect, because the Corona thing started around that time and without us knowing it something was brewing on that side of the world and that’s when a creative spark happened in us.
DB: What I want to mention is I think this album like the previous album has been very vulnerable and personal, but there has also been a revealing of confidence. In music you can really share that vulnerability and other people can tap into that.
Starting an art and decor brand I feel like there isn’t much room for that vulnerability. When it comes to running a business it’s all about confidence and saying this is my patch of grass and it’s f**king cool because I say so.
BE: I remember one day, just before lockdown, Leanne came over and saw what I was busy with and saying that we just have to be confident and that we cannot second guess ourselves. We’re learning as we go.
Speaking about Khakoon… Brendon: Family around us were like; “oh it’s art related, shame these poor kids”. Haha..
BE: Something we find a lot is that we’re hardly ever down in that ‘hole’ at the same time, which is interesting. If I’m in a hole Dani somehow has the strength to get me out of it and vice versa. It would be scary if we both find ourselves there at the same time and sometimes we do pull each other down, but one of us will kind of snap out of it and help the other one.
DB: The other day we had this argument and it was quite ugly and at some point we just looked at each other and we both apologized and realized that we’re not really angry at each other but that it was external things and having that comfort with one another is really great.
BB: What has kept you hopeful?
BE: Like I said earlier you can only make short term goals but at the same time you have to try and look beyond the pandemic and that’s why Khakoon has been so great for me as a visual artist. I’ve just been waiting for a day to make a change in my career and it’s not like I am going to neglect that but I needed something else and as difficult as it’s been during this time, and will be going forward, it’s been a good reason to have some hope and something to reach for.
DB: I just want to mention something on community and collaboration. I really think it’s so important to collaborate as artists. I look at Brendon and he is so skilled in what he does, but in starting Khakoon it was definitely a process for him to let me into that collaborative space. I love seeing something and then working off of that and dreaming. It can be a way to unleash.
I agree with Brendon though on what has kept me hopeful, so I’d like to use his answer. That’s really the truth for both of us.
Damn it! Aren’t Dan and Brendon just the flipping coolest? I am proud to say that I am now the owner of some of Brendon’s work. Now I just need to get something from Khakoon. You can go check them both out here and here.
Thank you for reading.
Editors Note: Answers edited for conciseness.