Pandemic Stories – Leanne Olivier

May 27, 2020
May 27, 2020 Kurt Schroder

Pandemic Stories – Leanne Olivier

We take a look into the impact on the lives and livelihoods of people during the COVID-19 lock-down.

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.

Here we are again; still in the twilight zone and who better to have on the blog today than painter and sometimes mystic; Leanne Olivier. Blurring the lines between life and death in her work and exploring Liminal Spaces and man, what are we if not in a liminal space right now?



adjective: liminal

1. relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.

2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

“Liminal spaces are transitional or transformative spaces. They are the waiting areas between one point in time and space and the next. Often, when we are in liminal spaces, we have the feeling of just being on the verge of something. Liminal space is, of course, a literal space.”

BB: What is the one thing you miss the most? It can be as simple as a cup of coffee or a beer at a bar?

LO: My daily life has remained unchanged to a large extent. I am a bit of a hermit and I work from home, so my work can carry on, but if there’s one thing, it’s that freedom and spontaneity of; “hey wo(man), let’s go drink a beer”. That’s it.

BB: What’s the biggest change since the pandemic whether that’s just day to day life or in the creation process?

LO: Something I realized early in my life is the most important thing for me is a sense of freedom. For some that may mean financially, but for me it’s about how I can function independently in my own space and have a balance between time (what is most valuable) and finances. Creating art has given me that. The choices that I have made and the way in which I have orchestrated my life is to mostly function as an independent being. Yet in saying this, I also feel a strong contradiction in my statement. No woman/man is an island; we’re all interdependent. I mean, this pandemic just proves that!

“When you leave your house and you put on your mask you almost have to deliberately pick your attitude. There’s a lot of fear you know? But I also think what’s nice is people are learning to smile with their eyes again and I make it a point of greeting people with my eyes”.

On fear…

Leanne and I went down a bit of a rabbit hole seeing as she had mentioned fear earlier in our conversation. It was on of those tangents you sometimes go off and explore for a while before you course correct and get back on track. I had said to her that I don’t understand when people say; “f**k fear”. Fear is a very sensible emotion/feeling to have. It’s likely what has kept our species alive for millennia. We need to know how to use fear and not let it use us and also know when to step away because of fear and come back better prepared to then face it.

“Use it as a catalyst to do something. Use it as a tool. I think there’s a big difference between entertaining fear and holding space for fear. Holding space for fear is a more compassionate thing rather than proclaiming; ‘I’ve GOT THIS, I’m not scared’. Fear hasn’t gone away. I think fearless is maybe the wrong word and that perhaps it should be to live more courageously.
 You need the fear in order for courage to be present.”

BB: What have you learned about yourself during this time?

LO: Everything has just deepened for me. Since an early age I’ve been on an existentialist journey sampling various theologies, philosophies, the Deepak Chopra books.
 Now there’s actually an opportunity to ‘live’ the teachings.
 It’s easy to say, ‘be positive’, it’s easy to do when everything is going well, but to actually put on that cap and be resilient means something completely different when shit hits the fan.

BB: What has kept you hopeful?

LO: Hope is tricky.
 I think we can tie hope to destination happiness. I’ll be happy when this happens, or when I reach this point or when I own this thing and you keep sending it into the future. It feels external. 

I think there is a lot of value in completely losing hope and letting it go. Completely surrendering to what is. I think that the pandemic has reinforced what we already actually know. It’s about the small things and life is precious. Where are you placing your focus, where are you wasting time?

I am hopeful. I see the positive outweighing the negative. I see kindness on a massive scale and people coming together to say; ‘how are we going to get through this’?

We are way beyond this archaic way of doing things and systems that are kept in place that is not serving the whole of humanity. What I hope for in my heart is that on a small scale, larger scale and on a global scale that people can put aside agendas, nepotism and bullshit and come out of this stronger together. New ways of being – greener/free energy and more cohesive/inclusive systems of governance/protection which already exist and is available, we just need to choose it. 
That’s what I hope for, for us as humans.

“I think the pandemic is a catalyst for change and that makes me hopeful”.

A massive thank you to Leanne for her time. It was incredible to silently observe her working and being allowed into her space and process.

PS: Leanne asked that I share this YouTube movie with you and to mention that you shouldn’t watch it if your attention span is short. It’s called “Reconnect”.

Thank you for reading.

Editors Note: * Answers edited for conciseness.