Pandemic Stories – Lize du Toit

July 28, 2020
Posted in News
July 28, 2020 Kurt Schroder

Pandemic Stories – Lize du Toit

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.

I first discovered Lize du Toit’s work through my good friend Pierre du Plessis. He had shared a link to a studio sale she was having for some of her paintings. I remember falling in love with a piece of a lone figure in the middle of a forest clearing. Sadly, it had already been sold.

Lize is a mom, wife, painter, copywriter, editor and a student of film to name just a few. In her own words: “I’m a painter interested in the human condition – specifically the effects and causes of loneliness as part of a larger inquiry into identity and the psychological aspects of living in an over-socialized, saturated world.”

Recently, in the midst of our pandemic life, Lize posted this image.

I immediately sent her a message inquiring about it and then also thought to myself, “hey, why not interview Lize for the Pandemic Stories series?” Long story short, I ended up choosing a different piece, because I preferred its mood and color palette. Lize and I spoke a lot and there is less of an interview structure to this than my previous stories. Please enjoy.

“I really just want to write and paint.”

I had applied for a bursary for my PhD, but when the pandemic hit, all new bursaries were suspended and everything was deferred until 2021, so I will have to try and secure funding again next year. To be honest I fell into a bit of a depression because a lot of work went into this. It’s a research PhD in film and television and I’m investigating the representation of melancholia in the on-screen landscapes of suburbia and the small town.

BB: Did you ever want to study film, seeing as your PhD is about that topic?

LDT: It happened by chance. I always tell my husband that if I knew what I know now when I was 18… Haha. The bigger picture was so small. If you wanted to study film back then you would’ve needed to go study abroad or maybe that was only our perception. The options were perhaps not that limited, but our exposure to it was.
When I needed to decide what to study, I knew that I could paint and draw, so art it was. I eventually did my Masters and taught a little bit, which I really enjoyed, however I think I would’ve thought more broadly back then if I had the knowledge I do now.

“Reading for me is a big escape and I read 13 books in the first months of lockdown. I would literally read while cooking – kind of ‘I just can’t deal with reality right now’ type of thing and there was a week where I was completely absent and that’s rather bad, your kids pick up on it you know?”

Sometimes it’s difficult with kids. You can’t indulge in your own things because your kids need something now. So, yeah, lockdown to me was challenging especially seeing how ‘well’ others and friends are coping on social media.

Here I kind of broke in: “But it’s all bullshit. Our feeds are all curated and that moment of success or that perfect moment is exactly that. Only a moment. You shot it and then it was all chaos and you were sad again. Haha.”

BB: Speaking of how tough it has been. What have you learned about yourself in this time?

LDT: I can’t really pinpoint something specific. Between work and home-schooling, you don’t have a moment to sit down and think how you feel about things. I wish I could sit and explore that feeling of frustration and how I can channel it into something positive, but you just don’t have that luxury.

There’s the constant refereeing with the kids being at home, breaking up fights, consoling them if they are crying, making food etc. That’s why I wake up early in the mornings, before the kids are up so I can have a cup of coffee and just have a moment of quiet to sit and think.
One of the rare moments when my husband and I could sit with a glass of wine and talk a bit, I thought that this lockdown feels a bit like purgatory – like being in limbo. That’s what it feels like. I can’t make plans about holidays or my daughter’s birthday or my studies, and you’re just hanging around, waiting…

And even on a spiritual level I felt bitter. You invest and plan and you have this idea of where things are heading and then this chair smacks you in the face and you think, wait, maybe I’ve been missing the plot completely.
I love my kids and my husband and I don’t want to diminish my role as a wife and a mother, I just feel like I have more to give and I feel frustrated that I can’t live those parts of me, and the PhD was going to be that exploration.

“Painting to me is a great outlet. There’s this strange thing that happens when I paint. If I paint for long enough it’s like a conversation that fades and falls silent and then I realize… what was I thinking about? Because when you start your mind is actively thinking and before long you find yourself thinking of nothing.”

BB: What don’t you miss before the lockdown?
Ed’s Note: Lize kept answering what she will miss after lockdown. Haha. So I just let her run with it.

LDT: The thing I will miss is the quiet. Right now it doesn’t feel like we’re in lockdown. I’ve always hated shops, so perhaps online shopping will become more of a staple.
I’ll miss having my husband at home every day.

BB: What has kept you hopeful?

LDT: If I think about it on an existential level and the bigger picture, I am excited to see how this will all play out and what it could mean for humanity and the future of our children. I just wanted something different and seeing the world change so dramatically is exciting. I am excited to see how society can become different.

BB: How do you think art and shows will adapt or change?

LDT: For a while there have been exhibitions online and meeting the artists and Q&A’s and I hope that doesn’t go away when things go back to ‘normal’. The potential to make art more accessible and give exposure to artists that struggle getting gallery representation is great and there are a lot of opportunities.

My passion for research and teaching is to take things that are difficult to understand and translate it into a language that we can all speak and understand. Let’s not cloud things or make them exclusive to a certain type of individual. I think a lot of people avoid galleries because they don’t feel qualified or sophisticated enough to engage with art. That’s why social media and online platforms are so great – it’s so much more accessible.

Lize’s vulnerability in this interview and essay is so beautiful to me and looking back now I can also see it carry through in her work. I appreciate the time she gave me and for letting me into her home and into her day as a mom, wife, caretaker, creator, artist and most simply, a human being.

For those curious, this is the piece I ended up getting.

Thank you for reading.

Editors Note: Answers edited for conciseness.