My room in the London flat-share was small. Just enough for a child’s bunk bed, a desk, and a narrow corridor of space to stand. I was used to small spaces, though. Before this I had lived on a houseboat on the frozen canal. The luxury of central heating and a washing machine had not yet worn off.
The winter was grey and oppressive, far from the wide, open spaces and clear blue skies of my childhood. I kept reminding myself I did not move to London for the weather. I moved for the opportunities I thought were not at home.
I moved for the options.
Now my options were limited.
Trying to support myself as an art student without a loan. Eating rice and lentils more than I would care to admit. No money to go out. And with my coursework due I had set myself an overly ambitious project.
Every morning, after a cup of too-strong coffee I would commence my fervent Google searches: I had decided to make a linocut of 24 cities of the world, one for each letter of the alphabet.
The places I had visited meant something to me: Budapest, where I had fallen in love more than once; Florence, where I had almost drowned during a night-time swim in a river; Edinburgh, where I had danced until dawn and climbed up to Arthur’s Head to scream into the wind.
I continued with places I wanted to visit, travelling the world from the confinement of my bedroom. I carved out Istanbul, Havana, Dakar.
Q, U, X, W—Google helped with these: Quebec City, Ulan Bator, and Xalapa. I explored them using the Street View.
W was tricky.
Warsaw or Washington DC?
The coffee cut through the fatigue.
The city in which I was born, where I spent the first sixteen years of my life. I had spent my teenage years dreaming of escaping it, thinking there was nothing there for me as an artist. The cultural scene was small. The endless blue skies were oppressive. I was a teenager with big dreams and ideas.
Now I let my mind wander back to the city streets to a simpler time before I had become plagued by the curse of endless options.
There is a water tower on one of the tallest hills in Windhoek. As kids we used to call it the “ice-cream cone”.
Looking out on the grey London rain, I sketched the conical shape and carved.
My mind wandered back to the taste of an ice-cream cone that can only be experienced on a hot and dry summer’s day in Windhoek: the only option I truly ever needed.
Summer Du Plessis is an artist from Windhoek. She spent ten years in London and now lives and works in Berlin. She is interested in humour, surprise, elegance, and humanity.