Save the rhino, ink yourself!

VANESSA SMEETS

The year 2012 has already exceeded all past records in rhino poaching, with 570 rhinos killed this year alone (as of November) in South Africa, compared to 333 in 2010. The population has plummeted by 90% since the 1970s, with a rhino poached about every 16 hours. Poachers have access to vast resources and are technologically advanced, even using helicopters to track and kill them. The investigative piece done by eTV’s 3rd Degree two weeks ago showed how all members of society could be involved, even game rangers themselves.

rhino tattoo

HELP US: The proposed rhino tattoo that will be launched this Saturday in South Africa, to help save the rhino, by funding anti-poaching units and raising awareness amongst the public. PHOTO: provided

The only solution would be to guard each and every rhino individually, which would cost a lot of money in training guards, setting up night vision, purchasing horses, maintaining specialised vehicles and a helicopter.

Project Rhino describes the situation:

“When a country goes into battle they have massive war chests available to them, the war against poachers instead is reliant on an outraged public to get us our funding to take the battle directly to the poachers. We need to get serious and stay serious!”

Skintrade tattoos and “Space for Elephants” who are co-founders of “Project Rhino” have put together an initiative that will display the public’s concern and get people talking, as well as raise the funds necessary for the equipment. “Mark of the Rhino” is a permanent tattoo that will preferably be placed somewhere visible on your body, to get people talking. It will officially be launched this Saturday (1 December).

It is hoped that thousands of people will go through with this initiative, showing that rhino poaching is not an environmental problem but an EPIDEMIC.The Mark of the Rhino  will be around 6-8 centimetres. It is a silhouetted, tribal-style tattoo of a rhino, designed to represent the black, white and even Sumatran rhino, and a unique code beneath it in Roman numerals. The code will be individualised for every donor’s tattoo.

Along with the tattoo, they will also receive a certificate with their name which will also be placed on the website next to their individual number. Their own names, company’s name, or a pseudonym can be used. Companies can also buy multiple “marks” and give them out to suppliers, staff members or customers. Individuals can buy marks for family and friends and it is believed they will make great Christmas gifts: a gift that you can’t lose or break and that will make a difference in the war against poachers.

The mark will cost donors R900 and take around 10 to 15 minutes to get done and will have a lifetime guarantee. It takes around a week to heal and does not require much aftercare.

The “mark” can be purchased at any Skintrade Tattoos’ shop.They are award winning artists and have done plenty of shows and tattoo conventions, including the BMX World Championships, international tattoo conventions in South Africa, and the Sexpo show, to name but a few. They are located in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town, but they will also be doing roadshows around South and Southern Africa. They will be appearing at shopping malls, festivals, fairs and markets in many areas.

Addresses for these shops can be found on the website www.skintrade.co.za and details of the roadshows will be posted there too. It will be launched in the three main cities to start with and rolled out nationally, and then internationally. We have a number of celebrities that are already lining up to get their “mark” and a lot of the Project Rhino members will be at the launch getting theirs.

Project Rhino believes the war against rhino poachers can and will be won:

“A militant stance towards the poachers themselves, driven and fuelled by public funding and a trained, armed and adequately equipped crew dedicated to this very difficult task, will see the rhino population rebounding within the next few years, provided we ALL participate in the fight in one way or another.”

South Africa’s people

VANESSA SMEETS

South Africa, a country once cursed and condemned by her racist past, is now flourishing with eleven different tribes and numerous cultures. Here is just a glimpse into the beauty of her rainbow nation

These photos were taken over the span of two years (2010-2012), from posh cities like Cape Town and Stellenbosch to the more desolate Sutherland and the forgotten parts of Stellenbosch.
I avoided captioning the pics, in fear of people stealing them.

Please do not use these pictures for your own use. They are all copyrighted and my testimonies… If you have any questions about any of them, please leave a comment below. I am happy to share the stories behind each one, from 40 years of friendship, to Gay Pride and unique art.
South Africa reawakens in her people’s journeys.

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What makes SA better than the USA:

VANESSA SMEETS

In spirit of the USA Election fever, I decided to analyze what makes South Africa better than what seems to be “the Divided States of America” at the moment:

  • Nkandla is bigger than the White House!
blog_nkandla

FORTRESS: Zuma’s homestead “Nkandla” in Kwa-Zulu Natal will cost taxpayers about R200 million to upgrade. PIC: Eyewitness News

  • We have more than one First Lady. They may not be as sporty as Michelle Obama, but they run around the most amazing cities in the world, looking busy and fabulous.
  • While Obama laughs at his caricatures, our president sues our cartoonists, drops the charges, so he can pay for the charges accused him of in those cartoons, in the first place… That’s much more entertaining in the long run.
  • Jacob Zuma is far more “potent” than any other president, with over 20 children from various women. Also, his penis has been painted, mounted, torn off, replaced, reproduced by fine artists, cartoonists and even school children (as The Star so refreshingly put on their front-page weeks ago). Sorry, “mounted” sounded so wrong there.
blog_zuma kids

POTENCY: Zuma has never been a fan of Jonathan Shapiro aka Zapiro, who has mastered the art of Zuma’s blossoming career as our president. PIC courtesy: Zapiro

  • We have the same former president on all our bank notes – much less confusing than the American notes.
  • We have 11 official languages and dozens of dialects, including Tsotsitaal, “Thief language.” Yes, no kidding. Just in case they call you from the cellphone they end up throwing away anyway.
  • We have a jester that wants the throne, outdoing George W. Bush and Mitt Romney in his actions and speech: Julius Malema.
blog_malema

MALEMA DILEMMA: We love to hate him and hate to love him… Our former ANC Youth leader still manages to make front-page through his actions and speeches. PIC: Google Images

  • Our ministers are famous for bribes and some of their wives for being drug mules. Imagine a senate like that? It keeps our media busy.
  • Our Hillary Clinton is Helen Zille! Only she dances much better and has entertaining fights with our jester. Here she shows off her African skill:
  • We have a population of about 50 million, where the majority continues to vote for the party associated with the struggle, when they seem to be the cause of our latest struggles (including the building of Nkandla). In the words of Joseph Stalin, adored by millions whom he eventually sacrificed:“It’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes.”

Watering Dreams… My Bucket List

VANESSA SMEETS

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. 
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”
– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

blog_crossroads-sign

CROSSROADS: 27… A year for change and growth. PIC: Internet

27 marks an incredible crossroad.
I’m ready to settle on a career (or two), yet fascinated by my surroundings. It’s also an age doomed for rock-stars like Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and Jimi Hendrix, amongst others… Which is what influenced me to get started on my bucket list. One never knows when today is the last day.

Things already completed:

  • Reunion with my best friends from primary school. We laughed, we cried, we shared, after a long 14 years. Unfortunately, there was one missing member. She passed away tragically last year, but we felt her presence in so many ways – through the memories we shared and photos/ letters we brought.
  • Be part of Hillsong Church Australia. This church probably has the biggest congregation in the world, with millions of members worldwide. Its band, Hillsong United, has gone platinum several times. I was first introduced to them in 2007, a year which ultimately was filled with as much good as bad. Their music kept me grounded, when nothing else could.
  • Become a published poet. When you least expect it, doors open. Since the age of 15, I’ve been in love with William Shakespeare and John Keats. At 17, I finally started writing my own and four years later, my two favourite poems made the cut: one in an American anthology Twilight Musings and the other in a Christian anthology Angels &Little Scrolls.
  • Take a photo that changes the world… Well, my picture of two male students kissing didn’t change the world, but it certainly opened up the homophobia debate in South Africa and helped many scared individuals come out in an unaccepting world. See: Maties’ Gay Kiss Goes Viral

Things to come:

  • Do Spain walk (Santiago de Compostela) with my brother. I first heard about this incredible pilgrimage reading Paulo Coelho’s books. It is bound to change one’s life forever, bring you closer to those who accompany you and help you find yourself again.
  • Do Oktoberfest with my mom. Munich’s Oktoberfest is filled with hundreds of beers, incredible outfits, fun drinking songs till the early hours… What more could a photojournalist and true Belgian ask for?
blog_tomatina

RED HOT: La Tomatina Festival in Spain sees about 50 000 people gathered in the month of August to throw tomatoes at each other. PIC: Internet

  • Do tomato fight (La Tomatina) near Valencia, Spain, with my dad. I’m not sure why I chose my dad for this epic adventure, but probably because he’s the most adventurous person I know.
  • Finish my book. I started a book in 2007, which unlocks a lot about the mystery of life and true characters I met along the way… Just need to find the guts to complete it.
  • Publish a children’s series of books, bring them to the television screen, change their lives. I hope I don’t jinx this dream by placing it here, but children have always been life’s greatest teachers.
  • Work in the vineyards in France. Simple. Beautiful. I thank the movie A Good Year for this dream.
French vineyards

C’EST LA VIE: French wine. French sunset. Perfection. PIC: Internet

  • Go on a Contiki tour. Yes, next year may be it: my BFF and I traversing the Golden Age for our Golden Birthdays. Holding thumbs.
  • blog_machu-picchu

    LA VIDA LOCA: Exploring Machu Picchu was even on Che Guevara’s bucket list. PIC: Internet

    See Machu Picchu… Clichéd, yes. But Che Guevara proved anything is possible, even just with a motorbike.

  • Interview a head of state… I’d prefer someone who didn’t murder millions of people. Maybe someone who set them free instead, Nelson Mandela would be ideal.
  • Publish my blog as a book… YES!
  • Try out for Idols. Okay, Singstar doesn’t really count. I just love singing.
  • Work for Top Billing, South Africa’s most successful lifestyle programme. Getting paid to travel, interview amazing people and witness the oddest events? Hell yeah!
  • blog_paris hot air balloon

    LA VIE EN ROSE: Imagine seeing Paris from the sky? Incredible… PIC: Internet

    Fly in a hot air balloon in Paris. Why Paris? Its history, culture and people fascinate me…

  • Sell some art. My art isn’t amazing… but it would be amazing to see it in someone else’s home apart from my family members.
  • Be part of a flash-mob. I thank Channing Tatum and Step Up 4 for molding this dream. Booyah!
  • Go on a road-trip with good friends. Wherever. Whenever. As long as we’re together.
  • blog_casa-giulietta

    BRAVE DREAMS: The Casa di Giulietta provides women all over the world the opportunity to wish for love, heal it or find it, by placing letters in what is believed to be Juliet’s home in the real Verona… As the movie “Letters to Juliet” proved. PIC: Internet

    Write a love letter… Italian style, at the Casa de Giulietta in Verona.

  • Learn two more languages: Spanish and German fluently.
  • Write poetry in French. Not as easy as it seems.
  • See Neuschwanstein Castle in the spring. I saw it covered in snow in December 2010. It was magical, yet mostly hidden.
  • japan autumn

    AMAZING AUTUMN: One of my favourite months, in a land far far away… PIC: Internet

    See Japan in the autumn. Burning colours, peaceful music: a feastful zen for the eyes and soul.

  • Work on a cruise ship. I want to photograph people, places, lives, all religions and races.
  • Go back to Israel, live in a kibbutz. Israel was the most spiritual place I have ever been to, yet in 1996 I was too young to soak it all in.
  • Find someone to do this with. Fall in love. Be loved in return… That seems to be the biggest challenge of all. In the words of  Ursula K. Le Guin: “It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”