Tippi Benjamine Okanti Degré, daughter of French wildlife photographers Alain Degré and Sylvie Robert, was born in Namibia. During her childhood she befriended many wild animals, including a 28-year old elephant called Abu and a leopard nicknamed J&B. She was embraced by the Bushmen and the Himba tribespeople of the Kalahari, who taught her how to survive on roots and berries, as well as how to speak their language.
- beer wisdom, dispensed by an old friend whose insightful company i dearly miss but hardly keep anymore. this was some years ago; we were in a bar in the middle of travels, where the rest of the crowd spoke little english and carried crusty surfboards - or had it been another typical evening on a sandy bench with week-old virginia slims and 7-11 baron’s strong brew? i remember it to be one of those conversations where content eclipses setting.
jean-paul sartre would have approved, he who famously declared, “hell is other people”.
two planets circle the sun, close enough to be warmed, distant enough to escape incineration. earth and mars - luminary guideposts for the delicate dance that is human relationships. the burmese temple beggar must have seen sunspots in my eyes when she touched my foot unbidden and said, “be careful, girl. you like to play with fire far too much”.
be careful? seems like the 21st century has grown into one big cautionary tale. microwave plastics, mobile phone radiation, uncooked tomato skins - mom and dr oz you’ve both got it horribly wrong, it’s living that is the number one cause of death; living in all its messiness of bodies sensing, respirating, digesting, locomoting, relating.
some nights i come home more ghost than girl, wondering how i got from fifteen and commanding unicorns in textbook margins to here. 2013 and i am a fuckin space agent, powered by little white pills, black coffee and the curious antics of a malfunctioning pituitary. i am a few hundred album pages of adventure, hundreds more in lessons unlearnt, an entire chapter on poor emotional investments, but not a single paragraph on regret.
because, like i always say - and i have been saying this more often of late - you cant blame the fairytale; blame only the fool who believes. still, better a happy fool than a never-was under a tombstone that reads ‘returned unopened’.
friends would say i subscribe to fairytales more than i do reality, but i’m not always after the strange and new. quite often i retrace my steps looking for reassuring familiarity - maybe the smells of a favourite street or a bump in the pavement, or the voice of a particular hawker - because things change so fast in my world that i am sometimes desperate to know that there is a port to sail home to. most times, there isn’t. people are unreliable. this is an immutable truth that the incurable optimist is doomed to forever relearn.
okay, so people make bad ports. build alternative ports. i’ve got a fine one downstairs that comes with a 650cc parallel twin engine and is just five up-shifts away from bugjuice in my eyelashes. trees, trees with low-hanging branches and no red ant colonies also make good ports.
the last time i made a port out of food, it ended in comic tragedy. i ate terrifying amounts of pumpkin until my skin turned orange and i became one epic-lunchtime shy of liver failure. my doctor put me on expensive supplements and a cold-turkey ban. i had eaten myself into an induced toxicity.
at that time i thought it was pretty sad to be allergic to pumpkin, but i now realise what’s even sadder is learning that you’re the damn pumpkin in someone else’s larder. sucks to be the self-aware pumpkin.
two planets circle the sun, close enough to be warmed, distant enough to escape incineration. only one erupted into a cacophony of life. as it stands, the odds are 50-50, flip of a coin, heaven and hell. good enough for any fool gambler.
(it’s alot easier than hiding a kitten, or a motorcycle)
1) create distractions. toss your dog balls of tissue paper as you get in the front door, so mom has to deal with the shredding frenzy while you hobble quick as beans to your bedroom.
2) lean against walls and mumble thoughtfully when caught in mid-hobble to the bathroom; affect distracted grumpiness.
3) if caught exiting bathroom, complain about having pins and needles from an epic shit.
4) if caught awkwardly elevating foot, explain about yoga.
5) muffle your whimpers.
6) lots of aleve and some vodka to mute feelings to a functional level.
7) try to sleep, despite being pathetically thwarted by hindsight-ish thoughts that you should have just brought yourself to the doctor’s after the only person you asked for help told you to ‘call after 6pm’. that, and the pain in your bloody foot.
drawings for april’s issue of August Man magazine, singapore. pleased to work with an art director who gave me a fair bit of freeplay on style and color.