Teacher, writer, social ecologist.
I work in transformative learning, exploring what it means to be human in the 21st century. With a special focus on nature, place and children, this work has led me into arenas with all ages now. Creating an indigenous home-brew of contextual learning, dialogue, ecology in place, arts and cultures, mythology and consciousness.
Being on earth, and in South Africa specifically, holds tensions and contradictions that challenge every platitude, derivative and regurgitation. It is these edges that seem worthy in finding our ancient mythic ground. In quiet, often unseen, places lurk wisps of wisdom and tendrils of depth, time and space.
I’m interested in that.
I grew up in Tshwane, South Africa, daughter of an entomologist with a special focus on biological control, and mother who worked raising her five children - later in life becoming a gifted hospice worker and police trauma councillor. One grandfather was a farmer, and the other a medical doctor - renowned for his work on malaria in the Lowveld. Both my grandmothers came to live in South Africa by ship from the United Kingdom - living on farms around Tzaneen in days without electricity, when my mom went to school in a donkey cart. My dad’s greatest joy was being out of school, in the bush with his father.
My mother and father were steeped in simple, natural worlds rapidly diminishing, and they created childhoods for us that were unfettered by convention. My father’s scathing scorn for authority, politicians and multi-national pharmaceutical companies was well entrenched in his children long before we had any idea what a politician was, let alone the ‘rampant greed’ of the MNC’s.
I was raised to read widely and, without much formal structure, discovered worlds of contemplation, transformation, learning through intense joy, and connections with nature. Apartheid-designed, “Christian National Education”, with its de-humanising emphasis on homogeneity, dominance and mind-body-soul numbing exercises of assessment made perfect fodder for my catapult into Montessori education.
Prior to and during the South African transition to democracy, I was immersed for a decade in the first Montessori pre-and primary schools in the country. Studying this system of education in the United States aged 18, and then in Italy at 24, along with the practice of starting non-racial schools, formed the pioneering and rigorous basis of my lifetime work in transformative learning.
In a post-apartheid South Africa, story-telling, dialogue, process facilitation and imagining different futures formed the threads of further work in the transforming public sector in the 1990’s. Working with women in creating beautiful spaces for children to learn in vulnerable, and often violent, communities was the pathway we chose to implement a Montessori approach.
From 1998, my family and I moved from Johannesburg to Stellenbosch. I fell in love with a tiny place, not even on the map, called Lynedoch. Over the next nearly two decades, I co-founded Lynedoch EcoVillage (the first mixed income ecovillage in South Africa), Lynedoch Development (a non-profit property development company) and the Sustainability Institute. It’s on Google Maps now. In this time I completed an MA in Management Learning at Lancaster University, UK. My thesis was called You Teach Who You Are, and part of it covered leadership for sustainable futures.
As an extra-ordinary lecturer at Stellenbosch University, I co-created a masters’ level programme in Sustainable Development, taught at the Sustainability Institute. My own post graduate teaching focuses on sustainability, leadership and environmental ethics, facilitation for just transitions and complexity. I know there is no such thing as sustainable development - but it’s the name we thought of at the time, and now it’s a bit stuck. I love the challenge of teaching and supervising in an arena in which the students often point out there is no hope. Only there is.
I co-authored Just Transitions: explorations of sustainability in an unfair world (2012).
Over the last couple of years, my journey has cascaded sensibilities through radical shifts. Immersive learning on Becoming Indigenous in the 21st century at Schumacher College in Devon, England has brought me into hitherto undiscovered realms of knowing, being and seeing. As participant, facilitator and teacher, I am finding compelling the stories of Southern African, Native American, Amazon and mythological traditions. With master teachers, I am also discovering the deepest roots in ancient myths and traditions that seem to resonate in our massive planetary upheavals.
Drawn by my work in ‘becoming invisible’, I am teaching and facilitating the MA in Ecology and Spirituality at Schumacher College. Teaching on the Stellenbosch University post-graduate diploma held at the Sustainability Institute has formed the basis for emerging work.
My two amazing sons have taught me loving, learning and laughing - with a wonderful godson in tow. I love cooking, people who like eating, gardens, being in the wild and walking very far.