The mad adventures of a man who does not exist
Tuesday. The Croc and I are sweating buckets. Again. This time around, it’s not because we’re waiting for the Commander in Chief. Or His Majesty.
We’re on a common or garden mission in Zululand to make new enemies. The heat is scorching. The air is parched. There’s hardly any oxygen and the effects of the drought in the area – and another wastrel weekend – aren’t helping. By about 3pm, we’ve had enough and head for some shade.
We take cover at the George Hotel in Eshowe. The George has lots of shade. And the Zulu Blonde, a pretty damned fine beer brewed on site, is a great antidote to the Zululand heat all by itself. We hit the veranda. The shade is so cool it tastes like a long, cold glass of water. It’s bangin’.
Richard Chennells, the man behind the Zulu Blonde, is lurking on a couch, ducking the heat. Next to him is Peter Engblom. Engblom’s a mad bastard, a master forger and artist of distinction who lives and works at The George when he’s not having adventures and making art in Goa, India.
Engblom has transformed the hotel. Every possible space is occupied with his Photoshop art, which tells the tale of the travels of his alter ego, the legendary Dr Mpunzi Shezi.
Shezi is the inventor of rocket mail, among other things, and a mahogany and brass vibrator with pounding and rotary movement with which the ladies of the Eshowe district had their “hysteria” treated. Like I say, Engblom’s a mad bastard. One thing leads to another and we end up in Engblom’s studio under the bar at the back of The George. The space is as mad as its occupant. There are boxes of rubber stamps, matchbox covers, postcards and official documents with which Engblom authenticates the detail of Shezi’s fantasy world. There are piles of old doors and windows with which Engblom frames his work.
Engblom’s on song. He’s regaling us with tales of Dr Shezi, who’s on his way back to Goa with Engblom next week. The Croc’s in stitches.
Engblom’s also preparing five pieces from his latest Shezi range, Zooloo Vindaloo, for an exhibition in Reunion. Engblom’s rummaging through the boxes, selecting Pondicherry stamps, postcards and the like to establish the links between the former French colony and Dr Shezi, the inventor of rocket powder.
In minutes, Engblom’s worked his magic, creating completely convincing evidence of something that never was.
The incredible adventures of a nonexistent man are taking place right before our eyes.
Commander in Chief:
President Jacob Zuma
King Goodwill Zwelithini
A beer brewed in Eshowe, KwaZuluNatal