About VaL Smit
VaL Smit is a South African artist and poet based in Cape Town. She writes ekphrastic poetry per artwork created and uses various media in portraying images that she feels fitting to deliver the message of the words she pens down.
She focuses on the inner turmoil experienced by our disconnectedness from ourselves, nature and each other. Her work has been published in various online international journals including GloMag India, The Chachalaka Review, The West Review, The Raconteur Review, Literary Garland, The Valiant Scribe and Missisippi Books.
Recent anthology publications include:
Insulatus: An Anthology of Modern English Poetry (Amazon)
CYAN: An Anthology of Confessional Poetry (Amazon)
‘The leaves fall’, The Red Penguin Collection (2021)
‘The Sacred Feminine’, Open Skies Poetry Collection (2021)
Quintessence, Soul Poet Society (Amazon)
VALIANT SCRIBE, NY https://www.valiantscribe.com/showcase
“As a Visual Artist and Poet, the goal of my artwork is to find existential meaning in the most mundane: A walk in the park, shattering winter winds, spring at its most magnificent moment, flowers and smells, all creating poetical imagery smoothly transferring the audience into another world.
My artistic practice questions the ambivalence that I experience between the connection and disconnection of humankind and nature. It is in this state of questioning, of feeling vulnerable and exposed, that I explore the comfortable and the awkward, the controlled and uncontrolled, the familiar and the mundane. It is at the meeting point of these dualities, where the pairings slip and merge, that I situate my work.”
What inspires you to write?
I try to find existential meaning in the most mundane. A social encounter, political events and activism are some of the happenings that inspire me. It might also be the power of a single word or the context in which it was spoken.
I am a bit of a barefoot philosopher, who constantly questions happenings. It is in this constant state of questioning and contemplation, where my inspiration originates.
“I have learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.” – Khalil Gibran
How did you come to find Ekphrastic poetry as your medium for writing?
I found that humanity needs constant visual stimuli to come to a standstill… to listen and hear, but also look and see. Ekphrastic poetry enables me to stimulate both visually and with the written word.
The goal of my work is to create awareness for the lack of critical thinking and reflection needed to free humanity from the shackles of control. I believe we have lost the ability to think critically, reflect soundly and control our own thought processes which is largely controlled by historic societal values, media, and most importantly political, economic and “social influencers”.
“If indeed you must be candid, be candid beautifully.” – Khalil Gibran
What is your process for creation?
I have no defined process in creating any piece. Most of the time the poetry is written first and whilst in process, I contemplate a visual that I feel will be fitting to portray the words I have penned down.
Since all my work are metaphoric, and based on Creation as example, symbolism in visual pieces are always portrayed by natural elements like leaves, trees, flowers, seeds or just plainly the human form.
I choose to largely use pencil as medium for my sketches to create the almost pointillistic end result on highly textured paper. Other media creates definitive lines, which I choose to steer away from since images are ‘shaded’ and not sketched as such.
In my poetry, comparisons are constantly drawn between seasons, fog and trees as a means to portray human perceptions. I often draw comparisons between natural elements or occurrences and our perceptions, acknowledgement and awareness of mental illness, the entitlement of our young generations, poverty in third world countries and other social issues that lie close to my heart.
What is the source of your ideas?
I have quite a large portfolio of classic portraiture photography, which I use as reference material for the creation of visual pieces. Natural elements for inspiration are found daily whilst gardening, spending time in nature or from simple life experiences and reflections.
How does your work intersect with the social issues of today?
I use my art and poetry in activism for the various social causes I advocate for. These include literacy, mental illness, gender based violence, woman’s rights, LGBTQ and hunger.
Living in a largely patriarchal, conservative and traditional society (RSA), I find it quite difficult as a non-conformist, progressive, liberal thinker to fit in. I have an exceptionally inquisitive mind and am constantly researching material to assist in my own processes of critical thinking.
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Nietzsche
I believe that most, if not all, of the social issues we face as humanity were created by humanity, because we lost the ability to connect with ourselves, each other and creation. We have covered ourselves with so many protective layers of dirt that we no longer pause and wonder at a fellow human’s strange story, their struggle or their soul. The shackles of control so strongly enforced by us can only be broken once we have re-established this basis.
I believe in the power of literacy. I am involved in various literacy projects where I strive to promote literacy in a country where manipulation on both political and economic level is rife. Once literacy is established, informed decisions based on critical thinking is far more feasible and manipulation becomes a part of history. I believe that literacy is a right and not a privilege.
To enable me to accommodate various literacy projects and feeding schemes, I have founded ballad. Literacy Foundation in 2021, who acts as custodian for various unregistered community initiatives.
“One day you will ask me which is more important? My life or yours? I will say mine and you will walk away not knowing that you are my life.” Khalil Gibran