The mad adventures of a man who doesn’t exist

2014-10-08 12:23

Tuesday. The Croc and I are sweating buckets. Again. This time around, it’s not because we’re waiting for 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 we head for some shade.

We take refuge 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 – which is a great antidote to the Zululand heat all by itself.

We hit the George verandah. 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. Engblom’s a master forger, artist (blag and otherwise) of distinction, who lives and works at the George when he’s not having adventures and making art in Goa.

Engblom’s totally transformed the George. Every possible space is occupied with his crazed – but logical – Photoshop art, which tells the tale of the travels of his alter ego, the legendary Dr Mpunzi Shezi, The Man Who Knows. Shezi, a traditional healer from the Eshowe area, started his travels in Japan in the early 1900s with Engblom’s Zulu Sushi project.

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’s 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 the 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 Puducherry 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.

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