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Stipatio Art exhibition

Making art in South Africa may not seem the typical next step for a Parisian wine taster, but not much about Nadia Zéphinié's life has been typical. Hailing from the southwest of France, Zena, as she is known, is part of a French gypsy tribe called the Manouche. 'We are nomadic and carefree, with a different view of the world from people who grow up in houses,' she told HL. 'A sedentary person doesn't love every day the way we do. A sedentary person lives between four walls and takes life quite seriously. We wake up and look at the horizon. It reminds us that life is ephemeral and it can be taken away at any moment. So we have a lot of camp fires and parties. We like to make the best of life while we can.' It is perhaps this idealism and carefree sense of adventure that led Zena to move to South Africa four years ago. Here, she has found a new life, and a new passion: art. While Zena never studied art, she does come from a long line of self-taught artists. 'My great uncle was a famous guitarist, Django Reinhardt, my cousin Flo is a painter and her father, Gerard, is an inventor. But we  all picked up what we know as we went along.' Zena's artistic journey began about a year ago, when at the last minute she changed the focus of a photo and ended up with an intriguing image which played with light and colour. 'One day last year, I was on holiday in Madagascar, when I changed my mind about a picture just as I was taking it. I call that picture "my first mistake": it shows a lemur forest disappearing into a whirlwind!' The 'mistake' resulted in Zena's self-study of altering images with her camera. 'I call the technique Zenagraphique because it marries photography and drawing or painting.' Zena moves the camera in various ways while taking the picture, and she also plays with the settings and lenses. 'Basically, I do everything you are not supposed to do with a camera,' she told us, adding that strangers often approach her and tell her she'll get better results if she keeps the camera still! 'I just thank them for the advice and carry on.' Zena takes a lot of her pictures in Kirstenbosch gardens, but has also travelled the country extensively, in her beloved camper van, Franco. 'My camper travels have allowed me to discover the beauty of South Africa, especially the vegetation and landscapes of the Eastern and Western Capes.' The last year has seen a great creative journey for Zena, who will be displaying her art at an exhibition in the Alliance Française. The show is called Stipatio, which is a Latin word meaning crowd and environment. 'The Western Cape is brimming with biodiversity,' says Zena. 'There are varieties of plants here that have not even been given names yet by scientists. At the same time, climate change threatens them with extinction. I am no scholar but I hope to contribute to making people care about the environment.' With the images in Stipatio Zena therefore asks the question: what would the world look like if the Earth stopped turning? 'My answer is that everything on the Earth would start spinning, and you find that movement in Stipatio.' Stipatio will exhibit at the Alliance Française, 155 Loop St, Cape Town, from 4-29 June. If you would like to attend the opening, at 5.30pm on Monday, please text Zena on 072-866-4797. To view more of Zena's art, visit her website at zenagraphique.com. Text: Roberta Coci