I was asked by Alexander's Band and Design Indaba to participate in an exhibition inspired by african fables and folklore. This exhibition was displayed at Design Indaba 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa.
The story i chose to illustrate was "The Flying Dutchman".
Captain Hendrik van der Decken stood arrogantly on the high deck at the stern of ‘the Flying Dutchman.
The crew feared him. He was a cruel lion of a man: his long hair flowed out from under his three-cornered hat like a tawny mane, and his eyes had the hard, cold glare of the king of beasts. He worked his crew
mercilessly, but the pay they earned was good.
No captain in the Dutch trading fleet could deliver a cargo more swiftly, whatever the weather. He would chain and padlock the ropes controlling the sails his crew from lowering any of the sails, however fiercely the storm howled. Any passengers were locked below the decks While he chased the hurricanes to speed his ship. So his cargoes travelled fast and fetched good prices — in Amsterdam, in the East Indies,
and in Table Bay.
The Flying Dutchman was of unusual design. She was heavily built and curiously curved at the bow to cut the water more cleanly. Heavy square sails overlapped on each mast. Eight brass cannon guarded her
yellow-topped hull with its black sides below. Many a time had she fought her way round the Cape,
with full sail set on her three tall masts.
Van der Deeken watched the cargo going ashore to please the good burgers of Cape Town. Spices from Batavia to liven their cooking, silks from Cathay to adorn their ladies, planks of satinwood and bulks of ivory. He fretted and cursed at the time it took. He was only happy out at sea, proving himself the master of Wind and water. Above him, the bulk of Table Mountain swirled with cloud. Van der Deeken laughed. The storm giant, Adamastor, had long been his foe. Already the bay looked angry and the waves were threatening. The Flying Dutchman rolled restlessly as his seamen sweated. Van der Decken had given his ship the same sense of urgency. ‘Close the hatches!’ he yelled suddenly. ‘Let loose! Man the yards! Helmsmen, we sail!’ ‘But there’s a storm brewing,’ pleaded the mate. Tomorrow’s Easter,’ said another.
‘Let them keep Easter in church!’ roared Van der Decken. ‘We sail, storm or no storm!’ So the frightened seamen climbed high on the swaying masts to set full sail as their captain demanded. The ship plunged its fore-deck repeatedly into the beating sea. Even Van der Decken had an uneasy feeling that this was a storm beyond any he had faced before. But that was even more reason to defeat it.
A sail split with a crack and fragments whipped away in the ferocious wind. Water flooded the decks. For hours, then days, they fought to round the Cape of Storms but the wind and waves threw his ship back every time. His crew begged him, this once, to run before the storm to save their lives. One seaman dared to kneel before him and pray for mercy. Van der Decken seized the man and with a string of fearful oaths he hurled him into the sea. Then he lashed himself to the wheel to prevent being washed overboard and headed the Flying Dutchman back into the hurricane.
‘Never!’ ranted Van der Decken, Wild With a spirit of madness. ‘Nor man nor giant not God himself will make me change my mind. I’ll round the Cape if I sail till the Day of Doom.’ Then, in an instant, the wind died down. A shaft of hard white light lit up the deck. A ghostly figure suddenly appeared and the men shielded their eyes in fear. Was it the storm giant, Adamastor? Or was it actually God Himself?
Even Captain van der Decken was scared for a moment. Then he pulled a pistol from his belt and fired at the figure. It was a foolish thing to do. His arm fell by his side, withered and useless. The foremast snapped and crashed to the deck. A voice louder than the storm had been, proclaimed, ‘You have named your own fate. You shall indeed sail these seas until the Day of Doom’.
Lightning crackled. The sails shuddered. The ship glowed blood-red. His crew lay round him, every man dead. Van der Decken stared, the flesh melted off their bones leaving only whitened skeletons on the deck. No longer a mortal man, Captain van der Decken sailed into the darkening storm.
So, as legend has it, from that day onwards, the Flying Dutchman has sailed Adamastor’s stormy seas, forever trying to round the Cape of Good Hope but doomed never to succeed. Many ships, through the years, have claimed to have seen the ghost vessel. A red glow in the sea mist is the first sign, they say. Next comes the phantom shape of an old three-masted ship With full sails set. Some say they have heard the anchor chains rattling, and a boat being rowed across the water. 'Letters’, a desperate voice cries, ‘for our families in Amsterdam’. But woe betide any ship that dares linger to take these ghostly messages, for their ship is
bound to meet with disaster!
The most famous person to be linked With this legend was a midshipman aboard HMS Bacclaante named George — then Prince of Wales, later to be King George V. He wrote in his diary, ‘July 1 1, 1881. At four am. the Flying Dutchman crossed our bows’. The ship’s log recorded, ‘She first appeared 15 a strange red light, as of a ship all aglow, in the midst of which light her masts, spars and sails stood out in strong relief as she came up’. When the Bacclaante reached the spot some two hundred metres away, there was no sign of any ship. The sea was empty to the far horizon. In the early morning, the logbook said, ‘the sea was strangely calm.’ Later that morning, the seaman who had first reported he phantom vessel fell screaming from the crow’s nest at the top of the mast and was killed instantly. It seemed that the Flying Dutchman had claimed another member for her ghostly crew.
In 1959 hundreds of people on the beach in False Bay swore that they saw an old-fashioned sailing ship heading towards Muizenberg. It was puzzling, for there was no Wind. Just as it seemed that the ship would run into the breakers at Strandfontein, it vanished.
Many that day were convinced that they, too, had sighted the Flying Dutchman.
... And here are photos from the event.