Shades of green

In this series, some of our most able designers, art directors and illustrators drop thought-provoking image bombs.

First Published in

In today's world, the notion of Green has, for obvious reasons, come to be associated with environmental consciousness and attempts to save the ecosystems - on which we all depend - from our own destructive and rapacious ways. Green has thus evolved into an umbrella term that has come to mean 'eco' anything - recycling, carbon reduction, organic principles, permaculture…

But Green also has many earlier connotations that are still more or less in use. There's the greenness of jealousy, immaturity, and biliousness. Then there are the odd-coloured super heroes, crack commandos, expert gardeners, eat-three-a-day veggies, pervasive dollar bills, and even, the surface upon which golf is played. And so on.

These older terms are bound to be overwhelmed and replaced, as the green movement gains inevitable momentum. But before they become subsumed by the necessity of saving the planet, we wanted to preserve these notions of Green themselves.

By looking at the ways in which the meaning of Green has changed, and is changing, we hope to herald a future in which caring for the earth is no longer an attitude and activity that is badly in need of converts, but a world where this mindset has long been the prevalent ideology, supported by environmental legislature. Are we being overly optimistic? Unrealistic? Things do change, remember.


Brandt Botes
Senior designer at Jupiter Drawing Room

"The visual and the title should form enough of a narrative. If I have to explain the illustration, then it would defeat the object of the exercise, no? Green would have been too expected. I also like the absoluteness of black and white - a political cause with strong ideas and motives."

Green Fingers

Toby Newsome

"Pruning must be painful. This illustration pokes fun at someone with 'green fingers' trying to create a beautiful display, and in so doing, 'hurting' that which he/she loves. Also, green extremists need to chop off unsightly branches to leave well-manicured holes of love and wellbeing."

Green Behind the Ears

Kim Longhurst
Independent illustrator

"'Because of you everything is new again' has a dual meaning. No matter how old you are or how much you have accomplished in your professional life, no matter how many books you have read or classes you have been to where you pretend to breast-feed plastic dolls, or the advice countless complete strangers give you in the queue at the Spar, you are never as green behind the ears as the day the nurse puts your newborn in your car seat and waves you on your way. You get home with your precious bundle and suddenly realise that you know absolutely nothing. The most beautiful gift that your baby gives to you is so simple, because each experience is a first for them, all their senses are untested. Because absolutely everything is new to them, you get to see everything again as if you had never seen it before. It makes the world a very magical place."

Photosynthesis/Sacred Green Light

Trevallyn Hall
Art director at Net#work BBDO

"Light gives green energy to grow and evolve and be frilly and nice."

My Blood is Green

Rikus Ferreira
Senior designer at King James RSVP

"The work is rooted in the campaign line for the South African Springbok rugby team: 'My Blood is Green.' Since 1994 there has been a huge drive to move SA rugby away from the old racist connotations, but even after 13 years of transformation, these separatist ideals still exist within some circles of rugby supporters. Using the irony of this bizarre campaign line, I want to demonstrate the blinkered and stagnant thinking of some supposedly 'enlightened' people."

For jealousy is the green-eyed monster that doth mock the meat it feeds...

Willeen le Roux
Independent illustrator/designer

The title is from Shakespeare's Othello. "She's trying to keep up with the Jones's, but doesn't see that their's is the polluted world in the background. Although she's sitting in the grass (with allusions to the proverb, 'the grass is always greener on the other side') she's too taken up with jealousy to notice what she's got. She's eating her heart out for nothing."

Green at the Gills

Scott Robertson
Art director/designer at Science

“The concept of not wanting to vomit when our body has other ideas. Pain, nausea, regurgitation, being at the mercy of 'someone' else… I think people should make up their own minds given the theme of the piece.”


Diane Awerbuck

"Most of the things I write about are 'real' (which is not the same as true, I guess), and this happened to a woman I knew, except that she swallowed mole poison and killed herself…There is a pretty straightforward narrative there. It's just hidden a bit. Murky. Greenish."

There is a green curtain that divides the world between the people who don't care what happens next, and the people who want to find out; fortune-tellers in circus tents with futures balanced on the foreheads of elephants.

You stood against the board in your classroom and the chalk motes floated like the little lights of fireflies. The girls sheltered from their futures with green umbrellas, their spines and ribs resilient to prediction.

I knew that you were sick. In your empty classroom you held the cardboard lid of a box, shaking the dead trees with your terror as if sweat would make them bloom again. Your vomit surprised you, the force of it: a clear green stream jetted from the pit of your stomach, arching across the room in a rainbow. You held the box in surprise and then bent over it like a dog who has eaten a toad.

Green you were, in your gown at Vincent Pallotti, green from the medicine like jelly beans. You mumbled about the bath at Kirstenbosch, and the green things that rose from it, dripping. She came for you at 3am, the green ghost of Lady Anne Barnard; she slurped and grinned with the moss between her teeth, and you chose crypt and night and Kryptonite - but not lantern and arrow and dragon and light.

Don't you want to know how it is with us on Earth? Don't you want to know about the boy who called me green, like fruit - hard on the incisors, resistant? How I slammed the car door on his fingers? How I turned him back on his bruises?

Don't you remember the feel of the leaves? How you crouched on your knees in the garden? You planted the palm trees that withstand hurricanes and told your girls of the old green of the monks in their quartered mazes; you were green with gravity, with the envy of prayer.

Home from the hospital I was blind with your colour: I saw in green, like an old TV. The dead rocket ship of the old Planet, and the grass outside the madhouse. Green for the fish jumping fungal in the shallows, and green for the Earth in its satellite photos.

Because it's green for the journey, the to and fro; green for the playing fields seen from the Wynberg train. Green, the fall into perpetual autumn; green, the soft sleep of hibernation and lying low; it's green that keeps the eyes of the monster closed.

Banish me from the attic green of Then; I want the nuclear green of Now. It's green, for the moss on the bathroom tiles; green, on the secret insides of the reactors. I want to see what happens, the being and the beginning, and everything - everything - in between. We will be starting over, me and green. o

About the author

Diane Awerbuck's first novel, Gardening at Night, was awarded the Commonwealth Best First Book Award (African region) in 2004 and was short-listed for the Dublin IMPAC Award in 2005. Awerbuck teaches Narrative and Aesthetics at the Cape Town branch of The South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance (AFDA). She oversees Content Development for Electric Book Works, a small publishing services company. Awerbuck also writes and edits materials for educational publishers. She also works as a freelance journalist and reviewer, mostly for the South African Sunday Times and Rapport. She writes a travel column (The Portable Pilgrim) on Awerbuck is currently at work on a co-operative novel (with Henrietta Rose-Innes, Mary Watson and Lauren Beukes) titled Exquisite Corpse. Her short stories are published regularly in magazines and anthologies.