The Fyvie postcard project

The Fyvie postcard project is a collaborative work, drawing on the memories of people who knew the Fyvies of Fyvie Farm, Estcourt: Temple Lascelles and Alice Isabel Fyvie, and their eleven children. I created postcards for each member of this family and asked anyone who had a memory of them to record it on the back of the applicable postcard, to be posted back to me. There were several reasons for choosing postcards: firstly, I wanted a medium that was also visual (as I hope they will eventually form part of an art exhibition); secondly, I hoped the limited space would put less pressure on participants who might otherwise feel they had to write down lengthy memories; finally, many of the old photographs from collection from which the postcards were taken, were themselves printed as postcards – a practice which seemed to be much more common then than it is now.

To read memories of the farm and family, use the images below

Having attempted an impartial introduction, I must confess to having a vested interest in the project, for Fyvie Farm was an enduring and intimate part of my childhood. One of my earliest memories is of arriving at the farm after we left Zimbabwe for South Africa in 1980, and waiting on the back verandah in the afternoon sun as our boxes of belongings were unpacked onto the back lawn. I also remember walking through the house for the first time, through the lounge, which had long heavy curtains hiding the doors that opened out onto the front verandah, the tennis court, and the view over the dam, so that the room was almost dark, in spite of it still being light outside. I remember the day we started packing to leave the farm, nearly ten years later; the many journeys (with tractor and trailer, under a very clear winter sky) that we made with our belongings between the farm and my grandmother's home, and the very last trip, late at night when the farmhouse was finally empty, to fetch my cats. Tabs and Jenny, who have also written their memories of Fyvie, might remember how many times I had to go back to fetch those cats, who evidently preferred Fyvie to their new home!

Perhaps I am drawn to this project because the farm, which was so familiar to me, also forms a backdrop to the many Fyvie snapshots which date back to the beginning of the last century. These old photographs, which survived the intervening years in the attic in leather suitcases, span the decades during which the Fyvie children were growing up, and provide a disjointed narrative including fancy dress, tennis, weddings, cattle, and farming documentary. I have often wondered who the person behind the camera was, and will in all likelihood never know. While my grandmother (and youngest of the family) was still alive, I often discussed the photographs with her, but seldom recorded our conversations. With hindsight, I wish I had. Photographs give the illusions of preserving history, when in fact they preserve nothing more than an image. It is the stories and memories behind the photographs that give them their meaning. I hope this project will capture some of those stories.

Thank you to everyone who has taken part - I am so grateful for the time taken to write on the postcards and return them. This project would have been nothing without you!