The side of the road
L’mri Erasmus, artist, illustrator and photographer doesn’t see herself fitting into the norm. The white picket fence? A dog and a steady job? She drives away from it. A documenter at heart she prefers life at the side of the road looking in on the world.
“I’d rather jump in a car knowing it’s general direction than worrying about why we’re going or exactly where I’m going to end up. What’s the best part of a road trip? It’s not arriving at your destination (in fact there’s always some sense of melancholy in that) but the experiences and and people you meet along the way.”
Confidence in choosing this way of life hasn’t come easy. For years she has questioned herself and her art.
“There is so much I want to do, but so often I have felt that I am behind in my life compared to classmates and peers. But then again I’ve experienced so much that has led me to a trajectory that’s very much against the norm. And I’m at a place where I can appreciate that aspect of my life now.
Someone, I can’t remember who she was, said ‘if you’re not in the arena playing the game or fighting a fight, you don’t have the right to an opinion’. So that’s what I’m focusing on now, trying to live life on my own terms.”
Coming out of high school her family went through a financial crisis which led L’mri to put her life momentarily on hold to take on multiple jobs while most of her friends left for university and care-free lives.
“Those years influenced me as a person. For such a long time in my life I was just chasing money. I was obsessed with building a financial stockpile just for the peace of mind that if something were to happen, I’d be taken care of, or be able to take care of my family.
Now I’m starting to step out of that cycle. I got to the point where I also needed my voice heard. Maybe that’s why I like stories from people on the side of the road. I know how it feels not to be heard.”
L’mri’s next big creative project is to create a documentary series telling the stories of people at the sidelines of society.
“It’s one of the things that I find most incredible. There are the most fantastical people out here in the world that you find every day. But people tend not to see that, they just walk past. No one really listens to them or engages with them. But these people have crazy stories and crazy dreams, and if you just gave the time to listen an entire new world will open up to you.”
On a recent cross-country road trip she met a man working in a farm stall in the middle of nowhere. As she started talking to the man he opened up about the great passion in his life, his meat smoker in his backyard.
“He talked for hours about it, and according to him it’s the only smoker in the country (which is not true). But there was something beautiful seeing him standing tall and proud next to this thing that makes him so happy.
I love the small stories. Not all of us have epic stories that end up as autobiographies or movies, but those stories are still very much worth telling.”
L’mri is currently on a month-long road trip exploring the vast landscapes of Australia, before she will head to Norway to see the Aurora Borealis. When she comes back to Johannesburg she will continue working as a freelance illustrator and photographer (hopefully hosting her first solo exhibition this year) while giving free yoga classes in her local park (yes she is certified).
Her passion project is to document the lives and stories of the small, nearly forgotten community of Orkney. Surrounded by some of the richest gold mines in the country, the town is a stark comparison between the super-rich with vacation houses sitting on the Vaal River, and extreme poverty. What are the stories of the people who find themselves on the forgotten side of town?