CityLife Arts

Tribute to Treasure Louw, a friend and passionate photographer

By Edward Tsumele

I remember very well the day. It was December 1999, during the festive season when I went to Kippies Jazz Club in Newtown, one of several occasions when I used to go there to watch jazz performances. It was mainly my job to attend music shows and write reviews for my employers then, Sowetan. But this time around, I was not on any assignment, but had gone there to enjoy myself, watching respected trombonist Jonas Gwangwa with his band enthrall a captive cosmopolitan mix of audiences in attendance. Some were from the townships, others from the suburbs of Johannesburg, and yet others were from around  Johannesburg inner city and its flatlands. I lived in Yeoville at the time.

It is then when I found myself on the dance floor, joining several others already on the dance floor, who like me, thought that they had something to share with the audience on that evening, when it comes to dance moves. One person in the audience appeared actually impressed by my dance moves.At least that is what I thought.  

It could simply be that she was rather amused by my fumbling theatrics and clowning instead of actual good dance moves. To me it did not matter as I had got the attention of one person, and therefore I invited her to join me on the dance floor, which she obliged. I was delighted as together we danced the night away. It is during those dance sessions that I got to know that not only was she a marketer for a JSE listed company, but that she loved photography too. Being an arts journalist, I was more interested in the later than the former.

It is the later that brought us closer in fact, for sooner after that fateful evening, we started working together whenever she had time from her day job as a marketing manager at this beverage company in Edenvale. She would be my photographer at some of the most interesting events on the entertainment calendar in the country, such as jazz festivals, concerts, theatrical productions, Grahamstown Arts festival, during interviews with artists, and even at music awards ceremonies such as the Kora All Africa Music Awards and the South African Music Awards at Sun City.

From that Kippies dance floor, that friendship between a black young and energetic arts journalist, and a middle class white corporate executive and-novice photographer, cemented by common interest of telling stories about the country’s culture and artists, instantly became so solid that six months later, we had individually saved enough money for a trip to Europe.  We aimed to document  life there during that trip,  investigating the differences in lifestyle and culture between Europe and back home.  

From Left: Journalist Edward Tsumele filing an article in an Amsterdam pub 21 years ago. Edward Tsumele in a London restaurant in 2000 taking a call from a journalist from South Africa. Pictures By Treasure Louw.

After that trip, we became friends for years, checking on each other from time to time It was however the adventure filled trip to Europe that remained memorable for both of us over the years after. After all we had together  documented life there during the trip, I writing while she took pictures. We worked great together.

That trip that took us to Amsterdam, London, and Paris, was in fact the first trip to Europe for both of us. We partied and worked, she taking pictures while I wrote about life there in bars, in Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops, in the streets as well as in theatres of these European cities. It was during this trip that we managed to score tickets to watch The Lion King at Lyceum Theatre in London in 2000. The crowning was when Treasure Louw and I had an opportunity to interview South African artists who were part of that London cast during that trip.

Edward Tsumele in an Amsterdam Coffee Shop  in 2000 while on a European tour. Picture By Treasure Louw

In Paris, we both enjoyed the pavement café culture that we witnessed there. We explored the city, savouring its culture, including going to its clubs and dancing a storm to live music there.

 It was also during this trip when Treasure, who was more attuned to rock music than I, insisted that we needed to visit Jim Morrison’s grave at the famous Père Lachaise, to which I obliged and I found myself having pictures taken of me by Treasure at Morrison’s grave, one of the most visited graves at this famous cemetery. The cemetery attracts more than 3 million visitors annually from all over the world, some coming with flowers to put on the grave. We witnessed the spectacle and interest around Jim Morrison’s grave in person at Père Lachaise cemetery.

Père Lachaise cemetery, which was established by Napoleon in 1804, three days after being declared Emperor by the Senate, is often referenced in French culture and has been included in various films, literary works, video games and songs. A number of English-language works also make reference to the cemetery.

A touirist placing flowers at Jim Morrison’s grave at in France in 2000. Picture By Treasure Louw

Today the cemetery boasts of 1 million people buried there, among whom are Jean de La Fontaine and Moliere. Molière, original name Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, (baptized January 15, 1622, Paris, France—died February 17, 1673, Paris). was a French actor and playwright, the greatest of all writers of French comedy, while Jean de La Fontaine, former Professor of French, University of Leicester, England, (born July 8, 1621, Château-Thierry, France—died April 13, 1695, Paris), was a poet whose fables rank among the greatest masterpieces of French literature.

At all times, whether we were in a smoky club in Camden frequented by mainly British –Jamaicans, or walking in the streets of Amsterdam, Treasure always had her trusted camera ready to snap a picture. I have met only a few people who liked documenting life photographically in my whole life, like Treasure did.

By the time we landed back home at OR Tambo International Airport on a KLM flight via The Netherlands, after this trip, both of us were contented that broke as we were, it was a trip worth it.

Throughout the years from that time until her passing on December 30, 2020, we remained solid friends and kept in touch. In fact two weeks ago she tried to get in touch with me through video call, but technology being technology, we could not hear each other and eventually abandoned the exercise in despair.

Ill as she was, Treasure was always her energetic self and was always selfless in her approach to life, always going out of her way to help others and network people. In fact on December 12, 2020, she had contacted me to compliment my team and I for the work we are doing at CITYLIFE/ARTS.  She was one of the staunchest readers of CITYLIFE/ARTS. In fact she had gotten us in touch with new author career development facilitator Lorraine J. Silvreman, whose book is about the plight of pet animals, such as dogs during lockdown. We ran the article in CITYLIFE/ARTS about the book entitled Savros and the Great Lockdown Negotiations, in December , 2020 in citylifearts.co.za.

This affinity to connect people and go out of her way in the process, was in fact her second nature. I remember in 2016, when she asked me to visit her at her home in Bryanston so that she could introduce me to a highly talented homeless artist Thabiso ‘Congo’ Lesejane, that she tried  to rehabilitate, by giving him shelter, buying material for him to paint and organize him an exhibition. Although I had known for years that she was sickly as she had a terminal illness and walked with the help of crutches, Treasure being Treasure, she was her energetic self and retold stories about our exploits while traveling in Europe 21 years ago.  She told me that she had no regret about what we had done.

Treasure Louw helping homeless artist Thabiso ‘Congo’ Lesejane in 2016 at her home in Brynston. Picture By Giyani Baloi

She remembered every detail, even though the nature of her illness affected her memory immensely. I have since been at her home a number of times since then to check on her progress both personally as well as her business initiatives as she was a founder of a Non Profit organization called Institute for Corporate Social Development, that published a pretty good magazine called Corporate Social Review that profiled companies ‘corporate social reponsbility activities. Each time, I went there she always expressed the wish that we would work together again on some of her projects. But unfortunately being busy myself, I could not work with her.

 However Treasure in recent years had asked me to mentor her last born child, daughter Danushka Louw, a  hugely promising young photographer and writer, whose work we have featured in CITYLIFE/ARTS previously. 

The passing of Treasure means that many people, me, included, have lost a friend, and in today’s times there are few people with a big a heart like her. When I was informed about the news of her demise, like many others who were close to her, I felt hurt.

Treasure leaves behind two sons, Mark Froy and Jean-Claude ‘Mpho’ Renaud Louw, and her last born child, daughter Danushka  Louw.  Condolences to them.

 

Treasure, may your soul rest in eternal peace on the other side of life

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