Graham Leslie McCallum

The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man

SADF – Military Service – through the eyes and pencil of an 18 year old – 2. Self Portraits


My Eye, Graham Leslie McCallum

Self Portrait, Troop 82603549 BG, Rundu, Kavangoland, 12 January 1985, SADF, Military

As a rather reflective person, I felt compelled several times to record my appearance during my two year military service. These were not done in any sense of vanity, but were attempts to make contact with myself. This came about one day during the later stages of my basic training. I had stumbled exhausted and sweaty into the barrack bathrooms after some vigorous training, and after splashing my face with cool water, looked up suddenly into the mirror above the basin. As I looked deeply into my grey-blue eyes, I was startled by my appearance. The crazy mayhem of the past 7 months training had subtracted me so far from myself that it felt as if I gazed upon a stranger.

One of the first was this drawing (above) that I executed just before I turned 18 years old on my first trip to the South West Africa/ now Namibia and the Angolan border on the 12th of January 1985. I had taken a small vanity mirror with me to the border, thus allowing me to do the self-portrait. This mirror was a very popular item with the rest of my mates who wanted to check-out their teenage zits and developing tans. Evidently no one else had thought of the necessity of bringing a mirror, and it was eventually broken, much to my chagrin. You can see just the merest suggestion of whiskers on my top lip. When we arrived at Rundu we were given permission to grow our first mustaches. We all made enthusiastic starts, with varying degrees of success of course. Evident in this drawing is my unruly cow’s lick. Now 29 years later, my hair has receded a little beyond the lick. Now, looking at these images, in a strange double reflection  – I realise I was only a child. I understand why I was repeatedly pulled over by the traffic police when I returned to civilian life. I had to prove that I was old enough to drive a vehicle.

Self Portrait with Moustache, Rifleman 82603549 BG,  Opuwo, Kaokoland, 23 May 1985, Military

A more relaxed-looking Self-Portrait with Moustache. This pencil sketch was executed at the Opuwo Base, Kaokoland, South West Africa, on the 23 May 1985. This was my 2nd border trip and I had just about managed to grow a passable moustache, probably exaggerated in this drawing. The army with all its multitudinous rules forbade us from growing any whiskers past the sides of our faces. How they ever thought we soft-cheeked boys could ever accomplish this is surprising. Rules were somewhat relaxed up on the border and this explains my lower-lip thing. I had to shave it off when the base’s RSM who we called disparagingly ‘South Wester’ caught sight of it. So named, as he was a member of the South West African Forces and because he was squint and his eyes looked in two directions.

Self Portrait, Opuwo, Kaokoland, SADF, Military

Self Portrait using Ink wash and brush. Executed at Opuwo, Kaokoland, South West Africa. SADF.

Self Portrait in Darkness, SADF, Military

A ‘Self-portrait in Darkness’, that was drawn with my eyes closed as an experiment. Fresh out of the Pretoria School of Art, Ballet and Music, all things creative caught my attention.

'Patience' Rundu, Kavangoland, 4 January 1985, SADF, Military

A sketch of myself by myself playing the card game ‘Patience’ in the ‘aapkas’ (observation tower) at the Rundu Base Mortar pits. We had numerous tedious hours to kill on the Border, especially while on guard duty. Rundu, Kavangoland, 4 January 1985.

Study of my hand and spectacles, Rundu, Kavangoland, 4 January 1985, Military 80

A Study of my Hand holding Spectacles, Rundu, Kavangoland, South West Africa, 4 January 1985. There is something very personal about one’s hands, almost as personal and telling as one’s face. I drew this while on guard duty in the ‘aapkas’ in an attempt to ward off the long hours of boredom.

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