Carmen Life breathes energy into Essentially Obs pop-up co-op: Green Route

In this week’s Lockdown Life I chat to Carmen Life, one of four women from the neighbourhood who have opened a co-op in Observatory

Carmen Life breathes life into Essentially Obs Co-op in Observatory, Cape Town

By Carmen Life

I am 29 years old and I grew up in Johannesburg. I studied Motion Picture Make-Up at City Varsity and began my journey in the film industry.

I live in Mowbray with 2 housemates and my fur child. He’s an American Staffie who keeps me on my toes, and exercising. 

I moved to Cape Town in 2014 to work on more international jobs. I then moved simultaneously into the costume department; styling and then later fabricating costumes. When I wasn’t working film, I became involved in stage and artwork building for music and art festivals around the world.

I became interested in setting up the co-op shop when the opportunity presented itself during lockdown. I have always had a passion for learning and up-skilling and each of these experiences feeds that. 

 We started Essentially Obs on June 1 when we had just reached Level 3 lockdown and could officially (safely) open our doors.

The owner of the building asked the Observatory community to submit ideas for the space as it had been standing open for a while. Danielle Knox, a Costume Designer that I work with in the film industry sent through our ideas for the space and after a vote by the community, we came out on top and were given the go ahead.

Pre-lockdown, I had literally just wrapped on a series that we had been shooting for 6 months. I was in serious need of rest and had planned to take some time off. When the realisation of what was happening began to set in, I knew I had to get to work not only help myself, but also to set up a space where others in our industry and in our suburb had the opportunity to make some extra money. 

What has been the effect of lockdown on your working life?

The film industry in Cape Town has been heavily affected as most of the shooting work is international. I usually spend winter in Europe for their summer festival season where I am part of a crew that builds and sets up stages for various music festivals so currently ALL of the work that I rely on to live is at a standstill. 

Lockdown Life:  Favourite Green Spaces and Places

Newlands Forest – No matter how full the car park seems there’s always a way to feel like the only person on the mountain. Long walks up the river or to my favourite tree could have me in nature all day. 

Elephant’s Eye hike, Silvermine. This is further away from where I live but fab to make a day out of it. Always best to pack a picnic and make your way to the dam. After a beautiful lunch you continue on to Elephants Eye to gain all the perspective you need to carry on positively. 

Ground Zero Cafe, Observatory. Always on my go to list. The best coffee, energy, ethos and vibe. Love this place!

Liesbeek River walkway. During lockdown and our 6-9am exercise rule, God-sent was the amazing pathway that runs next to the Liesbeeck all the way from Obs to Rondebosch and beyond. There are little parks, climbing walls, happy people and dogs all around and everything is well maintained and looked after. 

My back garden and front porch at my home in Little Mowbray. Lockdown allowed for us to spend time in the garden setting ourselves up for when our veggies and herbs start to grow. For this, the time spent outside and in my own garden was treasured. 

Typical Lockdown Day 

What gets me through a lockdown day? 

Mary-Jane. Haha. That and making sure I have something to do and/or achieve for the day. Always be sure you have something to look forward to

What do you appreciate most about lockdown?

Besides being grateful that we could all take a moment to breathe and break from being a cog in a huge machine, I appreciate that it has forced a new way of thinking and a new kind of consciousness. It has almost threatened to wake up all sleeping souls and pull us a little out of our comfortability.

What makes you happy?

Knowing that everyone I love is safe, happy and warm. Being able to cooperatively help one another and help each other flourish. Learning new skills. 

How do you see the world post-lockdown (if lockdown ever lifts)?

I don’t think the world can or will go back to anything that we have known in the past, things have had to change for a long time so definitely more change on the horizon which is okay, we’re all getting a taste for how to handle it. I can almost see masks as the new addition to your cellphone, wallet and key trio. I hope we’ll feel okay to hug each other again though 😉

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Published by Melanie Farrell

Founder of Green Route ZA - the path to eco-conscious living. I live in Cape Town, South Africa.

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