Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Michaletos, Aleta - VM - Erna Buber-deVilliers

Aleta Michaletos: Precious Circle

Let the Magic Begin!

by Erna Buber-deVilliers

Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise ... if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things ... whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think on these things. Philippians 4:8

By the mid-1980s South Africa was in flames. A state of emergency had been declared. There seemed to be no good news in the papers. Fear and hatred were rampant as horror piled upon horror.

Artist Michaletos spent much time and introspection considering how to discover and salvage the positive aspects from even this somber scenario. She conceived what was, for her, the antidote to the vicious circle of violence that escalated daily: a Precious Circle. She was convinced that if violence begets violence, and negativity begets negativity, then the opposite would also be true. She decided to take responsibility for the focus of her attention and the content of her thoughts. She would not be drawn into the general cycle of negativity and fear and despair. She believed that her new, positive thoughts would influence her actions and that her actions would inevitably, in some way, influence those around her. She envisioned a complete change in society as we know it, starting with herself.

She became passionate and energized. Every single day, she diligently trawled South-African newspapers and magazines and made clippings of any positive headlines she found. As her pile of words grew slowly but surely, they suggested categories: happiness, winning, beauty, success, dreams, religion, moral values, peace and hope. Considerations of colour and composition further sorted the words. Michaletos carefully arranged them, like puzzle pieces, into large, thought-provoking collages, each with an inspiring theme and a strong sense of colour and balance.

When Michaletos started her project, events were unpredictable, the situation was volatile, the country rapidly changing. Nelson Mandela was still in jail. What would the future hold?

The artist had no idea where it was leading her, but she had absolute faith in her Precious Circle’s power to transform. She gradually became aware of unexpected and increased blessings in her own life, like the undreamt-of invitation to present a retrospective exhibition of her work at Schloss Ettlingen in Germany in 1991. She became convinced that by performing her daily ritual she was ‘magnetizing’ herself to attract the positive. She was totally committed to her daily task. She determined to keep on until she received some ‘sign’ that her job was done. Sometimes, when there was nothing positive to be found, she defiantly snipped the un- from unlucky or unhappy and triumphantly preserved the HAPPY and LUCKY! For her it was like a continuous prayer or meditation to concentrate on the positive and optimistic.

The ‘sign’ she was awaiting arrived on May 10, 1994. It was the day Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as President of South Africa. Miraculously, international as well as local newspapers contained all the positive words she had been searching for for the past six years and were splashed with words such as MIRACLE! Finally, Precious Circle was complete, with fifty collages spanning a monumental 22 metres.

During those crucial years in South-African history Michaletos’ Precious Circle collages documented the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a whole society caught up in a process of inevitable change. The world had predicted that the death of Apartheid would be written in blood. It was not. Individual South Africans had been praying; had determined to focus on the positive.

The message of Michaletos’ Precious Circle is timeless and universal. Its power lies in its simplicity, and in its truth:

Above all else, guard your heart,

for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23


Aleta Michaletos: ´Secret´, ca. 1994, newsprint collage from Precious Circle project, 66.5 x 54 cm.

The text of this meditation was adapted from the artist’s website:

Aleta Michaletos received her B.A.F.A. from the University of Pretoria. She serves on several art-related committees, has been a guest speaker at Dort College in Iowa and the United Nations Headquarters in NY, and is upon occasion a guest lecturer at the University of Pretoria and the Open Window Art Academy based in South Africa. She is a respected voice in contemporary South African art, and has received international recognition and acclaim. Michaletos is currently working on a major 2-year project which will reflect the theme ALCHEMY. Precious Circle is a typical example of art’s alchemy: cheap and disposable newsprint in her hands becomes something monumental, lasting and valuable.

Artist’s blog:

Erna Buber-deVilliers is a retired South-African high school art teacher who enjoys writing and many other leisure pursuits.

ArtWay Visual Meditation October 16, 2016