Nicky Broekhuysen

The Channeling

A Series Of Love Letters Between

Claude Monet(1840-1926) and Marge Hugo (1927-2013)

The story before 2001

My grandmother, Marge Hugo, was born in 1927 on an isolated farm in the arid wilderness of what is now South Africa’s North West province. Although her upbringing was outwardly sparse and the environment often harsh, her family life was filled with much love and gentleness. Solitude was easy to find and Marge learnt to see the beauty and richness in all that surrounded her: the dusty green thorn trees that lay scattered across the deep red earth; the mauve mountain as it bid farewell to the day’s sun. It was likely from this perspective that Marge became an artist, eventually attending art school in Johannesburg in the late 1940s.

After finishing her education, my grandmother followed a path similar to that of most women of her generation - she got married at 20, had two children and stayed home to care for the family. She never lost her interest in art nor her passion to create, but family life kept her busy and a lack of confidence kept her from producing much work.  It was only later, when her children had left home, that she would properly embrace the identity of ‘artist’ and begin painting and drawing regularly. She loved to work in pastels, especially watercolours, and would be captivated by the colour of a particular petal as she sought out flowers from her much-loved garden to paint. Some of my most treasured memories from childhood are of adventuring into landscapes with her, paints and easel in hand, to capture a grassy field or a bunch of wildflowers. It was through my grandmother that I discovered my own love of art.

Although Marge did not have a religious upbringing, a certain spirituality filled her life from the start and from a young age she had an appreciation for the non-material world. When I asked my grandmother when she had first become aware of spiritual things, she said she was in high school but that her teachers’ responses to it had made her afraid to take her interest any further. It was years later and over a series of chance meetings, books and conversations that she began to quietly build her spiritual curiosity in subjects such as reincarnation and the spirit realm. Over time this curiosity and openness towards all things spiritual became woven into the fabric of our family.

Up until 2001 - her 74th year -  Marge wouldn’t have described her life as anything but ordinary. However at this point she revealed that something extraordinary had occurred; she had experienced what she described as a ‘spiritual awakening’ and had begun to receive messages from the spirit world in the form of channeled writings (also known as ‘automatic writing[1]’). Many spiritual entities or energies would eventually write through her but most surprisingly to us all – but mostly to Marge herself – was the artist Claude Monet. The writings also reveal the brief period when Marge was able to channel not just words through a pen but paintings through her paintbrush. Artists such as Monet and other Impressionist painters including Gauguin and Cezanne began painting through her hand.

The concept of channeling was not new to our family. Marge’s sister Dee and Marge’s daughter Sharon (my mother) had by this time both done automatic writing where various energies – including deceased family members –came through to communicate with the human world. Marge’s sudden ability was therefore not a shock but the channeling of famous artists did seem to be something new and extraordinary.

Marge never felt the need to share her channeled writings and paintings beyond her close friends and family. The messages for her became a personal source of learning, guidance, support and love. Early on in her diary entries, she writes that if she could have one wish it would be for wisdom, and I think that each time she held that pen or brush it was with this desire in mind. She called the channeled messages ‘Letters From Heaven’.

Many awakenings such as my grandmother’s are preceded by some life-altering event which changes a person’s approach to life. In my grandmother’s case, she had developed problems with her stomach, and later, her pancreas. She would eventually develop diabetes and lose the strength and energy vibration needed for channeled painting to be possible, although she still continued to channel through writing. She would always view this brief time with the Impressionists as one of the greatest gifts of her life, and it continues to enrich my family as a story long after her death.

These events and the narrative that emerged from her writings and paintings during this time had a profound impact on me personally. As an art student at the time, and already greatly influenced by my grandmother from a young age, this story became an important reference point in my own journey towards becoming an artist. It also played an important role in my own spiritual development, which has become more and more intertwined with my art; the one moving the other, in constant conversation. 

[1] Writing said to be produced by a spiritual or subconscious agency rather than by the conscious intention of the writer.

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