Brilliantly Bold Color Purple Soars Beautifully a Second Time Round

Pictures: @enroCpics 

Sisters Celie and Nettie
Sisters Celie (right) and Nettie at opposite sides of the world on different continents.

 

DIANE DE BEER

 

THE COLOR PURPLE

DIRECTOR: Janice Honeyman

CAST: Didintle Khunou (Celie), Lelo Ramasimong (Shug Avery), Aubrey Poo (Mister), Neo Motaung (Sofia), Sebe Leotlela (Nettie), Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri (Harpo) and the rest of the 20-strong ensemble

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Bernard Jay

PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Sarah Roberts

LIGHTING DESIGNER: Mannie Manim

SOUND DESIGNER: Richard Smith

MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Rowan Bakker (with an orchestra of 8)

CHOREOGRAPHER: Oscar Buthelezi

VENUE: Nelson Mandela at the Joburg Theatre

DATES: Until September 2

Celie and the women in celebration
Celie and the women in celebration

It’s rare in this country that big musicals like this one get a second season but so popular was The Color Purple first time round, it has returned with huge fanfare in Woman’s Month. And that’s a good thing.

This is quite a show and with one major change, Lelo Ramasimong as the sassy Shug Avery, (previously one of a trio of church ladies who has been replaced by Masego Mothibakgomo, who slips seamlessly into this powerful threesome) the rest of the cast has been given the chance to finetune their performances and even though, first time round, it was already spectacular, Khunou as Celie, for example, has grown magnificently in what was the first time round, a debut performance in such a huge and iconic role.

It feels as if she has slipped into Celie’s shoes more comfortably than then with a confidence that allows her to soar and in the quieter songs, it’s as if she trusts the moment and just is who she should be.

But so are the rest of the cast, from the much more experienced Poo who revels in his portrayal of Mister because of the arc he travels in every show as the one who probably has the most extreme turnaround – from the abuser to one who finally sees the value of the one he never cherished and lost.

Seeing a musical again that the first time round had so much impact is always a time to reflect and reassess but if anything, the effect is even more dramatic because this time round, there are no surprises, it’s just the show and the performers.

One must remember the genre and how much it allows. The story is grave and as much of its time as it is of now. That’s the horror, that so little has changed for women, the lack of power they often have over their own lives and the abuse they face on a daily basis. It sounds as familiar now as it did then and the murmuring and cheering from the audience affirms that. They know and understand these women and their circumstances and are also rooting for change.

Aubrey Poo as Mister
Mister (Aubrey Poo), Shug Avery (Lelo Ramasimon) and her beau and Celie (Didintle Khunou)

Celie is a woman who as a child is abused by her father who rapes her resulting in two children who he gives away. She is then passed on to another abusive man who does with her as he pleases while she cares for his children and his home with no say in the matter. It’s heavy stuff and without delving too deeply, it is the performances and the songs that tell as much of this tragic story as possible. The emotions run high and while abuse tops the list, many other issues are dealt with in this story of redemption.

The music is quite extraordinary and there are many showstoppers, some because of their emotional message like Celie’s Somebody Gonna Love You, Sofia and the women’s Hell, No and Celie’s I’m Here with the titles almost the only explanation necessary but then there’s also Celie and the women’s triumphant Miss Celie’s Pants and the show stopping Any Little Thing by Sofia (Motaung) and Harpo (Mahaka-Phiri).

Shug Avery and her admirers
Shug Avery (Lelo Ramasimong) and her admirers

Ramasimong brings the house down and her sexy Shug to life with her show number and Nettie (Leotlela) lets the tears roll with African Homeland.

It’s a musical where all the elements hold together starting with an imaginative set that is enhanced by luminous lighting while Honeyman has picked and honed her performers – each one of them – to perfection, to tell a story both powerful and poignant.

Once and for all, this glorious cast has made their point. It is all about storytelling. You have to engage, listen to the lyrics and allow the performers to come alive with their emotions in full flow. Like the first time round, it’s high notes and low in song and understanding, and the story is delivered with heaps of humanity first trampled on and then celebrated.

That’s life as we know it but sometimes deny and this is yet another way we can grapple with it and come to grips with the horror of abuse.

And it sounded as if the row of Singaporeans behind me with Bernard Jay in tow, were certainly planning to make this an extended traveling season. This is talent we want to export.

Florence is Theatre of our Time

Pictures: GREG HOMANN

Leila Henriques with Jozi as backdrop

DIANE DE BEER

FLORENCE

PLAYWRIGHT: Myer Taub

DIRECTOR: Greg Homann

PERFORMER: Leila Henriques

LIGHTING DESIGN: Nomvula Molepo

COSTUME DESIGN: Karabo Legoabe and Nthabiseng Malaka

SET DESIGN: Richard Forbes

SOUND DESIGN: Ntuthuko Mbuyazi

VENUE: Barney Simon at the Market Theatre in Newtown

DATES: Until August 26

 

It is the eccentricity of the script, the execution and the performance that all come together in almost explosive manner and holds you (gently) by the throat throughout.

It’s not an easy one, so concentration and focus is necessary but once you slip into this world, it’s an intriguing and intense encounter. First off, the playwright had an obsession and used this (over a few years) cunningly, to create a play that taps into a zeitgeist of many. He deals with everything from colonialism (not easy for a white male to do smartly) to gender especially that of women (another stumbling block he navigates), and the way art was dealt with then – but perhaps more importantly – now. He moves from the safety issues, fences only the physical barriers, to a more problematic area of engaging and appreciating the energy and enlightenment art holds.

Then the director stepped in and working with Taub on the final draft found a way to unfold the Florence story on stage most enticingly while engaging with a set designer who best explored the visual key to this extraordinary work.

Leila Henriques as the actress
Leila Henriques as the actress

Henriques who has been testing the waters these past few years under the guidance of smart theatre makers including Sue Pam Grant and Sylvaine Strike, blossoms and bullies in this double role of Florence Phillips, the woman who founded the Johannesburg Art Gallery (while also raising a few children, setting up a handful of homes for her mining magnate husband and on the side, introducing jersey cows to the Cape!) as well as an actress who is unwilling but considering a portrayal of Florence. Her test is to navigate these two landscapes as if they are linear – the one at the turn of the last century while the other stands strong in the chaotic contemporary era.

It’s heady stuff which has been cleverly complicated by a brilliant set that both leads you into the story but also obscures the actress as she tries to fight her way through her characters and the story she is untangling. It can be described as a messy yet magnificent web, this world and the play that tries to capture different timelines, fragmented and fragile, yet allowing us to grab on and follow the guidance of the performer. All of that contributes to a compelling theatrical experience.

It doesn’t really matter where and when you access what they have to say as long as you participate in the work. Listen carefully and especially cling on to the Henriques performance as she steps in and out of characters, doesn’t really matter who or what she is, but how she is expressing herself about a world that in all respects is often closed to her. Even when she thinks she finds love, it isn’t meant to be. But she battles on because that is what is required to get her way. Softly-softly doesn’t make it here.

Leila Henriques as Florence

That’s probably why Florence, achieving what she did, is described as a formidable and fierce character. She was determined to fight her way through and in the play, she grabs that fence, sticks her head through to catch the light and speaks her mind. That’s just who she was and who you had to be in a world that wanted to decide who and what you should be. But just the list of what she achieved and how she travelled in a time of turmoil, is evidence of her power.

Henriques has similar physical presence and power. She will not be dwarfed by either the physical fence or any barriers thrown at her. She stands strong – both as actress and in performance. It’s glorious to behold. And when it all comes together, from the stunning lighting and atmospheric sound to the vision of the three artists involved, it’s truly theatre of our time – uniquely original.

The Impact of Hannelie Coetzee’s Art Resonates in Jozi Buildings and Skylines

Nzunza people
First sight of the Ndzundza/Nzunza Portrait by Hannelie Coetzee On Woman’s Day. Picture City Property

DIANE DE BEER

To have two major artworks unveiled in a week in a world city is quite extraordinary and contemporary African artist Hannelie Coetzee is excited that her adopted and much-loved city Johannesburg is recognising the value of public art.

And she likes to make her mark – spectacularly.

The most visible is the recently unveiled (on Woman’s Day on Thursday August 9) The Ndzundza/Nzunza Portrait (the alternative spelling is inclusive of differing views from the community) commissioned by City Property bringing her historic hair-inspired 10-storey South African artwork to 28 Melle Street in Braamfontein. “I’m grateful to people in the property market who have become patrons of the arts,” she says.

All her projects start with research and she was thrilled that this one came at a time at the end of the year when the building world comes to a standstill, giving her some time to play around with what she wanted to do on such a huge scale. She started scratching around in the area and wider to discover what had happened in this neck of the woods in the past, her richest vein of source material.

When reading what she says about herself on her website, Coetzee explains that she questions the purpose of art as a mere commentary on societal ills and prefers using art to participate in life, solving problems, connecting people and igniting dialogues.

When you talk to her, she describes her modus operandi as partnership orientated as she teams up with either scientists or architects or anyone in a specific field that might help with her enquiries, but then her own personal narrative also filters through the artworks on a specific level.

Having scratched around in her own family history a while back to find her own place in the world and where she was heading, she realised that the Ndzundza/Nzunza Ndebele that she was featuring in this work lived in the Highveld at the same time that the first Coetzee arrived in the Cape – navigating origins and cultures along the way.

But to get to the heart and soul of creating the work, she discovered a young architect, Ndzundza/Nzunza Portrait, who thinks and works differently especially with cities and her ideas around that. “It’s all about making cities healthier,” she notes and that is a big priority for this artist who taps into the historical ecology of the city to find possible solutions for some of the problems of today. She actively creates her partnerships to enhance the insight into eco-systems and hopefully resulting changes will follow. Or at least an awareness. But she also finds people who answers her questions in a way that to her makes sense and dovetails with what might be a specific mission.

Two things happened around Coetzee’s research. The architect had done a master thesis that dealt with hair salon designs in the Joburg CBD and informed her how they would impact the environment. At the same time, Coetzee’s wife Réney Warrington (a curator, novelist and film critic amongst other things), gave her a book Forgotten World by Alex Schoeman et al, because she knew where Coetzee’s head was at.

Nzunza.Ndzundza portrait 2018 by Hannelie Coetzee b
The Ndzundza/Nzunza Portrait at dusk. Picture Hannelie Coetzee

The reason for the use of ceramics in this work is the historical traces discovered on pottery that dated from that time, hence the astonishing use of the colourful ceramic plates to create a picture that will be seen from a distance as well as speak to the community who live there.

What she discovered in Forgotten World was that Swazi and Basotho patterns were found in the Ndzundza/Nzunza pottery patterns. Schoeman and his co-authors had found that in pottery remnants and through oral history which all points to the Ndzundza/Nzunza embrace of a cultural diversity which included other ethnic groups. “Much like Johannesburg today,” she says and one of the reasons she has found her place and lost her heart to Jozi.

Mavhunga also brought a group of Instagrammers to her attention. Their influence on trendy hairstyles inspired her to research old and new hairstyles resulting in a collage of many different styles to show how the old inspires the new. It’s the way she works, to underline how history influences modern trends.

Samantha at Rosebank Firestation Artist Hannelie Coetzee 2018
Samantha at Rosebank Fire Station, artist and photographer Hannelie Coetzee

In similar vein Samantha who was originally exhibited at the 2017 Joburg Art Fair has now been positioned in the foyer of the new Rosebank Fire Station in Baker Street at the behest of ARC architects. Coetzee first encountered Samantha (Mamiled) during walkabouts to the Ferndale stream in Johannesburg as part of her investigation of the city’s water structure then and now. “I study and explore the old ecology on which the city is built and in the process, amongst other things, I discover not only the beauty of nature but interesting people.”

Engaging with her, she discovered that Mamiled frequently visits the stream, on her own and with friends and she would sometimes wash here. That specifically reconnected her with her grandmother who used to take her to a stream as a child. “It’s about memories and moments,” says the artist who also finds pleasure that this work should find a home in a fire station.

Some of the wood used in the artwork comes from the old Rissik Street Post Office that burnt down and the desk that functions as a plinth was part of a castoffs found in an old building she was working in at the time in the Maboneng district. “I often work in these neglected buildings just before they are flipped because of what I find there,” she explains, and it all becomes part of her regenerating mindset.

Samantha made from parquet tiles, shelves and the desk, all salvaged by Coetzee, is 3.2m high and was especially insightful at the Art Fair because one has to stand at some distance to recognise her features. But what she represents and the fact that this fire station had to be built around and in context of the original station which is the second oldest building in Rosebank, all ties into the Coetzee ethos, including that she often works with natural industry waste such as wood and mining core.

With these two insightful Hannelie Coetzee artworks happening quite by chance simultaneously, the visual impact will resonate with vigour and eloquence sharing impactful stories.

Jozi and its Art Gallery shine in Florence at Market’s Barney Simon Theatre

Pictures: GREG HOMANN

Florence with Joburg backdrop

DIANE DE BEER

 

Have you heard of Florence Phillips?

She was the woman who was instrumental in establishing the Johannesburg Art Museum (JAG) and the subject of the play Florence, currently running at The Market’s Barney Simon Theatre in Newtown until August 26.

It is the world-premiere of Florence, a solo play directed by Greg Homann, written by Myer Taub and performed by Leila Henriques in her first solo show. “It’s not an easy premise,” says Homann but as someone who lectures and writes about theatre, how to give a play the best chance to land with an audience, is what he understands best.

It’s also the first solo season for Henriques who has a spirited take on what she describes as an “ambitious piece”.

Leila Henriques
Leila Henriques in Florence

“I clearly have to focus and following performances, I feel I have to lie down in a darkened room.” And when you see Florence you will understand why.

It’s a bold choice by artistic director James Ngcobo but he also understands that engaging with the city and its most iconic art structure could start interesting conversations. No, says Homann, he suspects, the art cognoscenti, heritage aficionados and people working for Hollard Life are the ones who will know who Florence is. “The Hollard Life offices are built around the original Philips house which is still in use.”

What Taub has done following different interventions around the art gallery, one including a skateboard performance art piece which is also referenced in the play, is engage with different questions featuring JAG as a centre piece. But this time (helped by Homann in the final draft) the story is told playfully while experimenting with time, place, language, and form to explore our contemporary moment.

Instead of the monologue the playwright had started with, it has evolved into a disgruntled actress who over lunch in a fancy restaurant meets with a playwright about the new work he has written that places Florence Phillips as a ghost at the Joubert Park fence outside the Johannesburg Art Gallery. While considering whether she will play the role, the actress imagines what it would mean to portray a dead white colonial figure today whose legacy and value is both contested and forgotten.

Leila as Florence photographer Greg Homann
Leila as Florence

And placing Florence in the theatre in Women’s Month underlines the contributions and impact that Florence Phillips had in building a greater understanding of art with early-Johannesburg and its contemporary society.

But it is also this melange of issues almost tripping one over the other that turns this into a fascinating piece of theatre.

Being a woman, it makes sense that Florence is perhaps less celebrated than one would expect, yet it was her philanthropic nature which endeared her to both the world of artists and public alike. She was fiercely formidable, notes Henriques who plays her with great bravado and dexterity as she switches between the fiery Florence and the demanding actress.

In its present form, it also allowed the playwright to play with the meaning of art, its relevance in the world today with special focus on the fence which dominates the essence of the play and divorces the art gallery from its immediate surrounds and the people living there. “We play with the fences in our lives and how we think about our identity,” explains Homann who with his set designer, sculptor Richard Ford, used this metaphor with great impact.

Florence was a woman of exceptional strength, passion, and character to have been able to promote and celebrate local and international artists and to persevere in building them a home at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG). Then as now, this was not the easiest of avenues to pursue. She fortunately had the money to follow her dreams – to the benefit of the city even today. Is that still true? That’s arguably one of the issues addressed amongst many.

And filling the extraordinary Florence’s shoes, Henriques returns to The Market in a role that gives her a chance to explore all her strengths as a performer. And she does exactly that. Taub and Homann have thrown the challenges at her but she’s up for it in what according to her director has been a joyous collaboration – and it shows.

Too often women like Florence are unsung heroes and sometimes their contributions went – and go- unnoticed. But they shouldn’t. The courage they harnessed created indispensable heritage and what happens now is something the play engages with especially dealing with JAG’s colonial past. Perhaps, the playwright argues, the story of our early pioneers can be used in a creative way to engage and inspire the public, including the next generation of woman pioneers but could also point to a more future for JAG.Florence Opening Night Invitation Homann describes the play as a brave choice and on the edge of experimental theatre, but he was at pains to showcase the playfulness in both the writing and the character of Florence. “I wanted to give the audience anchors,” he explains. And here he places emphasis on the love story as well as the gallery. “I didn’t want it to feel too fragmented.” And he has an adept accomplice in Henriques who exploits and explores her different characters magnificently.

The director is also excited to once again give life to a new play, one of his favourite things to do. “It’s about finding and determining the access for the audience.” With something this complicated, the production doesn’t even have to be completely successful, he argues, but the trio most invested in this play are giving their best to make it happen.

He feels blessed that the play allows them to be playful with history because of the inherent absurdity and the humour and here again Henriques and her performance is the perfect foil. She captures the power of this extraordinary woman who stepped out of her comfort zone at a time when it was unheard of to follow her dream while opening a world for everyone around her – then and hopefully now and in the future.

It is that loop of time – then and now – that is intriguing, and it lies in both fragmentation and fluidity. “That’s the key,” according to Homann who describes the play as contradictory, complex and messy. But that’s life especially when living in a city like Johannesburg which he views as the second character in the play. “We’re dealing with memory and how we think of time – moving forward and backwards,” he explains.

It certainly is different to anything else we’ve seen in a long time and that’s what makes theatre exciting. It opens vistas in unexpected ways and takes our minds to places we weren’t intending to go.

It’s an exciting and embracing way to understand the world – especially the confrontational one we find ourselves in today.

 

 

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Capital Craft Beer Academy Ticks All The Best Boxes With Beer As The Big Boss

Diane de Beer

Capital Craft interior

Pictures: Nelis Botha

 

CAPITAL CRAFT BEER ACADEMY

 

Address: Greenlyn Village Centre, SHOP NO. 20 Cnr Thomas Edison & 12TH Street East, Pretoria

Phone:012 424 8601

Hours: Monday & Tuesdays from 12pm to 9.30pm (kitchen); Wednesdays & Thursday opens at 10.30am; Friday & Saturday 10.30am to 11.30pm and Sundays from 10.30am to 6.30pm (kitchen)

 

 

If like me you’re not really a beer drinker, arguably the Capital Craft Beer Academy doesn’t make sense.

But from the start, the sensibilities of the four guys who came up and developed the original concept, hit all the right spots.

The obvious attraction of the dining/drinking experience is the 210 beers on their menu. Brothers Henk and Willie van der Schyf, Johan Auriacombe and Niel Groenewald, started with a craft beer festival in the shade of the Voortrekker Monument in Tshwane. It has since moved to the Pretoria Botanical Gardens.

The success of that was overwhelming but it also encouraged the quartet of entrepreneurs to start their own restaurant Capital Craft Beer Academy in the Greenlyn area with another opening a few years ago in Centurion which has a strong family slant – and they’re both swinging.

Mean Green 2
The Mean Green Hamburger

What captivated me from the start was the food menu, with new additions a few months back, that offers cuisine I wouldn’t have associated with a beer venue. From vegetarian platters with roast veg and haloumi skewers, grilled corn on the cob, falafel balls, crudité salad, jalapeno poppers (with a bite!), served with Tzaziki and guacamole (R80) to one of their new menu items, A Green Goddess consisting of green salad with sugar snap peas, cucumber, baby marrow slivers, spring onions, green olives, avo and crumbed feta on a bed of coz lettuce with a green goddess dressing (R70).

The variety is huge though. From a brunch section (Big Boy with cut waffle, three rashers of honey-glazed bacon, grilled tomato, seasoned corn medallions, smoked Bockwurst and two eggs to top – R75 to crafty omelettes with two items of choice R65), salads (above), snacks (deep-fried biltong, Mac Mac balls with homemade macaroni balls covered in panko crumbs deep fried and served with Jalapeno cheese sauce, pretzels and crunchy chicken livers) to sandwiches (party in the club, stolen goods, Fat Frankie) to the last word in dining huge: Puff, Puff, Pass, a blazing selection of boerewors, smoked chicken pops, 200 g smoked pork ribs and in-house smoked brisket all tied together with chips and their legendary onion rings as one of their select platters.

Green Goddess 2
Green Goddess

And for the serious carnivores there’s a great selection of burgers such as the Chakalaka Burger (R79), new on the menu, with a 200g patty topped with traditional South African spicy vegetable relish on a fresh bun with mayo and baby spinach, or the Mean Green, the usual patty with sundried tomato pesto with cut jalapenos and lashings of basil aioli (R85). Or you could opt for the ribs, which they promise benefit from time and effort invested to bring you the best.

Keeping to their smart theme, desserts include a classic waffle served with chocolate ice cream and chocolate-pistachio truffles or a rock&road ice cream coffee, both seem to fit the venue so sweetly.

Pretzel
Pretzel

Other new items on the menu include a Philly Steak Roll, haloumi fries, pulled pork poppers, their own home-made pretzels, pork wing, a Fat Frankie and Uncle Porkie, both wrapped in bacon, grilled parmesan corn and marrow or for the seriously health conscious a Pumpkin Patch which is a clever combo of salads and veggies.

If you’re not a serious or regular craft beer drinker, this will be a sharp learning curve. They currently list more than 200 and this number keeps growing. As newbies, start off with a tasting kit guided by an informative manager who will show you the way to go and you could ask for a viewing of their on-tap beers as well as their storing facilities. It’s impressive.

There’s no better place to start if you wish to polish up on your understanding of ale.

Pulled Pork Poppers
Pulled Pork Poppers

If you want wine, they have a small but crafty selection as well as an extremely good whisky and gin collections. Shooters include house blends like a melktertjie or a beavis and butthead, craft bombs sport combos like Soweto Bomb or Dawson’s Kriek with some serious gin tasting platters also on offer.

Beer is the big boss but by no means the only one talking.

Depending on your age and how you enjoy your meals, you will pick a time to visit. At the start of the week things are gentle but it can get packed with a serious party vibe on weekends. Sundays usually have a strong family feel.

The service is attentive and helpful and because they warn that preparation time is around 45 minutes to deliver on their promise, they keep you informed about the state of the food. Questions are smartly answered, and a general well-being is constantly monitored.

Capital Craft interior2

They’re big on ambience and their contemporary beer hall style is superb. Tables can be shared easily, and with a look of canteen chic, well designed, it all works smoothly. Even when they’re busy, there’s more than enough space to select a quieter spot.

What has really impressed me every time I have visited is the way they have ticked every box. It’s extremely difficult to please all the people, all of the time. Yet they seemed to have managed just that and with a menu update, those who like their style of food have fun new dishes to try.

You will feel as if you’ve landed in heaven if craft beer is your thing and if you don’t know much, this is the place to learn. You will find your poison and so much more.

Because they’re part of the Greenlyn complex, parking is easily available and safe and check out the competition while you’re there, because this is another of Pretoria’s food havens with Zest and Eisbein and Co all part of this cuisine carnival.

 

Liezie Mulder of the Iconic île de pain Makes Every Recipe Her Own – Anytime

Ile de Pain Wild oats loaf_4599
Wild oats loaf

Liezie Mulder and her family’s restaurant île de pain in Knysna are legendary. Her second cook book île de pain ANYTIME (Quivertree) has recently been published. If you love food, playing around in the kitchen, take note. She tells DIANE DE BEER about her way with food and how best to replicate her passion:

ile de pain cover muckup (002)

 

 

If you have been to Knysna’s famous île de païn, buying into Liezie Mulder’s latest (2nd) cookbook will be easy.

She says it herself in the introduction: As a chef I borrow, share and am inspired by the works of others and I absorb what is happening around me, at home and on my travels, and then make it my own.  …what is important is to use my own voice, to be honest, to be unique and true to myself.”

She wants to make it better using different techniques or using ingredients in a way that’s different or by introducing unique flavour combinations. Sometimes she simplifies it to express her style and philosophy more emphatically.

Travel is a huge source of inspiration for her. It gives her a chance to breathe far from her immediate surroundings, to experience, listen and be immersed and influenced by different cultures. She scribbles notes while watching cooking shows and collects food memories when she travels- here or abroad.

The restaurant menu is constantly evolving but for her the important ingredients are simplicity, uncomplicated and wholesome. And then she adds: “There has to be a party in your mouth with every bite!”

Ile de Pain Liezie
Liezie Mulder’s île de païn

The past 15 years at île de païn with much heartache and joy has taught her to have more fun and not to take work and food too seriously. It shows and comes across especially in her philosophy. Asked about her recipes, she says they should be fresh, simple, uncomplicated and fun. “I like to keep flavours in a recipe clean, working within the flavour palette of one region or country. I like to combine unexpected flavours and present it in a way using few components on a plate, so as not to confuse the palate.”

It’s about celebrating her favourite food memories … and food! “I wanted to create something lasting, beautiful but also useful. Something that captures the essence of what we do, and at the same time inspires others.”

If you’re interested in the food world, watch food programmes or speak to foodies, you will already know that sourcing ingredients is hugely important. “It is vital to use quality, healthy, fresh produce that offers high value in terms of both vitality and beauty.” All of this will contribute to the quality of your food in a way that saves both money and time in the long run.

The restaurant is a family affair with Mulder and her partner and master baker Markus Färbinger at the helm. What they initially set out to do was a village bakery which has now turned into a fully-fledged restaurant that works around the clock. She gives insight into the running of that as well: “It was only after five years that systems began to flow. Better-qualified chefs joined the team, we changed our working hours, took a step back, and grew as a result of becoming more aware of what needed focus.”

Because this was their family’s life, they had to adapt the running of their restaurant to suit their lifestyle. Everything was going well at the 10-year mark and then something dramatic happened – a fire in 2015 and everything burnt down.

But this gave them time to rethink their lives and their restaurant – and whether they wanted to start again – from scratch. The answer was yes but this time they could take a deep breath and design a new île de païn which she describes as “confident, lighter, happier, sophisticated but not perfect”.

This time it’s all about quality and not quantity – in their food and their lives. The recipes included in the book are the most popular from the restaurant menu, her own personal favourites and those of her family. Each one tells a story from where the inspiration comes from and how it became part of their menu. It could be cooking with her mother-in-law or sharing a meal with a Vietnamese farmer or even something as exotic as being invited to cook with the chef of the King of Bhutan.

Ile de Pain1
île de païn

Before she gets into the real recipes, Mulder has some advice:

Basics, basics, basics, she stresses. Only when you have mastered the basics can you start playing around. That’s the rule with most creative endeavours.

One of this chef’s strengths is organisational skills. She advises cooks to work with checks and balances. Take the time to read through a recipe, weigh out all the ingredients, organise your work area, get all your equipment ready – and clean as you go.

Quality ingredients has already been highlighted and with equal importance, she stresses detail and consistency in everything she does in the kitchen.

Speaking as a professional chef, she believes passion about food, people, creativity and a need to be of service are what you need to make it in the hospitality industry.

There’s much to like about the book but with bread and baking a strength of this restaurant whose name translates as island of bread, pay attention. And when she notes that the concluding chapter – Prep Time – is her favourite, also take note.

She loves sauces, relishes and dips, almost all of which can be made ahead of time and are jampacked with flavour as well as guaranteed to deliver a punch at every meal, she assures. So perhaps that’s the right place to start. She believes the great start to any successful meal, menu or dinner party is in the planning and preparation.

Ile de Pain L and M
Liezie Mulder and and her partner and master baker Markus Färbinger

Especially if you cook and entertain mainly on your own, here’s heartfelt advice and if you listen to what she says and how to go about it, your kitchen can become a great source of joy.

What makes this such a special book is the fact that Mulder spends most of her life thinking about and working with food. It’s not just the recipes that are precious, it’s also everything she has to say about the recipe and how best to prepare a certain dish or bake a brilliant loaf of bread.

Get thee into the kitchen!

Is Sitting Pretty a Case of White Afrikaans Woman Sitting Pretty Uncomfortably?

Sitting Pretty Cover Oct- hi res

Sitting Pretty – White Afrikaans Women in Postapartheid South Africa – the title is enough to stop you in your tracks. DIANE DE BEER speaks to author Christi van der Westhuizen about the issues that encouraged her to write this book:

 

I first heard author/social and political commentator/associate professor in Sociology at University of Pretoria Christi van der Westhuizen chat to Radio 702 host Eusebius McKaiser about her latest book Sitting Pretty – White Afrikaans Women in Postapartheid South Africa (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press) and I was intrigued.

How can I not be, as one of that species whom she describes as both the oppressor (as white) yet also oppressed (woman)? Chatting to her about this academic treatise, she explains that book’s intro, which is the toughest of the lot because she wanted to get all the theoretical stuff out of the way at the start. And if you read it slowly – and again once you’ve read the book, even if like me, you are not au fait with academic speak – you will get there.

Van der Westhuizen has a mind that grapples with life and she had enough given to her to make sure that it will be worth grappling for. She grew up in a female-headed household in 1980s Boksburg when the city council was taken over by the Verwoerdian Conservative Party, and the Afrikaner-Weerstandsbeweging was on the rise. “My experience of alienation as a young woman and a lesbian within a patriarchal and racist context made me ask hard questions. People should know,” she says, “that I’m investigating my own life when writing on these kinds of subjects.”

Christi - pic - FLF
Christi van der Westhuizen

She took her premise from Nelson Mandela who in his inaugural State of the Nation address extended an invitation to South Africans who identify as ‘Afrikaner women’. She starts with that invitation as Mandela re-remembers Afrikaans Poet Ingrid Jonker “and poignantly proffered her ‘glorious vision’ of possibilities of identification:

“She was both a poet and a South African, he said. “She was both an Afrikaner and an African. She was both artist and a human being. In the midst of despair, she celebrated hope. Confronted by death, she asserted the beauty of life. (…) She instructs our endeavours must be about liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.” He then quoted Jonker’s best known poem, The Child Who Was Shot Dead by Soldiers in Nyanga.

She argues rigorously that Mandela’s invitation to Afrikaner women was “an invocation of the democratic potentialities … amid the ruins of apartheid”. That’s what she wants you to think about, says Van der Westhuizen as she asks whether Jonker’s contemporary counterparts (at least in terms of structural classifications of gender, sexuality, class and race) step into the positions that democratic discourses have prepared for them?

We all know how big an ask the country was given and up to now, how dismally we’ve failed. But Van der Westhuizen believes that the global context hasn’t helped. Because of the neoliberal kind of capitalism that exists today, with its high level of destabilisation and inequality, people feel under attack, which has meant that they have fled into specific enclaves of recognisable identity. It’s a very complex situation.

“Because of all these forces at play, people tend to organise their lives to re-entrench hierarchies and keep oppressive power relations intact.” Previously, she says, the state enforced gender, sexism and racism for us. “Now people are doing it for themselves.”

She is happy that greater diversity exists among white Afrikaans women in the democratic era. For some it is still true that if they don’t adhere to the strict rules laid down mainly by family structures headed by the husband/father, they will be ostracised and banned. But there are those who battle the forces stacked up against them.

Van der Westhuizen points to identity as the main culprit, in those instances where old habits recur, the way the instability and precariousness associated with the current phase of capitalism make people feel threatened and turn inward rather than embracing the diversity that’s out there. There’s no arguing that. Sadly though for those white Afrikaans women given an invitation at the beginning of our democracy to forge different lives. The pressures are many (from family, church, school and society at large) because if you don’t conform. However, that might also plant the seed of resistance.

The book also deals with the fact that this country is unusual as it has two distinct settler groups. “That doesn’t often happen and has its own set of problems, as both groups vie for the spoils of whiteness, with a particular model of heterofemininity attached,” she argues. It’s all fascinating stuff and in a complicated country as ours, with its past, with its diverse cultural groups trying to work together even though all the odds seem stacked against us, it is important to get as much understanding about the issues that confront us.

Van der Westhuizen makes it clear that her study is a qualitative one, which shows what the dominant discourses are that form white Afrikaans women. “If you throw these women together in focus groups, what comes through? It’s about throwing light on what is the mainstream,” she says. “The study also uses dissident voices to do that.”

This was a relief to know, because it was one of my issues when reading this gripping dissertation. I know all over the world conservatism seems to be a dominant force and while locally, amongst both Afrikaans and English speakers, racism seems to be everywhere, it isn’t all pervasive.

But is this where we should be throwing the light? Yes, says Van der Westhuizen and I agree, because white Afrikaans women are the least studied group in the country.

“That isn’t the case for the earlier part of the last century when the Nasionale Manne Party and the Nasionale Vroue Partye (men and women’s parties) folded into one another to form the National Party in the 30s, but after that Afrikaner women seem to disappear from public view and into the home where they were expected to be wives and mothers. But they were homemakers with an edge, as most instilled apartheid’s racism, sexism and homophobia in their children through socialisation in the family,” she concludes.

In a world where the Other is perceived as all-invasive, and many negative ‘isms’ are deployed to subvert challenges from groups with less power, an investigation of a previously dominant group that still holds significant relative power, and the contestations within this group, is fascinating reading.

With its academic slant, it is a tough yet compelling read.

 

 

The Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria Aims to Forge a Partnership between the University and the Public

Javett - UP - View 01~1

Gauteng’s latest art centre featuring a handful of galleries, something which can stand as a counterpoint to Cape Town’s Zeitz MOCAA and Norval Foundation, is in the process of being built on the edges of the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield and South campuses. Named the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria (Javett-UP) in honour of its philanthropic donor, work started in 2016 and the Centre is set to open in the first half of 2019. DIANE DE BEER spoke to the architect Pieter Mathews whose firm Mathews and Associates designed the Centre as a link to the people: 

Javett Art Centre at UP (Liam Purnell) (2)
Javett Art Centre in the making. (Liam Purnell)

 

Even before we get to the art, which is really what the Javett Art Centre is all about, there’s the building – and according to lead and concept architect Pieter Mathews it is easily the most challenging project his firm has ever worked on.

Keeping in mind that with these grand art projects, the buildings have become as important as the art featured, the fact that the first concept design was penned at the end of 2012, captures the complexity of the endeavour. With the help of project architect Liam Purnell assisted by two project dedicated architects Carla Spies and Jannes Hattingh, their goal has been to create a space that would activate the connection between art and architecture. That’s also why the specific site (one of three options) was selected, because of the proximity of the Boukunde Building and the Visual Art Building that flank the Art Centre. “It makes sense that those three should be linked,” says Mathews.

It also complicated the challenge because it meant that they would be building across one of Tshwane’s main arteries, Lynnwood Road and yet, because of their approach, it will heighten the visual appeal as well as the visibility of the centre. They have turned the bridge into a huge feature wrapped in lightweight concrete cloth that reaches across the exterior and interior based on the much-loved shweshwe fabric. This “cloth” displays many different features including a play of light and shadow also turning the bridge into an expansive feature when it is illuminated at night. “It almost looks like fairy lights glistening in the middle of the road,” explains the architect about this design feature which has strong South African connections which embraces all its people.

Javett Art Centre at UP (Liam Purnell) (1)
Shadows in Play at Lynnwood Road. (Liam Purnell).

But the bridge is also the connector between the public and the students and academics, the two campus sites and the diversity which is embraced on campus

The other reason for the site is that while it has one section on the main Hatfield campus, the section that crosses to the far side of Lynnwood Road will offer the public easy access to the galleries as well as a restaurant which will be part of the complex and is planned as an inviting addition for museum visits.

Apart from the bridge, which is also an exhibition space and offers visual invitations to the other galleries, the Mapungubwe gallery – which will house one of the most important collections entrusted to the stewardship of the University of Pretoria – is the other focal point of the Centre, towering into the sky. It adds to the dominance of the building not only because of the design but also its height.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0098.JPG
The Javett Art Centre at University of Pretoria reaching across Lynnwood Road. (Hein Dedekind)

 

The building will profoundly change the landscape of the campus as well as the city. When complete, it will comprise nine distinct exhibition spaces, one of which will be housed in the iconic bridge and in addition to the Javett Foundation’s collection of 20th century SA Art and contemporary collections from the University as well as private donors, Director Christopher Till will feature exciting rotating exhibitions and the students, from across the university, will have rolling exhibitions in the dedicated student gallery. The Centre, with its focus on the Art of Africa, will also include a sophisticated restoration department and an auditorium which can be used for performances or public lectures.

Other design features that had to be taken into account were heritage buildings in the vicinity which are reflected in the design of facing walls of the new structure, trees that had to be maintained, the extension of the main artery of the university known as Tukkie Laan and the inclusion of two main squares, the Art Square which embraces both the art and the architecture students on either side and the Museum Square which is the public entrance to the galleries from different public parking spaces.

Javett - UP - View 02~1

Before any of this even started, Mathews, who has just been awarded the Medal of Honour for Visual Arts (Architecture) by the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, went on a 10 day museum tour courtesy of the Mellon Foundation accompanied by the late Stephan Welz who was also instrumental in the appointment of his architectural firm together with Prof Antony Melck and Prof Karel Bakker from the department at UP where Mathews studied. It was a learning curve, an intense museum tour to different world-class institutions visiting everything from their restoration spaces to their storage facilities. They were also introduced to different curators and the way they shaped their exhibitions, all of which had an impact on the final design.

And with something this all-encompassing as the Javett Art Centre, they had to find a unifying leitmotif to bind the various elements like the bridge wrapping, the faceted concrete shell structure of the Mapungubwe “mountain”, galvanised steel pergolas and all the other building elements. The solution was found in the colour scheme determined by the concrete cladding – a natural light grey. When they want to separate various elements, they will use charcoal as the shadow colour.

Javett - UP - View 05~1Anyone who knows the architect, will deem this a perfect fit – not only because of his innovative design skills, but also because he has always combined art with architecture. “I am an ambassador for the visual environment, “ says Mathews whose firm designed amongst others the Nellmapius Bridge on the N1; the New Mussina Bridge as gateway into South Africa (expected completion date end of this year); Transport Architecture TRT stations in the historic sensitive Pretoria CBD, (for example, Rivonia Trial station opposite the Old Synagogue); and various award-winning educational buildings for city schools, including Afrikaans Hoër Meisieskool and a new music centre for Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool. He and his Cool Capital team also hosted and designed the 2017 South African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

He is happy that he and his team have a good hold on this massive project. “I am very confident in the collective brain at work here.”

*The building will be completed by the beginning of next year.

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The Unholy Trinity of Mike van Graan, Rob van Vuuren and Daniel Mpilo Richards Breaking Ground on Landacts

Landacts

DIANE DE BEER

LANDACTS

WRITER: Mike van Graan

DIRECTOR: Rob van Vuuren

ACTOR: Daniel Mpilo Richards

VENUE: Sandton’s Auto & General Theatre on the Square

DATES: Until July 29

 

The unholy trinity of writer Mike van Graan, director Rob van Vuuren and actor Daniel Mpilo Richards are at it again.

They have found a way to tell stories with ease about a diseased country – and have the audience laughing their heads off, while facing the music – willingly.

That’s no mean feat but Van Graan, who not only won the 2018 Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture, a biannual international award recognising those who foster dialogue, understanding and peace in conflict areas, but was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Pretoria earlier this year, has been peddling these political wares for a long time and has honed his skills in a way that is perfectly palatable. In fact, this artistic trio fuses three of the best in this particular genre.

It all begins with the playwright who from Pay Back the Curry to State Fracture and now the third in this alternative history lesson, has street smarts but also the knowledge and insight into the shenanigans of politicians who live in the belief that they can pull off the impossible – in plain sight. He has found a way to formulate this heady yet heavy-going message while fully engaging the audience in a rollercoaster ride of what is probably their lives.

Daniel Mpilo Richards

It’s where the fun starts – with the writing. That’s before checking into the content – simply the writing itself. Van Graan is having fun as he reaches from soccer games with political parties playing the field to Shakespeare as he runs through the titles, characters and phrases easy to pick out and giggle about. He lashes out at landgrab as he gets stuck into the Aborigine issues down under while dealing with the results of colonialism that simply won’t go away – anywhere and everywhere you look. It might seem too far away but the similarities as we all recognise are glaring. And yet, its easier to pick up on the wrongs of others, he seems to say. As he shoots straight arrow at the American cowboy who sings a looter’s lament in which he has the following demand: “You shall not take what I’ve taken from you.”

It is the third in the series and it can run forever in the world we live in today. Van Graan himself concedes: “I’m not writing, I’m editing.” But there is more to it than that. Even though there is a formula that runs through the series, the result isn’t formulaic. Van Graan is wise and he takes care with writing that is as wily as it is witty. He has always been the self-appointed town crier, felt the need to broadcast the message and down the years, he has found different ways to conduct and consummate that calling.

All you have to do is listen, smile throughout and then mull over and take the distressing truths on board.

Fortunately, Richards simplifies that process. Part of the magic has been the discovery of this performer. He takes the material and has fun with it at breakneck speed which means from the start, he must be word perfect with a performance that’s seamless. None of the work can be visible and he has to be light-footed yet painfully exact with his execution for everything to work. He plays with every nuance that is required, both to entertain and to underline the gravitas of this material.

Daniel Mpilo Richards1

He has masses of talent which is cleverly displayed from his musical abilities to his way with accents and innuendo which perfectly captures a look required in this instance to tell the story. Talking car guards, someone who is part of everyone’s life daily and religiously ignored by many, the story is easy to tell and while both writer and performer want you to laugh, they also need you to squirm as Richards reminds his audience when they leave, to tip the car guard.

It’s that kind of show. As South Africans there’s nothing we don’t recognise in this familiar landscape. But it has been painted in colours that boldly slap us on the shoulder before it punches us in the gut. And to complete the circle, Van Vuuren’s touch is unmissable as he manipulates and massages the skills of a performer that’s as flexible whether he is flagrantly funny or poignant with purpose when he concludes with a reworked version á la Van Graan of John Lennon’s searing Imagine.

And sadly, at this point, it’s simply that. But at least you will walk out of there laughing…in hope as we always do.

 

 

 

 

Renata Coetzee Honoured with Relaunch of Feast from Nature and UP Food Feast

DR Renata Coetzee, a pioneer in research and awareness of the various food cultures in South Africa over five decades, passed away in Stellenbosch at the end of last month at the age of 88. DIANE DE BEER honours a woman, always a warrior, who attended the relaunch of her latest book only last month:

 

Through her lifetime of research and books, Renata Coetzee has built both national and international awareness of the culinary heritage of various cultural groups in South Africa. It is apt that her latest book, Food Culture of the First Humans on Planet Earth – A Feast From Nature, is currently being relaunched with a 2nd impression to bring it to the attention of a wider public.

One of these celebrations will be a dinner in Tshwane on Mandela Day to celebrate the impact of the culinary and cultural history of our first people on contemporary South African cuisine and another a launch presented at the Market Theatre the day before, July 17.

In collaboration with the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security, the editor Truida Prekel and African Sun Media, the University of Pretoria Department of Consumer and Food Sciences will present a four-course dinner with recipes inspired by Coetzee’s decades of research on indigenous food cultures in celebration of her book.

Renata's porcupine skin braai
Renata’s porcupine skin braai

The menu which will honour her research is the following: Sundowner is a honeybush and aloe cooler; First course, Nature’s Salad consists of morogo puree, spekboom gel, pelargonium sand, lemon foam, pickled papkuil shoots, compressed aloe buds, and an array of flowers; Second Course, Forager’s Pride is a dune spinach soup with deep fried warthog biltong; Third course,  Rocky Waters, includes Tilapia, buttered ice leaf, sea fennel and oyster leaf puree and bokkoms dust ; main course, Exploring Burrows presents porcupine and waterblommetjies served with “ystervark-se-mielie”, roast uintjies, crickets rice and glace de viande; and thre meal is concluded on a sweet note with  a Sunset tea party  of buchu panna cotta served with pickled t’samma, rooibos and gooseberry syrup, arum lily crumble and acacia sweets.

Many will remember this remarkable woman as someone who was obsessed with and specifically studied our roots in many different forms with the food culture of different groups as her resource. Her aim was to promote “nutritional authentic cultural cuisine” which she believed could play a huge role in our growing tourist industry – and should do even more so in the future. Her major contribution is probably scientific, but she has always tried to engage ordinary people interested in food heritage with creative and stimulating documentation of various aspects of the South African – and particularly the Cape’s – culinary culture and lifestyles.

renata's veld food
Renata Coetzee’s veld food

Her most important books in this field include South African Culinary Tradition/Spys en Drank – the food and food habits at the Cape between 1652 and 1800, featuring influences of the Malay slaves, French, Dutch and German settlers (Struik, 1977) (Afrikaans and English both out of print); Funa – Food from Africa – the food and food habits of the different African ethnic groups (Butterworths, 1982) (which should be reprinted); Cost-conscious Creative Catering and recently KukumakrankaKhoiKhoin-Culture, customs and creative cooking which was a translation of the 2009 Afrikaans version dealing with food cultures in the early days; and this present relaunched book is based on research of 15 years which aimed to preserve the culinary heritage of the earliest humans and their descendants.

She always believed that she had to understand local foods to promote healthy nutrition. At one point in her career, she was catering for Anglo American Gold Mines providing 250 000 meals a day for five years with the accent on cultural preference. That is why she was always intrigued by the palates of especially the San and the Khoi people who presented the oldest DNA. She felt she was dealt this amazing hand which would just be silly to ignore.

By going back into the past, the way brains progressed and patterns developed, all of these, she argued, influenced the way people selected food. When the San and the Khoi people split, for example, their food choices developed differently. She realised that many of these choices were made for practical reasons. Some wouldn’t let go of traditions, but sometimes the changing environment determined new dining habits. The San, for example, became hunter gatherers and the Khoi turned to smaller animals while also learning more about the veld and the plant life around them. This was all determined by the way their lifestyles changed, something which still influences and determines our eating patterns and choices today.

Renata Verjaa r 2
Foodies Renata Coetzee, Cass Abrahams and Topsi Venter celebrate in style

Because of the way she studied, researched and publicised her hard-earned knowledge through her writings and TV programmes, and formal training, she empowered thousands of women over the years, by training them in the finer skills of entertaining guests and tourists with her cultural cuisine.

This latest version of this unique collector’s book on original food cultures, A Feast From Nature (R650 is a combination of the many decades of her knowledge as a nutritionist and food culture expert with multidisciplinary research of over 15 years – bringing together aspects of archaeology, palaeontology, botany, genetics, history, languages and culture in a unique way. While scientifically sound, it is also beautifully illustrated and a true collector’s piece.

In 2015 she self-published the book, through Penstock Publishing. The first print-run of 500 copies was soon sold out – mostly to friends, family and fans. The book was reprinted shortly before her death to make her unique work available to a wider audience. Academics, researchers and food experts can also benefit and build further on her research.

According to Prekel, “Communities will benefit from further work to build understanding among various cultures and on the history of our ‘First Peoples’. Indigenous plants with culinary and agricultural potential can be further developed for food production.”

Renata en Johan by S-Delta

“Her research included interviews with many elderly Khoi-Khoin women and men in various regions, about the details of their food sources and uses. A special feature in the book is that wherever possible, the Khoi and Afrikaans names of plants and animals are given, with English and scientific names. About 250 fine photographs and over 80 illustrations of edible indigenous plants – as well as maps and Khoi traditions – make the book a journey of discovery, bringing to life the linkages between evolution and culinary history over millennia.

“The book also offers valuable lessons in terms of the nutritional value of many indigenous foods, food security and sustainability. The DST/NRF Centre of Excellence: Food Security, hosted by UWC and the University of Pretoria, has supported the reprint of the book. They, together with the Agricultural Research Council, intend doing further research on indigenous food products identified in Coetzee’s extensive work on the various food cultures in South Africa.”

Her legacy will be legendary especially as it impacts on all of our lives, not only now – but especially in the future.

The book can be ordered from orders@africansunmedia.co.za or online at http://www.sun-e-shop.co.za

feast of nature1

  • The book will be relaunched on July 17 with speakers Prof Himla Soodyall, 50:50 presenter Bertus Louw and Prof Julian May on Tuesday 17 July at 6pm at the Market Photo Workshop Auditorium, Market Theatre. Contact: zamab@markettheatre.co.za.
  • The four-course dinner will be held at EAT@UP, Old Agricultural Building 2.9.1, University of Pretoria, Hatfield Campus. For more info contact kyla.balcou@gmail.com Tickets are R300 per person.