THE PURPLE HAZE OF PRETORIA’S JACARANDAS CREATES THE PERFECT PICTURE OF A CAPITAL CITY

DIANE DE BEER

PICTURES: Thomas Honiball

PRETORIA, jakarandastad,

Dis weer Oktobermaand…

Miskien is dit die rede dat

Ek só verlang vanaand,

Want hoeveel jare het jy nie

My life en leed gedeel

En stil geluister wanneer ek

My ou kitaar bespeel

This is the first verse of singer/songwriter sublime Koos du Plessis’s ode to Pretoria.

He frames his beloved city in a cloak of purple haze, which is how many of us identify the most colourful capital city.

But much controversy has surrounded this emblem of the city over the years and there are visions of fights for this particular tree and the replanting and upkeep of the city’s pride for those of us living here long enough.

Money talks, and the hordes of tourists who visit the city annually is proof enough for everyone who witnesses this influx that, at least for the moment, Jacarandas are allowed to flourish and bloom in all their splendour.

The four annual stages of the Jacaranda tree

Jacaranda trees were first imported from Rio de Janeiro by Baron von Ludwig of Cape Town in about 1830. A travelling nurseryman from Cape Town named Templemann brought two Jacaranda trees to Pretoria in 1888. He planted them in the garden he had laid out for Jacob Daniel (Japie) Celliers at Myrtle Lodge in Sunnyside, shortly after it was established as Pretoria’s second suburb.

In the 1890s Celliers secured a concession from President Paul Kruger to plant trees in Groenkloof for the Government of the Republic. James Clark, a wholesale and retail seedsman, florist and nursery, received the order to import seeds from Australia.

The story goes that among the consignment of eucalyptus seeds Clark imported for planting in Pretoria in 1898, a packet of Jacaranda seeds had found their way.

On 16 November 1906, the 51st anniversary of the founding of Pretoria, Clark presented 200 Jacaranda trees to the City Council as a birthday present to Pretoria. These trees were planted in Bosman street in Arcadia Park where the Pretoria Art Museum was established in 1864.

Frank Walton James was appointed as town engineer in 1909. He suggested the planting of Jacarandas in all the streets of the town to enhance the status of Pretoria as the proposed capital of the Union. When Jameson left the Council in 1920, fewer than 6 000 trees had been planted. By 1939, with the constant encouragement of Jameson, the number of trees had risen to 17 000.

Today there are approximately 40 000 Jacaranda trees in the streets of Pretoria.

And these facts were all handed to me in a letter by Jacaranda activist, architect Thomas Honiball, a man who has always battled and fought for the preservation of Pretoria as the beautiful city it is.

Some of us still remember the huge controversy about the west façade of  Church Square, which was going to be demolished, but was finally left intact thanks to Honiball and a committee he had established with exactly this in mind. And the city proudly hails this part of its heritage today.

The aforementioned letter was written with a request to the Minister of Agriculture for the planting of Jacaranda trees in the city of Tshwane – and fortunately those battles were hard fought and won.

For Thomas, who lives in Nieu Muckleneuk with a spectacular view of Jacaranda blossoms when they are in full bloom, these trees hold and embrace the spirit of the city. He believes they were first planted to establish the character of a city that would be named the country’s capital – and thus it was.

“We have something that no other city boasts in such abundance,” he says. He also argues it is especially the city’s layout, the long streets, and the koppies,  that allow for the spectacular showing of this tree Pretorians have claimed for themselves.

And he has many anecdotes to claim the city’s towering Jacaranda status. “I was told the story that Elon Musk’s grandfather when he flew over the city and saw the spectacle of the purple blooms was so overwhelmed, he emigrated here,” he says.

He also remembers as a young Free State lad paying his first visit to the city and sighting the purple spectacle, how it overwhelmed him. “It was just so pretty!”

Thomas Honiball and the book of listings he instigated.

That’s not all he achieved in this city. He was also instrumental in the production of a book with the listing of buildings worth holding on to, often used by city planners to save specific buildings which form a part of the city’s heritage. It’s not something South Africa has always done well and we need these visual planners who understand the importance of cherishing the old while celebrating the new.

He is very aware that everything cannot be kept simply because its old. There’s a saying that if a city centre doesn’t change, keep up with the times, it will die.

Fortunately for Tshwane, we have citizens like Thomas Honiball in our midst who have the city’s interests at heart and understand the importance of the picture perfect visual that keeps us all mesmerised.

DIRECTOR SYLVAINE STRIKE CELEBRATES 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ICONIC EDWARD ALBEE SHOWPIECE, WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?

PICTURES: Jesse Kramer

Edward Albee’s iconic play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf celebrates its 60th anniversary. But this didn’t scare seasoned director Sylvaine Strike, who jumped at the chance even if she knew it would be tough. She spoke to DIANE DE BEER about the process:

Alan Committie (George), Robyn Scott (Martha), Berenice Barbier (Honey) and Sanda Shandu (Nick).

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf runs at Cape Town’s Theatre on The Bay until Saturday 8 October with performances every Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm and a Saturday matinee at 4pm.  It then moves to Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre in Fourways, where it will run from 14 October to 6 November with performances Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm and matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 3pm.

An age appropriate restriction of no under 13’s apply.

Tickets are available through Computicket

“Where does one begin?

“A 60-year-old iconic play, a great classic known all over the world and translated into many languages. The first time I came across Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf was at university when I was in first year and the play at the time was 30 years old and that seemed ancient! And now, it’s 60 years old and I’m doing it. So do the maths!”

But this is Sylvaine, someone who understands the pitfalls and go for it anyway. It’s been mammoth, far harder than she could imagine. And it started with the casting. The ensemble includes Alan Committie (George), Robyn Scott (Martha), Sanda Shandu (Nick) and newcomer Berenice Barbier (Honey).

Committie initially approached her with the project, asking if she would direct him and Robyn in those roles, she explains. “And quite frankly, even though the roles seemed so ancient when I attempted them in first year (I attempted to play Martha at 19, in an exercise of course when we were studying texts!), but now I realise that they weren’t that old at all.”

En famille in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

 Albee specifies that Martha is 52 and George is 48, so she’s gone with the original ages. “Robyn is a little younger, but it feels completely right so I immediately said yes, jumped at the chance of directing an Albee play. With him there’s always the circularity, the nonsensical, as each character exists in their own private ego, their own private silo, as we try and make meaning out of nothing for a night of absolute debauchery, madness, game playing and relationship thrashing.”

With her two leads in hand, it was time to turn her attention to the younger players. The chemistry between the couples as well as that between the younger and older couple, is what makes the play soar. That’s why, Alan and Robyn were both in attendance with the extensive auditions.

Post-covid, a lot of amazing young actors turned up  and much brilliance presented itself, but Sylvaine had to find the right match and chemistry. “It was also important to redefine the casting, to challenge Albee’s instructions, to challenge what an all-American couple looks like now, but it was finally determined by Berenice and Sanda, who are just exceptional together and have the most fantastic funny bones, and perfect chemistry.”

While it was written and produced as an all American play and Albee’s description of Nick is a blond, good-looking, all American boy,  the times determined those norms. “It’s a typical American look, but that’s changed 60 years down the line and about time,” says the director.

Sanda Shandu (Nick) and Berenice Barbier (Honey).

Once she had cast the production, she realised that hers would be a very new take on this play. And that’s the honest way to treat these classic productions – honour the writing yet adapt to the times.

As always, she did blind casting, but a very distinctive voice in her started asking questions. What would it look like, a Black man in the role of Nick? How will it be and what changes will occur in Albee’s writing that will hit home that haven’t hit home before in other productions all over the world?

And it came down to Berenice and Sanda who are just exceptional together. He isn’t new to the scene and people might recognise him from King Kong, but this is Berenice’s debut.

Sylvaine Strike pictured by Martin Kluge.

In the final analysis according to Strike, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf has hardly ever been done any other way than with two white couples and that’s missing out on numerous opportunities, because the text lends itself to how much and how little has changed in the US. And that especially is thrown into sharper focus.

She got together with her set designer Wolf Britz very early on to discuss what the template would be. She reminds me that she works with her set before anything else and both of them were completely in agreement that Albee’s words are enough and very little else is needed to support this particular story, this particular night in these people’s lives.

“So we haven’t gone with the clutter and the realism of an academic’s house. It is quite stark and very inviting in the sense that it is all in plush pink. But I actually don’t want to give too much away. It’s a perfect setting for things to go absolutely wrong and dark.

General chaos with the full cast.

“We basically have sofas and curtains and that’s to be used in ways that haven’t been used before, as usual,” she says with hints of Sylvaine secrecy and surprise.

To get the orchestration of this world, she’s using a world of ice and of liquor, tinkling of bottles and even more. And that, she says is just a tiny bit of it all, but it needs massive orchestration.

She chose to go with the American version of the play, because of the 60th celebration, and the cast underwent serious dialect coaching under Robyn, who is a prolific dialogue coach in Cape Town.

“They are speaking with an American accent, but that’s really all that lends from an American world, the rest is left to interpretation. Sando playing opposite Alan will resonate on a local level because there’s very much a boss and an underdog relationship that forms purely from the hierarchy that George imposes on Nick as a young academic new to the university and George having been there forever.

“And suddenly Albee’s words are revisited in a light that is really painful, very incisive and quite brutal. When George says to Nick, ‘I wish you wouldn’t say the word sir like that, you always call me sir with a little question mark at the end’, things like that suddenly resonate so much deeper. The words do all the work”

And, she notes, Nick has some amazing retorts back at George in which he claims the space and the future as the young man on the scene, so it speaks for itself, and speaks volumes.

Those in Gauteng might have missed the fact that Sylvaine has swapped her home in Joburg and moved to Cape Town.

Her son is starting university and it made a lot of sense for her to move, but she had been toying with it a long time since she was spending most of her working time there; making work, taking work or filming there.

“It meant I was away from the family more and more and more, longer days, longer months,” she says.

She also needed to be in a place that inspired her because she was battling to be in Johannesburg, to live there as an artist. “It had fuelled my fire for so long, but in the last five years, it’s been very hard.”

This is the change she needed, in the future she will continue to make work, collaborate with the festivals, The Baxter and this is her first play ever for Theatre on the Bay.

And good news for Gauteng, the Cape Town run is being followed by a season at the Pieter Toerien Theatre in Montecasino.

THE RELEVANCE OF ART THROUGH STORYTELLING

The best thing about the arts is that it is all about storytelling of some kind. Whether you are looking forward or reaching into the past, those who are the blessed recipients of the work whether on stage or hanging in an art gallery, will learn something that will have relevance in their own lives. DIANE DE BEER takes a look at current exhibitions at the Pretoria Art Museum:

Mondli Augustine Mbhele with his winning work for the 2022 Sasol New Signatures.

Full-time artist Mondli Mbhele (28) from Durban, KwaZulu-Natal has done exactly that, tell stories, and in the process has been announced as the winner of the 2022 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition.

Mbhele won the grand title for his work titled Iphasi nesiphesheli, which is part of a bigger series titled Umlando uyaziphinda. This is an isiZulu phrase, meaning “history repeats itself”. And don’t we all know that.

The series of mixed-media works is inspired by various iconic events from South Africa’s history.  In his winning work, Mbhele explores the dynamics of protests in contemporary South Africa. Yet before one even gets to the story, it is the colour and the clothes that captures your attention.

Mondli explains that this artwork was inspired by Sharpeville’s 21 March 1960 Anti-pass law event and the 2020 Covid19 events/laws regarding vaccination cards and face masks. “I saw that both of these share the same ideas in terms of accessibility.

“I use fabric collage as my medium of expression, because I am inspired by how fabric can be used in creating garments for different groups and ages of people, and I also realised similarities that fabric shares with our daily life events in the perspective of covering our bodies and busting or elevating our confidence to be able to face a new day. And also as a symbol of recognition or direction for example uniforms, like doctors, police, cleaners etc.

Mondli Mbhele’s Iphasi nesiphesheli, the winning work.

“In my work, I also use offcuts that I collect from fashion designers around Durban. While collecting these, I realised that fabrics have a gradation of value, worth and qualities. But when those offcuts of fabric are thrown away, they share the same state of being vulnerable. I recycle those offcuts and create a new dialogue that will get a chance to be appreciated and have a sense of their own purpose and voice rather than being thrown away.”

The brightly coloured collage is a snapshot of an ominous moment in a protest wherein a person is lying lifeless on the ground, yet no one seems alarmed. And therein lies the tale.

Mbhele walks away with a cash prize of R100 000 and the opportunity to have a solo exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in 2023. 

Sasol has been the proud sponsor of the New Signatures competition for 32 years, which was established by the Association of Arts Pretoria in the late 1960’s and it is glorious that this time around we can once again, if we’re lucky and live in the city or close by, see the full extravagance and exuberance of this national competition.

From left: Malik Mali (Cape Town), Linde Kriel (Bloemfontein), Omolemo Rammile (Bloemfontein), Rohini Amratlal (Durban), Mondli Mbhele (Durban), Herman Pretorius (Pretoria) and Andrea Walters (Durban)

“For emerging artists, the challenge remains the same: breaking into a very competitive, ever-evolving field. Sasol is honoured to play a role in providing opportunities for emerging artists to showcase their work.  This year we had an unprecedented number of entries, which reinforces the need for a platform such as this. It also highlights the depth of talent and creativity across South African society,” said Elton Fortuin, Sasol Vice President: Group Communications and Brand Management.

Pfunzo Sidogi, Chairperson of the Sasol New Signatures Competition, said: “This year, we received over 1 000 entries from the seven regional judging rounds, the highest number of submissions in the competition’s long history. We were particularly encouraged by the increased number of entries received from artists who did not attain formal university art education. This speaks volumes of the creative energy and passion to produce art that exists in all quarters of the country, and it is critical that we provide platforms for this creativity to be seen and celebrated”.

I was also pleasantly surprised for example that the country as whole seemed to be represented and wish the exhibition could travel more widely – or even digitally.

Runner up Omolemo Rammile’s Mére célibataire (single mom).

Omolemo Rammile from Bloemfontein was crowned runner-up and awarded R25 000 for her work entitled Mére célibataire (single mom), which pays tribute to her mother and acknowledges the personal sacrifices she makes on a daily basis as a sole provider and breadwinner for her twin daughters. Bread is universally considered a staple food source. The artist uses embossed bread tags to symbolise the ‘daily bread’ her mother buys to feed her family. The multiple imprints of the bread tag on the paper are akin to the lasting impact and inner mark that the mother’s love has left on the artist and her family.

And again, staying with the storytelling, the two winning works would both resonate with especially South Africans because the stories although with universal merit, is also particularly (and poignantly) from home ground.

The 5 Merit award winners are:

Rohini Amratlal (Durban)

Merit award winner: Durban’s Rohini Amratlal’s Unveiling the archive.
Epoxy resin, wood, ‘Icansi’ (grass mat)

Epoxy resin, wood, ‘Icansi’ (grass mat)

Merit award winner: Bloemfontein’s Linde Kriel’s (Rest)Room.

Copperplate etching

Merit award winner: Upington’s Malik Mani’s From the concrete grew a rose.

Pencil on Arches paper

Merit award winner: Instructures by Herman Pretorius, Pretoria.

Archival prints & computer installation

Andrea Walters (Durban) #OverMyDeadBody 1#OverMyDeadBody 4

Sunlight soap & Perspex and Hospital gurney, embroidered shroud & speaker

Each Merit Award winner received a R10 000 cash prize.

“The judges at both the regional and final judging round were inspired and impressed by the diversity of narratives and boldness in artistic vision evident in some of the submissions, added Sidogi. While he paid tribute to the judges, the biggest acknowledgement went to every artist who entered the competition this year. “Your creativity, passion, and commitment to artmaking are priceless. The incredible turnout of entrants bodes well for the current and future vitality of art in South Africa. Onwards with the spirit of creativity. All sectors of South Africa are desperate for it.”.

Those who didn’t see the winning work of last year’s new Signature winner, will be able to view Supernature: Simulacra, the solo exhibition by the multidisciplinary artist Andrea du Plessis. This exhibitionis a deepening of her research into the sublime experience and the complex relationship with nature in an age marked by technological augmentation and simulation.      

Her work is quite extraordinary and pictures as with many other artworks, don’t do justice. It’s an extension of the Supernature series, she began in 2020; the work features an exploration of emerging technologies in combination with traditional oil painting to create interactive, immersive realms as well as an encyclopaedia of hybrid lifeforms. The artist hopes to offer the viewer an opportunity to consider our interconnectivity with the natural world and examines the possibility of reconnecting to nature via technology.

The solo exhibition and the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition exhibition runs until  2 October 2022.  All the finalists are included in the competition catalogue which can also be sourced online. The full exhibition is also available to view virtually on the website.

https://www.sasolsignatures.co.za/.co.za/

The fantastic work of last year’s winner Andrea du Plessis.

Her work is quite extraordinary and pictures as with many other artworks, don’t do justice. It’s an extension of the Supernature series, she began in 2020; the work features an exploration of emerging technologies in combination with traditional oil painting to create interactive, immersive realms as well as an encyclopaedia of hybrid lifeforms. The artist hopes to offer the viewer an opportunity to consider our interconnectivity with the natural world and examines the possibility of reconnecting to nature via technology.

From the beginning of September until 30 October 2022, an exhibition titled Fired Up! – Celebrating Southern African Glass Art showcases glass art and design in a myriad of creative interpretations at the Pretoria Art Museum.

Fired Up! will be complemented by a day of glass-blowing demonstrations at the Tshwane University of Technology Faculty of Arts and Design Campus from 26 to 29 September 2022 from 9am to 4pm, as well as a symposium on Saturday, 1 October 2022.

Those who didn’t see the winning work of last year’s new Signature winner, will be able to view Supernature: Simulacra, the solo exhibition by the multidisciplinary artist Andrea du Plessis. This exhibition is a deepening of her research into the sublime experience and the complex relationship with nature in an age marked by technological augmentation and simulation.      

The United Nations has declared 2022 as the International Year of Glass. A multitude of international events are planned throughout this special year, and several local institutions have been hard at work to ensure that Southern Africa is featured on this prestigious global calendar.

Several speakers from artists, academics and the industry will discuss the theme, Glass and its Future in an African Context. Attendees of this symposium will also enjoy live glass-blowing demonstrations at the Tshwane University of Technology Glass Studio.

Also check them on Instagram @southern_african_glass or email them at yog2022.southafrica@gmail.com for more information.

https://www.sasolsignatures.co.za/

CULINARY STUDENTS OF THE CAPITAL CITY PRESENT DINERS WITH FUTURISTIC FOODS

PICTURES: Hennie Fisher

What makes Tshwane such a fascinating foodie region is not just the restaurants or even home-cook scene, but also the many culinary teaching institutions that constantly produce fantastic events, always value for money and with cuisine that is usually forward thinking or at least on the edge of what is happening in the food world. DIANE DE BEER shares her two latest experiences with the city’s smart young training chefs and the way they are guided by the best, including Tashas’ Elze Roome, Geet’s Gita Jivan and Capital Hotel School’s Marlise Whelan, as well as Hennie Fisher of Consumer and Food Sciences at the University of Pretoria:

The chefs participating in the Capital Hotel School event, Geet’s Gita Jivan, Capital Hotel School’s Marlise Whelan, and Tashas’ Elze Roome with Hennie Fisher of Consumer and Food Sciences at the University of Pretoria, who was in charge of the second event.

It started for me at the Capital Hotel School with chef Marlise Whelan inviting Geet’s Gita and Tashas’ Elze Roome to guide the students through an evening of film and food.

The title of the evening was The Hundred Foot Journey, but the movie was simply an inspiration as watching and eating don’t always work well together.

And with this trio of chefs, you wanted to pay attention! It started with bread simply presented with a fresh sourdough, tomato, radish, olive oil, green olives and aioli. This girl could not think of a more perfect start.

The amuse bouche was the drop-dead combo of mignonette oyster and chicken liver paté, followed by the first starter of prawns and Hollandaise which included quail egg and caviar to complete the pretty picture.

The second starter took me back to the ‘60s when my mom, who was a keen dinner party cook, often served mushroom vol au vent, but these spectacular numbers boasted wild mushroom in a creamy ragout and this updated version is especially delicious.

Wild Mushroom Vol au Vent and Prawns and Hollandaise.

Before the mains, the palate cleanser was a tangy lime sorbet followed by an Indian Feast. Gita did her thing with platters of Dhal Arancini, Badami Murgh Tikka Masala, Nalli Gosht, Lemon and Cashew rice, Rumali Roti, poppadom with achar and sweet chili.

An Indian platter of deliciousness.

I can easily be bought with a roti, so to add all the delicious Indian spices and sauces with hints of cardamom, saffron, ginger, cinnamon and the list goes on, was la taste sensation. It was a licking of fingers as the dhal and the tikka masala had to share honour with the lemon and cashew rice, a poppadom for those who still had room and then there was more.

A pretty orange phyllo mille feuille.

The desserts included an orange phyllo mille feuille as well as cardamom chocolate ganache, orange confit and sabayon and a pineapple halva with almonds and rose petals.

It was a dreamy meal with Warwick, Simonsig, Paul Cluver and Pierre Jourdan sharing the wine honours.

It was lovely to bump into the bubbly managing director of the Capital Hotel School, Ronel Bezuidenhout, and the evening, magnificently presented from every point of view – parking to presentation of the food – was a huge success. It was great to see that they are maintaining standards and that there’s as much enthusiasm amongst the young chefs of the future as there ever was.

The spectacularly colourful Mapula Embroideries servers.

A few weeks later it was the turn of Hennie Fisher’s students to impress. The menu on the day showcased indigenous produce and products, one of their regular annual features and something I really enjoy. Dene Kirsten was tasked with creating the menu but in the end it was a group effort between her as Chef de Cuisine and the BConsumer Science Hospitality Fourth Years in different roles all participating in testing and perfecting each menu item before the finalised version was served.

We can argue for years about a typical South African meal and some day we might get there, but, if these University of Pretoria students have any say, they will be paving the way. Keeping South African dishes in mind, the brief was to create a menu utilising the gorgeous and abundant indigenous ingredients found in our country. Sustainability was also important to keep in mind when conceptualising the menu and event.

Grilled African eggplant, sundried tomato, roasted courgette and drained Amasi rolls.

 Grilled African eggplant, sundried tomato, roasted courgette and drained Amasi rolls started us off and got those juices flowing.

This was followed by one of my favourites, fishcakes, in this instance, trout fishcakes with Garri, a flour made of Cassava roots, which was used to coat the fish cakes instead of bread crumbs. A salad combining crust spekboom, water chestnut, Jerusalem artichoke and Zulu oregano leaf salad served with a chakalaka pesto blew my mind. It was a most imaginative plate of food.

Innovative trout fishcakes with a spekboom salad.

Just reading through the ingredients gets my mind racing and it was as spectacular as it sounds.

The mains combined palak style morogo (which most of us are familiar with), okra, Venda kale, amadumbe (which is described as the potato of the tropics) and fermented pap paneer curry served with sorghum and tef risotto, marula and quince chutney, plantain chips and cowpea (also called black-eyed pea) Amagwinya (aka vetkoek).

For those not familiar with Venda kale, it is locally known as Mutshaina and a true heirloom plant. It has a much sharper taste, almost like mustard, than traditional bought kale. It can also be described as ‘meaty’ since it has a rougher texture and does not cook as soft as traditional kale.

Palak style morogo, okra, Venda kale, amadumbe and fermented pap paneer curry served with sorghum and tef risotto, marula and quince chutney, plantain chips and cowpea Amagwinya (aka vetkoek).

Using a very popular dish in South Africa, Saag Paneer, as the base inspiration, they looked at various ways to add indigenous ingredients. They replaced the traditional spinach with indigenous morogo and Venda kale and added some okra for an extra touch. The spicy and fragrant sauce was the main flavour of the dish. In the place of paneer they fermented pap, cut it in cubes and grilled it to add a crispy texture on top. With that a creamy and subtle teff and sorghum risotto (sorghum and teff are both underrated indigenous grains which were cooked in the traditional risotto method), crispy and salty plantain chips and fluffy cowpea vetkoek/ amingwenya was provided to mop up the delicious sauce. To balance all the spiciness, a sweet quince chutney was also introduced.

That’s quite a mouthful and quite delicious but as the picture shows, they could have played a little more strongly with colours and textures. The students disagree, noting that taste and flavour trumps everything. They did not want to sacrifice the flavours and fresh ingredients used just to add a pop of colour. I disagree, because visual impact adds to the experience  ̶   and one can have it all.

My favourites on the plate were the starches including the sassy risotto, the chips and the Amagwinya! And very high marks have to go for sheer invention.

A sweet conclusion.

The sweet conclusion vied for similar honours with a carob toasted Lowveld chestnut roulade served with chocolate and carob sauce, naartjie and mondia whitei (described as a woody climber!) ice cream, gingko biloba brittle, Cape gooseberry and prickly pear salad. Try and top that for something more local!

It was truly impressive, as were the tables dressed in their latest Mapula Embroideries servers which set the tone for a truly splendid South African meal. It was truly special.

This time the wines represented Fryer’s Cove, Haute Cabriére and Orange River Cellars.

And again I doff my hat to the students, their lecturers and guest chefs and their institutions who work hard to get them economically viable as well as energetically enthusiastic for one of the toughest yet rewarding professions out there.

And we’re blessed to have all this food innovation happening in the city. Check it out when you can. There are many different ways to try their food and they are usually at the forefront of what is trending in the food world.

A PIANIST AND A VIOLINIST COMBINE CROSSOVER IMPROV WITH CLASSICAL TRAINING TO PRESENT A COLOURFUL AND EXPLOSIVE MUSICAL LOVE AFFAIR

If there’s someone who knows how to entertain with quality and class, jazz and classical genres, and as many instruments and musicians as he decides to introduce in a particular concert, it’s pianist extraordinaire Charl du Plessis. DIANE DE BEER shares the details:

Tim Kliphuis and Charl du Plessis team up for some spectacular music-making.

Entertainer Charl du Plessis, knows how to keep his brand alive and evolving and this time, sparks promise to fly.

His special guest is Dutch violin virtuoso Tim Kliphuis, who will be performing in Du Plessis’s latest duo concert series presented this Spring month with works ranging from baroque and classical favourites to jazz standards.

Their unique crossover style of improvisation, combined with classical training, will ensure a musical experience of the highest level with a colourful blend of styles and personality. Concerts in Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Somerset-West, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), George, Sasolburg, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Oudtshoorn are now open for bookings.

Kliphuis is one of the best-known improvising violinists in the world. His award-winning brand of high-octane gypsy jazz and classical mashups has taken him to America, Europe, and Africa. He has shared the stage with Les Paul, Richard Galliano, Frankie Gavin and Daniel Hope.

Classically trained at the Amsterdam Conservatoire, Kliphuis also learned from the Dutch and French gypsies – combining two musical worlds. Highlights include orchestral projects with The Netherlands and Tallinn Chamber orchestras and the symphony orchestras of The Hague, Omsk and Cape Town. Special appearances include Celtic Connections, a performance for the Dutch King and Queen, and a premiere performance of his new Triple Concerto for violin, cello, piano and orchestra in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.

He is Professor of Improvisation at the conservatoire of Amsterdam and gives masterclasses at competitions and festivals worldwide. His two books on Gypsy Jazz Violin are Mel Bay best-sellers.

His approach, like that of his fellow musician in this series, breaks through musical boundaries. In recognition of this, he was awarded the Scottish International Jazz Award, a Woordfees trophy and the Polish International jazz prize. As a Sony Classical artist, he released two albums with orchestra: Reflecting the Seasons (2016) and Concertos (2018), which includes his Violin Concerto Ulysses.

Du Plessis, as most of us know,  is a Steinway Artist and master of crossover music. His unique style of fusion piano has been heard in performances across the world and he has shared the stage with Chick Corea, Joja Wendt and has been the collaborative pianist for Nataniël for more than two decades.

He was named the youngest pianist in Africa to be named a Steinway Artist and has since embarked on an international career working simultaneously in classical and jazz genres and has illuminated the music from Bach to Billie Joel for a new generation of listeners.

For more information visit charlduplessis.com.

This season is a wonderful opportunity to catch two improv musicians at work. If you know Du Plessis’s performances, you will expect the best. His shows are entertaining, beautifully crafted and always expertly presented with more than enough heart and soul.

From 14 September to 2 October, the ten-city tour will feature music from Bach to Blues:

14 September 18:00 • Etienne Rousseau Theatre, Sasolburg • Click to book
18 September 16:00 • Old Nectar, Stellenbosch • Sold out
23 September 18:00 • Ghenwa’s Culinary Club, Lourensford Estate • Click to book
24 September 11:00 • Baxter Concert Hall, Cape Town • Click to book
25 September 11:00 • Glenshiel, Johannesburg • Click to book
25 September 17:00 • Atterbury Theatre, Pretoria • Click to book
27 September 18:30 • Cape Karoo Emporium, Oudtshoorn • Click to book
28 September 19:30 • Dias Museum, Mossel Bay • Click to book
29 September 19:30 • NMU, Gqeberha • Click to book
2 October 15:00 • NWU School of Music, Potchefstroom • Click to book

A DELICIOUS MEETING OF MINDS AT LANDJE

Pictures: Theana Breugem

A sadness for many Café Delicious fans (like myself) was the day Rachel Botes threw in the towel. It wasn’t only that I would be deprived of her food, it was the venue, the bonhomie, the sidewalk chatter, a quick pitstop for coffee and chat … and yes, of course the food. But this is again their time, writes DIANE DE BEER:

But I knew that would come again because this is a chef who was born to do what she is famous for – her food and that embraces anything from breads to pies to cakes to delicious meals.

So when I was invited by the grande dame herself to attend one of the #OriginalDelicious team’s latest endeavours, I was excited.

They had been invited to collaborate with @Landje46, a beautiful performance venue in Shere, Pretoria East, and if, like me, you have no clue where that is, the entrance is on the extension of Lynnwood Road almost opposite Lombardi’s, very convenient and not difficult to find.

Landje-Delicious diners.

The invitation was for a once-off, full five-course sit-down long-table style Sunday luncheon under the trees on the lush property.

Live music was included, and estate wines from L’Avenir Wine Estate and Truter Family Wines, soft drinks and barista coffee were all available to buy.

(The meal excluding drinks was R450 per person, R100 per child under 12.)

Because we were guests of the chef, we were given the opportunity to enjoy the day with the chefs and the serving staff – something I absolutely love because it makes me a part of the process – without having to work but able to watch how one does these elaborate dining experiences.

Raisin and black olive phyllo cigars.

I also knew that the thing that has always excited me about Rachel’s food is her innovative nature. As a welcome snack, she already raised the bar with her raisin and black olive phyllo cigar. What a combination and what thought to put into something that is often an afterthought.

Pears poached in white wine and saffron stuffed with parmesan and Parma ham mousse.

This was followed by the starter, again unusual, a pear, perfectly poached (a knife slipped through it like butter) in white wine and saffron stuffed with parmesan and Parma ham mousse. Pretty as a picture but also light and just the thing to get those juices flowing.

Butternut roasted in condensed milk and rosemary.

And we would need that because mains was another Rachel favourite, slow-roasted lamb in a pizza oven – brilliantly done.

Slow roasted lamb with veggies.

It was served with vegetables and butternut roasted in condensed milk and rosemary. And as a delicious afterthought, a handmade olive shortbread topped with a slice of brie and preserved fig concluded that part of the meal and  you could choose what to do with dessert.

Dessert in a box!

In a smart move, they served Dessert in a Box, to take home. This consisted of a cocktail-sized milk tart, a mini bread-and-butter pudding, a cocktail-sized chocolate tart and homemade nougat, yet another #OriginalDelicious speciality.

You could have the desserts there, but for those of us who would have struggled with yet another course, it was the perfect ending to a special day. You could go home and in your own time, have the best teatime snack.

Handmade olive shortbread with brie and preserved fig.

What I liked about this affair, was the ingenuity of the venue, which was new to me yet ideal for many different occasions. The fact that they picked the #OriginalDelicious team was an indication of the kind of quality they like promoting and thus I was curious about the owner of this intriguing venue.

Mariese van der Linde, the creative behind this versatile venue, also has a background in food and following many meanderings down in the Cape mainly, she remembered her childhood dream. She had always wanted to create a type of Babylonstoren, where people could disconnect from the outside world and focus on the good things in life, “to celebrate life in the moment,” she says.

The Landje estate presents her with the landscape and the venue and she is developing the concept organically – piece by piece. She has an endgame in mind, yet there’s no rush. At the moment she is working with the dreams of others and organising their ideal events when  requested. She also does pizza evenings, music evenings (“I love the arts,” she explains) and then these monthly Sunday lunches, which I had just experienced.

Mariese van der Linde on coffee duty.

This was the first time for the  #OriginalDelicious group and Rachel is thrilled that this young fan who used to come to Cafe Delicious regularly has made contact.

They bumped into one another at one of Pretoria’s popular weekend markets, Busstop 7. Marliese spoke to her about collaborations, and that resulted in this marvellous lunch – with, fingers crossed  ̶  many more to come.

Myself (centre) with the two glorious women, Odette (left) and Maria (right) who get the food from the kitchen to the tables.

Because I know and understand Rachel’s food philosophy, I was impressed to hear that this young entrepreneur understood when she hit gold. For the moment, it is the perfect combo and with each of them coming from such a different yet similar place, it could be explosive.

Rachel is thrilled to be dipping her toe into these familiar waters again  ̶  without being overwhelmed!

It allows Rachel and Lulu de Beer, the #OriginalDelicious team to do what they do best, cook food with passion.

*The next Sunday lunch on September 4 in true Landje fashion is celebrating Spring with outdoor al fresco dining, a platter feast with delicious food by Rachel Botes from @original.delicious!
Live music by the talented 
@bassonlaasmusic, the perfect way to enjoy good food and company!

Meals are R550 per person;

R200 for kids under 18.
(Pizza, Ice Cream and a Soft Drink)

wine and soft drinks available

BOOKINGS ESSENTIAL
Email: landje46ongraham@gmail.com
Whatsapp: 083 250 4007
CASHLESS OR SNAPSCAN
BAR AVAILABLE to buy WINE, SODAS and BARISTA Coffee (from their famous coffee truck)

WHEN CREATIVES GET TALKING ABOUT THEIR WORK, IT CAN OPEN NEW WAYS TO NAVIGATE

As part of Karoo Klassique earlier in August, two Herzog prize-winners, Ingrid Winterbach (Voorouer. Pelgrim. Berg.) and Johan Myburg (Narreskip) chatted about their latest work. DIANE DE BEER reports on two informative conversations on creativity:

As a double Herzog Prize winner, a new novel by author Ingrid Winterbach is always a celebration. But it’s not only the accolades of course, it is the writing that gets people talking.

Voorouer. Pelgrim. Berg. (NB Publishers), her latest novel was the book under discussion and she was in conversation with book editor Elna van der Merwe. The fact that the one had written and the other was so familiar with the content, turned this into something extraordinary – and, for the prospective reader, an indication of whether this was something for them or not. That is what book discussions should do – not only explain or dissect the book but also encourage those listening to read.

Talking about the writing process, Winterbach was quick to note that if she had to wait for inspiration, she wouldn’t have been as prolific. As most writers would attest, it’s a hard daily grind of writing, re-writing and refining, and her latest book deals with family history and, at the other end of the spectrum, online dating to bring some light relief.

She and artist husband Andries Gouws have separate studios where they work every morning and where she writes. Afternoons might be spent painting. She chats delightfully about the writing process. Having written more than a dozen books (as well as others under the pseudonym Lettie Viljoen), she finds herself revisiting old themes. “But now I approach them differently,” she says, the implication being that she’s older and wiser.

Elna van der Merwe and Ingrid Winterbach.

Even if her books are viewed as challenging, when writing, she doesn’t think about the readers. Writing is enough of a challenge and her plots are never straightforward.  She knows it would be easier to simply have a plot that’s marching towards a final conclusion, but that’s never been the way she tells stories. “That doesn’t interest me at all,” she says as she illustrates her penchant for a “sombre story with manic pace”.

When asked about the way she uses language and introduces English slang, she’s quick to note that she doesn’t know anyone under 50 who speaks pure Afrikaans. It would sound unnatural in today’s world, she believes, if she should write in that pure sense. The only character who does speak Afrikaans without any deviations in this particular book is a character called Gysbert, who is slightly mad.

And that is how she defines her characters, by playing with their dialogue. “The fact that he speaks in the way he does, is part of his aberration.”

Writing for her is a time she searches for something new, something that challenges her. Just as she doesn’t want to read the same book over and over again, the same instincts kick in when writing.

For her it is about writing brilliantly. As Van der Merwe pointed out, Ingrid would be bored with a mediocre novel – either reading or writing. It was fascinating listening to these two specialists in their craft talk about both writing and reading.

Poet Johan Myburg with author Ingrid Winterbach

Winterbach later sat down to speak to fellow Herzog prize winner, poet Johan Myburg, about his latest poetry book, Narreskip (Protea Books, see https://bit.ly/3bjfs9b) and with these two writers working in different genres, they shared their mutual admiration.

To listen to the novelist discuss her impressions of a master poet was extremely special. She started by describing Narreskip as fresh and astonishing, written with outrage, but never shrill, always controlled.

Both of them admitted that they would like to swap genres once in a while, but that it wouldn’t be possible, hence the admiration.

Winterbach explained the differences as poets (carrying) everything with them, while for a novelist when writing, it’s like going on a camping trip when writing a book.

Both were equally intrigued with the other’s process and because they understand writing, the process was also diligently discussed.

Asked about when to rhyme and when not, Myburg responded that the poem is the one that demands. “It also has to do with the look of a poem on a page,” he explained. Who would have thought?

As someone who uses a lot of references and not many that ordinary readers would recognise, Winterbach gave a handy guide of how to approach each of the Myburg poems. She obviously had huge fun reading and noted that it was a massive learning exercise for her. That’s just the way Myburg writes and because his areas of speciality are so wide-ranging, he can dip into quite obscure places.

Being an art critic is particularly handy as he reaches into the past to look at the present. Pointing to the famous Yeats line from his poem The Second Coming:

 And what rough beast, it’s hour come round at last…

This is where his poetry took her.

Two special writers.

She would first read the poem and then start analysing and checking possible references. It meant that not only was she more informed after reading the poems, she understood and thus enjoyed them more – and only then can the reader truly wallow in the wealth of riches provided by the poet.

And speaking about language, she was delighted to read that even when dabbling in the 15th and 16th centuries, he could tongue-in-cheek have a scribe writing a blog! Or when writing about muti murders, he would reference the Goya sketches Disasters of War and not giving these particular poems titles, it was as if the journalist stepped forward and reported what he had witnessed.

Both these two talks emphasized the importance of book launches and also the fun. If you match the right people, not only will prospective readers gain insight, but they will also have a much better understanding of the author as well as the writing process and in some instances, how to approach a specific poetry collection or novel. I felt blessed.

THE KOPPIES OF THE KLEIN KAROO VIBRATED WITH THE STUNNING SOUNDS OF CLASSICAL MUSIC

PICTURES: Hans van der Veen.

The National Youth Orchestra celebrating an upcoming performance at Karoo Klassique.

The koppies of the Klein Karoo were alive with the sound of the annual Karoo Klassique reaching across a long weekend from the Thursday evening to August 9, Women’s Day, a celebration all its own. DIANE DE BEER wallows in the bliss of it all:

For this festival junkie, it was a first of this specialised music festival and I was excited to experience the jampacked classical music jamboree with a few exclusive book discussions thrown in as a bonus.

Well think for example of one Herzog winner speaking to another? That’s enough to get me salivating … and it didn’t disappoint.

But starting with the  star of the show, the music, the doors were flung open with great gusto for the Thursday night’s Gala Concert celebrating female voices with Janelle Visagie, Alida Stoman and Monica Mhangwana performing popular arias as well as some lighter musical theatre fare.

Karoo Klassique Gala with accompanist/conductor/compiler José Dias and his three divas Alida Stoman, Janelle Visagie and Monica Mhangwana.

They brilliantly opened proceedings on an elegant note under the amazing guidance of José Dias who not only compiled the programme but also brilliantly accompanied the singers. It was a genius touch to start the festival in Women’s week by shining a light on female voices performing some of the most celebrated arias composed for the female voice.

On a more serious note, Poerpasledam with Handri Loots (flute) and Mareli Stolp (piano) set the tone for the rest of the series. It was my first time with both these performers and the first time I had experienced a solo flautist – ever.

That’s always fun, because you have no idea what to expect. The unexpected for me was not the performances, which were quite sublime, but rather their choice of music. I’m not a classical music specialist, but I have listened to my fair share of classical competitions and concerts and still I was surprised by the collection of composers and their music these two women performed.

The first was a female composer known as Mel Bonis and described as prolific French late-Romantic composer who wrote more than 300 pieces. I was fascinated and loved the music as I did the rest of the programme, which included Francis Poulenc, Arnold van Wyk (who also provided the title of the concert) a Piazolla arranged for flute and piano by local composer Niel van der Watt, as well as Herman Beeftink and Ian Clarke, both still living, whose compositions for flute and piano I was also unfamiliar with.

What made this such an absorbing hour of music was the accessibility. It’s not often the case that unfamiliar music lies so gently on the ear and I quickly understood that I was in for a musical fiesta.

Gqeberha Trio David Bester, Mariechen Meyer and Jan-Hendrik Harley.

The Gqeberha Trio with David Bester (violin), Jan-Hendrik Harley (viola) and Mariechen Meyer (double bass) also made magic in what I was informed is a most unusual trio. The double bass would more traditionally be a cello (and there were a few at the festival) and finding music for this combination was quite an ask.

For example, for Schubert’s familiar Erlkönig, they had the double bass arrangement added and again, starting with a selection from Bach’s Goldberg Variations and concluding with Handel’s Lascia ch’io Piang, the combination was quite spectacular.

Cello and piano recital: Megan-Geoffrey Prins (paino) and Peter Martens.

The evening concluded with Megan-Geoffrey Prins (piano) and Peter Martens (cello) performing Schubert, Beethoven and David Popper’s technically challenging Tarantella. This duo worked wonderfully off one another and the audience was left smiling as they moved on to the conclusion of the night  ̶  the newly established Maties Jazz Society under the guidance of Ramon Alexander, who had us tapping our feet from start to finish. It was a sassy introduction of yet another musical element to the festival.

Martens featured in two more groups the next day, with a Trio of Trios (including his wife Suzanne (violin) and Karin Gaertner (viola) joining him on the cello in an hour of intriguing music, as well as all three stepping into the joyous Celebration of Youth with Lisa van Wyk (flute), David Cyster (clarinet), and a return of the nimble-fingered Prins on piano.

A celebration of youth: Peter Martens, Megan-Geoffrey Prins, Suzanne Martens, Karin Gaertner, Lisa van Wyk and David Cyster.

The combination of exuberance and wisdom worked well and provided an hour of extraordinary music.

This was followed by the evening Baroque to the Future concert with musician-extraordinaire Erik Dippenaar guiding members of the South African National Youth Orchestra together with soprano Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi while also playing the harpsichord.

Soprano Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi adds her dramatic presence to Baroque to the Future under the guidance of Erik Dippenaar.

For the young musicians as well as the audience, it was a learning experience in this wonderful world of baroque music and we are truly blessed to have someone like Dippenaar who seems to have lost his heart to this particular music genre.

The first two concerts on Monday belonged to two excellent duo combinations with Cello Splendour’s Anmari van der Westhuizen (cello) and Nicolene Gibbons (piano) followed by the only pure piano concert with Sulayman Human and John Theodore, each on their own piano, with a selection of perfect afternoon melodies to soothe the soul.

Soprano Lynelle Kenned and soprano Mkhwanazi Hlengiwe going through their notes before the show and then on show.

At the conclusion of the day, a dinner concert, Handel at Home, was presented at one of Oudtshoorn’s many spectacular venues just outside the Karoo town. Again there was the guidance of the jovial Dippenaar on harpsichord, with a second appearance by soprano Mkhwanazi and another regular soprano Lynelle Kenned, as well as musicians Cheryl de Havilland (baroque cello) and Ingo Müller (baroque oboe).

The atmospheric Opstal Country Lodge where Handel at Home was presented.

Everything came together for this unusual concert – the setting as well as the performances. It was a glorious conclusion to a truly special few days.

And still, there was a final highlight the following morning with Dippenaar, this time performing on organ in one of the many local churches. I was completely overwhelmed by the rich and diverse organ music, and he also performed a piece of improv, something I had never witnessed on organ before.

Songs for my Mother passionately performed by Charl du Plessis.

And then prolific performer Charl du Plessis drew the curtain with his marvellous performance (slightly altered from the Pretoria version a while back) of the sentimentally driven Songs of my Mother. Heck this https://bit.ly/3P2OWPO

For those attending, we were left with smiles and soul food aplenty. And pleasure because of the intimacy of the festival, the content and the approach, which presents a relaxed atmosphere where the musicians chat in between different performances about the music and the composers before they get down to serious music making. All in all, an affair to remember.

(See story to follow on two remarkable writers talking about their latest work.)

HANSARD IS A GLORIOUS SALUTE TO LIVE THEATRE WITH FIONA RAMSAY AND GRAHAM HOPKINS IN SPECTACULAR FORM

Hansard with Graham Hopkins and Fiona Ramsay as Robin and Diana Hesketh.

Theatre on the Square, Sandton is presenting a joyous celebration of brilliant theatre with two of our star actors. DIANE DE BEER reviews:

HANSARD BY SIMON WOODS

PRESENTED BY TROUPE THEATRE COMPANY IN ASSOCIATION WITH DAPHNE KUHN

VENUE: THEATRE ON THE SQUARE, SANDTON

CAST; FIONA RAMSAY AND GRAHAM HOPKINS

DIRECTOR: ROBERT WHITEHEAD

DATES: UNTIL AUGUST 28 with two matinee shows added to the evening shows
on the 21st and 28th August at 3pm

PICTURES: Philip Kuhn

What a thrill to witness powerhouse acting duo Fiona Ramsay and Gerald Hopkins on stage again  ̶ . together.

From the moment they step on stage, you’re immediately in their cottage in the Cotswolds in the English countryside with a carefully manicured lawn destroyed by English perhaps French foxes just beyond our gaze.

Not exactly completing each others thoughts…

It’s huge fun as the script draws you immediately into the action and you’d better have your wits about you if you want to catch all the references. We might be in the middle of Margaret Thatcher madness, but you’re never without the backdrop of not only British politics as we’re experiencing it now, but also the American disaster unfolding on the other side of the pond.

The text is the first play by Simon Woods, who started as an actor but became disillusioned and turned to writing. It was his own same-sex marriage and the arrival of two children that had him meditating on the state of the world he is sending them into.

He hangs Hansard, as the title suggests, on legislation  – very specifically Section 28 of 1988, the local government act that prohibited the teaching “in any mainland school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

Now, where have we heard that before? Do I hear Florida, 2022? The play might be set in the restrictive Margaret Thatcher era and the act might have been scrapped in 2003 after much protesting, but to name just a few, think Ron DeSantis and his “Don’t Say Gay” laws aimed at Florida schools and Clarence Thomas’s ramblings following the scrapping of Roe vs Wade about same-sex marriage and contraception that should be reviewed by the US Supreme Court.

The Hesketh couple in all sincerity

But let the fun begin, as this married couple is the perfect combo: Robin Hesketh is a proudly right-wing Tory politician with abominable attitudes on identity politics while his left-wing wife Diana is enthusiastically critical of Tory politics (especially out of touch white male dominated rules) and extremely unhappy with the governing party’s shameful performance in most areas.

It is an explosive torrent of toxic yet hysterically hilarious verbiage that flies between them. It is immediately clear that this is their battleground and has been in the making for decades. It is reminiscent of the sparring in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, now celebrating its 60th anniversary, but here we’re dealing in the politics of morals and mores, which is very much what dominates the rapidly changing political scenario we are experiencing in Britain and the US today.

It’s delicious from every angle  ̶  the pithy and speed-driven script, Whitehead’s concise direction and the glorious acting gymnastics delivered with artistic aplomb by these two theatre aristocrats. With all three having grown up in the theatre together, there’s an understanding between them that serves the play magnificently.

Hansard with Robin and Diane Hesketh, proof that opposites attract.

With all of us deprived of live theatre for so long, seeing these two revelling in the text, the characters and the way they can play off one another, was just delightful. They know when to turn up the volume, to glance meaningfully or arch an eyebrow, to add to the sassiness of the text. And as they shamelessly speed through their lines, we tune in and become part of this political brawl, which touches all of our lives no matter where we live.

These aren’t easy times for theatre and producer Daphne Kuhn has a tough ask keeping the lights on without any funding. She loves sneaking in these brilliant plays that don’t always find their audience, but if you have a theatrical bone in your body, go and see this spectacular brilliance on stage.

From start to (almost) finish (would have liked a tougher finalé), it’s sheer pleasure and overwhelming joy to wallow in everything on that stage. I didn’t expect anything less from these two astonishing actors and yet, I was still caught off guard by their deliciously delicate performances and a story that might be scary but is a helluva rollercoaster ride!

HOW THE HANDS OF THE MAPULA WOMEN OF THE WINTERVELD BECOME VOICES FOR OUR PLANET

PICTURES OF PANELS: PAUL MILLS

A group of South African embroidery artists recently turned their hearts and hands to the rapidly rising urgency of climate change with an embroidered artwork of 11 panels which is being displayed in Tshwane’s Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria until the end of the month. DIANE DE BEER gives the details:

Puleng Plessie, Curator: Education Mediation promotes the educational aspects at the Javett Art Centre.

“The world’s women are the key to sustainable development, peace and security,” said UN Sec-General Ban Ki-moon. (2010)

Acknowledging the truth of this statement, the Mapula Embroidery artists – who are rural women completely dependent on available natural resources for food, fuel and shelter for themselves, their families and community and, thus, extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change and environmental threats –  conceptualised and created a significant textile work: Women of the Winterveld: Hands Become Voices for our Planet.

The Mapula Embroidery Panels

The women of the project have demonstrated their resilience over many years and, through this work, aimed to show their agency regarding the global issue of our time. 

They depict in their embroidery their local environment and climate change impacts, as well as their vision of what successful activism can achieve in bringing about changed behaviours to promote adaption and mitigation in order to ensure a healthy, sustainable planet for future generations.

This puts them at the centre of climate change awareness-raising, activism and the promotion of an urgent response in their own community and far beyond. 

(Left) WATER: The story of drought and floods, wastage, water-borne disease and contamination.

(Centre ) EARTH: The images depict a dry earth which is infertile and polluted, threatening all forms of life.

(Right) AIR: Illustrations of the major contributors to a polluted atmosphere with CO2 emissions  –  the major cause of global warming  –   out of control.

Since research shows that gender inequalities, which result in the increased vulnerability of women, will be aggravated by climate change, it is fitting that the first showing of this piece is happening in South Africa’s Women’s Month. Mapula’s hope is that by engaging with this work the public will engage seriously with the issues of climate crisis, climate action, vulnerability of women in gender-unequal societies and their intersectionalities. 

The Mapula women’s lives have been transformed through their embroidery work. They have reached a stage where they are ready to become agents of change themselves as they advocate – using their own personal experiences and creative expression – on the climate emergency in the hope of not only changing their immediate environment but also bringing climate justice to the wider world.

(Left) FIRE: The story of death and destruction by spontaneous and uncontrolled fires caused by the extreme heat, dry vegetation easily catching fire and severe electric storms which accompany global warming.

(Centre) CLIMATE WARRIORS: The world’s most recognised climate and environmental activists as well as other prominent activists and active citizens  –  notably women dominate this space  –  are seen with placards broadcasting messages which show the urgency for changing targeted human activity.

(Right) WATER: A contrasting story of water where human activity is modified to preserve the health of our planet. Clean water, good water management, efficient water supply systems and humans taking care in using this precious resource without wastage.

As they have a large following, their voices will be heard locally and globally. The artists are already recognised for their story cloths, which they have designed and embroidered over the past 30 years, and their work hangs in museums and private collections worldwide, appears in many publications and is sought-after by textile collectors.

Future exhibition opportunities for this artwork will present chances for awareness-raising amongst an even broader public.

Importantly, such a large project ensures that the artists develop further and have work and income – all of which are central to vulnerable women and their families, as is a possibility with many of these participants.

Income from the sale of this collectable textile piece will contribute towards the future of Mapula Embroideries.

(Left) EARTH: The earth can be healthy, fertile and abundant if human activity is modified to care for the environment and global warming is not left unchecked.

(Centre) AIR: With good quality air plants, animals, humans thrive.

(Right) FIRE: Plants grow, people and animals thrive and are safe when global temperatures are kept at healthy levels and fire is not unpredictable, widespread and out of control.

The artwork Women from the Winterveld: Hands become Voices for our Planet is a piece of 11 panels hanging in sequence and measuring approximately 10 metres across and 2 metres in height.

Nine panels are held together by the first and last panels, which depict global temperatures, reminding the viewer of our collective global responsibility to keep the rise to a maximum of 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

The 1m x 2m panels are separated by a central panel paying respect to the climate warriors who are dedicated to climate activism and action urging the global population to modify their behaviours in order to save our planet. The first four 1m x 2m panels depict our planet suffering the impacts of global warming and the next four 1m x 2m panels show our planet recovering and restored with global temperatures being kept below critical levels.

Essentially the sequence shows an extremely endangered planet followed by a healthy, sustainable planet achieved through changed human activity. The four elements of water, earth, air and fire – their symbols headlining each panel – organise the thinking and images in the work.

A previous MAPULA EMBROIDERIES’ 2021 MAJOR WORK: 2020 Through the Eye of a Needle was well received and has been sold into the collection of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Art Museum (WAM).

To see the catalogue of the work go to the Mapula website www.mapulaembroideries.org and find the flipbook under the ABOUT tab.