NATANIЁL, STEF BOS AND KAREN ZOID DELIVER TRIPPLE DELIGHT WITH AFRIKAANS IN STYL

Stef Bos, Karen Zoid and Nataniël bring their individual worlds together in two unique performances  ̶  AFRIKAANS IN STYL . Familiar or unfamiliar, established  or experimental, almost classical or brand new, the furthest poles are explored. As honest as possible, impossibly rare personal moments, sparkling surprises, gigantic notes and the longest stories. DIANE DE BEER discovers the bare essentials:

Take three diverse artists like Nataniël, Stef Bos and Karen Zoid, put them in a huge arena and anything can happen.

Especially with these three performers completely in control of the show. “It’s about three artists with links,” explains Nataniël, and by now we all know that he will give us the broad strokes, but not the intimate details of this particular show.

Surprises are a big thing because that’s what makes a show, he believes. “We will all be singing our own music,” he elaborates. And then adds that he will be performing one cover, “because both Stef and Karen have had hit songs, I haven’t. I want the audience to at least recognise one song!”

Stripped is how they want to present this arena spectacle. “I see Adele’s show as an example,” he says. They won’t fly any space ships or other gimmicks. “It’s not a musical. We’ll have one black backdrop with the lighting creating the magic.”

It’s the time of the artists, with 80 years of experience accumulated among them. “We all have our own strengths and that’s what we will be showcasing. No dancers, no frills, this isn’t a rugby match!”

Nataniël

He and Stef know one another’s music and Karen, whom he has dubbed the Queen of Social Media, has performed for him on her phone. And in that instance, she went the full extravaganza with musicians and lights, he says approvingly.

Even though  ̶  or because  ̶  they’re complete opposites, they work well together. She loves chaos and he thrives on lists. “I’m the head girl and she’s the rebel!” They even approach song writing and their music differently. She has a memory while Nataniël learns his self-written songs as though someone else has penned them.

Luckily, they’re also talking marketing because they want this one to fly. Stef and Karen are used to singing in large stadiums, Nataniël not so much. But he loves the challenge, also putting together a 35-minute set that fits into a whole. “I’ve never done that before,” he says. He compares it to three mini-concerts within a concert.

Messing with their heads, it’s all about three artists rather than one. So one artist’s closing number will lead into the opening number of the next performer. “We have to think differently,” but then they always do.

They will also be doing some things together. This is where things get interesting. “I’m in Pretoria, Karen is in New York and Stef is in Belgium,” notes Nataniël. That’s how they’re preparing the show.

Karen Zoid.

Referring to the name Afrikaans in Styl, it has nothing to do with the look -̶   but he can’t resist interjecting that even in that department, he won’t disappoint. Well, we knew that!

He identifies style as original music, theatre on grand scale, acoustic, artists with personal choice, no interval, no walk-abouts, no flashlights, short pants forbidden  ̶   and an extravagant pop-up shop in the foyer.

Two unusual choirs will also be performing, with Akustika conducted by Christo Burger in Pretoria and the brand-new Voces Cordis conducted by André van der Merwe in Cape Town.

Focussing on the show, there are two factors that excite him hugely. “We all perform in theatres,” he says, which means that they can draw on that theatrical background, the intimacy of a smaller theatre recreated in a larger space, a connection with the audience.

They will also be establishing theatre rules. “There’s no walking in and out to buy drinks. In fact there’s no drink allowed inside the arena. If someone walks out, I will throw them with my mic!” Those of us familiar with his shows know he’s not joking!

He also loves that no producer is telling them what will work, and what won’t. “There’s no one shouting from the wings while we rehearse,” he adds. (Or telling them that something won’t sell.)

What worries him though is that Pretoria as a city doesn’t easily take to new beginnings. “You have to build everything from scratch,” he  says. “I don’t know where our serious audiences have gone. Everything we try to do seems harder. It’s like pulling teeth.”

And as all three have proved in their stellar careers, they do shows that work for them – and then it translates to their audience.

That’s the other thing that will be fascinating – the audience. It will be my first time in this huge arena and I know quite a few fans for whom this will be the first time too. Still, Nataniël, with all his experience and knowledge of his fan base, is nervous. He describes it as the stress of uncertainty. “The five people who like me won’t come because they’re scared of a draft!”

Stef Bos.

The stage will reference what the show is about – the music. It will be filled with musicians and the solo singers. The musicians will be under the guidance of Charl du Plessis (keyboards), Juan Oosthuizen (guitar), Henry Steel (guitar), Brendan Ross (keyboards and voice), Werner Spies (bass), Rixi Roman (bass), Peter Auret (drums), Marlon Green (drums), and a string orchestra with singers Nicolaas Swart and Dihan Slabbert – as well as a few unexpected performers to complete the extravaganza.

Don’t be fooled by the word Afrikaans in the title either. Already Nataniël has written songs in four different languages – but he has made one concession; his first Afrikaans song in 10 years.

And he remembers, there’s something else that excites him  ̶  no master of ceremonies. With those three personalities, who needs that anyway.

They’re also not filming the show. So the singers don’t have to worry about a camera up their nose while singing their most difficult note. “It doesn’t really work when something is staged for theatre, to put it on film.”

If you want to be part of this exciting experiment, you will have to see it live.

And if you’re a fan of any of these artists, you would be mad not to go.

Saterday 27 August:

Sunbet Arena, Time Square, Pretoria

19:00

Bookings www.seatme.co.za

Saterday 3 September:

Grand Arena, GrandWest, Cape Town

19:00

Bookings www.seatme.co.za

 

GLASS SCULPTOR MARTLI JANSEN VAN RENSBURG PLAYS WITH FIRE

DIANE DE BEER

In troubled times like the world seems to be experiencing at the moment, the art world is a wonderful place to turn to if you’re hoping to find solace. Perhaps a solo glass exhibition isn’t exactly what you might be looking for, but that’s the magic of art  ̶  you never know what you’re going to find. And that’s why this introduction to the conceptual artist, glass blower Martli Jansen van Rensburg:

Artist Martli Jansen van Rensburg at work.

In recent years we have been introduced to the world of glass blowing on a wider scale by reality series on TV, and if there’s anything these seasons brought home to me, it was that this wasn’t an easy route to follow.

Martli Jansen van Rensburg has been working as conceptual artist and glass designer for the past 20 years and this latest exhibition, Ruach, is her first solo exhibition in 10 years … and she’s excited.

It might seem a long time in-between exhibitions but with the amount of work that has to go into especially a solo exhibition, the prohibitive cost as well as establishing her brand with her own studio, a furnace where there’s also access to the wider world as well as her lecture and teaching responsibilities, it’s a big ask.

But she knew the time was right and she got cracking. In-between came covid, all of which gave her a chance to breathe, to take stock of her life and her art, and to explore her possibilities. She was also approached by a friend who offered her the perfect space to exhibit her work as the inaugural artist – and the deal was done.

Vibrant shapes and colours.

She describes the show as a conclusion of things in her heart, a spiritual journey which explored why she did what she did. She started her artistic career by studying sculpture with no idea that glass sculpting would become her endgame.

She finished her degree in Fine Arts at TUT in 2000, received a scholarship to study glass design in Sweden in 2007 and had extensive training as glass blower in the UK, Germany and Scotland. Currently she is director at Smelt Glass studio together with Michael Hyam where she designs work and produces art. She also lectures at TUT.

She sees herself more than anything as a conceptual artist exploring the realm of abstract forms and then as a glass blower who practises a craft or a skill. In the past 12 years she has been part of many group exhibitions locally and abroad and has worked on many different projects including Afrika for Coca-Cola Lab, Light for Randlords Bar, an installation for the Graskop Hotel and Squaring the Circle 2 for the Michelangelo Hotel. She has also featured as a finalist in many competitions, including Absa Atelier, Brett Keble Artist Award, Ekurhuleni Fine Arts Award and FNB Crafts Award.

In 2003 she established a glass design company called Molten. The products include everyday articles, limited edition vases, bowls and custom-made lights. She also works with many architects and interior designers producing custom made lights and commissions. In 2009, Molten won the Elle Decorations – Edida Awards for best tableware in South Africa.

A play with glass and colour.

She has always had a passion for teaching and sharing her skills while developing glass in South Africa. She taught at TUT between 2004 and 2008 and from 2008, until 2011 she trained young up-end-coming artists and rural glass blowers from KwaZulu-Natal at Smelt glass studio. She has also hosted a student project for the National Arts Council and was part of the Ekurhuleni mentorship programme in 2009. Currently she lectures part time at TUT’s fine arts department.

But with this current exhibition she wants to showcase her work, specifically as a sculptor who works in glass. And to get to this point has been a slow process with the accent on process, which has been a tough one, but when you see the work, it has been hugely rewarding.

The reason there are relatively few (or perhaps unseen) artists who work in glass is because it is such a difficult art form.

With the title of her exhibition RUACH, a Hebrew word translated in three ways  ̶  breath, spirit and wind  ̶  she offers the following quote by American sculptor Janet Echelman to encapsulate the exhibition:

Breath is a strange thing, it is both tangible and intangible. You can sense it and feel it. It touches you, but you can’t grab it. You cannot completely control it, but it can completely control you. There is a power connected to wind and breath. A strong wind can tear down a city, a breath taken away always ends a human life.

It is how she feels about her work, the blowing of the glass naturally emphasising everything she feels, while the lack of control and never knowing what the final result will be following the process in the furnace, presents a specific challenge.

“Glass is a slow liquid and with the breathing and the blowing, as an artist, I am completely involved,” explains Martli. And part of the creative process is to push rather than fight  the uncontrollable, because part of the process is to let the glass happen.

As clear as glass.

She describes her colourful glass sculptures as floating objects and that’s also the way the exhibition will  be displayed. It’s all about movement, whether visible or not. It’s there in the sculptured pieces. Some of her work she titles landscapes, but the thing that struck me most was the individuality of her work and her electric colour combinations.

“If you engage and see it,” she notes, “you will be moved.” And I agree. With her guidance especially, the work invites you to enter this world and to learn to see – again.

“It’s about that moment just before the sun goes down,” she says. It’s brief but brilliant and if you catch it, it’s magical.

“You can choose to dwell on all the darkness in life,” but not this artist. She is intent on sharing the love. “My work is happy and features the brightest colours.” And all of this contributes to the emotional impact of the work.

She works intuitively and feels that there are specific keys that unlock the meaning of the work. She is doing a few walkabouts, which I would encourage art lovers to attend because it certainly adds to the depth and understanding of what she hopes to achieve.

But if you are fired up by your own narrative, that will also make her smile. She is intent on sharing the love and the light.

POET JOHAN MYBURG, A MAN OF WISE, WONDROUS AND WITTY WORDS

A book launch is exciting especially when something as rare as an Afrikaans poetry book is being introduced. Narreskip (Protea Boeke) by Johan Myburg was the collection being celebrated. DIANE DE BEER wants to invite poetry patrons to share her enchantment:

 

One of my favourite writers, Johan Myburg, recently launched his 4th poetry book titled Narreskip (loosely translated as Ship of Fools) and, without spoiling the fun, it is the life around him that he observes and spotlights.

Poetry is something I have always loved and checked from the side lines. More than anything, I love other people reading and talking about poetry – making sense of my own reading experience.

And then, Johan writes in Afrikaans, and while it is my mother tongue, I write in English and am perhaps not as familiar with my first language as I should be.

He was surprised when I told him there were many words I didn’t understand. It’s not that the language is that highbrow, it’s simply that he has a phenomenal vocabulary and makes use of words that few people still use. But that also gets your attention. It’s not just what he is writing about but the way he engages with the language.

Even his references send you scuttling to google and you do, because it is intriguing enough to get your curiosity salivating.

But I digress. In spite of all my qualms, Johan’s writing is especially interesting because, even if poetry might seem scary to some, and he is quite the intellectual, he has a way of writing that is embracing and accessible. And that more than anything is what makes it so fascinating.

Poetry can be alienating to many people and when you start talking about Herzog Prize winners like this particular poet, it could be even more intimidating. But now I’m starting to sound scary – even to myself – and that’s not the point of this exercise.

 I want to encourage – even second-language speakers – to try this book, which had already received a handful of glowing reviews from the top Afrikaans critics at the time of the launch. And yes, we’re talking poetry, that niche of writing exercises.

With Afrikaans poetry critic Karen de Wet’s introduction (at the launch) in hand, I am going to use her as my guide because of her in-depth knowledge of this poet and his writing. But also as someone who knows how to judge the value of someone like Johan, who still in this time we live in, has the chutzpah to write yet another book of poetry.

It’s not as if readers are clamouring for the latest Afrikaans poetry offering. But as an artist, I suspect, he can’t help himself. He has the skill and the artistry and something to say. His awards prove that he also has the means to say it magnificently. And even I, with my paucity of knowledge in this field, can attest to that.

Johan has the credentials. He is one of only 20 poets who has won the Herzog Prize in its 104 years of existence. And he is a true classicist. Not only is he knowledgeable about classical literature, art and music, he is also well versed in history and philosophy, as well as being one of the country’s top art critics who has often curated  small and large exhibitions.

And he uses this wealth of experience in his writing. In fact, he giggles as an aside when talking about all his references at the launch, “I had to make sure ahead of time that I could still remember where all those come from.” I know him well enough to suspect that’s just his insecurities. That mind of his would hardly allow one of those to slip away.

Poet Johan Myburg

In fact, if I could really make a wish, I would like to spend some time with Johan so that he can take me through the work and explain his thought processes. It’s that kind of work. There’s too much happening for everything to be grasped with a first or even second and third reading and my grasp of Afrikaans literature as well as the classics is much too scant to be truly comfortable with the essence of this work.

Both Karen and critic Joan Hambidge agree that this is something to read again and again. As Karen states so succinctly (and I translate loosely): “The 106 pages of verse in Narreskip will not be read only once, there is value in the money paid for this poetry book.” And then Hambidge gives you the key when she explains in her review that the poet uses the classical landscape in which to play with the here and now.

Again Karen captures it best when she explains what the real importance of these Myburg words, witticisms and wisdoms might be: “What is the role (importance) of the poet, the poem, here? That those of us who might be blunted, might see what is happening in our world, see ourselves, reflect, devise (or even rethink).”

Johan himself reflects in an interview about his preference for a participating society rather a grumbling one.

He practises what he preaches and invites his readers to engage. In fact, when we lose hope not only because of what is happening too close and personal for comfort, but also because of the universal fallout with wars, epidemics and economic downturn affecting everyone, this is indeed a way to climb out of that quagmire.

Allow this wise and witty wordsmith to take you by the hand and follow him on a journey, masterfully thought through, of the here and now. It gets your mind exercising in a way that presents much more in the way of positive than negative thought.

We do need those now.

Finally, if nothing else, it is the brilliance of the Myburg mind that will entice and enchant. We need to take time out to listen and then languish in the thoughts of others – especially those who make the time to not only think, but then also share it so bravely with others.

REINAARD

THE ART OF MARY SIBANDE AND DOROTHY KAY IN CONVERSATION ABOUT SHARED DREAMS

An exhibition of works by two female artists, Dorothy Kay (1886 – 1964) and Mary Sibande (1982 -), is currently being held in Strauss & Co’s dedicated gallery at its Houghton offices in Johannesburg (11 July – 12 August 2022). Hoping to inspire a visit, DIANE DE BEER shares her delight:

Cookie, Annie Mavata by Dorothy Kay. I’m a Lady by Mary Sibande.

Alerted to an exhibition of works by Dorothy Kay and Mary Sibande, I just knew that I would lose my heart.

I have been aware of Kay, but was more familiar with the work of Sibande, whose exhibitions I always try to attend.

Curated by Strauss & Co art specialists Arisha Maharaj and Wilhelm van Rensburg,  this latest exhibition is a renewal of their commitment to education, with a curated exhibition juxtaposing the work of two historically important South African artists, Dorothy Kay and Mary Sibande. Titled Dream Invisible Connections, it is a rare opportunity to view a large range of works by both these extraordinary artists with many of the works on loan from private and institutional collections.

And when you walk into the exhibition space at the Strauss headquarters in Houghton, it is immediately clear that pairing these two is a stroke of brilliance.

If, like me, you didn’t know or might have forgotten, Dream Invisible Connections is the fourth in a series of legacy exhibitions, pairing prominent South African artists.

And, as the two curators reminded us during the walkabout (there’s another on July 27 at 10am), it was introduced in 2019 with a presentation of works by Louis Maqhubela and Douglas Portway, and further explored linkages and commonalities between Maggie Laubser and Gladys Mgudlandlu (2020), and Robert Hodgins and George Pemba (2021). Having seen this one and none of the others, I have made myself a promise not to miss any of the future pairings. It’s just a hugely engaging and educational endeavour.

“The possibly unexpected pairing of Dorothy Kay with Mary Sibande fulfils the mandate of the exhibition series by providing new frameworks for the appreciation and interpretation of important South African artists,” explains head curator Wilhelm van Rensburg. “The exhibition proposes new ways of interpreting Sibande’s various depictions of her iconic domestic worker alter ego, Sophie, and, in the case of Kay, of delineating connections between her virtuoso realist painting.”

Even if the artists are described as vastly dissimilar, as an entrance point, Kay’s well-known realist portrait, Cookie, Annie Mavata (1956, based on a photo taken by Kay in 1948) offers immediate connections with Sibande’s equally famous domestic worker alter egos, many depicted in blue uniforms while Kay’s Cookie also depicts the artist’s Xhosa cook in the familiar blue uniform.

Van Rensburg notes that even if produced in a loaded historical context, the grandeur of Kay’s painting shares obvious affinities with the splendour of Sophie.

None of us can forget the series of Sophie billboards in Johannesburg’s inner city which certainly led to the greater visibility and wider prominence of Sibande. I can remember coming off the Nelson Mandela bridge on my way home from the Market Theatre – and every time those majestic Sibande images would make me smile. It was such a glorious way to honour your family’s women by telling their stories in such striking fashion. The message was loud and powerful without any compromises – and remains so.

As can be seen in this exhibition, she works across diverse media, notably textile, sculpture and photography. The exhibition features a number of photographic prints, as well as a magnificent series of new figurative bronzes on loan from SMAC Art Gallery. They are simply exquisite and beautifully contrast with Sibande’s larger works which can easily fill a room.

Clockwise: Dorothy Kay: Forms in Rain; Deck Chairs in the Wind; and 1910 – 1960.

Here though you can move up close and personal, experience the delicacy of her work and also her colours that change as you move around the sculptures as they catch the light differently. If ever I have wanted something … but the pleasure is really in  the viewing.

And the experience of Sibande’s work which is constantly evolving as she explores identity in a world that’s constantly changing.

Mary Sibande: I have not, I have. Dorothy Kay: Three generations – after Sargent.

It’s as if in these smaller sculptures she has captured the different elements of what a woman could be, or simply that there’s no door closed if you wish to walk through it.

From a completely different time and world yet with many similarities in what they wish to express and explore, Kay is represented by what is described as “a number of historically important oils. They include The Elvery Family: A Memory (1938), which montages recollections of Kay’s siblings and parents, on loan from Iziko South African National Gallery, and Commerce (1943), a multi-part harbour scene, formerly installed in in the Agents’ Room of the South African Reserve Bank in Port Elizabeth and now in the collection of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum.

And what stood out for me are her family paintings. The links and  historical references were marvellously explained on the walkabout but also captured in the masterful catalogue, which is something to treasure. That and the quirky nature of her portraiture.

Both Maharaj and Van Rensburg are fascinating about different aspects of the exhibition and if you can make the walkabout, do yourself a favour. But they have also included all the information in their catalogue featuring an essay by both curators and contextual texts related to key works in the exhibition.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wa8eQy3xTDA

 It is worth taking the time to dive deeply into this one. The rewards are huge as you discover much more about these two remarkable artists and their work. And then have the chance to experience their work.

www.straussart.co.za

ADAPTATION, SURVIVAL AND SUSTAINABILITY THE FOCUS OF DURBAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

                                        

THE UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL’S Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) hosts the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) from Thursday, July 21 to Saturday, July 30. The 43rd edition of the festival programme showcases Adaptation, Survival and Sustainability. As is their tradition, the present a carefully curated selection of South African premieres, screening virtually (for free) on www.durbanfilmfest.com and in person at Cine Centre Suncoast Casino. DIANE DE BEER

On Thursday, DIFF2022 opens with the live and a free virtual screening of 1960, directed by Michael Mutombo and King Shaft. You’re My Favourite Place by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka closes the festival on July 29, after which film-lovers still have the opportunity to see the film online on July 30. The awards will also take place virtually on 30 July.

DIFF 2022 is presented in a hybrid edition with online screenings at www.durbanfilmfest.com and a diverse live programme at Cine Centre, Suncoast Casino, Durban. Tickets for all live screenings are accessible on www.cinecentre.co.za. The entire festival programme can be seen on www.durbanfilmfest.com. The 43rd edition of the festival is produced by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts, in partnership and with the support of KZN Film Commission, the National Film and Video Foundation, KZN Department of Arts & Culture, Avalon Group and other valued funders and partners.

What I have really always liked about DIFF is that their choices are obviously dominated by the best from home ground, but the rest of their selection is always intriguing, unusual and dominated by issues of the day.

Here, for example, are short reviews of just four of my personal choices to give you an idea:

Valley of a Thousand Hills: It is beautifully shot and as, those who have been to this area will know, the scenery – as the name suggests – is spectacular. But more importantly, the themes are relevant and part of the fabric of so many lives not only in this country but across borders. What do you do when your girlfriend (and hopefully soon-to-be wife) is promised to your brother?

Not only is the arranged wedding problematic in this instance, but so as well is the same-sex relationship that is being hidden from both families. And to top this, Nosipho is being held up to her conservative community as the model daughter.

Directed and written by Bonie Sithebe with fellow writer Philani Sithebe, starring Sibongokuhle Nkosi and Mandilsa Vilakazi, it’s a story that showcases the dilemma of trying to force people to do something that go against everything they are and what they believe in.

It’s important that the language is Zulu, the one spoken most frequently in that region. It contributes to the authenticity of the story as well as the performances. It also celebrates  people claiming their own stories. This is how we really get to know one another.

Ring Wandering: If manga is your thing, don’t miss this one. In fact even if it isn’t, if for nothing else, it has one of the most beautifully magical endings one could imagine.

A young aspiring manga artist living in Tokyo is busy with a story about a hunter and a Japanese wolf. He is battling with this tale, especially with capturing the essence of the wolf, which is extinct.

Working on a construction site where he makes his living as a day labourer, he finds an animal skull and is intrigued whether it might be of the wolf he is trying to draw.

He takes it home without permission and returns to the site at night to see if he can find more of the missing bones. And this is where the story takes on a different hue in almost fabelesque fashion.

Written and directed by Masakazu Kaneko, starring Show Kasamatsu and Junko Abe, amongst others, and described as drama, fantasy, there’s something special and otherworldly about the film which is suitable for all in the family (8yrs and older I would guess) as well.

Klondike: This is the most upsetting and realistic of the four films but one, which perhaps because of its relevance, has the most impact. From Ukraine, it deals with the early days of the Donbas war in 2014.

A few years later and with that region now involved 100 percent in one of the most destructive attacks in recent memory, the story (which is based on fact) is truly chilling. With everything we know, you can imagine what is happening right now when watching this terrifying anti-war movie.

Expectant parents Irka and Tolik live in this region of eastern Ukraine near the Russian border. Already in 2014, it was disputed area and the violence heightened when flight MH17 crashed in the region.

Imagine not knowing what we know now and living in the midst of the suddenly explosive land where people of both Russian and Ukranian descent live. Making the war deeply personal while focusing on a couple expecting their first child draws viewers right to the heart of the story.

Not only are the young couple slightly freaked about the imminent coming of their first child, but the uncertainty of what is happening in their area compounds their horror. It is a deeply disturbing and harrowing tale, yet one that all of us need to deal with in our fast-changing world.

Writer and director Maryna Er Gorbach with cast including Oxana Cherkashyna, Sergiy Shadrin and Oleg Shevchuk, do a magnificent job juggling with the reality and emotional impact when your whole life is turned upside down from one minute to the next.

Informed as we are about what is currently happening in Ukraine turns this into newsreel rather than story. And the way the husband and wife tell their specific tale turns it into something up close and personal. We don’t dare turn away.

Donkeyhead: Depending on your age, this one might seem relevant or not, but because it deals with ageing parents, it is something that will impact everyone’s lives. Here it is the siblings that come into play.

All kinds of things happen to families when parents age, are incapable of looking after themselves, and the siblings have to step in. The burden of immediate care always falls on specific members who are either close by or capable of changing their lives to accommodate their parents’ plight.

In this instance, it is the youngest daughter, a struggling writer, Mona, who is still staying at home and most comfortable caring for her ailing Sikh father. When he has a debilitating stroke, the three more successful siblings rush back to their parental home to advise their youngest sibling, whom they see as a failure.

Family dynamics and dependencies are always traumatic and amusing because they are often so familiar even if in different guises. And whether we want to deal with this state of affairs either as children or parents, life doesn’t simply pass us by because we prefer to ignore the inevitable.

It is both an insightful and impactful telling of a much too familiar tale, but one we all need to grapple with before it’s too late. This Canadian directorial debut is directed and written by Agam Darshi and stars Agam Darshi, Kim Coates, Stephen Lobo, Sandy Sidhu and Marvin Ishmael.

All the films reviewed are also screened in cinema (priced between R75 and R115 a ticket), which means they will only start screening virtually (and for free) after their cinema date:

Donkeyhead: screening from July 22, 7pm to July 30.

Klondike: screening from July 26, 21.30pm to July 30.

Valley of a Thousand Hills: screening from July 28, 21.30pm to July 30.

Ring Wandering: screening from July 29, 7pm and July 30.

MARY MARY QUITE CONTRARY HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW

Pictures: Derrich Gardner and Wallace Honiball

If, like me, you have been watching that delightful British gardener Monty Don and his travels around the world with the spotlight on spectacular gardens, our very own garden series Tuintoere would have caught your eye. But perhaps not, because not everyone tunes into the Afrikaans channel VIA, which caters to a specific market. DIANE DE BEER discovers this green gem:

Wallace Honiball in character with plant power.

I was lucky to have some inside knowledge because I know the researcher, Wallace Honiball, who is also an exciting landscape architect. One of our Boeremark regulars, I have always loved listening to him talk about plants and the environment because of his knowledge – and yet, he almost landed in the profession by default. When he wasn’t accepted for architecture, he could opt for landscape architecture – and he wisely did.

To our and his advantage. With the world turning more and more to environmental issues, with water becoming more and more of a problem, what and how we do landscaping becomes more and more important.

A selection of place and produce from last season’s Free State Liedjiesbos whose owners Dawie Human and Henning de Bruin have become friends and clients..

As things stand currently, architects have to consider the space they’re designing for even more diligently, so you might as well include landscaping into your studies. It is so smart of the Tuintoere team to find someone like Honiball, who adds weight and substance to a series, which might have landed up just exhibiting pretty gardens.

Of course we have many of those – pretty gardens – but when the presenter Derrich Gardner (only realised the appropriateness of the surname now!) interviews the owners and gardeners of the properties and estates they select, he can engage with real authority and information that adds to the understanding of the space we are moving into as viewers.

In the case of Honiball, it is also lovely to see someone engaging so wholeheartedly with his passion. Not only as a landscape architect, but also as someone who is intent on finding the best information and background on every garden that is included in the series. And already in the first season, there were some spectacular – and surprising – ones.

I was for example gobsmacked by a real gem in the middle of the Karoo called Mauritzfontein and when you saw it from the sky (thanks to drone technology), here was this little piece of green paradise seemingly in a very arid landscape.

But of course there was more and for Honiball it has been fantastic to meet some of our most amazing gardeners in some of their own gardens (sometimes handed from generation to generation on some Midlands or historic Cape farms) and other professionals. Patrick Watson, for example, introduced in the first episode of the first series is now a plant buddy!

Wallace remembers a  grandmother who was a keen gardener but perhaps, also the architectural home he grew up in always asked for a special garden, which is still growing from strength to strength. He was also a keen artist at school and even some of those artworks had an organic feel to them – perhaps plucked from nature.

But I digress. He is a young man with a fascination and fortunate enough to be able to focus on that world and then apply it in many different ways.

He is excited about the series and the team he works with and considers the research to be hugely exciting – if hard work. He knows that his background is academic, but that is also what makes the programmes so extraordinary. He credits Hermi King and the amazing people from Mrs. King Productions working on Tuintoere for this creative endeavour.

He is aware for example that not many South Africans know about the European influence of so many of our historical gardens. These have evolved in time, which also adds to place and the pleasure. “Think, for example, of the Randlords,” he explains. Gardens were a big part of their legacy because they became a status symbol for those who could afford the best. He also points to Herbert Baker, one of our best known architects, whom he describes as the first landscape architect locally.

As with the first season, each programme in this second series deals with one garden, one designer and is 25 minutes long. That’s not long and it’s important to distil the knowledge into something palatable which lends substance, yet doesn’t overwhelm the audience. And that’s where Gardner steps in with his light hand and easy banter.

The creatively curated gardens of Henk Scholtz in Franschhoek.

From the start this has been an organic venture and since the early days, because they were breaking new ground, they could also establish the blueprint. Honiball also enjoys seeing the final product because of the post production, which has to put the story together in a way that captures everything the team has envisaged.

Wallace Honiball with Henk Scholtz surrounded by his collections of plants.

And then the grand dames of it all – the gardens. “We can only capture specific gardens at particular times,” notes Honiball – a fact we all know, but perhaps didn’t digest as a logistical nightmare. Some are only willing to show off their finery for one specific week of the year. Others only bloom for a very short period of time and all these details have to be taken into account.

The selection process is also very specific. Take someone like world-renowned artist and plant genius Willem Boshoff, who was showcased in the last series. His knowledge of the plant world and how he accesses it was a topic all its own – as majestical as some of the more spectacular gardens.

And when, as in the new series, you are walking into gardens that are 300 years old, you want to show them at their best. Honiball wouldn’t have missed this for the world. He is in awe of the people he has met and even adopted some as mentors because he was so overwhelmed by their knowledge and sensibility. Others again are great sources of hidden gardens in South Africa, all of which contribute to the excellence of the series.

It is the education he has gained that most thrills this budding landscape architect who with his own work, is also discovering the gardens in the rest of Africa, like at a Nairobi project where he is currently engaged.

But in the meantime, here is the running order with the series starting on Thursday (Via at 5pm with re-broadcasts) and showing an episode a week for the next 13 weeks. And luckily there is already a third series planned…

• EPISODE 1 – TUIN TANYA VISSER – Die Potskuur is an intimate look at one of our best known gardeners Tanya Visser situated in KZN.

• EPISODE 2 – JOHANNESDAL VILLA / Stellenbosch is a garden overflowing with artistic touches and roses.

• EPISODE 3 – CAVALLI / Somerset West spotlights authentic Cape gardening with a fynbos garden of note.

• EPISODE 4 – RUSTENBERG / PIETMAN DIENER /Stellenbosch showcases a grand old dame who clings to the past yet embraces the new.

 • EPISODE 5 – HUIS STORMVOGEL /Stellenbosch is a collector’s garden where modernity and colour is introduced by the unusual gardens and plants.

 • EPISODE 6 – BENVIE / JENNY ROBINSON / KZN boasts the largest exotic garden in the southern hemisphere, and certainly the largest in South Africa.

• EPISODE 7- HENK SCHOLTZ / Franschhoek. This garden is a flourishing abyss, located in the heart of f this quaint village. Every nook, cranny and decorative piece is carefully curated and positioned to play tribute to his life’s poetry

• EPISODE 8 – LANGVERWAGT / Kuilsrivier; Nestled secretively in a valley lush with vineyards, forests, abundant water and ancient oak trees, lies this historic working farm.

• EPISODE 9 – LE POIRIER (the place of pears) / DANIE STEENKAMP/Franschhoek lies between oak trees, surrounded by mountains and overlooking a rive. The architecture, interiors and landscaping are completely integrated

• EPISODE 10 – TIM STEYN – Brahman Hills is in Nottingham road / KZN shows off its spectacular new garden.

 • EPSIODE 11 – LUCAS UYS – 1 Jacana Drive Ballito – Bonsai Garden / KZN is a Bonsai garden of note.

• EPISODE 12 and 13 are dedicated to the spectacular gardens at TOKARA / Stellenbosch with the Simonsberg mountains as the backdrop. It’s fynbos-rich and home to exceptional vineyards since the 17th Century.

TOYOTA US WOORDFEES POP-UP TV HIGHLIGHTS FROM 15 TO 28 JULY 2022 ON DStv CHANNEL 150

Babbelagtig (Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht)

DIANE DE BEER

For those not traveling down to Mkhanda for the National Arts Festival, Toyota SU Woordfees is presenting its second TV pop-up channel, which has been specifically curated to embrace a broad range of genres: writers and books, which is what started the festival in the first place, theatre, contemporary and classical music, dance, lifestyle, discourse, stand-up comedy, film, and visual arts.

There is a strong focus on quality-Afrikaans books, theatre, music, and film, as well as this year’s newbie, discussions on agricultural issues.

A selection of 2021’s most popular TV festival programmes will also be broadcast in non-primetime slots. New programmes specially produced for 2022 will be available on DStv Catch Up.

Here are a few personal highlights:

WRITERS’ FESTIVAL
The Woordfees started 22 years ago as an all-night poetry festival, and books and writers are still at the heart of the festival programme.

There are 18 new book talks on the programme, including the following:

Dol heuning with SJ Naudé: A Hertzog Prize winner – and the first person to win the prize two years in a row for prose – refers to himself as “an activist for the short story”. He talks to Marius Swart about where he gets his inspiration from and Sandra Prinsloo reads an extract from one of his stories.

Wanneer vandag en gister nie lepellê: Kirby van der Merwe (Eugene), Audrey Jantjies (As die katjiepiering blom) and Brian Fredericks (Hou jou oë oop) share their inspiration with Diane Ferrus.

Digtersparadys: With Philip de Vos, Lynthia Julius, Elias P. Nel, Louise Boshoff, Grant Jefthas and Franco Colin, Dean Balie and Kabous Meiring (presenter). It’s an afternoon with poetry, musical arrangements by Wilken Calitz and a special musical reading by Dean Balie from the new Adam Small collection.

Pretoria se Elon Musk; Adriaan Basson speaks to Michael Vlismas and Herman Wasserman about Elon Musk – Risking It All (an unauthorised biography).

 All 19 book talks filmed last year, including a conversation between iconic theatre maker Marthinus Basson and his friend,  2021 Booker Prize winner, Damon Galgut, will be broadcast again. It’s magnificent if you missed it before.

Proscenium: Babbelagtig:

This is quite delightful as seven quirky clowns play juggle with mimicry, magic and fun. De Klerk Oelofse, Dean Balie, Jemma Kahn and others provide a joyous experience for the family.

Proscenium: Toutjies & Ferreira

Toutjies en Ferreira

Saartjie Botha’s award-winning play starts out as a comedy focussing on backstage before the lights go on, but then it turns into heartache as parents left behind after their children emigrated are in the spotlight. Frank Opperman and Joanie Combrink star.

If you haven’t seen the Rachelle Greeff production starring Sandra Prinsloo, Die Naaimasjien, it’s a must-see with great writing and an extraordinary performance.

Mis and Krismis van Map Jacobs will be re-screened from last year, but the one to watch over and over again is Andrew Buckland and Sylvaine Strike in one of my all-time favourites,

Ferine and Ferase. The play was directed by Toni Morkel, with musical accompaniment by Tony Bentel, and film direction by Jaco Bouwer. It received the coveted kykNET Fiësta Award for Best Festival Production.

https://debeernecessities.com/2022/03/18/firefly-glows-with-wonder-as-a-clutch-of-artists-celebrate-the-magic-of-live-theatre/

Also catch the short but powerful Cleanse by the young creative Jane Mpholo, someone to watch as she addresses issues that need airing in a very personal way. It cuts to the bone.


CONTEMPORARY MUSIC, according to Artistic Director Saartjie Botha, has been given special focus.

Not to be missed are:

Al om Antjie: Antjie Krog is a multi-award-winning literary icon. She is best known for her evocative Afrikaans poetry, her reporting on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and her book Country of My Skull. Artists including Frazer Barry, Anton Goosen, Laurinda Hofmeyr, Antoinette Kellermann, Babalwa Mentjies, Churchil Naudé and Jolyn Phillips celebrate her 70th birthday with some of her most beloved poems set to music.

Brel/Piaf: described as a stylish revue of the timeless songs of Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf, performed by André Schwartz and Amanda Strydom, accompanied by Coenraad Rall and Dawid Boverhoff and directed by Saartjie Botha, is a welcome addition as I missed the live show when it had short runs in Joburg and Cape Town.

Afrika Blues is what guitar genius Schalk Joubert describes as one of his favourite shows. And with the mesmerising voice of Sima Mashazi and musical virtuosos Louis Mhlanga, Schalk Joubert, Albert Frost and Jonno Sweetman, it’s pure gold.

Hanepoot Brass Band Live at The Daisy Jones is also something to witness. They know how to swing. In 2019, Jannie Hanepoot (Gereformeerde Blues Band, African Jazz Pioneers) wrote some new arrangements for eight of his favourite musicians and the Hanepoot Brass Band was born. They’re to die for.

Smeltkroes.

Highlights from the 2021 contemporary music series will be re-broadcast:
David Kramer Tribute – Boland to Broadway
; Karen Zoid & die Kaapstadse Filharmoniese Orkes; Smeltkroes

CLASSICAL MUSIC

Viewers are spoilt for choice with:

Community Spectacular Gala 2021: Anna Davel, Earl Gregory,  Luvo Maranti and Zip Zap Circus perform with the Cape Town Philharmonic in the latest annual community gala that raises the roof at Artscape each year. 

Elgar Cello Concerto: by South Africa’s foremost cellist, Peter Martens, and Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 conducted by Bernhard Gueller.

Mozart and Schubert: Esthea Kruger performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor, KV 466, and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony conducted by Bernhard Gueller.

Celebrating Stephenson and Rajna: The Amici Quartet perform works by Allan Stephenson, Thomas Rajna and Ravel as well as Puccini’s Crisantemi.

Zorada Temmingh (Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht)

Th eStellenbosch University Choir concert as well as Zorada Temmingh’s organ recital  from 2021 will be re-screened.

DANCE

Krummelpap, Afval en Sunlightseepbaddens by the celebrated Garage Dance Theatre from Okiep present dance with poetry by Ronelda Kamfer. I won’t miss this hook-up that makes perfect sense.

Pergolesi se Stabat Mater

Pergolesi se Stabat Mater: During lockdown in South Africa, Cape Town Opera, Cape Town City Ballet and the Cape Town Baroque Orchestra joined forces to create a physically distanced film of excerpts from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, choreographed via videocall by Mthuthuzeli November. It is a multi-faceted exploration of grief, empathy, and faith.

There are some fantastic lifestyle programmes, including Stellenbosch and its very particular and exclusive lifestyle, which features architecture from this historic town, wine (naturally) food and mushroom foraging amongst others.

Standup comedy is also a large feature with both new performances and the popular ones from last year again part of the schedule.

Kabous Meiring.

DISCOURSE

A variety of discussions around hot topics hosted by seasoned journalists Kabous Meiring (anchor of kykNET’s Prontuit) and Pieter du Toit (Assistant Editor for in-depth news: News24).

The seriously funny (or so they say) Filosofiekafee 2021 will be screened again.

AGRICULTURE

Discussions with experts about food sustainability, land issues, and stories of hope.

FILM

Prophet/poet/songwriter/singer Koos du Plessis

En tog die deuntjie draal – Die Koos Du Plessis-verhaal: this poet/songwriter changed the landscape of Afrikaans music and lyrics and I will not miss this screening of one of our greats.

Locked Doors, Behind Doors: Indoni Dance, Arts and Leadership Academy directed by the award-winning Sbonakaliso Ndaba explore the stark reality of their members’ lives during the pandemic, when home induced feelings of powerlessness and despair.  The documentary uses research into the migrant labourers and slaves of preceding generations to develop choreography that expresses the sacrifices of those who helped to forge the nation of South Africa. 

Die ongetemde stem – ’n Herontdekking van Afrikaanse musiek: a programme I caught at this year’s Silwerskerm and again, not to be missed, featuring Churchil Naudé, Frazer Barry, Deniel Barry, David Kramer, Johannes Kerkorrel, Koos Kombuis and more, directed by Riku Lätti and Gideon Breytenbach.

The WOW festival which is the youth leg of the Woordfees will also be represented.

Check Toyota SU Woordfees for times and schedules.

AFTER A MUCH TOO LONG SILENCE THERE’S THE PROMISE OF THE GLORIOUS SOUND OF MUSIC

With the relaxing of the lockdown restrictions in May and then a sudden freedom for artists performing to full capacity venues from the end of June, the classical music scene has popped up in full colour with spectacular effect. For those who have missed the few presentations that heralded the incremental emergence of packed performances, there’s even more to be excited about on the immediate horizon… and beyond. DIANE DE BEER gives the lowdown:

In performance: Charl du Plessis

It all began for me with the Charl du Plessis performance for Aardklop Aubade in collaboration with Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool on Mother’s Day titled Songs for my Mother


Not only does he create the imaginative programme for these fantastic Sunday morning classical interludes for Aardklop, but he also performs as soloist or with his trio, Nataniël or another classical performer at these magical hour-long performances once a month.

This time he made it personal as he celebrated Mother’s Day 2022 with a very idiosyncratic and sentimental selection of music which has special meaning to him. His programme was all about the influence of his family’s vinyl record collection which brought back a flood of memories for both the performer and his audience.

And because of his versatility as both classical and jazz pianist, the programme included composers like JS Bach and French chanson superstar Michel Legrand featuring alongside standards by Fats Waller and Chopin.

As always with this extraordinary talent, it was about the selection of music as well as the performance and making it this personal was a stroke of genius.

The other attraction of this monthly series is an introduction of young musical stars from Affies, which has a very strong musical department. This time it was an extraordinary acapella ensemble cleverly named A-minere!’

The next concert is on August 7 with a cello and piano duo, Gerrit Koorsen and Eugene Joubert, who will be performing musical arrangements by three composers from the Romantic period. Tickets at www.ticketpros.co.za

Watch this space for further concerts or check Aardklop Aubade online.

Realising that Pretoria has had a paucity of classical music these past couple of years, musical entrepreneur Du Plessis decided to also introduce a mini festival – Atterbury Klassiek – from July 15 to 17.

It starts on July 15 at 7.30pm with The Scullery Quintet, a new South African classical and contemporary music crossover group that is made up of a rather unusual string quintet. The ensemble features the standard string quartet configuration: first violin, second violin and viola, but the cello role is replaced by double bass, with drum set as the fifth instrument.

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CflqrqODkjs/?igshidYmMyMTA2M2Y

This multicultural ensemble was conceived in early 2020 by a group of like-minded musicians who got together to share their varied musical influences and keep their musical abilities alive during the pandemic.

They will be performing arrangements and improvising on compositions by their favourite composers ranging from Vivaldi, Dvorak , Herbie Hancock, and Weather Report to Radiohead, which indicates their repertoire is driven by passion.

Atterbury National Piano Competition winner 2021, Gerhard Bester.

On Saturday, July 16 at 3pm follows a piano recital by Gerhard Joubert. He is the 2021 winner of the Atterbury National Piano Competition and will be performing his first full length solo recital in this theatre. He is currently a piano student of well-known pianist and lecturer Francois du Toit and the youngster has won many other competitions including the National Youth Music, Pieter Kooij and Johann Vos music competitions and is completing his BMus degree at the University of Cape Town. The recital will include works by Schubert and Chopin.

Du Plessis and fellow jazz pianist David Cousins will present Double Trouble Jazz Piano on Saturday night at 7pm with favourite jazz standards, Latin classics and music by Handel and JS Bach in new arrangements for four hands and two pianos. Composers include Chick Corea and Milt Jackson and South African Jazz legends Abdullah Ibrahim and Hotep Idris Galeta. Du Plessis is a Steinway Artist and Sama Award-winning recording artist for Claves and Steinway Spirio. Cousins is a Berklee College Boston graduate and teaches jazz piano at Wits. This is their first musical collaboration.

Jazz pianist David Cousins.

On Sunday at 3pm, t he award-winning violinist and senior lecturer in violin and viola at Nelson Mandela University David Bester again joins forces with leading South African-based guitarist and three-time SAMA nominee James Grace in Paganini to Piazzolla 2.0 for the concluding concert of this classical season.

Violinist David Bester and guitarist James Grace.

This follows on a sold-out performances at Woordfees 2020, with Paganini to Piazzolla 2.0 evolving around Máximo Diego Pujol’s Suite Buenos Aires – a four-movement work that sketches a musical picture of life in the South American capital city Piazzolla ultimately called home. Originally composed for flute and guitar, the violin offers a fresh perspective and distinctive sound in this intense and flavourful work.

All bookings at seatme.co.za

Following the Aubade concert early in May, impresario Herman van Niekerk joined forces with the Italian Cultural Institute of Pretoria for a fantastic series of concerts starting from his special Sasolburg venue, the Etienne Rousseau Theatre and concluding with a wondrous concert with the spectacular accordionist Pietro Roffi, who joined forces with the marvellous Free State Odeion String Quartet with Samson Diamond, Sharon de Kock, Jeanne-Louise Moolman and Anmari van der Westhuizen.

The Toeac Accordion Duo from The Netherlands.

Van Niekerk has previously also featured this extraordinary instrument with two accordion virtuosi, the Toeac Accordion Duo from The Netherlands, performing at Johannesburg’s Linder Auditorium.

Many classical followers might have been surprised when hearing of the classical bent of Roffi because we are much more familiar with the accordion in more popular genres of music.

Accordionist Pietro Roffi and the Odeion String Quartet busy setting up on Atterbury Theatre stage.

With a special Roffi arrangement of the familiar Vivaldi Four Seasons to include the accordion, the main feature of the performance, it was a fantastic choice because even those who just dabble in classical music will be familiar with it. And that gave one the platform to appreciate just what these musicians were doing with the music with such delicacy and obvious delight.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=740577567292983

Also included in the extraordinary performance was Bach’s Minuet and Badinerie from his Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor as well as the much loved Piazollo’s Oblivion and Adios Nonino, and an original composition performed solo to start off this remarkable concert and magnificently introducing the magic still to come.

The musicians en route…

It was mesmerising and yet another reminder of what we had been missing these past few years. For those who missed it, hold thumbs that this collaboration will be repeated again and again in the future.

If you haven’t yet discovered Van Niekerk’s extraordinary programming in Sasolburg (and sometimes repeated in Johannesburg or/and Pretoria, make a note to follow the Etienne Rousseau Theatre notices.

It is joyous that the classics are back and hopefully some of the above concerts will be supported by the pandemic-driven neglected classical audiences.

FASHION MAVERICK ANDRÉ LEON TALLEY CONQUERS THE CHIFFON TRENCHES IN STYLE

There’s so much surprising in the André Leon Talley book, which as the title suggests is all about the haute couture world, that temple of mainly French fashion, but also the world of the high priestess Anna Wintour. And then he deals with the rapidly declining media world because of the shift of advertising and of course all the personalities he mingled with daily. DIANE DE BEER hangs on to every word:

Pictures from the book

André Leon Talley’s The Chiffon Trenches (4th Estate)

Anyone who has even the slightest interest in the fashion world would at least have noticed this author at international fashion events.

He stood out –physically because of his size and his race in this almost lily-white world, but also because of his presence, his flamboyance, yes even amongst the fashion glitterati. He knew how to do that.

I’m not sure I would have read the book if one of my smartest friends didn’t gift it to me. She sussed that this might have more depth than simply chronicling the sometimes vacuous world of couture.

And indeed it does. If we have realised anything in this past decade if paying attention to America (and how can we not), it is that nothing when race is involved is as it should be. That was even true for this remarkable man, who made such an impact in the way he celebrated fashion.

There was really nothing he loved more. His own stylish entrance into this world, the way he found a way to work for Andy Warhol and form a decades-long friendship with Karl Lagerfeld. And finally at the tail end of his career, his working and more intimate relationship with Anna Wintour.

As part of the printed world, I was stunned by the revelations in this book almost mirroring what happened in our newspaper and magazine world when their advertising platforms started imploding.

I used to jokingly say that I would be switching off the lights, but not thinking for a second that the rarefied world I had been working in for most of my life would end almost with my formal career – and quite harshly at that.

Surprise then that even for those glamorous journalists and editors who are almost as much part of the story as the people they write about, life was not much different. When printed journalism’s problems escalated locally because of a dearth of advertising, it was happening worldwide. And the bosses there behaved as badly as the bosses locally.

“When Polly Mellen who had been at Vogue for thirty years, was forced to retire, they gave her a cocktail party in the basement of Barneys. I went, and remained utterly confused about it throughout the night. It didn’t make sense; it was undignified. They could have honoured her with a seated dinner, with guests of her choice. Or a golden watch, a Bentley, a Rolls Royce, something! She could decide to keep it or sell it, but a little cocktail bash in the Barneys basement? Ageism at its worst. They wanted to get rid of her at Vogue to make way for someone else. They booted her upstairs to Allure, and she retired soon afterwards. That was not befitting of what Polly Mellen had contributed to Vogue, nor of the decades for which she worked there

This might all sound a bit over-the-top. Who gets a Bentley when they leave the company? No one who can be described as middle class. But I suppose in this moneyed world where the journalists become as famous as those they’re writing about, it happenened.

What fascinated me was the business ethics which are on a par around the world. One thinks it is just in one’s little corner. But as Talley illustrates, this is the way the world turns and why we have the top 1 percent so far removed from ordinary lives that they can’t respond to their employees with any humanity.

It’s not all gloom and doom, however, not in the life of the larger-than-life André. Because of who he is and where he works, he doesn’t have to name drop, those are the people who are part of his immediate circle. From Lee Radziwill (Jacky O’s sister) to Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour (whom he both admires and admonishes for her lack of warmth), and of course many others like the supermodels who reigned during his time as well as the different designers who would share their design secrets, their fears and their dreams with someone like André who had both power and empathy.

From the early days, long before Vogue, he established his own style. That’s what propelled him into this world. He could identify style, he could step into that world with grace and he could write about it with flair. He also became part of the fanfare which is part of the chiffon trenches if you really want to be part of that world. And he did.

His passion for couture and everything that represented is what dominated his life. And like any creative, he simply put his head down and found a way to become part of everything he most loved in this world.

Friends in fashion: Lagerfeld and Talley

Sadly, Talley (and of course Karl Kagerfeld) died early this year and that world has lost one of its most entertaining and flashy personalities. And as is often the case, he is really only appreciated now.

It’s a fascinating read, because of the man and the universe he lived in. No one is irreplaceable, but I’m sure even Ms Wintour must miss this valued eye who was both honest and honoured to be asked for advice on, for example, her outfit for a smart occasion.

But also his take on the world, his way of entering a room, what he believed his role was and how his whole being was thrown into his daily work. The chiffon trenches is where his heart and his passion lay.

JAPANESE TEAM PRESENT DREAM CUISINE, TIME AND AGAIN

DIANE DE BEER

The exquisite tastes of Japan as presented by the Japanese embassy.

If a Japanese ambassador brings his own chef (and, as a bonus, the chef’s wife who is also his assistant in the kitchen), you can know there’s something interesting happening both in the kitchen and at the table. We have been privileged (myself and chef/wine connoisseur Hennie Fisher) to be part of these Japanese dinner adventures a few times:

Because Ambassador Norio Maruyama arrived in this country almost at the same time as Covid19, he has had to keep his wits about him when trying to fulfil his mandate. Sometimes there was nothing to do because lockdown prohibited all gatherings, but with the lifting of restrictions, he came up with the idea of hosting small dinner parties rather than large gatherings.

This, of course, especially for those of us not part of the diplomatic scene, was a perfect solution and one that worked brilliantly. Sometimes at the large ambassadorial events, the diplomatic corps gather for dinner talk and other guests are left dangling somewhat.

Yet with these small dinners, not only can the food be more splashy, but –  especially, as in this instance, when  your host is both a foodie and a wine lover (one with excellent knowledge of local wine, to our excitement)  – the dinner can also turn into a huge learning as well as extravagant sensual experience.

From the first dinner (which I wrote, about in previous posting), we knew that not only did we discover new delights when presented with their amazing cuisine, but – especially we also lost our heart to the host and his chefs, Jun Suzuki and his wife Mutsumi.

Returning recently for a dinner, we both felt that because the chef was aware of our admiration for his food, he could relax and be more comfortable in what he presented us with. We are the kind of diners who like being surprised and discovering different levels of a cuisine we are getting to know. And with the excellent wine pairings, as well as detailed descriptions of each dish, it’s my favourite kind of meal. I’m getting nourishment of both the soul and senses – narrative and nurturing. What more could one possibly ask for?

******

And here some wine notes from wine connoisseur Hennie Fisher, who accompanied me on these dinners:

Often, people who love food also feverishly investigate and research beverages to enjoy along with their food. This includes wine, but also other drinks. In fact, the art of pairing food and wine seems to be an increasingly popular pastime. Ambassador Murayama, who loves wine, of course came to the right country to indulge his interest. One seldom visits someone’s house to be presented with wines from your own country that you know nothing about. You may not previously have drunk that exact wine, but at least, because you have close interaction with wine as an agri-product in South Africa, you generally know either the producer, farm, or estate where the wine originated. On different occasions, Ambassador Murayama brought out the big guns, local as well as international one example is a sake from Ichinokura.

The ambassador was especially proud of a white wine made here in South Africa, by Stark Conde ‘Round Mountain’ Sauvignon Blanc, because the Japanese symbol for round mountain is the same as his surname, Maruyama. On another visit, we were served a barrel-selected Roussanne 2013 from Ken Forrester, which was probably one of the most exciting wines I ever had the pleasure to drink. A Storm Pinot Noir 2018 was also sublime. On yet another occasion we had a

Testalonga El Bandito Cortez, an orange wine by Elementis, followed by a Taaibosch 2018 Crescendo, and we ended the meal with some serious Japanese whiskies such as Hibiki Suntory, a 21-year-old whisky. We will miss the ambassador’s fine palate when he moves on to his next posting.

Kanpai!

******

As on a previous occasion, we again started off with One Bite of Happiness, a title I love, and it’s exactly what you get. As pretty as a picture, the deep-fried tofu with yuzu was exquisite. This was followed by a Tataki of tuna which simply means the method (pounding in this instance) of preparation served on a dashi foam. You can’t fault the Japanese on fish – and that’s no exaggeration. Next was their delightfully inventive gooseberry salad, taking the place of  the more traditional palate cleanser.

Duck yakatori style was the main and this was presented with great flair, to the guests’ absolute joy. And this being our first duck experience à la Japanese, it was quite splendid – and it had to be, not to disappoint after such a theatrical entrance.

Sweets started with an Amarula ice cream with the citrussy mikan and finally a work of art in the form of three sweet things: walnut, mochi (rice cake) and yokan (red bean paste).

Our appreciation was complete and we loved the way they paid homage to the host country with ingredients like the gooseberries and the Amarula.

Chef Zane Figueiredo from Brooklyn’s Wood and Fire with the two Japanese counterparts Mutsumi and Jun Suzuki with the restaurant staff all part of the glorious evening.

For the second time in almost a month, we attended a Taste of Japan held annually at Wood and Fire in Brooklyn, as the guests of Ambassador Maruyama. This time Jun and Mutsumi stepped into the kitchen of the restaurant and with the help of yet another of my favourite chefs, Zane Figueiredo, produced an extraordinary tasting menu which was the perfect infusion of Japanese cuisine to satisfy both the novice and those of us who feel we have been introduced to their food by those who know and love it best.

Okonomiyaki

The welcome snack of edamame beans with schichimi togarashi (a red pepper spice) is a staple on Japanese tables, familiar here but less frequently served. It’s a pity because it has that moreish quality which makes it difficult to stop and it’s healthy!

Okonomiyaki, another Japanese favourite and quite yummy, is a savoury pancake (almost pizza-like) and this was flavoured with green cabbage, beansprouts, kewpie (mayo), ginger, nori and otafuku sauce (close to our Wocestershire).

Noodles was next on the list with prawn served with a shiitake broth, assorted veggies and shiso (a mint herb) followed by a delicate arrangement of sashimi, including salmon, sea bass, and with a nod to the South Africans, Springbok carpaccio all with a dash of different Japanese condiments which just take it to another level.

Yakitori (either chicken or green beans with spring onion) was the last appetiser before the mains consisting of Katsu Curry, which included a choice of pork, chicken or aubergine with fukujinzuke (Japanese pickles) and short grain rice.

Most of the servings were small and with healthy food inherently part of  Japanese  cuisine, it was again a broad introduction to many Japanese ingredients and flavours in a meal that was delicately balanced and, as always, finished with a flourish of mochi and ice cream!

Soudai na (Magnifique)!