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.

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