THE RELEVANCE OF ART THROUGH STORYTELLING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mondli Mbhele’s Iphasi nesiphesheli, the winning work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 5 Merit award winners are:

Rohini Amratlal (Durban)

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

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

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

Copperplate etching

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

Pencil on Arches paper

Merit award winner: Instructures by Herman Pretorius, Pretoria.

Archival prints & computer installation

Andrea Walters (Durban) #OverMyDeadBody 1#OverMyDeadBody 4

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

Each Merit Award winner received a R10 000 cash prize.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CULINARY STUDENTS OF THE CAPITAL CITY PRESENT DINERS WITH FUTURISTIC FOODS

PICTURES: Hennie Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wild Mushroom Vol au Vent and Prawns and Hollandaise.

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

An Indian platter of deliciousness.

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

A pretty orange phyllo mille feuille.

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

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

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

The spectacularly colourful Mapula Embroideries servers.

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

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

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

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

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

Innovative trout fishcakes with a spekboom salad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sweet conclusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information visit charlduplessis.com.

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

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

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

A DELICIOUS MEETING OF MINDS AT LANDJE

Pictures: Theana Breugem

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

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

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

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

Landje-Delicious diners.

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

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

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

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

Raisin and black olive phyllo cigars.

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

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

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

Butternut roasted in condensed milk and rosemary.

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

Slow roasted lamb with veggies.

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

Dessert in a box!

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

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

Handmade olive shortbread with brie and preserved fig.

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

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

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

Mariese van der Linde on coffee duty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meals are R550 per person;

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

wine and soft drinks available

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elna van der Merwe and Ingrid Winterbach.

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

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

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

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

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

Poet Johan Myburg with author Ingrid Winterbach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is where his poetry took her.

Two special writers.

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

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

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

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

PICTURES: Hans van der Veen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Songs for my Mother passionately performed by Charl du Plessis.

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

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

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

HANSARD, A GLORIOUS SALUTE TO LIVE THEATRE WITH FIONA RAMSAY AND GRAHAM HOPKINS IN SPECTACULAR FORM IS BACK FOR A SECOND RUN

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

Theatre on the Square, Sandton is starting 2023 with a short second run of the magnificent Hansard, a joyous celebration of brilliant theatre with two of our star actors. Here is DIANE DE BEER’s review of the previous run:

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: From 10 to 19 January, Tuesdays to Fridays at 7.30pm, Saturday at 8pm

BOOK AT COMPUTICKET or CALL THE THEATRE on 011 88308606 or 083 377 4969
or visit their website: www.theatreonthesquare.co.za 


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.