Walter Battiss Art Gallery – the home of Fook Island

The Karoo Heartland town of Somerset East is a place full of interesting and quirky attractions.  One of them is the Walter Battiss Art Gallery which also houses the local tourism information office.  Battiss (6 January 1906 – 20 August 1982) was generally considered to be the foremost South African abstract painter but is probably equally as famous as the creator of the quirky Fook Island.  Fook Island was Battiss’ “island of the imagination” for which he created a map, imaginary people, plants, animals, a history as well as a set of postage stamps, currency, passports and driver’s licences. He also created a Fookian language with a full alphabet.  Apparently Battiss, or “King Ferd the Third”, even traveled internationally using his Fookian passport.  You will have to make a little pilgrimage to Fook Island… I mean Somerset East, to see if you can perhaps find some signs of this place of wonder. 

Madiba’s glasses

On my last visit to Cape Town I wanted to make sure I got to see the Madiba inspired “sunglasses” placed next to the promenade at Sea Point.  The art piece was created by artist Michael Elion, in conjunction with the City of Cape Town as part of World Design Capital 2014 and was in the news recently when it was defaced. 

I popped by early morning before heading off to World Travel Market Africa which I was attending…
 

… and came back the evening to get some photos of the sunset after the show

Concrete, glass and colours at the Owl House

The Karoo Town of Nieu Bethesda is the kind of place everybody needs to try and visit at some stage in their lives.  Its not a big tourist orientated city but rather a small village that embrace their visitors.  The most famous attraction in Nieu Bethesda is the world renown Owl House.
 
The late Helen Martins spent most of her life in the town and the latter part of it transforming her ordinary Karoo home into a place of colour and light.  Over the years she and her assistant Koos Malgas, used concrete and glass to create a multi-coloured house and fantasy garden.  In the Camel Yard visitors will find statues of owls, camels, wise men and much more and one can literally get lost In your own thoughts trying to take all of this in.  Shortly before her 79th birthday, Helen Martins committed suicide by drinking caustic soda.  It is said that at the time her eyesight was failing because of damage from ground glass and that depression was getting the better of her.  
At present the Owl House is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily in summer and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during winter. Entry is R50 per person for both adults and kids and R65 for a combo ticket for the Owl House and the nearby Kitching Fossil Centre.

Anton Momberg’s Route 67 sculpture

Route 67 on the Donkin Reserve in Port Elizabeth has some really interesting art pieces ranging from real taxi’s mounted on a wall to the 470 square meter Piazza Mosaic next to the Pyramid.  Then there’s also the Voting Line with Madiba’s figure at the front standing under the tallest flag pole in South Africa sporting a 10 m x 15 m South African flag. 
 
Looking across the reserve towards Algoa Bay stands a lone female figure on a pedestal. (Shouldn’t men put all women on pedestals?)  On closer inspection it becomes clear that the figure has no distinct features and that is the way artist Anton Momberg intended it.  The sculpture was left untitled by the artist so that it could become a conversation piece rather than a conceptually specific entity.  This means that she could actually represent all women in Nelson Mandela Bay.  KhoiSan and Xhosa women from the time when Dias first discovered Algoa Bay, the British Settler women who arrived in 1820 or the high powered modern business women and the humble domestic worker of today.  Black, White, Coloured, Indian, Asian, no matter who. 
 
The art piece has become popular spot for photos with visitors sitting on the chair to have their picture snapped.

Donkin mosaïek op Roete 67

Een van die mooiste kunsstukke wat deel uitmaak van die nuwe Roete 67 kuns- en kultuurroete in Port Elizabeth is die reuse mosaïek op die Donkin Reservaat.  Die moasïek wat deur studente aan die Nelson Mandela Metropolitaanse Universiteit gedoen is verteenwoordig aspekte van die Ooskaap.  Die sluit in diere, voëls, plante, mense en vele ander dinge.  Route 67 bestaan uit 67 kunswerke wat die 67 jaar wat Nelson Mandela in die publieke oog deurgebring het verteenwoordig.  Dit begin by die Campanile en eindig op die Donkin Reservaat met die kunswerke wat oral langs die roete gesien kan word. 

Donkin Mosaic

The 470 square meter mosaic next to the pyramid on the Donkin Reserve is one of the art pieces that has been installed in the area as part of the Route 67 development.  The mosaic celebrates the many cultures, heritages, diverse histories and abundant fauna and flora that characterises the city and province.  The mosaic was done by students from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and is made up of a lot of different details.  I have posted a similar photo as the first picture taken from the top of the lighthouse in the past and somebody commented that they wish they could see a bit more detail.

Its a bit difficult showing detail without having to take a number of closeup pictures, so I have zoomed in to show you as much of the mosaic in one picture as I could.

Sea Point Promenade art

I’ve seen so many photos of the art pieces along the Sea Point Promenade in Cape Town that I put some time aside on my visit to the city to stop by and check it out.  The 18 sculptures depicts a story called Walking the Road and can be found all along the promenade.  Designed by sculpture Marieke Prinsloo, the pieces tell a story of a little girl walking along while dreaming she can fly. 

Along the way she encounters a dragonfly and the tale continues on until the little girl’s arms turn into dragonfly wings and she flies with him.  The Little Girl in the artist’s fable-like interpretation representing a young South African democracy and the Dragonfly visualises a dream of freedom, equality and hope that we as a nation pursue.
According to the website the pieces were going to be on display for a year until the end of July 2011.  I was there on 30 July and there wasn’t any indication that they were going to be taken down yet.  I hope they stay up for a while longer cause they really give the walk along the promenade extra meaning.

Zulu weaving paterns

Its amazing what the Zulu women can do with grass and coloured thread.  It takes them from several days up to a couple of weeks to produce the bigger baskets and items in the photograph above while one of the plate like baskets (at a loss for a better word for it) will sell for only between R100 and R200 (South African Rand).  An absolute bargain and must have memento of the area.

3D Township scene cards

The best place in Mossel Bay to find and buy local art is at the Craft Art Workshop close to the Diaz Museum Complex.  The centre is more than just a “curio shop” and over the last few years many young emerging artists have been trained by the established artists exhibiting here and now also exhibit their own products and handy work.  Visitors can browse through the display area as well as visit the workshops to see how the art is produced.

One of the artists that has been at the Craft Art Workshop from the start is Hein Marais.  Although Hein’s main products are rock art images and paper-mêché, he has trained about 20 artists in different art methods.  One of his students were the late Matthews Malambile who made the Craft Art Workshop famous for his beautiful 3D township scenes.
Even though Matthews isn’t with them anymore, Hein along with Matthews’ wife and a number of apprentices are allowing his legacy to live on by still producing the cards.  In addition to the 3D cards the township scenes are also available on gift bags or as framed art.