PLACES

P L A C E S JAC DE VILLIERS

PLACES is a portfol io of my favourite travel photographs. A good travel picture should have the spontaneity of a wel l-shot snap. I’ve been snapping away for various magazines including Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler, Cosmopol itan; Die Zeit, El le Deco, Food I l lustrated, Food & Wine, Food & Home, Harpers & Queen, House & Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Visi & Wal lpaper City Guide. Enjoy the ride! . Jac de Villiers PLACES A gecko on the window of a loo in Kuala Lumpur

Abu the elephant, Botswana Route 62, Ladismith, Cape Province

Leopard, Timbavati, Limpopo

Etosha Nationl Park, Namibia

Quagga,West Coast National Park, Cape Province

Flamingos,West Coast National Park, Cape Province

Rodeo, Mexico City

Fisherman, Bal i , Boy on tur t le and dyed books for f ireworks product ion, Vietnam

Maputo, Mozambique

Hexatych photographed in Lisbon (1&2), Maputo (3&4), Mexico City (5) and Hanoi (6)

Colonnade, Karlsbad, Czech Republic Park, Prague

Cafe Slavia, Prague House & Leisure magazine

Cairo

Greek boy band, New York

Cape Town harbour Cape Town Tourism

09.00 Sea Point Pavilion The promenade that stretches from Green Point Lighthouse to the iconic Sea Point Pavilion (open 7am to 7pm in the summer) passes through three Atlantic suburbs; a highlight is the 1955 HQ of broadcaster SABC (209 St James Road), designed by architects Meiring & Naude. The pavilion was built in the 1950s and has remained blissfully unchanged since then, despite often being eyed with zeal by developers. Little of the ocean that surrounds Cape Town is swim-friendly — the Atlantic is far too cold and the Indian is a tiresome drive away — and hence the four saltwater pools found here, one of which is Olympic-sized. A worthwhile alternative is the Newlands Swimming Pool (T 021 671 2729), which is graced with a modernist stand topped by a floating, swallow-tail-shaped canopy. Beach Road, T 021 434 3341 027 24 HOURS 026 wallpaper* city guide

Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway Once owned by Cecil John Rhodes, the 528- hectare Eden on the south slopes of Table Mountain became Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in 1913, and has recently been shedding its fuddy-duddy reputation. The summer concert series is remarkably popular, with acts ranging from the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra to Goldfish and gonzo rapper Jack Parow. Then there’s the various built interventions, from the likes of local contemporary sculptor Dylan Lewis. The Centenary Walkway is a 130m- long, 12m-high, crescent-shaped steel-and- timber sky bridge through the arboretum. Designed by Mark Thomas and Christopher Bisset and dubbed ‘The Boomslang’ (Tree Snake), it missed its deadline by one year, opening in 2014, which is very Cape Town. Rhodes Drive, Newlands, T 021 799 8899, www.sanbi.org/gardens/kirstenbosch 065

Statue of Kwame Nkrumah I recently visited Accra, the capital of Ghana to photograph the Design Network Africa workshop, commisioned by Trevyn and Julian McGowan of SOURCE. The photographs were snapped in a day and a half – time I had off from the workshop. Jac de Villiers ONE & A HALF DAYS IN ACCRA

Paa Wi l l ie’s cof f in shop

In the heart of the Great Karoo, in the fertile valley of the Sneeuberg Mountains lies the small town of Nieu Bethesda.Karoo is the name given by the Khoikhoi to the semi-desert plateau located in the southeastern region of the Cape Province. On the outskirts of the town stands a house that is decorated in saturated colours and figures shaped in concrete and glass. It is called the The Owl House and was created by the ascetic artist Helen Martins who was born in Nieu Bethesda around the turn of the nineteenth century. As a young woman Helen Martins left Nieu Bethesda, became a teacher, was married for a while and returned to her home town in the late nineteen thirties to take care of her elderly parents. By 1945 both her parents had died. The shy Helen Martins, now in her late forties, felt secluded and alone. Rumour has it that, as she lay ill in bed one night, with the moon shining through her bedroom window and, feeling depressed by the monotony of her surroundings, she decided to change her living environment and recreate a fantasy world of colour and shapes to surround herself. Thus started a project that would take her many years to complete and would in time become known as The Owl House. About light. Entering The Owl House is like stepping into a huge jewellery box of rubies and emeralds, with patchy sunlight filtering through red, green and yellow glass panes. Some brightly painted windows, walls and ceilings are encrusted with ground glass, their luminous surfaces reflecting light that bathe the objects and pictures in different hues. There are small statues and sculptures, religious objects, lamps, Mona Lisas and sun symbols, all carefully staged in a theatrical interplay of light and shade, orchestrated and directed by Miss Helen, as she got to be known in those days of miracle and wonder. Concrete and glass. As the interior neared completion, Helen Martins began working closely with builder and itinerant sheep shearer, Koos Malgas, on creating a physical landscape of her imagination. Her dreams and fantasies were derived from her readings of the Bible, as well as philosophical works of William Blake and the poetry of Omar Khayyam. Making use of humble materials such as glass, cement and wire, she worked closely with Malgas to create a wonderful collection of delicately sculptured, bottle-skirted ladies and chaps in hats and caps, figures bending backwards as if in exultation, a menagerie of vigilant owls, a cat with car headlights for eyes, shepherds and camels carrying wise men towards the Orient, on the road to Mecca. THE OWL HOUSE

Town without pity? The name Bethesda is from Hebrew origin and means “house of mercy”. It is widely believed that during the time of Helen Martin’s renascent period she found herself more and more isolated from the local community, some of whom treated her with suspicion and scorn and as a result we have come to believe that Nieu Bethesda was her nemesis. But was this the case? I recently received a call from a woman who grew up in Nieu Bethesda and who fondly remembered that, as a child, she used to deliver food to Helen Martins and in return Miss Helen would play classical music for her from her “seventy-eight” record collection. She felt that the tiny Karroo community of Nieu Bethesda had been dramatically misrepresented through the years and that they displayed in fact quite a caring towards Helen Martins by, for instance, sending her regular food parcels. One way or the other it seems that Helen Martins did become more reclusive, while the rigor of the work she had undertaken took its toll on her health. With her eyesight rapidly declining, she found herself engaged in a desperate race against time. In 1976, at the age of 77, Helen Martins felt that her work had been completed, and, with her failing eyesight adding to her despair, she took her own life by swallowing caustic soda. Her legacy. I believe that the joy and passion that she must have experienced in creating The Owl House and the delightful landscape that she left behind - a landscape of Love - makes her death almost incidental. My connection. My association with the Owl House began in August 2006 when I was commissioned by the Consol Glass Company to take photographs of the Owl House to be used in a glass awareness brochure. In March 2007 I was invited to exhibited photographs I had taken of the Owl House in a show titled “The Landscape of Love” at the University of Stellenbosch during their annual “Woordfees” (Festival of Words). In September 2007 I revisited the Owl House to complete my body of work. My idea of pairing the photographs happened spontaneously – I wanted to steer away from a candid record of Helen Martin’s work and instead create an interpretive documentary by combining images that contrasted or complemented each other in terms of colour and content. Jac de Villiers

House & Le i sure

Groot Karoo

Welwi tschia Mirabi l is, Namib deser t

House & Le i sure

R O M A N T I C G A R D E N Kings Walden garden on the farm of the Hyl ton–Barber fami ly in Limpopo has a ver y romant ic legacy. I t was here In the 1930 ’s that a beaut i ful young woman was enchanted by the mountain views and told the man she was accompanying: “ I never want to leave”. “Mar r y me”, he repl ied, “and you wi l l never have to”.

I felt pleased when Peter and Barbara Knox-Shaw recently invited me to photograph their garden at Fresh Woods in Elgin for House and Garden magazine. I had photographed the garden twenty-five years earlier and I remembered with joy how Peter’s late mother, Maisey, introduced me to her abundant collection of roses, three species of which were unique to Fresh Woods at the time. Peter and Barbara have expanded the more formal garden into a wilder woodlands area, linked by a simple pathway winding through a small bamboo forest. Fresh Woods is a spirited garden; it embodies the generosity and creativity of Peter and Barbara Knox-Shaw Jac de Villiers FRESH WOODS House & Garden

LAST YEAR FRESH WOODS celebrated its diamond jubilee and its 20th open garden season. In its life, the garden has seen many transformations. It was once a wind-swept rockv, sunbaked hilltop on acid gravelly clay. Probably overgrown with renosterbos and heaths for the most part, but some of it was on better soil. And here the bulbs hid under the dense cover. Waiting for the fires that would sweep through every decade or so. In the early 20th century the whole site was planted with Pinus pinaster, under which many bulbs astonishingly have survived to this day. In 1950 a section was cleared for the garden; hut growth everywhere was slow, and shade was scarce for the first decade. Piped irrigation changed all that, and brought a surge in growth everywhere it reached. Roses, those pioneers of newly cleared spaces, flourished in the clay, and the collection grew to number nearly 500 old and species roses. But inevitably the canopy rose and spread. shrubs swallowed their neighbours, and well-bred plants turned out to he bullies, sensing new opportunities. How to cope with ever-increasing shade is a problem most gardeners have to face at some stage. Some raze everything to the ground and start over again, revelling in the: chance: to give plants the sun and space they want. Others allow nature to take its course, even celebrating the do-nothing approach of the ‘self-sustaining garden’, the famous example being Sir Peter Smithers whose Swiss garden, Vico Morcote, was reported at last to be totally impenetrable. ENCHANTED FOREST

At Fresh Woods we have had to learn to strike a balance without destroying the romantic atmosphere of the garden. On the one hand, we cherish the garden’s naturalism so beloved by visitors, but behind the scenes we are always fighting the regrowth, and the decisions are harder each year, as is the work and the height of the ladders. Sometimes there is no choice but to start again, especially where a climbing rose has brought a tree down. Occasionally nature lends a hand with spectacular results, as when, after a terrifying night, we woke to find the willow gone over. Luckily it fell with such grace as to create a magnificent arch with a wonderful - unplanned - vista beyond. There is no doubt that over the years the roses have had to yield some space to less sun-demanding plants such as the beautiful deutzias, relatives of the mock-oranges. However, the garden took a whole new direction after an even more vicious storm, the notorious hurricane of 1984, brought down nine huge pines in the rooikrans-infested plantation adjoining the garden. When, during a visit to Knightshayes in Devon, the possibilities of woodland gardening were revealed in all their splendour, we decided to fell a further area of woodland ourselves and create a new garden within it. It is a fallacy held dear by many South Africans that one cannot grow anything under a pine. Pines are, in fact, remarkably tolerant of undergrowth, especially when they are mature, and in any case most forest plants are shallow rooted, thriving in the rich upper layer. The critical factor is light, without which only ferns will thrive, and of all the problems we’ve struck in the woodland, the pines have been the least.

The range of plants quickly grew. Our immediate need was to plant the rhododendrons acquired from grower Felicity Green, for so long a lone crusader on their behalf Green had a wonderful collection of hardy hybrids and deciduous azaleas, and we have grown and propagated nearly all of it. A visit to the Kew greenhouses, however, introduced us to a different type – the Maddenia group which come from hotter and drier areas, and have sumptuous lily-like perfumed flowers. Then came the Luculias, magnificent shrubs from India and Burma, that scent the entire forest in the autumn. Hydrangeas, too became an obsession; not the old Macrophyllas, the familiar Christmas Roses, but the more delicate Serratas, which need no pruning and produce shrubs of elegance and beauty. The Japanese maples are another source of pleasure, and the collection grows each year.

The woodland floor is rich in possibilities too, and we have created raised mounds in the clearings, partly for drainage, and partly to raise the plants above the tree root zone. Here belong the epimediums, a fascinating group related to the berberis, many of which thrive in our warm climate, as do the arisaemas, an Eastern group related to the arums. Some have spathes that resemble the Indian cobra so closely one wonders what purpose the mimicry could serve – mouse repellent? Hellebores, too, have proved to be reliable groundcovers, while the blue corydalis, easy once one understands its needs, never fails to create a sensation on open days. The species lilies thrive too in the lighter woodland soil. But pride of place belongs to a wonderful group undeservedly neglected by Cape Town gardeners, the cyclamen, which light up the woodland floor in the autumn, the winter, the spring, and occasionally even in the summer. One of the great strengths, I feel, of Fresh Woods is that it was never designed in one fell swoop, but evolved, rather, over many years. This has given it a flexibility denied to other ‘designed’ gardens, and enabled us to recover. from natural disasters and seize advantage where nature leads the way. Barbara Knox-Shaw

From the arid Kenyan plains blossoms a secret garden of delight. Maximum meaning, minimal means. This simple approach is the structure upon which Nani Croze’s Kitengela Glass Paradise was built. Born in Germany, Nani’s family of artists encouraged her natural creative ability from the very beginning, but it was Africa and its wildlife that instilled in her a real passion. In the early seventies after living in the Serengeti studying elephants, Nani and her former husband animal behaviourist Harvey Croze, moved to Kenya where she began to paint murals for extra income. Two years later and newly single, Nani was left with a large plot of land her and Harvey had bought from a Masai chief. Intending to eventually build a house upon it, the two had done little to the land before parting, and all that stood upon it was huts and horse stalls. Undeterred, even with three young children, Nani had to make the most of her artistry to provide for her family in Kenya. Advised to learn a discipline more lucrative than painting, Nani travelled to London where she took a course in stained-glass production. Returning to her African home, she discovered simply mastering the art of her new craft was not the only challenge she was to face. Early commissions in Nairobi were few and far between, and the glass, which was costly and imported, had to be transported over kilometers of make-shift road. t was after she was bought her first kiln by her current partner Eric Krystall, that Nani’s rich im agination and resourceful business mind were brought to life. Making her own lead, Nani realized that by employing the foreman of a collapsed glass plant in the area she could recycle and create her own coloured material – diminishing costs by a considerable amount. Nani started producing new and beautiful work swiftly, and the orders began to come in. ll the while, Nani’s children who had inherited their mother’s gift for fantasy, were growing up with a keen eye on her work. It wasn’t long before Anselm, her eldest son, left Kenya for France to learn to blow glass. Despite the nay-sayers who condemned the future and feasibility of blown glass creations in Africa, Nani pressed on, urging her son to not only continue his craft in their home, but to teach it to the local people as well, building a full team of skilled artists. As her work, team and family grew, so did her surrounds. The empty Masai land became peppered with thatched rondavels – thick clay hovels studded with sparkling stained glass windows and ornate door and window designs. Each outhouse follows another along a winding paved path through the dense trees and bush, here and there a shimmering hunk of glass and everywhere the glitter of crushed mosaics. Her imagination and inspiration from the wildlife she so loves is evident in sculpture and murals – her braai, the jaws of a dragon, her pool filled with the humps of a mythical sea creature. Up above the hot African dirt, bridges and wrought iron staircases lead to stilted studies and breathtaking balconies. Concrete and brilliant slabs of glass create tunnels and arches overhead and brightly painted wooden doorways lead from one dream world garden to another. GLASSLANDS Visi

Built initially for shade in the otherwise barren land, the haunting sculptures loom between working posts. The evidence of her humble beginnings are here, from designs made only from bottle caps and scrap metal but lead one right up to the Florentine, delicate glassware housed inside the statues. Despite how far she has come from using cast-offs and rubbish, Nani still recycles every piece of material – even the tiniest of shards, in suncatchers to mosaics to finally melted into beads that are produced at the factory run by Nani’s daughter Katrineka, a fine arts graduate from the USA. In each way they can, they focus in on lowering energy consumption. Kitengela’s carbon footprint is minimal, their impact on their surrounds barely noted save for its surreal appearance. Now, a studio of 50 local people who sustain their extended families on their wages, Kitengela has become a hive of industry, specializing in stained glass, glass-blowing, dale de verre, fusing, slumping, mosaic, wrought iron, ferro-cement sculpture, pottery, woodwork and jewellery making. And of course in doing so, has created a community for skilled artisans, a refuge for those seeking apprenticeships and has provided a new way of life for many. The spill-over of Kitengela’s relentlessly optimistic attitude has affected the wider public, where Nani’s bright and cheerful work can be seen in glass faces at children’s institutes, murals and benches at general hospitals and in sculptures for women’s workshops. But even as the studio garners great interest both locally and abroad, the nature of the land and the reality of its position remains the same, particularly as Nani has bought a buffer zone of land around the glass paradise as a wildlife sanctuary. Kitengela remains a constant reminder of the wild, simple life, a mad jumble of dream, thought and imagination. Lions and leopards and pythons pose threats to the livestock the Crozes keep, children walk barefoot to the efficient bush school Nani has created, roads don’t exist and neither does running water and electricity. Yet, out here, in this cool quiet garden sanctuary, none of the conveniences of reality seem to matter. Emily Veitch

World hot air balloon championship, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA

World hot air balloon championship, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA

jacevi l l iers.com +27 82 569 1650 jac@jacdevi l l iers.com

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