Saturday, 10 July 2010

Grahamstown: National Schools Festival (Part 1)

On 03 July, two bus, with about 70 pupils from PBHS, PHSG and CBC, commenced their journey down to Grahamstown.

"Oh my word! How much longer will this bus ride be?" After travelling for 11 hours on the bus, that was all I thought. On this first day (03 July), we travelled throught three provinces before arriving at our first destination: Nieu Bethesda. This place is the home of the world-renowned Helen Martins and The Owl House.

Helen Martins began an obsessive project around 1945 to decorate her home and garden. She used cement, glass and wire to decorate the interior of her home and later build sculptures in her garden. Almost all the walls of the interior of the house were covered in decorative and colourful crushed glass. In 1964, she was joined in her work by a Coloured man named Koos Malgas, who helped her build the sculptures in her garden. Martins drew on inspiration from Christian biblical texts, the poetry of Omar Khayyam and various works by William Blake. The sculptures are predominantly owls, camels and people, mostly pointing toward the east as a tribute to Martins' fascination with The Orient. Though the sculptures in The Owl House do not show great detail, I was extrememly fascinated by the tales behind their creation.

That evening, we headed off further into the hills to Weltevreden Farm for a supper in the shed and a wonderful overnight rest.
The next day (04 July), we were on the road again and reached Graaff Reinet. Here we visited the Pierneef Museum, which houses the thirty-two panels Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef was commissioned to paint for the interior of the then-new Johannesburg Railway. These panels are considered to be some of his best work and display his distinctive style. I felt very privileged to view the artwork of one of the best of the old South African masters.

At around noon, we boarded the bus again and roared off to Somerset East to see the Walter Battiss Museum. The Karoo town of Somerset East is Walter Battiss' birthplace and the museum houses a lot of his works. Walter Battiss is considered the foremost South African abstract painter. During a 1949 trip to Europe, he befriended Picasso, who would have an influence on his already quirky style. Though I am not interested in abstract art in general, it was amusing to see the works of someone who taught at my school for many years.

After that short visit, we raced off to Grahamstown. We went straight up to the 1820 Settlers National Monument. The Monument honours the contribution to South African society made by the first big influx of English settlers. However, it commemorates the English language as much as the Settlers themselves, as it is the main venue for the National Arts Festival. At this monument, we received the information regarding the National Schools Festival, which was the main reason for our visit to Grahamstown.

No comments: